When we are working on our accounts day-in, day-out it is sometimes hard to see the wood from the trees. Taking time out to review important accounts on a periodic basis will help to protect what we have already achieved and maximise the growth potential.
An account planning session involves taking a step back from the detail and reviewing the account and setting objectives, goals, and actions. It is about getting real and viewing the account in a dispassionate way. Sometimes it may help to get someone who is not involved in the day-to-day activities to facilitate the review. In a bigger company this should be done by a sales manager or even an appointed account director. In a smaller business or if its just you then you could use a sales or business coach. Do make sure they have suitable experience in account development before parting with any cash!
Review Account Progress
Sales come as a result of consistent activity and this especially applies to account development. We need to switch from thinking a priority account is just one of many clients. Whilst doing an account planning session we should consider the account we are focusing on as if were the most important client in the world! If you want high growth accounts that become the foundation of the business then this planning activity needs to be taken seriously.
Once a year you will reassess objectives and goals. You will then review the progress at least once every quarter and even monthly for very high growth accounts. At the first account planning session you will be focused on establishing objectives and goals along with plans and actions. From then on, the review will track progress. This will feed back into updating your plans and actions.
If you only have one relationship within the account then you may have problems at some point in the future. This is especially the case if the relationship is weak or the person is likely to change jobs at some point. You need to be working on specific relationships and broadening your network within your important accounts. It’s what is often referred to as ‘walking the corridors’.
A high priority account can often be like a market in its own right with multiple potential clients within one account. The more separate income streams you can establish within an account, the safer it will be. In my experience it also makes each new sale easier as long as you pay attention to the relationships.
If there is any current issues that can have an impact on relationships then these should be captured and actions set. The planning session is about pro-actively strengthening the quality and quantity of relationships within the account. We should identify important people we do not yet have any relationship with as well as assessing the quality of existing relationships.
It is useful to set up a relationship score. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the highest) where do you rate your current relationship? What will it take to get it to the next level?
It’s best to get real and score conservatively. In my experience people tend to over estimate their importance to a client. In fact, you should consider investing in a customer relationship health check. This would involve contacts within the account being interviewed by someone independent to gather the information. In my experience people tend to give better quality feedback when it is done verbally and by someone independent. If done well it can be used to identify potential opportunities as well as threats to the account.
In addition to reviewing the status of current opportunities, this is also a time for brainstorming potential opportunities. Typical account managers are ‘order takers’. Proactive account development means also taking deals to the client that can help add value. Having a trusted relationship makes this possible.
List out all the existing and potential opportunities and decide what actions are required to move them forward. This activity will feed into your general monthly/weekly sales pipeline review activity.
Remember, you will not necessarily be doing this with all your accounts, just the priority clients. Why not start with one or two. Once you start to reap the benefits you will want to expand this to all your priority accounts.