In most B2B organizations, driving revenue from existing accounts is typically easier than acquiring new customers. So why do many organizations struggle with embedding Account Planning into the sales and business process?

We’ve seen how well-developed account plans assure organizational alignment on the strategies, resources, and actions needed to grow revenue and strengthen the account relationship. However, Account planning requires senior leadership support and time. It’s not enough for leaders to require the building of account plans; they also need to actively participate in account plan reviews and help prioritize resources and strategies.

If your team is currently doing Account Planning (or planning to), here are some common pitfalls to avoid.

  1. Don’t make Account Planning an obligatory, administrative process. Account Planning should be an ongoing strategic and consistent set of conversations between account managers and the teams that support the account, rather than a mere “check-the-box” task. Account plans are a reflection of these conversations – leaders should critically review the account plan, asking hard questions and challenging assumptions versus facts.
  2. Not properly prioritizing accounts. Accounts with the best growth opportunities, or those that are most at-risk, merit rigorous attention that Account Planning provides. Don’t dilute this effort with mediocre accounts. Limit the number of account plans per salesperson to no more than five to ensure quality planning.
  3. Not embracing salesperson lack of enough knowledge about the customer. For better or worse, Account Planning reveals just how well the sales team knows (or doesn’t know) its customers. Account plans with knowledge gaps and missing information provide direction on strategies and actions to address the gaps. Also, account managers need to acknowledge things they don’t know.
  4. Focusing too much time on the internal. It’s easy to fall into an internally-focused approach rather than a customer-centric one. To position your organization’s overall value to your client, Account Plans should reflect a solid understanding of client issues, objectives, initiatives, and compelling events. 
  5. Poor execution and follow-up. Account Plans should have a section to capture action items and related owners, due dates, and status throughout the plan period. These actions should include specific owners and what is expected of them to achieve account goals. Regular (every few weeks) action plan reviews should occur to ensure the account plan execution is on track.

Account Planning can drive significant gains in revenue growth, retention, and customer relationship strength. However, the Account Planning effort requires a considerable investment of time and enduring senior-level commitment to incorporating it into the business process.

Like most business initiatives, a robust change management effort should be applied to achieve success.

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