News & Views

7 ingredients for an effective account plan

by Sarah O'Neill
6th December 2017
7 ingredients for an effective account plan, post image

‘Tis the season to be jolly and if you are a progressive agency owner, tis also the season to be forecasting for 2018. A key ingredient of the 2018 forecasting process should also be the finalisation of account plans for all clients/ your key clients.

Account plans are designed to help the account management team effectively prepare and stay focussed on their client’s business objectives and goals, which in turn leads to the account management team ensuring they provide consistently positive and value added experiences to their client.

Without comprehensive, well thought out account plans, agencies are missing out on major revenue opportunities and risk losing some of their largest clients.

The 7 key ingredients of an effective account plan are:

1. What does the client sell, who are their clients, what size are they, where are they located, who are their competitors.

2. Who are the main & key client contacts/ stakeholders – names, job titles, email address, phone numbers, length of relationship (ensure your team has set google alerts on all these people, plus the company name and their competitors). An effective account plan requires a clear understanding of the client’s internal structure, personnel and decision-making process, including the buying centers with responsibility for initiatives and budgets. While typical CRM tools help keep track of contacts (and their roles) within an account or opportunity, much more information is needed to successfully identify revenue potential in your key accounts. In today’s complex sales environment it is critical that the account management team is able to identify, connect and access the key stakeholders and decision makers that ultimately influence and control the strategic relationships, budget and purchasing process within the client’s organization. But it’s not just about reporting structures’, it’s about the politics and who influences whom throughout the organization. Identifying decision makers, friends, foes, and third-party influencers, is critical to helping your account team identify gaps in relationships and to build quality relationship development plans.

3. Who owns the relationship within the agency, what is the team that supports the client (strengths/ weaknesses of each team member, what has been the feedback from the client on the team)

4. What projects have you already done for this client – completed & current and what the identified opportunities. Having a clear picture of past, present and future opportunities and revenue / profit by client/ project is absolutely key in account planning. This piece is critical to successful account planning because it provides a basis for true revenue predictability and long-term forecast visibility.

5. What is the status of the relationship with the client – positive/negative/neutral and why. It is critical that you are measuring the strength of your relationships with your key accounts. Effective agencies use a client scorecard, where they determine specific focus areas within the account by mapping specific client buyers/ buying centers by revenue potential and the quality of the relationship. With these scorecards, the leadership team and account director can easily monitor the status of key accounts to identify which accounts might be at risk and which accounts might be ripe for further growth. Based on this information, certain customers can be prioritized vs. others and specific action plans put in place to target areas where improvement is needed. For both management and account teams, an effective scorecard delivers the insight into which high-value accounts to focus on, and where to focus within those accounts.

6. What is the client’s strategy – where does the client want to be in 1,3, 5 year’s time – What problems are the client facing – economical, competition, legal, internal. What solutions can the agency provide to the client to address these problems. By understanding and mapping out your client’s issues, challenges, and departmental initiatives, you can easily identify and position potential growth opportunities based on what is top of mind for their key decision makers. A key account plan facilitates the collaboration internally with your team, and externally with your customers to help you gain insight into their strategies, and show how you can directly help them achieve their overarching business objectives.

7. Additionally, an effective account plan lets you align your solutions and the value they provide to the client’s business strategy and challenges. This empowers account managers to pinpoint and focus on to gain the initiatives that are likely to receive funding and lead to organic growth opportunities. Account plan goals and actions mark the transition of the planning process to executable tactics and activities, and must align with other functional groups involved in the account planning and management process. Many agencies think that they can capture actions and monitor account activity through a CRM, but this model can actually hold back sales because it is more focused on task completion than goal attainment.

A strategic action plan effectively aligns activities to a defined set of goals and objectives which address key areas such as revenue, relationship, and customer success.

All high performing account management teams will have these plans and review / update them regularly, typically every quarter. For more information on how you can implement these plans please feel free to get in touch with me.

by Andy Maher
Partner at Waypoint Partners

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