Who doesn’t need an additional acronym? So let us introduce…Pragmatic Account Planning (PAP). So what’s so special about the word Pragmatic in the context of Account Planning? In our view, many organizations struggle with Account Planning because they’ve established ambitious Account Plan completion goals (often to get them all done by a certain date) but spend little time reviewing the Account Plan and even less time managing the execution of the Account Plan.

How does this happen?

Let’s break down the potential effort by the account manager for one of your 20 largest clients. Let’s ignore for the moment all the internal and external data gathering, PowerPoint development, data entry, and filling Account Plan templates by the account manager. Let’s focus on how much time you expect a frontline sales leader to spend with an account manager developing an Account Plan. We’d like to suggest than anything less than four hours is just “checking the box.” Remember, this is one of your 20 largest clients! So now, how much time would you expect the sales manager to spend on reviewing the progress of an Account Plan on a monthly basis? If the review is focused on managing the key activities to execute the Account Plan, we’d suggest at least two hours per month. Remember, this is one of your 20 largest clients! If the sales manager’s reps have responsibility for ten Account Plans, you’d expect at least 40 hours of developing the initial Account Plans and 20 hours a month in managing the execution of the Account Plans. Question: How many of your sales managers have an extra 20 hours per month for this effort? Or even ten hours?

So what’s the fix? Well, it’s PAP. 

PAP is based on understanding, by Account, what the key elements of the Account Plan are that need to be completed and when and then building the sales organization’s “muscle tone” in incorporating Account Planning into the regular sales motions and activities. Let me explain further. If you have a key account and your strategy is primarily to retain the business you have, the Account Plan components will take on a different emphasis than for an account where penetrating other divisions or lines of business is the priority. The key point is that having a standardized Account Planning process or methodology is important. However, applying the methodology and the effort pragmatically to minimize wasted effort and maximize the chance of executing the Account Plan is the name of the game. 

So if you are committed to strengthening your organization’s account planning “muscle tone” and acumen, start with PAP, and don’t set overly ambitious goals focused on “completing” account plans.

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