Account Planning

What is account planning?

Definition – Account planning is defined as a formalized process in which an organization builds relationships with its customers. It can improve sales, productivity, efficiency, customer loyalty, and revenue growth by setting up productive communication channels and identifying opportunities to serve specific client needs.

Account planning is about leveraging your relationship with your customer to meet their goals and increase their sales. It’s all about understanding your customer, their challenges, their pain points, and their actions on your website or in your B2B sales process. By better understanding your client and their needs, you can help them achieve their goals more effectively.

Account planning is a focused process. You are helping customers succeed by taking the necessary steps to help them realize their goals through testing products/services, ideation, and data collection/management. This tactic allows you to keep track of everything from lead gen to retention.

Instructions for Account Planning

Account planning is the practice of planning regularly and systematically to improve the performance of your various financial accounts.  In addition to these basic account planning requirements, some account planning instructions include:

  • Identify the types of accounts you have for which you plan to use funds.
  • Identify possible transactions that could be financed by those accounts and the amount of those transactions. 
  • Identify possible obligations that you assume through those accounts (and which may lack adequate reporting mechanisms) and the estimated approximate date by which you will not meet those obligations.
  • Identify any special considerations that may arise from being privy to the innermost workings of a particular financial institution.
  • Add actions in each account

Account planning provides the framework for ensuring your product is not only selling but is also making money. By tracking the achievement of your customer’s goals, you can improve their experience and provide additional value at each step of the process. As a B2B sales leader, you can plan for growth with clarity and precision so that the outcomes align with the strategy.

Account planning helps you understand your key accounts regarding revenue, accounting quality, cash flow, and competition. It enables you to identify opportunities for improvement and monitor your overall take rate.

Related Account Planning Terms

Some of the terms related to Account Planning which you might come across are listed below:

Sales account planning- Sales account planning and account planning are synonyms and closely related.

Strategic account management– Strategic account management focuses your efforts on the top accounts in an industry. Strategic account managers handle their clients’ critical needs and opportunities in a comprehensive, holistic way. Since not all accounts and customers are equal – some warrant your biggest efforts, and you take the time to develop a plan specific to their needs. Specialists on staff often spearhead the efforts but can work in tandem with account managers. 

Strategic account management and account planning can be used together to help you win business.

Key account management- Key account management is a specialized form of strategic account management. It differs in that the scope of focus tends to be on larger accounts, and the resources dedicated to each account are relatively more limited. The objective of key account management is to cement relationships and generate an increased volume of revenue by providing exclusive resources, recurring meetings, and dedicated key account managers (KMAs).

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)- Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a customer relationship management approach that focuses selling efforts on high-value accounts, fostering deeper relationships between the SBU and the customer. Account-based marketing harnesses the purchasing power of your best customers. It focuses on identifying, understanding, and leveraging key accounts to deliver increased customer value while building your brand reputation over time.

Account Planning Process

For the Account planning process, one should:

  • Use an Account planning template by creating an account profile. 
  • He/She should add the customer’s business strategy to the profile.
  • The profile should talk about the customer’s key business initiatives and what they want to accomplish. 
  • The profile should also include information about their organization chart and key players that enhance the understanding of the client’s organization.
  • The revenue of the company should be audited alongside its products, despite that this review can be done separately for each product or service
  • They must also become familiar with the client’s competitor information.
  • The Account Planning Process should outline the buying process and selling points for prospective contacts.
  • Build a strategy to grow your relationship with your customer.
  • Identify the targets, risks, and sales opportunities.
  • Once done, create an action plan.
  • Together review your plan with your customer.

Importance of Account Planning

Account planning is the process of assisting your organization in tracking, controlling, and efficiently managing its finances. Account planning results in better cost control, better financial reporting, and better internal processes that support optimal business outcomes. The benefits of account planning go well beyond organizational success. Research has shown that the lowest costs are achieved when all departments cooperate. This can be achieved through account planning which assists in joint efforts to meet financial goals and objectives.

  1. Building Accountability in Account Planning – Account planning should be a key driver to the client’s success in their business. It should not just focus on how to be creative but also on how to drive the business outcomes. If account planning doesn’t help improve business outcomes, it will be seen as a waste of money. 
  2. Corelation – The success of account planners will depend on how well their work correlates with business goals. Account planning must be based on measurable outcomes, and account planners must be accountable for achieving those outcomes.
  3. One Mantra – Account planning is about a single path. A path in which the account management process aims to achieve a single vision. Choose what you want that vision to be and make it known so that everyone is committed to it. Account planning begins by defining the strategy that will be applied to a campaign. This is always done before creating any content, and it is important to be unified in your approach to this process.
  4. Goals vs. Achievements – Account planning is crucial for any business that wants to get ahead. The goals you set should be based on detailed research. It’s important to regularly assess whether your account planning goals are still realistic and keep validating at the end of every quarter. You should also validate your achievements against your goals regularly and change either one of them if you feel it’s appropriate.
  5. Account Planning Audits – An Account Planning audit should be done regularly and should be an integral part of the account management process. A regular audit helps make sure we’re on track to our outlined goals. The audit also helps us track how well different account managers are working together. And it gives us a chance to learn from each other’s successes and failures. An audit also allows you to detect and correct systemic issues early.
  6. Documenting Business Relationships – While it may be difficult to quantify the true value of your business relationships, account planning is an essential component of the account management role. It’s important to understand how your relationships impact the goals and results for a specific account. Account planning should be based on data and insights from your partnership with that key client, so you can focus your efforts in a way that will deliver real value. 
  7. Relationships – When an organization’s key stakeholders connect with their strategic accounts, relationships are formed. The findings become an excellent starting point for account planning activities when these relationships are analyzed and documented.
  8. Collaboration – Account planning is a collaboration of all parties that, together, work to define success. Account planners initiate the process and lead by co-creating processes with internal and external stakeholders. Successful account planning requires stakeholders to collaborate to build a client strategy. Collaboration helps account planners understand how different teams can align their efforts and craft messages relevant to the client’s unique needs. Account planners understand how both sales and operations work together to satisfy clients.

Changing Trends in Account Planning

Account Management in business today is a more strategic role than previously. The growing role of technology in businesses brings about changes to the way companies interact with their customers. This has led to shifting trends in Account Management, emphasizing business results rather than just available influencers within the industry. Few changing trends in account planning are:

  1. Concentration of Revenue – Today, 80% of most companies’ revenue is accounted for by 20% of their customers. This rate could get even more concentrated as time marches on. This trend means that it will be hard to find new customers and even harder to score new clients with substantial money to spend. The role of account planning is to get a better understanding of what the client’s goals are. The account manager needs to gain a better understanding of how the client can improve their business.
  2. Emphasis on Big Data – With the advent of Big Data, account planning has evolved beyond traditional activities. Account planners are now responsible for tracking all changes at a prospect’s organization and analyzing data with marketing analytics tools. Account planning that leverages big data tools will enable marketers to understand customers and user behavior better. Marketers who fail to embrace this process will eventually lag far behind their competitors.
  3. High-Value Solutions – In order to keep client relationships strong, strategic account planning has become important. It’s the only way for companies to identify and address key problems that can dramatically improve client performance when addressed in time. Today’s account planners are looking for ways to align company capabilities, and goals with the client’s needs to increase the value proposition ultimately and positioning delivered –for both parties.
  4. Increasing Dependence on Efficiency-Enhancing Tools – Most businesses that cater to high-value clients use special tools to manage these relationships. Professional, high-quality CRM software is a necessity for these industries. This type of software has features and functions that are tailored specifically to supporting strategic clients. Not only does this create better customer service, but it makes those clients more willing to do business with you because you’re the only ones who meet their needs. The integration of KAM software with CRM software provides a solution that will ultimately lead to better and more profitable client services.

Account Planning Software Overview

Account management software is critical to the success of your business. Account management software streamlines the planning life cycle, lowers costs, increases productivity, and automates much of managing relationships with customers. It also facilitates training through preparing simulation scenarios to capture key insights on customer behaviors. 

Using the right software in your account management department can help you develop more strategic relationships with prospects and clients and help you implement growth strategies.

The below points explains why there is a need for the right account planning software:

  1. Data Analysis and Tracking- Using specialized account planning software allow you to go beyond spreadsheets and make real progress toward optimizing your Account Management. A good KAM software will keep track of your plan, identify gaps in real-time, and alert you when problems arise. Account planning software helps you prioritize activities and engagements based on key industry trends, competitor moves, or new product development.

With customer relationship analysis, you can gain a deep understanding of your target customers. You can monitor changes in behavior and attitudes towards certain brands and product segments.

  1. Visualization to Represent Key Analyses – With the increasing complexity of business models and various stakeholders that need to be tracked, information overload is a real possibility. Account Planning Software helps marketers analyze complex data by providing visual representations of complex data. The right planning software allows you to make decisions quickly and can help you present value-added solutions to your clients.
  2. Data Consolidation – KAM software is key to planning because of its capacity to work with all your data in one place. It is important to have information neatly organized so that all stakeholders are on the same page. This way, you can see what you need quickly and make quick decisions. With KAM functionality, all of your crucial client data becomes easily accessible to your team members from a centralized interface. The KAM tools streamline the project management process to manage and track all of your campaigns more efficiently. Therefore, KAM software is where you should start planning.
  3. Strategy Development and Action Plan – The most critical step in successful account planning are building a robust, data-driven SWOT analysis. A good KAM software solution allows you to connect the dots across your accounts, identify weaknesses and build an action plan accordingly.
  4. Organization Chart – You can improve your firm’s network 0monitoring by using KAM software to visualize a company’s organizational hierarchy. This will help managers identify not just the formal affiliations but also informal affiliations to build and nurture. With specialized KAM software, you can quickly and easily view the organizational chart of your business, as well as customer relationships. This will help you identify the right accounts to work on.