!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Putting Together an Account Plan

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Putting Together an Account Plan

One of the best job aids you can provide someone getting started in a sales career is an outline of an account plan for a prospective customer that covers all the essential bases. Generally speaking, the job aid will advise the salesperson to do the following:
  • Determine your current position. Consider changes in the sales environment. Which changes are threats, and which are opportunities?

  • Set your goal for the account. Most commonly, a goal is expressed in terms of revenue dollars or share of market. Bear in mind the importance of generating profitable revenue.

  • Identify all players (buying influences). Then make it your business to learn for each person:

    • degree of influence

    • desired outcome — the person's concept of what doing business with you will accomplish

    • receptivity to you and your company's offerings

    • how the person feels about your proposal vis-à-vis other options

    • how you can make the sale a personal and professional win for the person

    • what questions the person wants answered

  • Set your account strategy. To differentiate yourself, you must understand the client's needs and preferences in depth so you can contribute clearly perceived value. (It should go without saying, that setting strategy comes before working out sales tactics.)

  • Test your strategy;

    • Does your strategy capitalize on your company's strengths relative to the competition?

    • Does the customer care about these strengths?

  • Identify your current strengths and weak points (red flags).

  • Develop a list of alternate positions, i.e., positions to move toward from your current position. Then refine your strategy so that it robustly addresses red flags and capitalizes on areas of strength. You define alternate positions by identifying:

    • ways to move an opportunity more steadily and predictably to a close

    • steps to understand individual players' desired results better, or to deliver those results more effectively

  • Don't over-do your attention to the competition. Focusing too much on the competition means you:

    • allow the competition to write the rules of the game

    • advertise your weaknesses, not your strengths

    • invite price battles

    • look unimaginative, with no ideas of your own
Offer customized solutions that make a contribution to the prospect's business. And, to tee yourself up for ongoing sales, keep the entire context of the relationship in mind.