Two Successful Approaches to Account Planning [Template]

Daniel Currin

Updated: August 23, 2022

Published: June 20, 2022

Are you a B2B account manager or sales executive serious about account-based marketing (ABM)? If the answer is “yes,” chances are you understand your customers want partners, not vendors.

Account plan manager speaking with a business owner

To win new business and grow key accounts, account managers and sales executives must become invested in their customer’s challenges, goals, and the competitive landscape in which their business operates.

By using strategic account planning to target your key accounts , you can become your customer’s trusted partner by solving problems instead of selling products.

This article will touch on two viable account planning solutions — account-based marketing software and a manual, template-based approach. Below, we share one of the best templates to begin the account planning process in your sales organization.

Free Access: Strategic Account Planning Template

Strategic Account Plan Template Layout

If you're reluctant to invest in ABM software or just want a solid starting point to understand ABM strategy better, this strategic account planning template will help you:

  • Expand your understanding of your customer’s business, goals, and motivations
  • Deliver value through right-fit solutions to their toughest challenges
  • Navigate internal politics and target key stakeholders to drive buy-in
  • Identify and avoid risks, barriers, and limitations

Featured Resource: Strategic Account Planning Template

Free account strategy template

Download This Template for Free

Ready to explore what account planning is all about and how it can increase your sales? In this article, we’ll go over the following topics:

  • What is account planning?
  • Terms related to account planning
  • Account planning process: a step-by-step guide
  • Account planning templates
  • Account-based marketing software

Let’s get started.

What is Account Planning?

Account planning, used primarily in B2B sales, is the process of nurturing and growing your existing customer relationships. When creating an account plan, you seek to understand your customer’s business by identifying their key initiatives, problems, and challenges. Your objective is to deliver value that helps them achieve their goals and increase their sales.

Account planning is about partnering with your customer instead of selling to your customer. It looks at sales not as a transactional process but as the start of a strategic partnership. This term is usually applicable in B2B organizations rather than B2C organizations.

Because account planning is such a thorough process, it allows you to ask your customer highly specific questions related to their business and challenges.

These questions are usually related to the product or service you offer, giving you further insight into how you can solve for them in both the short and long term.

While account planning aims to decrease customer attrition , it can also be a valuable tool for acquisition. Understanding your most profitable customers can help you identify better prospects to target in your future sales efforts.

Account Plan

An account plan is a document that outlines all pertinent information about your customer, including their business goals, challenges, priorities, competitors, decision-making processes, and purchase criteria. You can also detail your strategies for retaining and upselling them.

The information you gather for your account plan will give you valuable insight into your customer's priorities. This constant flow of helpful information makes it easier to be proactive in fulfilling the client's needs.

Efficient implementation takes a lot of trial and error, but when you have the right data as a starting point, the trial period gets shorter and easy to overcome. Knowing what your clients want is a good way to ensure that your account planning efforts will be more effective from the beginning.

account business planning

Free Account Management Template

A strategic template for your account-based marketing, sales, and management.

  • Key Business Initiatives
  • Account Competitor Analysis
  • Sales Opportunities, Targets & Risks

You're all set!

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In addition, by offering this type of value, customers are happy and more likely to be loyal to your organization. Your objective is to deliver value that helps them achieve their goals and increase sales.

An effective account planning strategy will help your company build a reputation as a solution provider that customers can trust. To build an effective account strategy, account professionals must become invested in their customer’s challenges, goals, and the competitive landscape in which their business operates.

Account Planning and Marketing Strategies

Knowing what your customers appreciate and expect from your services is a strong foundation for your marketing efforts. Marketing is not only about putting your work out there but also about taking your audience’s language and communicating what they actually need to hear. This is where account planning comes in.

Account planning helps any marketing team turn business data into effective creative work that satisfies your customers and leads.

A marketing strategy aimed at transforming pain points into strong assets creates a strong customer relationship based on value and efficiency rather than a plain sales process.

Why is Account Planning important?

87% of marketers say account-based marketing outperforms other marketing activities. As such, it’s vital to learn how it can help your business too.

Here are some of account planning’s most significant benefits.

Reduces Acquisition Costs

Customer acquisition is expensive for several reasons. Some of the major costs are incurred from the resources expended to discover customer drivers and challenges.

Account planning reduces acquisition costs because it allows you to focus more on creating business through existing customers instead of looking for new ones.

Speeds Up Sales

Account planning reduces acquisition costs and makes it easier to close deals faster. In addition, since account planning focuses on existing accounts, sales professionals already know the key decision-makers in the buying process and understand how they prefer to buy.

Furthermore, account planning helps sales professionals observe customer behaviors that can be disruptive to the buying process.

Retains Important Relationships

Since account planning involves frequent communication between clients and representatives, your sales professionals are positioned to get the real-time pulse of clients.

An effective account plan helps businesses nurture existing relationships with customers while also providing a solid base for future marketing efforts. If account planning plays an essential role in client retention outcomes and conversion rates, it affects the company's overall number of clients (and revenue).

Working on your account planning will reduce acquisition costs while making it easier to close deals faster. Since account planning focuses on existing accounts, sales professionals already know the key decision-makers in the buying process and understand how they prefer to buy.

When account planning is optimized, sales strategies will have a new foundation full of valuable data. This will help sales workers ensure that all their efforts are going in the right direction.

By reducing acquisition costs and speeding up sales, account planning can be the first step in successfully using your business resources, especially time and money. It provides the information needed to build solid foundations for your client’s relationships and your sales work.

Account planning can be a great way to level up your business sales and customer satisfaction rates, but it can be difficult to start implementing its steps. Having the right guides and resources is essential for any business process.

Related Account Planning Terms

Now, let’s talk about some of the common terms you’ll find while scrolling through any account planning article.

Sales Account Planning

Sales account planning is an alternative term for account planning. This account planning approach process takes all the information about customer behavior and focuses on improving sales processes. With a special focus on converting users into customers, sales account planning will have a strong lead generation potential. However, customer retention strategies won’t have a special place in this process.

Strategic Account Management

Choosing high-value and high-profit accounts to grow and nurture is called strategic account management. Not all accounts or customers warrant a plan, so strategic account managers typically spearhead these efforts. Thus, account planning and strategic account management can go hand-in-hand.

Key Account Management

Key account management is similar to strategic account management and may also complement the account planning process. Sales leaders and representatives build, maintain, and nurture the business’s most profitable accounts. They do this by offering exclusive resources, recurring meetings, and dedicated key account managers (KAMs).

Account-based Marketing

Account-based marketing is usually carried out after key accounts have been established and account plans have been created. After these high-value customers are identified, the marketing team will create campaigns, assets, and messaging that targets these accounts.

As you can see, account planning can be a huge asset to your business, allowing you to delve in-depth into each customer profile.

By knowing the customer’s challenges, industry, and goals, you can position your product as the solution in a much more specific and targeted way, which can help increase close rates .

Now, it’s time to create a plan that can help you jumpstart your account planning efforts.

How to Start Account Planning at Your Business

Starting an account plan can be time-intensive, but when done right can show good results. There are four basic steps to implement if you want to start account planning at your business. These are:

1. Determine which accounts require account planning.

First, you should develop criteria for determining which accounts need an account plan. Clients who tend to require an account plan include those who are high profile, likely to scale, and can use your product or service in other departments in the company.

2. Discover the needs of these accounts.

Discovering the needs of these strategic accounts requires loads of research. These are some questions that can be a good place to start:

  • What are the goals of this client?
  • What do they value the most?
  • Who is involved in the buying decision process?
  • What are their current plans to achieve goals?
  • What KPIs do they measure?

3. Create actionable steps.

After doing your research, it’s time to develop actionable steps. These steps vary depending on the account but might include:

  • Account analysis
  • Short-term steps (e.g., getting them to renew with you)
  • Long-term steps (e.g., long-term client growth)

4. Execute the account plan.

Lastly, execute the plan you’ve created by incorporating the specifics of your business and sharing it with your stakeholders.

Account Planning Process

  • Use an account planning template.
  • Summarize your customer’s business strategy.
  • Know your customer’s key business initiatives.
  • Understand your customer’s organizational chart and key players.
  • Audit your customer’s products and revenue.
  • Analyze your customer’s competition.
  • Outline the buying process and selling points for prospective contacts.
  • Establish a strategy for growing your relationship with your customer.
  • Identify sales opportunities, targets, and risks.
  • Create an action plan.
  • Review your plan with your customer.

Before Starting: Download HubSpot's Account Planning Template

Now you know all the details about account planning, its benefits, and what’s required to implement it effectively. So, with all this information in mind, it’s time to put in the work and start building your account plan.

HubSpot's pre-built Account Planning Template contains prompts for each of the subsequent sections, as well as suggested topics to include in each one. Rather than starting from scratch, we recommend you follow along by downloading the free template.

Section 1: Business Overview

The most effective account managers and sales teams understand their customer’s narratives. They ask value-focused questions to get to the root of their customer’s business objectives, internal and external challenges, and industry landscape.

This questioning and learning must be an ongoing exercise. Objectives and goals are ever-changing, and customers often reposition their value in the face of new technology or market shifts.

In this section, identify the following:

  • Your customer’s vision/strategy
  • Your customer’s vital numbers
  • The year the company was founded
  • Your customer's annual revenue
  • Number of employees who work for your customer
  • Popular target markets in the customer's industry

After creating an account plan and getting to know your customer inside out, here are a few questions your account managers can ask:

  • “We noticed that your industry has seen a decline in _______. How has your business fared since this trend started?”
  • “Your competitor recently developed a new product. How does leadership plan to tackle this new challenge?”
  • “Your initiatives for ________ did well for Q4 of last year, resulting in X% growth in revenue. Do you have any plans to continue those initiatives in Q1? What challenges do you foresee?”
  • “I saw that you expanded into the ________ market. How has that been going? Are there any plans to expand into related industries?”

Section 2: Key Business Initiatives

As former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss outlines in his book Never Split the Difference , all successful negotiations begin with listening. To develop a value-based action plan, you need to discover what your customer values most.

By focusing on your customer’s value expectations, you create opportunities to grow more strategic customer relationships. This safeguards against competition while increasing customer loyalty.

Ask questions that will reveal your customer’s:

  • Short-/medium-/long-term priorities
  • Key projects
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Section 3: Customer Relationship Landscape

Your customer relationship landscape is, essentially, what you know about your audience based on the connections you’ve been creating with your clients. Knowing what they appreciate, how they want to communicate, and even the aspects of your business they admire most will save time and help them reach new goals.

Which type of clients are you helping the most? Where do you find more growth potential and positive feedback? It’s time to ask these questions and turn them into the customer approach that your account plan will follow.

Section 4: Customer Products and Revenues

Today’s customer desires a strategic partner to deliver value across their organization. In this section, list and describe where you are currently adding value, analyze the ROI of that value, and identify gaps in the value chain.

Don’t forget to include the following information:

  • Whitespace analysis
  • Current sales performance
  • Current margin performance
  • Wins or losses over the last 12 months

Section 5: Competitor Analysis

Performing a competitive analysis for your customer may not seem to provide high value to your sales team, but remember: Your goal is to move from a transactional relationship to a strategic partnership. Only when you understand your customer’s challenges can you help them differentiate their products and services.

List your customer’s:

  • Competitors
  • Competitors’ strengths
  • Competitors’ weaknesses

Section 6: Buying Process and Selling Points

Businesses don’t buy products or services — people do. So, expand your organizational chart from section three to include personal motivations and decision criteria, and plot your value-based selling points to specific members of your customer’s organization.

The goal of a trusted advisor should not be to fit a product into an empty slot. Rather, your focus should be to understand how your key selling points match each decision maker’s goal.

Identify each of the following:

  • Evaluation criteria
  • Key decision criteria
  • Key selling points

Section 7: Relationship Goals and Strategy

Before an account manager can move the customer relationship forward, they must establish the status of their current client relationship. Knowing where we’re starting helps us get the right resources to build solid foundations and effectively approach the next steps.

Using the organizational chart from section three and the motivations from section six, determine which relationship target has the greatest opportunity for engagement. Focus on those who can provide the most productive outcomes for the customer’s business and your own.

Expand your relationship landscape to include:

  • Current relationship status ( Vendor, Preferred Supplier, Planning Partner, Trusted Advisor )
  • Core business partners
  • Relationship target (who, what, where, how, why)
  • Relationship progression strategy

Section 8: Sales Opportunities, Targets, and Risks

Once you’ve documented your customer’s objectives, motivations, and key relationships, determine the products/services that will help them attain their goals. List revenue goals and identify blockers — internal and external.

List and define:

  • Two-year revenue goals
  • Customer needs for products/services
  • Cross-sell and upsell opportunities
  • Risks, barriers, and limitations
  • Operational restrictions

It can be easy to gloss over the final bullet — operational restrictions. However, this exercise can illuminate friction in service/product delivery and reveal opportunities for automation and processes that can impact your entire book of business.

Section 9: Action Plan

Although there may be many value-add opportunities, narrow your focus to a small subset. Move the needle one position at a time.

Determine which team members will own which task, what resources will be required to achieve these tasks, and agree upon accountability measures.

Ensure that you do the following in your action plan:

  • Identify the top five objectives.
  • Create a list of critical resources.
  • Assign tasks and key owners.

Section 10: Plan Review

Discuss value co-creation with your customer. Ensure you have correctly defined and prioritized value opportunities and work with them to provide relevant materials or resources to secure buy-in.

Engage the customer in a collaborative role to establish a process, timeline, and next steps.

We’ve collected some of the best strategic account planning templates you can use right now.

1. HubSpot’s Account Planning Template [Google Docs]

account planning template: hubspot

HubSpot’s Account Planning Template is useful for account managers who want the freedom to personalize their account plan with a strong marketing basis.

This template includes all the items discussed before, making it a complete resource for startups and big businesses. It can help small and large teams by providing an actionable step-by-step guide for account managers, sales executives, and marketing professionals to collaborate within the account planning process.

2. Databahn Account Plan Template [XLS]

account planning template: databahn

Databahn offers a free Strategic Account Plan template that’s a good option for account management teams trying to streamline their account planning processes. This template is not only easy to use and complete, but it also includes different details like the members of the team, marketing strategies and targets, industry analysis, and annual reports.

Disclaimer: Even when completed, the account planning template needs to be constantly updated to be as effective as possible.

3. Gartner’s Key Account Plan Template

account planning template: gartner

Gartner, the leading information technology research and advisory company, offers a template that includes a comprehensive set of customizable tools to help executive sales leaders construct or enhance their organization’s critical account plan.

4. ForecastEra’s Free Account Planning Template [PDF]

account planning template: forestera

As part of its account planning tools, ForecastEra also offers a free account planning template to help sales executives.

5. Intercom’s Account Plans [XML]

account planning template: intercom

Intercom is a customer success company that works with tools that level up clients relationships.

This company offers an account plan template to help account managers maintain successful customer satisfaction rates by taking advantage of up-to-date information.

6. Unstrategic’s Strategic Account Plan [PDF]

account planning template: unstrategic

This easy-to-use template is an excellent resource for account managers and sales teams. It offers a detailed solution for companies to work on their account planning without struggling with technical misunderstandings.

This PDF guide offers a user-friendly content display and provides systematic instructions on how to fill out each section. It is great for anyone filling out an account plan for the first time.

7. Revegy’s Account Planning Template

account planning template: revegy

This guide is the best option for sales professionals who want to create effective sales strategies based on customer data.

This tool can help you build consistent account plans that are easy to understand and implement.

8. Avention’s Strategic Account Plan Template [PPT]

account planning template: avention

Avention made this template to assist the account management team in staying on top of the client’s business objectives and goals. It’s also helping them achieve desired results that will ultimately have a good impact on the customer’s business.

9. Get2Growth Strategic Account Planning Template [PPT]

account planning template: get2growth

This company offers a one-page detailed template you can use to build an account plan in a few steps.

With different graphic elements and sections, this template is a good solution for account professionals who want to achieve an innovative account managing approach based on quick solutions.

10. Account Planning Template by AccountTips [XSL]

account planning template: accounttips

This template is full of helpful resources for account managers, and they offer clearly labeled Excel tabs to level up your account management work.

Supported by articles and academic resources, this template provides both questions to ask and cells to fill with relevant information. You will find yourself finishing your account plan in a blink of an eye.

Supporting Account Planning with Account-Based Marketing Software

Creating an account-based marketing plan (ABM) is the natural next step after finishing the planning process. But there’s no need to do it manually. Instead, we recommend using ABM software that can help you automate your ABM campaigns.

There are a number of different account-based marketing software platforms that can support your efforts, including HubSpot ABM Software , Terminus , and Demandbase .

A high-quality ABM software generally features tools and resources to help you establish a solid foundation for an account planning strategy. It’s typically rooted in defining and understanding your ideal customer profiles (ICPs).

It might also contain features that cover company and contact information, giving you insight into the businesses you're trying to target and the individual decision-makers you need to reach. Other tools — like workflow templates for building and maintaining your ICPs — can also be a big help for successful account planning.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) software from HubSpot; Workflow view

Image Source

Here's how a workflow looks in HubSpot's ABM software. Specific actions are triggered depending on previous settings, automatically segmenting your ICPs by tier.

Personalization and Engagement

The fundamental basis of ABM, as a concept, is personalization. It's a process rooted in understanding and approaching individual accounts on terms that will specifically resonate with the prospects and customers behind them.

Features designed for compiling lists of target companies with similar characteristics can help you group like-minded companies and contacts for streamlined outreach. Some types of ABM software allow you to send ads to influencers within your targeted accounts across certain platforms — typically LinkedIn.

Resources that allow you to engage with those targeted lists via email can also add value to your account planning efforts. One way or another, it's always in your best interest to reach your target accounts in ways that suit their unique values and characteristics. Finding software to simplify that process can make your outreach more robust without losing focus.

Tracking and Measuring Efforts

Account planning isn't a static process. You need to constantly look for ways to modify your strategy as you interact with more customers. That's why resources to track the efficacy of your efforts are crucial.

Target account reporting libraries can help you keep tabs on target accounts. A solid ABM software often includes resources that let you review internal stakeholders within your target companies, allowing you to see who's supporting, blocking, or influencing your efforts.

It also helps to have visibility into the different interactions your business has with a target company. Some types of ABM software allow you to monitor activity like emails, meetings, and logged calls. Tools like that will enable you to understand where and how to improve your outreach and planning.

How can an ABM support your account plan?

Regardless of the one you choose, ABM software will be a time saver for your sales team, and it will give you the tools to work on your key customer relationships.

You now have all the resources you need to build a successful account plan from scratch, starting with the main questions and all the implementation steps that will help you get there. Are you ready to turn account planning into a valuable asset for your business?

Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 7, 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Free Account Planning and Management Templates

By Joe Weller | May 9, 2023

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This article includes the top free account planning and management templates for account managers, client-facing project managers, salespeople, and account executives. Use these templates to improve client relationships and build partnerships.

On this page, you'll find a strategic account plan presentation template and a sales account plan template with space for capturing key account details. Download an account mapping template featuring an org chart, and a key account management action plan template with sample copy. You’ll also learn about key account planning elements and how to do it , along with tips on using an account planning and management template .

Simple Account Plan Template

Example Simple Account Plan Template

Download a Sample Simple Account Plan Template for  Excel | PowerPoint | Microsoft Word

Download a Blank Simple Account Plan Template for  Excel | PowerPoint | Microsoft Word  

This customizable, one-page simple account plan template can help everyone on your team understand their needs, so you can establish and strengthen a long-term relationship with them. The sample template comes with text already filled in to help you proactively create a customer account plan. Start by entering the client’s primary goal and the key team members (e.g., management, decision makers). You can then create a plan of action for managing the account, including identifying any blockers, next steps, and the owner for each component of your account plan.

Strategic Account Plan Presentation Template

Strategic Account Plan Presentation Template

Download a Strategic Account Presentation Plan Template for  PowerPoint | Google Slides  

Solidify your client-account planning and management with this dynamic strategic account plan template. Enter details of your client’s key priorities, initiatives, and people so that any team member can become apprised of the client’s goals and active players at a glance. The template also includes space to specify the client’s annual account targets and revenue streams, as well as your action plan (specific actions, assignees, and due dates) — all to ensure that you strengthen your client relationship and have a solid account plan and client-management strategy in place.

Sales Account Plan Template

Sales Account Plan Template

Download a Sales Account Plan Template for  Excel | PowerPoint | Microsoft Word  

Ensure that you proactively meet — and even exceed — your sales-account management and planning goals with this comprehensive sales account plan template. Use the template to document prospective and existing clients’ decision-making processes and other important details. Enter account-overview details (e.g., account revenue, industry, relationship strength), account objectives, account solutions, and your account action plan. This template is the perfect solution for capturing important details about prospective or existing customers and for creating a dynamic strategy to help them succeed, so you can develop and retain a strong partnership with them.

Account Mapping Template

Example Account Mapping Template

Download a Sample Account Mapping Template for  Excel | Microsoft Word | PowerPoint  

Download a Blank Account Mapping Template for  Excel | Microsoft Word | PowerPoint   

Use this account mapping template to identify a client’s key players, so that you and your team are readily aware of the client’s hierarchy, who makes purchasing decisions, and more. Download the customizable sample account mapping template with example content to get an idea of what to include for each role. Once complete, the template provides insight for account managers, salespeople, and account executives for the roles of each individual within the client’s organization. By understanding the roles in your client’s organization, you can make more informed decisions and facilitate a more effective strategy and long-term relationship.

Key Account Management Action Plan Template

Example Key Account Management Action Plan Template

Download a Sample Key Account Management Action Plan Template for  Excel | Microsoft Word | PowerPoint

Download a Blank Key Account Management Action Plan Template for  Excel | Microsoft Word | PowerPoint  

A successful key account management action plan serves as an easy-to-follow map that accurately charts a customer’s current state, their goals, and how to help them achieve a mutually beneficial association. This template is available in two versions: blank and with sample text to guide you through the key account management action plan process. Easily capture your key clients’ details, individuals’ roles on the project, management objectives, clients’ preferred communication styles, and actionable steps to foster and strengthen the partnership.

What Is a Key Account Plan? 

A key account plan is a strategic document that outlines your objectives and strategies for your most important customers. Sales and account management teams use a key account plan to provide a coordinated approach to growing client partnerships. 

A key account plan typically includes details of your client's business, such as challenges they face, their value proposition, services they provide, and the actions and resources needed to achieve their goals. The primary aim of a key account plan is to ensure that your organization provides a coordinated, consistent, and focused approach to your most valuable clients.  It also helps you effectively allocate resources, and track client-relationship progress over time.

Elements of Key Account Plan

The elements of a key account plan might vary, depending on your business. A key account plan typically includes information about the client, their needs, their buying behavior, and the steps you’ll take to increase sales and improve customer satisfaction. 

The goal of a key account plan is to maximize the value of the relationship for both your company and your most vital customers for optimal key account management (KAM). Typically, a project manager will complete the key account plan document.

The seven main elements of a key account plan typically include: 

  • Client Profile: Detailed information on the key account, including company background, main decision makers, and relevant client information. 
  • Situation Analysis: An assessment of the current state of the relationship with the key account, including strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) and competitive analyses. You can use a SWOT analysis template to determine these details.
  • Goals and Objectives: Clear, measurable, and time-bound goals and objectives for the key account relationship. These are both important to cover, but goals and objectives are different and require distinct approaches.
  • Strategies and Tactics: Determine how you’ll achieve the goals and objectives, including specific strategies and tactics for improving the relationship and growing the business. 
  • Action Plan: A detailed plan of action, including specific activities, milestones, and deadlines for implementing these strategies. 
  • Resource Allocation: A plan for allocating resources, including personnel and budget, to support the implementation of your key account plan. 
  • Performance Monitoring and Evaluation: A plan for monitoring and evaluating the progress of the key account relationship regularly and adjusting  as needed.

Steps in the Process of Key Account Planning

A well-designed key account plan includes information about your client's current and future needs, their strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities available to you. It provides a clear plan for how you will meet their needs and grow the relationship. 

The following are the fundamental steps in the key-account-planning process: 

  • Identify Key Accounts Identify the key accounts that are critical to the success of the business. This might include customers who generate the most revenue or have the most potential for growth. 
  • Gather Information About Key Accounts Gather as much information as possible about each key account, including their needs, pain points, buying habits, decision-making processes, and main stakeholders. 
  • Analyze Key Account Data Once you’ve gathered information about each key account, analyze the data to understand the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of each relationship.
  • Develop an Account Plan Develop a comprehensive account plan for each key account. This plan should include specific strategies and tactics for growing the relationship, meeting customer needs, and maximizing value.
  • Implement the Account Plan Work closely with the key account to execute on specific tactics, such as building stronger relationships with key stakeholders and tracking progress to ensure the plan is achieving its goals.
  • Review and Adjust the Plan Regularly review your key account plan and make adjustments as needed based on changes in the customer's needs, market conditions, or other factors that may impact the relationship.

For more help with client planning and management, check out our collection of free client management and tracking templates , and our tips and best practices for mastering client management .

How to Use an Account Planning Template 

Use an account planning template to develop a detailed analysis of your account's current challenges and to identify revenue opportunities. Gather information about your goals for the key account, main stakeholders, and steps to execute.

1. Download and Name the Simple Account Plan Template for Microsoft

Download and open the Simple Account Plan Template in Microsoft Word. Save and rename the document locally.

2. Enter Basic Details About the Plan

  • Click the Date box and enter the date you’re creating the plan.
  • Click the Created By box and enter the name of the person responsible for the plan. 
  • Click the Version box and enter the plan’s version.
  • Click the Goal box and enter the goals for the account.

basic details simple account plan

3. Complete the Account Plan Team Section

  • For each account planning team member, double-click the team member’s NAME section. 
  • When the NAME field opens, enter a name for that team member. 

account plan team simple account plan

  • Select the image and click the Insert button.

4. Enter the Details for Each Action Step in the Project Account Action Plan

  • Fill in the Action Step field. 
  • In the Responsible field, enter the name(s) of the internal stakeholder(s) responsible for the step. 
  • In the Description field, provide a brief description for each action step in your account plan. 
  • In the Status field, provide the current status (e.g., Accepted, Declined ) for each step. 
  • In the Outside Shareholders field, enter the names of the customer’s or client’s personnel who are responsible for that step. 

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Accounting Business Plan Template

  • Written by Dave Lavinsky

How to Start an Accounting Business

Table of Contents

Accounting business plan.

Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 500 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their accounting firms. 

In this article, you will learn some background information on why business planning is important. Then, you will learn how to write an accounting business plan step-by-step so you can create your plan today.

Download our Ultimate Business Plan Template here >

What Is an Accounting Business Plan?

A business plan provides a snapshot of your accounting business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategies for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.

Why You Need a Business Plan for Your Accounting Firm

If you’re looking to start an accounting firm or grow your existing accounting business, you need a business plan. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your accounting business to improve your chances of success. Your accounting business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.

Sources of Funding for Accounting Firms

With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for an accounting firm are personal savings, credit cards, bank loans, and angel investors. When it comes to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to ensure that your financials are reasonable, but they will also want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business. Personal savings and bank loans are the most common funding paths for accounting firms.

Finish Your Business Plan Today!

How to write a business plan for an accounting firm.

If you want to start an accounting business or expand your current one, you need a business plan. The guide below details the necessary information for how to write each essential component of your accounting business plan.

Executive Summary

Your executive summary provides an introduction to your business plan, but it is normally the last section you write because it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.

The goal of your executive summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the kind of accounting business you are running and the status. For example, are you a startup, do you have an accounting business that you would like to grow, or are you operating an established accounting business you would like to sell? 

Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. 

  • Give a brief overv iew of the accounting industry. 
  • Discuss the type of accounting business you are operating. 
  • Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers. 
  • Provide a snapshot of your marketing strategy. Identify the key members of your team. 
  • Offer an overview of your financial plan.

Company Overview

In your company overview, you will detail the type of accounting business you are operating.

For example, you might specialize in one of the following types of accounting firms:

  • Full Service Accounting Firm: Offers a wide range of accounting services. 
  • Bookkeeping Firm: Typically serves small business clients by maintaining their company finances. 
  • Tax Firm: Offers tax accounting services for businesses and individuals. 
  • Audit Firm: Offers auditing services for companies, organizations, and individuals. 

In addition to explaining the type of accounting business you will operate, the company overview needs to provide background on the business.

Include answers to questions such as:

  • When and why did you start the business?
  • What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include the number of clients served, or the amount of revenue earned. 
  • Your legal business structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.

Industry Analysis

In your industry or market analysis, you need to provide an overview of the accounting industry.

While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.

First, researching the accounting industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating. 

Secondly, market research can improve your marketing strategy, particularly if your analysis identifies market trends.

The third reason is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.

The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your accounting business plan:

  • How big is the accounting industry (in dollars)?
  • Is the market declining or increasing?
  • Who are the key competitors in the market?
  • Who are the key suppliers in the market?
  • What trends are affecting the industry?
  • What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
  • What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential target market for your accounting business? You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.

Customer Analysis

The customer analysis section of your accounting business plan must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.

The following are examples of customer segments: individuals, organizations, government entities, and corporations.

As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of accounting business you operate. Clearly, individuals would respond to different marketing promotions than corporations, for example.

Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, including a discussion of the ages, genders, locations, and income levels of the potential customers you seek to serve.

Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can recognize and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.

Don’t you wish there was a faster, easier way to finish your business plan?

With Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template you can finish your plan in just 8 hours or less!

Competitive Analysis

Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.

Direct competitors are othe r accounting firms. 

Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from that aren’t directly competing with your product or service. This includes CPAs, other accounting service providers, or bookkeeping firms. You need to mention such competition as well.

For each such competitor, provide an overview of their business and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as

  • What types of customers do they serve?
  • What type of accounting business are they?
  • What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
  • What are they good at?
  • What are their weaknesses?

With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective. And don’t be afraid to ask your competitors’ customers what they like most and least about them.

The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:

  • Will you provide options for multiple customer segments?
  • Will you offer products or services that your competition doesn’t?
  • Will you provide better customer service?
  • Will you offer better pricing?

Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.  

Marketing Plan

Traditionally, a marketing plan includes the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For a accounting business plan, your marketing strategy should include the following:

Product : In the product section, you should reiterate the type o f accounting company that you documented in your company overview. Then, detail the specific products or services you will be offering. For example, will you provide auditing services, tax accounting, bookkeeping, or risk accounting services?

Price : Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of yo ur plan, yo u are presenting the products and/or services you offer and their prices.

Place : Place refers to the site of your accounting company. Document where your company is situated and mention how the site will impact your success. For example, is your accounting business located in a busy retail district, a business district, a standalone office, or purely online? Discuss how your site might be the ideal location for your customers.

Promotions : The final part of your accounting marketing plan is where you will document how you will drive potential customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:

  • Advertise in local papers, radio stations and/or magazines
  • Reach out to websites 
  • Distribute flyers
  • Engage in email marketing
  • Advertise on social media platforms
  • Improve the SEO (search engine optimization) on your website for targeted keywords

Operations Plan

While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.

Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your accounting business, including answering calls, scheduling meetings with clients, billing and collecting payments, etc. 

Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to book your Xth client, or when you hope to reach $X in revenue. It could also be when you expect to expand your accounting business to a new city.  

Management Team

To demonstrate your accounting business’ potential to succeed, a strong management team is essential. Highlight your key players’ backgrounds, emphasizing those skills and experiences that prove their ability to grow a company. 

Ideally, you and/or your team members have direct experience in managing accounting businesses. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.

If your team is lacking, consider assembling an advisory board. An advisory board would include 2 to 8 individuals who would act as mentors to your business. They would help answer questions and provide strategic guidance. If needed, look for advisory board members with experience in managing an accounting business or bookkeeping firm.   

Financial Plan

Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance s heet, and cash flow statements.

Income Statement

An income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenue and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.

In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you see 5 clients per day, and/or offer discounts for referrals ? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.

Balance Sheets

Balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. While balance sheets can include much information, try to simplify them to the key items you need to know about. For instance, if you spend $50,000 on building out your accounting business, this will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a lender writes you a check for $50,000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.

Cash Flow Statement

Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and ensure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt. 

When creating your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing a accounting business:

  • Cost of equipment and office supplies
  • Payroll or salaries paid to staff
  • Business insurance
  • Other start-up expenses (if you’re a new business) like legal expenses, permits, computer software, and equipment

Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your office location lease or a list of your most prominent clients.    Summary Writing a business plan for your accounting business is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the accounting business plan example above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will understand the accounting industry, your competition, and your customers. You will develop a marketing strategy and will understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful accounting business.  

Accounting Business Plan Template FAQs

What is the easiest way to complete my accounting business plan.

Growthink's Ultimate Business Plan Template allows you to quickly and easily write your accounting business plan.

How Do You Start an Accounting Business?

Starting an accounting business is easy with these 14 steps:

  • Choose the Name for Your Accounting Business
  • Create Your Accounting Business Plan
  • Choose the Legal Structure for Your Accounting Business
  • Secure Startup Funding for Your Accounting Business (If Needed)
  • Secure a Location for Your Business
  • Register Your Accounting Business with the IRS
  • Open a Business Bank Account
  • Get a Business Credit Card
  • Get the Required Business Licenses and Permits
  • Get Business Insurance for Your Accounting Business
  • Buy or Lease the Right Accounting Business Equipment
  • Develop Your Accounting Business Marketing Materials
  • Purchase and Setup the Software Needed to Run Your Accounting Business
  • Open for Business

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  OR, Let Us Develop Your Plan For You Since 1999, Growthink has developed business plans for thousands of companies who have gone on to achieve tremendous success.   Click here to see how a Growthink business plan writer can create your business plan for you.   Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates

Business Plan Template & Guide For Small Businesses

Kapta

The Fundamental Guide to Account Planning

Key account management is as much a science as it is an art. Create a consistent approach to how you build background information on critical clients, develop a sales approach, and build a relationship based on proactive management and support. 

Without an overhanging, strategic framework, it's hard to develop a playbook of tactics that protect your brand reputation and cultivate long-term business relationships — let alone train your team on how to do the same thing. In this ultimate guide to account planning, you'll learn more about:

  • How to create key account and sales account plans
  • Best practices for strategic account planning
  • The growing role of automation and technology in key account planning and management
  • How to find the right key account management software for your organization

Table of Contents

What is a Key Account Plan?

The 4-Step Guide to Creating a Sales Account Plan

The role of automation in strategic account planning, do's and don'ts when creating a key account plan template, why modern businesses are changing their account planning methods, 5 steps to more proactive key account planning, are you utilizing strategic account mapping successfully, how crm integration is changing the strategic account planning process, 5 things to look for in a strategic account planning software, what is a key account plan.

A key account plan is your methodical strategy for ensuring your key client has an enjoyable customer experience throughout the life of the account. It's your roadmap for reaching out to the client to grow the relationship, tracking their deliverables, renewing contracts, or securing more orders. 

In most businesses , approximately 20% of your accounts are responsible for 80% of your business. These high-volume accounts make up your key accounts, though clients with influential ties in your industry can also be key accounts. 

Every business has its own unique approach to crafting key account plans that position its brand favorably and ensure that the relationship is providing value both for the client and the organization.

A key account plan often has these essential elements:

  • An overview of the account's business, pain points, and contacts within the client organization
  • Long-term objectives for both the client and the sales team
  • Action items stretching from day one with the key account to fulfilling and resetting the long-term objectives
  • A change management process for assessing the key account over time so the account manager can recognize if they are succeeding with the account or if they need to take additional steps to cultivate or save the relationship

Learn more about what a key account plan is and how it can help grow your revenue here .

Creating a sales account plan is a critical part of ensuring a new client — whether they're a key account or a new business — doesn't fall through the cracks or have a substandard experience.

Create a standard operating procedure you and your account management team can use to consistently create sales account plans for each new account. We recommend following these four steps:

1. Divide the Accounts

Your business will have multiple different types of accounts based on their recurring revenue, strategic value, size, potential, and other factors. Categorize your accounts into key accounts, strategic accounts, and other divisions so you can develop specialized teams devoted to the different types.

2. Assess Their Needs

For each account, take a deep look at their overarching goals, their short-term goals, the opportunity for upsells, and other ways the account manager can satisfy their needs while growing the account.

3. Create the Sales Account Plan

Develop a sales plan of step-by-step actions the account manager can perform to both grow the account relationship and satisfy current orders.

4. Implement the Plan

Now that there is a fleshed-out plan with supporting details and rationales, it's time for the AM to take the first step.

Read our in-depth guide to creating sales account plans to get started.

Businesses are turning to automation for a lot of their revenue and administrative functions. After all, newly developed AI and machine-learning systems can quickly enter, analyze, and compile data. 

Integrations and increasingly sophisticated connections between different business tools can copy data from one platform to another with far fewer errors or manhours than manual systems. As a general rule, automation is making businesses more efficient , faster, and more client-ready.

However, automation and artificial intelligence aren't tools for replacing humans. Instead, they're ways to allow humans to focus on creative or critical thinking-based tasks that manual data entry often interfered with.

In account management, for example, clients still want human interaction and personal attention to ensure their needs are being sufficiently (and proactively!) met. Account managers can use automation to quickly fill data into CRMs and account management software platforms, generate reports that capture trends and insight, and manage repetitive tasks.

In turn, AMs can spend their time developing strategies for each client, focusing on building relationships, and resolving unique challenges and one-offs that automated systems simply can't handle.

Learn more about where automation does and doesn't fit into strategic account management .

Earlier, we discussed the value of creating key account plans. Having a repeatable process can guide your team and new account managers in the future so they can quickly and consistently create sales account plans that meet your business's standards. Another tool for guaranteeing consistent quality and key account management practices is to develop a key account plan template.  

This simple tool will provide a starting point for account managers so they can organize their information and hit the ground running with a time-tested management approach. Key account management software with customized templates can make the approach even easier.

You and your team can develop a gallery of template styles to fit each account type or have different drag and drop elements so KAMs can record their thoughts and account-critical details.

This blend of consistency and personalization allows your team to make each plan their own while still making the plans universal enough for team leads and new AMs to easily understand the documents. 

Key account plan templates should include these standard blocks:

  • A simple overview section with business details, contact information, and a brief summary of the relationship.
  • A robust objectives section where the account manager can identify short-term and long-term client needs, pain points that the client has experienced before or with other services providers, and their own expectations for service.
  • An area for competitive analysis and risk analysis so account managers can strategize on best practices for retaining the account and ensuring your organization is more appealing than competitors.
  • A timeline of actionable tasks so AMs can create a to-do list that doesn't rush the client or let them feel ignored.

Read more about the best practices for developing key account plan templates here .

Developing your current clients into key accounts and focusing on recurring business is more predictable and more profitable than chasing after new clients. As a result, more and more organizations are focusing on customer service and account-based relationships to wow clients and ensure a longer-lasting relationship that benefits both sides.

This is a significant change in how businesses are handling their account management, but it's not the only change.

Organizations are also prioritizing technology and strategy development. This includes creating resources for remote work and communications, investing in key account management software with in-depth data and templates for account management, and focusing on collaborative tools that connect all branches of the revenue team. This results in a less siloed, more relationship-driven workplace.

Learn more about how and why modern businesses are changing with technological advances and shifts in account management mindsets here .

Reactive account management is about solving problems, but that still means problems have to occur — and that's bad for business. Instead, more businesses are focusing on proactive key account planning to anticipate changing client needs and resolving problems before they reach the client or become a substantive problem.

This creates a smoother, more positive client experience. Five of the most important steps for incorporating this practice include:

1. Be an Ally

Instead of simply fulfilling sales and attempting to upsell clients at regular intervals, create a long-term success plan with your client. Discuss what their needs are year after year and what their expectations are both for your services and their total growth. Taking an authentic interest in their needs allows you to develop more personalized plans and create upsells that provide them with more value.

2. Assign a Key Account Champion

Instead of simply having key account managers mixed in with your other types of account managers, have a leader who represents and champions key accounts. They should engage with key account managers to ensure they have the resources they need, regularly communicate with business leaders so the value of your key accounts stays visible, and continually educate revenue teams about the needs of these unique accounts.

3. Make Sure the C-Suite Is on Board

Your C-suite team should receive regular updates on how your organization's key accounts are performing and the value they bring to your business. This turns them into opportunities, not just disruptive accounts that seem to require more hand-holding. It's also important to have your C-suite executives engage with key contacts. This allows for better feedback and more authentic connections.

4. Communicate With Your Team

While the key account manager for a key account may know how important a client is, the product delivery team, customer service representatives, and even the marketing team may not be equally informed. Ensure that all of the departments that serve each key account are kept informed of changes and new developments — negative and (even more importantly) positive. This builds more engagement across your revenue team.

5. Give Key Accounts Attention

Don't overwhelm key account managers. Key accounts require more attention than self-service accounts or accounts that fall more in line with your standard business practices. If your AMs have too many clients, things will start to slip through the cracks, and your clients may look elsewhere for service providers.

Learn about each of these strategies in more depth here .

Strategic account mapping is all about identifying critical contacts in a strategic account client's organization. By identifying contacts, decision-makers, and how different agents within the client organization interact, your team can better communicate the value you're providing and anticipate changes in client needs.

Recording all of the client details in an account map helps your team stay on top of shifting contacts due to turnover; it's also a good resource for when your own team has turnover or you need to reach out to a key account while the typical AM is out of the office.

Learn more about how to make your strategic account mapping practices stronger.

Customer relationship management tools (CRMs) and key account management tools (KAMs) need to talk to each other, but they can't replace each other.

CRMs are generally used for cultivating new business and organizing a prospective lead's journey so it's as fulfilling as possible. KAMs help organize account details and long-term strategies to support the account manager over time.

Despite these distinct purposes, the two platforms need to share profile details and sales details so your organization fully understands revenue and can create accurate forecasts.

Read our in-depth article about how your business's CRM fits into how strategic and key account management processes.

Strategic account planning software needs to offer account managers critical resources and organization so they can manage contact details, short-term and long-term goals, and actionable tasks so the account stays as healthy as possible. We recommend looking for strategic account planning software that allows you to achieve all of the account planning fundamentals we discussed in this guide. Five of the most critical elements include:

  • Interactive Org Charts
  • CRM Integration
  • Reporting Functions
  • Deliverables Tracking
  • Planning Templates 

Explore these 5 specific elements of strategic account planning more in detail here .

Contact Kapta for Account Planning Support

At Kapta, we've created a complete software platform with the resources and organizational tools account managers need to stay on top of key and strategic accounts.

Revenue teams can use our platform to share information, analyze trends, manage deliverables and upsell opportunities, and more. Schedule a demo or contact our team today to see how Kapta can support your organization.

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4 Ways to Strengthen Relationships and Improve Key Account Planning

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MindManager Blog

A strategic account planning template for your business

January 14, 2021 by MindManager Blog

By: Nicholas Mistretta

It’s always easier to paint by numbers than it is to sit down in front of a blank canvas and create something new, and this approach can be adapted specifically for your account planning needs. What’s to follow in today’s article is a strategic account planning template that you can use to win new key accounts or grow existing ones.

You may recall from previous articles that you must first change your mindset when dealing with your strategic accounts. You’re a partner, not a vendor. A problem solver, not a salesman. And as such, you have to think differently and plan differently.

The strategic account planning template below, including some account planning tools, is meant to help you improve relationships with your key accounts by:

  • Understanding your customers’ business goals and identifying opportunities
  • Identifying and reducing risk
  • Delivering value to your client
  • Creating value for your organization
  • Increasing revenue

You want to show your strategic accounts that you’re invested in their success, challenges, and goals. But you also want to create a strategy for mutual success, where both sides win. That’s the only way successful partnerships last.

Perhaps it will help to think of your strategic account planning template in simpler terms. It should help you figure out where you are now with a particular client, where you want to be, and how you’re going to get there.

Therefore, your account planning template will be more Rand McNally road atlas than Picasso’s painting of The Old Guitarist. But that doesn’t mean it still can’t be a masterpiece, and that will be determined by how well you fill in the blanks and connect the dots.

Your strategic account planning template for greater success

Will time and effort be required when filling in your template details and all the research and resources that go into it? You bet! Will it be worth it? If done the right way, the potential ROI from a great account planning template has no limits, or as Michael Jordan once famously said, “ The ceiling is the roof .” (That’s OK, we know what he meant.)

1. Your customer’s business overview

Your goal in step one is to gather as much information as you can on your key account’s business so you can better understand their wants and needs. In doing so, you can create that value we mentioned above. And what happens when you create value? You make your organization indispensable.

This should never be thought of as a one-time exercise. Change is always happening whether we see it or not. Goals and objectives change over time. Markets shift and businesses expand. And new technology comes along that turns everything upside down.

Write everything down about your strategic client – from names, main contacts, and year founded, to annual revenue, number of employees, and the date your relationship with them began. Everything that’s relevant, and in the beginning, it may be better to have too much information rather than too little. At least until you get a better sense of what data is necessary.

Take note of all the information you’ll need to help define your customer’s goals and strategies for reaching those goals.

2. Understanding your customer’s key objectives

In this step, you’ll want to ask your customer about their business. And listen strategically while they talk, rather than what most of us do in casual conversations, which is to passively listen and wait our turn to speak.

You want to get a better feel for:

  • The challenges they currently have
  • How they’ve tried to solve them, what’s working, and what isn’t
  • How they measure success and the time frame for measuring
  • Their short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals
  • Key projects now and in the near future
  • Their KPIs – key performance indicators

Keep in mind what your objective is during this step – to figure out what your strategic client values most, and this may sometimes require reading between the lines, which is why being a great listener is so crucial. By better understanding their expectations and goals, you’ll build more customer loyalty, and keep the wolves at bay (i.e., the competition).

Jeff Bezos once famously said, “Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient.” There’s that win-win end game we keep harping on.

3. A better understanding of the client landscape

Large corporations are complex machines made up of flawed human beings all trying to get ahead. It’s important that you and your team understand the organizational chart, the important players, and the decision-makers. And this can change based on different product lines, different divisions, and geography.

The point of this exercise is in knowing the right person you should be dealing with. Think Godfather II. Would you go to Fredo Corleone to strike up a deal with the family or Michael?

Find information on what job titles you should be targeting for your products. Use past performance – which titles served you well in the past, allowing you to get your foot in the door or the information you needed to help move forward with that client.

Part of your strategic account planning template includes assessing the client landscape, and to do that, you should get information on the following:

  • Your relationship history with the client
  • The client’s organizational chart
  • A whitespace map – opportunities for added value – upsells, cross-sells
  • Project status reports
  • Customer value scorecard – client satisfaction, objectives, performance/KPIs
  • Net promoter score – percentage of customer rating recommendations likelihood

4. Delivering value across the client’s organization

This step gets to the heart of your client’s products and revenues. Identify where you’re currently adding value, what the ROI is for that value, and if any gaps exist in the value chain.

Specific things you’ll want to examine are:

  • Their white space analysis
  • Current sales performance
  • Current margin performance
  • Successes and failures over the last 12 months

Now it’s time to analyze your key account’s top competitors.

5. Analyze the competition

As a partner, the only true way to understand your clients’ needs is to better understand their competition. When dealing with simple accounts, your relationship was very transactional – how much can I sell them today. But with strategic accounts, your partnership must be more strategic.

Part of that challenge is in helping those customers differentiate themselves from their top competitors. For each strategic account who you’re creating an account planning template for, consider the following:

  • Your client’s top competition
  • The competition’s strengths
  • The competition’s weaknesses

6. Identify value-based selling for key decision-makers

When is the last time you sold to a company versus an individual at that company? Understanding human nature will be helpful.

Take the organizational chart you created in a previous step in your account planning template and expand it to include motivations and criteria for each key decision-maker in your key account.

Then use value-based selling points to target those individuals to whom you’ll be selling. Salesmen sell based on an empty slot on a shelf. While trusted partners understand how their selling points match the goals for each decision-maker.

Identify each of the following for the key decision-makers within your strategic accounts:

  • Evaluation criteria
  • Key decision criteria
  • Key selling points

You must understand how the people inside your key accounts make decisions and what criteria they use to do that. Those great listening skills we mentioned earlier will serve you well once again.

7. The customer relationship – goals and strategies

Use the motivations from the above step and the organizational chart from step three to find relationship targets (key players) with the greatest opportunities for engagement. Those that can provide the most productive outcomes for both the customer’s business and your own. Remember, mutual success is the goal; that’s what a true partnership is built upon.

Start by being honest about where your relationship status currently stands. Have you ever watched a movie where a guy proposes to a woman who obviously isn’t interested, while you cringe with embarrassment simply because he misread the relationship? Don’t be that guy.

You’ll want to determine the following:

  • Your current relationship status – are you seen as a trusted partner or simply a vendor?
  • Who are the core business partners?
  • Answer the who, what, where, how, why for all relationship targets
  • A progression strategy to strengthen those key relationships

8. Identifying opportunities, targets, and risk

To this point, you’ve gathered and analyzed a lot of data – customer objectives, motivations, and important relationships with key decision-makers. You’ve decided which products or services you can suggest to help your clients reach their goals.

This step is about making a list of relevant goals for your strategic accounts and identifying internal and external blockers. Then it’s time to face the final hurdle – operational restrictions.

You may find certain roadblocks in place for the delivery of products and services. You may find opportunities to automate certain aspects of the client’s business, or specific processes that can have a greater impact on their success.

At this stage, you’ll want to identify:

  • Operational restrictions
  • Barriers, limitations, and risks
  • Cross-sell and upsell opportunities
  • Methods to align your customer’s needs with your products or services
  • Long-term revenue goals

9. Creating your action plan for success

Much of your strategic account planning template to this point has revolved around gathering data and becoming more familiar with your key accounts and the key decision-makers inside those accounts. So, by now you should know the problems and potential solutions, the steps required to get there, the necessary resources, who should perform each step and by when, and how you can measure accountability.

Identify all the tasks you’ll use to achieve positive results and assign them to the right people. This will include primary tasks, milestones, and sub-tasks if required.

Your action plan should contain the following:

  • The customer’s top five objectives
  • Critical resources for achieving those objectives
  • The assignment of each task

How do you measure success? You quantify with data. Some specific areas you’ll want to assess are:

  • How to improve results with fewer resources (cost-conscious)
  • How to achieve the same results with fewer resources (cost reduction)
  • How to improve quality or user experience (satisfaction)
  • How to reduce time or unnecessary steps (efficiency)

10. Strategic account planning review

You should review the entries in your strategic account planning template as often as necessary. As we mentioned earlier, things tend to change and sometimes those changes happen quickly.

Consider using the following schedule for this last step:

  • Bi-weekly – check-in by email to get status updates on the account plan
  • Monthly – schedule a client call and go over their account plan updates or changes, if objectives have changed, and anything else
  • Quarterly – Put together a one-hour progress report that outlines challenges, unexpected events, new opportunities, successes, failures, and decisions for moving forward

Review the process to date, the timeline involved, and the next steps. Ask yourself if you’ve prioritized value opportunities correctly. And ask the client for relevant resources to secure buy-in as you continue working together to achieve their long-term goals.

The emphasis should always be on collaboration and positioning yourself as a beneficial and mutual partner. Your strategic clients will value you much differently and begin to see you as an indispensable member of the team, rather than someone trying to make a quick buck with a quick sale.

Let’s conclude this article on strategic account planning templates with a quote from a gentleman who’s seen a bit of success in his life:

“The key is to set realistic customer expectations, and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.”

– Richard Branson

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8 best practices for successful strategic account management

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For most organizations, the old business adage rings true: 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. It would make sense, then, to treat these valuable assets with greater care. Yet, too often, companies don’t have a dedicated process to nurture those key business relationships.

The work isn’t done when the sale closes. Customers big and small can churn for many reasons. The best way to avoid a costly breakup with your most valuable customers is to implement a strategic account management program.

Read on to learn strategic account management best practices and how you can nurture key relationships for long-term success.

strategic account management best practices

What is strategic account management?

Strategic account management (SAM) or key account management focuses on building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships with key customers.

Through in-depth research and assessment, strategic account managers find opportunities to drive value for their partners by identifying problems, offering creative solutions, and leveraging partnerships to move both organizations toward their strategic goals.  

A formal strategic account management program can:

  • Foster customer loyalty.
  • Stimulate growth.
  • Increase profitability.
  • Drive innovative and scalable service solutions.

Sales vs. strategic management

Unlike a sales program, which focuses on short-term selling cycles and customer acquisition, strategic management goes a step further to develop deeper relationships with a small number of core customers over time.

In short, sales is about the present. Strategic management is about the future.

While the gains may not be immediate, strategic accounts are a vital part of an organization’s long-term success and profitability.

Strategic account management best practices

An effective SAM program isn’t something you stumble upon. The most successful organizations rely on formal, measurable, repeatable processes to develop and maintain their most valuable customer relationships.

Whether you already have a process in place or plan to implement a new strategic account program, use these account management best practices to put your organization ahead of the curve.

1. Assign dedicated strategic account managers

The first step to a successful program is to assign dedicated account managers who are separate from sales. The best programs don’t have managers that must split their priorities or switch focus between making sales and developing strategic accounts.

Instead, create a team (or teams) with dedicated accounts and team leads focused solely on strategic management.

When filling these roles, keep in mind that sales and strategic management have different objectives and require a different skill set and approach to customer relationships.

Strategic account managers should be both analytical and personable. They need to build rapport with customers, think strategically about partnership opportunities and solutions, collaborate and communicate with high-level stakeholders and decision-makers, and lead a cross-functional team.    

2. Develop selection criteria for key accounts

While all customers are valuable, not all customers can be elevated to a key account. Be selective. Strategic accounts are reserved for customers whose partnerships can propel your organization toward its goals.

How can you determine which accounts are worthy?

You’ll need to develop a shortlist of selection criteria that hone in on alignments between your two organizations. Focus on three to eight objective criteria, weighted in relative importance to your organization.

These criteria could include:

  • Product fit
  • Revenue potential
  • Growth potential
  • Cultural fit
  • Geographic alignment
  • Existing relationships
  • Potential channel partnership

Senior management should take the lead on this stage rather than the sales managers. Selection criteria are based on the organization’s high-level strategic goals and vision, so senior managers are the best fit for this role.  

3. Polish the handoff from sales

An oft-overlooked step in the SAM process is the transition from sales to account management. How well you handle account transitions is an important part of building a trusted relationship with your customers.

For best results, follow a formal, scripted handoff from the sales team to the account management team. Each customer (whether they become a key account or not) should be methodically organized and tracked in your account system.

Make sure to communicate clearly with the customer, so they understand who their points of contact are and what to expect going forward. For example, how often will you touch base with them via phone or email? Who can they talk to if they have questions or concerns? Setting clear expectations (and following through!) will foster a trusting relationship with your customer.

Learn how our sales and customer success teams at Lucidchart have perfected this handoff in this article .

4. Create a comprehensive customer profile

Once you have a selection process in place and you have identified and assigned your key accounts, you’ll need to develop in-depth customer portfolios.

The strategic account manager has to know their customer inside and out. To do this, they need to conduct research on the client company to build out a comprehensive profile.

Investigate and assess the company’s:

  • Business and markets
  • Goals and initiatives
  • Stakeholder roles and responsibilities
  • Key decision makers
  • Analyst reports
  • Competition

The aim is to understand your customer’s pain points and goals in order to identify opportunities for added value and collaboration. Our thorough customer model overview template can help.

5. Conduct a needs assessment

With your portfolio of customer research, the next step is to conduct a needs assessment.

  • What are the organization’s pain points?
  • Where do your needs or goals overlap and how can you help each other progress?
  • Are there any problems looming that you can anticipate and address for them?

Use your data to find ways you can help them, and assess opportunities for collaboration and partnership. Strategic accounts are long-term investments. Instead of a typical 3-12 month transactional lifecycle, you are creating a strategy for the next 1-3 years. Keep that in mind as you assess strategic needs and opportunities.  

Remember: The ultimate goal of strategic account management is to grow with your customer.

6. Draft a strategic plan and proposal

Based on your needs assessment, drill down to the best strategic opportunities and draft an account plan. This plan is your strategic roadmap for the next 1-3 years. Once you polish the plan, approach your customer with your proposal.

Your proposal should include things like:

  • Strategic recommendations (e.g., potential partnerships with other companies, creative solutions, etc.)
  • Specific long-term goals with short-term benchmarks
  • Resource requirements

This is your chance to demonstrate to the client that you’ve gone above and beyond to understand and address their needs and that your company is invested in their success.

7. Set a cadence for contacts, meetings, and follow-ups

Once you have a strategic plan in place, set a regular cadence for ongoing communication with your key accounts.

Outline a schedule for each touchpoint, meeting, and follow-up to ensure your customer is in the loop and has the opportunity to give feedback, communicate changes, or ask questions.

This schedule will help you stay updated on what your customer needs, how they are using your product or solution, and how you can help. Clear communication is vital to a strong working relationship with your customers. Our customer journey map template is a perfect way to start.

8. Monitor performance

Continually monitor and measure your performance on each account. What progress have you made on your short-term and long-term goals? How do your results measure against your KPIs?

Monitoring performance is not only important to ensure you deliver on your end but also to track how well the key account fulfills its obligations to you. While you want to drive value for the client, the goal is one of mutual long-term benefit. If the relationship no longer holds the same strategic value for your organization, it’s better to identify that sooner rather than later.

Measure your account performance continually so you can keep the plans on track and pivot or reassess as needed.

Lucid can help with your strategic account management

Strategic account management is complex. With so many moving parts, it is easy for data, insights, or people to fall through the cracks. Yet, key accounts represent the most valuable customers, so you can’t afford to drop the ball.

Lucidchart helps sales teams manage their processes seamlessly. From account maps to process flows , Lucidchart helps you visualize relationships and stay on track as you move through the account management process.

account mapping

With our Salesforce integration , you can import your CRM data directly into Lucidchart to create account maps. Account maps help managers and teams:

  • Identify key relationships in an organization.
  • Track the progression of a sale or relationship.
  • Transition accounts between reps and teams.
  • Document a shareable account plan.

Key accounts are 60% to 70% more likely to close, and key accounts make up the lifeblood of many companies.

Don’t miss out on your best relationships. By implementing a formal strategic account management process, you can reap the benefits of long-term partnerships for many years to come.

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 Lucidchart serves as a dynamic roadmap to help your team close bigger deals faster.

Lucidchart, a cloud-based intelligent diagramming application, is a core component of Lucid Software's Visual Collaboration Suite. This intuitive, cloud-based solution empowers teams to collaborate in real-time to build flowcharts, mockups, UML diagrams, customer journey maps, and more. Lucidchart propels teams forward to build the future faster. Lucid is proud to serve top businesses around the world, including customers such as Google, GE, and NBC Universal, and 99% of the Fortune 500. Lucid partners with industry leaders, including Google, Atlassian, and Microsoft. Since its founding, Lucid has received numerous awards for its products, business, and workplace culture. For more information, visit lucidchart.com.

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Strategic Account Planning – Process, Challenges, Solutions

Milind katti.

COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm

What is Strategic Account Planning?

Account Planning for Strategic Accounts or Strategic Account Management  is a process of building value-driven relationships with your key customers that can help in long-term development and retention, thereby maximizing the revenue potential.

It is a synonym for Key Account Planning . The strategic account management process has always been complex. The complexities exist at all levels – thinking, documenting, presenting, planning, training, and reviewing.

Therefore, key account managers must clearly know to build strategic account planning with the best practices. Using an account planning software like DemandFarm’s Key Account Management Software  can reduce the time and effort by a mile but we’ll come to that later. Taking you through the entire process and strategies may be a bit too long for a blog. But in this one let me make the ‘thinking’ part a little easier with frameworks, directions, and principles for a phenomenal strategic account planning exercise.

According to a CSO Insights 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study, 90.6% of those surveyed said that strategic account planning was relevant to them and therefore they would do it.

Important Processes of Strategic Account Planning

1. current position.

Understand account information in terms of revenue/profitability/growth, products/services, geographic spread, and the account’s strategic initiatives and plan for the year. This is publicly available data that can be easily found so it makes no sense to not use this to analyze your client’s financial position and organizational structure.

The most relevant questions and the ones that will be unique from your competitors are questions like:

  • Which areas of your business are most important to you?
  • Where do you see yourself in two to four years?
  • Are there areas of interest that you might either reduce or grow?
  • What kinds of obstacles do you worry about?
  • What would you like to see from a prime supplier?”

Must Watch:  Jenny Smith Byers, VP Client Services at TaskUs shares their experience around building & scaling processes for Strategic Account Management.

2. Voice of Customer (VOC)

Ask any strategic account manager and they will tell you that the days are gone when the client account landscape was represented by a one-way dialogue for engaging prospects. Today, account heads are shifting their listening and response mechanisms quicker as VoC represents a huge chance for driving loyalty and increased sales.

What are the challenges, concerns, and problems clients have been talking about? How can you address those problems with the products/services of your company? This kind of insight is usually not available publicly. It involves having an in-depth discussion with customers to understand their plan and pain points which can help in new product development or even tweaking the current product to suit their strategy and requirements. The success of this depends on the quality of relationships between the client and their customers, and knowledge of both customers and your business.

3. Relationship Management

With accounts.

You can have multiple types of relationships with clients, and they can be either Tactical, Cooperative, Interdependent, or Strategic. You can use a simple weighted attribute method to arrive at one of the four. A skilled account manager uses the best practices and strategies to plan and create the account management organizational structure with an account plan and process in place. Having the right training and using certain principles increases the skill set of the manager to deal with strategic accounts .

With People

  • Sketch an organization chart with hierarchies, titles, and roles of all the contacts that matter.
  • What is also helpful is to identify your supporters/detractors/champions among those contacts.
  • Who controls what budgets?
  • Who influences whom, both positively/negatively? Why?

In order to convert deals and present your customers with a high-grade experience, you need to be informed of the positions your contacts hold within their business and their level of influence in the decision-making process.

Mapping their level of influence and their relationships within the organization can help you to concentrate your efforts on the plan appropriately. Relationship mapping helps the sales and marketing units of the business to optimize their lead generation plans and increase revenue from existing accounts. Modern technology keeps the method of creating relation maps automated. Gathering insights using modern technology can automatically keep your relationship mapping efforts up-to-date

‍ 4. Growth Opportunities

Based on the above 4 data points, identify the buying centers in the account and map which of your products/services is consumed in which buying centers. Understanding Buying Centers can help key account managers in strategic account planning and innovation. The Buying Center is a 40-year-old concept associated with Webster and Wind and can be hugely useful. The Buying Center is a part of the organization that involves a bunch of executives who have varying influence on the B2B buy decision. Performing a complete buying center analysis is an essential first step to help key account planning managers understand which messages and tactics best convey the value of their products.

That can give you an idea of two types of growth areas:

Mining Growth

Finding out which of the existing projects/contracts/business can grow this year is where mining can happen.

Farming Growth

What are the new opportunities that can be explored this year in your strategic account management process? That’s where farming growth comes in! All this can allow you to set yourself a revenue goal for the year.

Download Now: Your Guide to Cross-selling and Up-selling

Strategic account plan template – action plan.

To achieve the goal, list down action items, specific activities, monthly plan, and the support required along with timelines. We are a firm believer in keeping the key account management process simple yet powerful. Over-analysis can lead to paralysis so keep it short and simple. I would emphasize more action items and numbers, and less on theory.

In today’s dynamic business world, we would also change the plan if there are any dramatic changes in the situation changes. Don’t constrain yourself by a rigid plan, make changes and roll with the punches. Although they seem small, it’s the doing and the duties you accomplish that will ultimately get you to your goals. Even when your goal seems far off on the horizon, if you stay true to your action plan and perform your daily tasks following the key elements, success is inevitable.

7 Big Challenges Faced by Strategic Account Managers

Once the managers start practicing the account plans, they realize the real-world problems or rather, challenges that they must face while creating strategic account plans. Let’s take a good look at the 7 Big Challenges faced while creating strategic account plans . Where did we get this top secret information? Straight from the managers themselves and their organizations, of course!

1. The eternal tug-of-war between short-term and long-term

Even when the organization has made a policy decision to have a Strategic Account Management cell for Key Accounts or Strategic Accounts , some managers may find it difficult to choose between the short term and long term. Many times, the short-term wins as it is more achievable and managers often feel a quick sense of accomplishment.

That’s exactly where the challenge lies; to choose the long-term over the short-term when the situation so demands. It isn’t enough for managers to hit short-term goals and give themselves the pat on the back, it is integral to concentrate on strategic account plan goals like maximization of customer lifetime value too!

2. Having access to an effective strategic planning tool

Strategic account management needs more work than normal accounts and hence better tools and templates. Although strategic account plans are about building key relationships and nurturing them, this process does need to be automated. There are various strategic planning templates available that help managers in planning and managing their strategic accounts well.

But having access to a suitable tool that is specifically designed for strategic account plans may be a challenge, to begin with. Challenges of strategic account management can be overcome by ensuring the account planning tool is made a part of the responsibility of the strategic management team and the leadership.

Case Study: Healthcare Industry Company Boosts Strategic Account Revenue by 30%

3. having a good relationship with all key customers (other than that one key customer) within each strategic account.

It’s not enough to have a good relationship with just one key person within one Strategic Account. People move from one organization to another. Strategic Account Managers cannot afford to put all their eggs in one basket and need to form good relationships with other key people within the Strategic Account.

This ensures that a great account isn’t lost, simply because the biggest influencer left the organization. A dynamic Org Chart can be extremely helpful to ensure that Strategic Account Managers know exactly where the influencers and detractors lie in an organizational hierarchy.

4. Interacting with enterprise-level organizations and key buyers at the top level

Sales Account Planning requires a CXO-level management involvement with any client. This bottleneck may arise due to a lack of training. This is very easily rectified with proper recruitments, training, and a top-down approach to Strategic Account Management.

5. The actual implementation of the Strategic Account Plans

Strategic Account Plans will remain so unless they’re put into action by a motivated Strategic Account Manager. The biggest detriment of a Strategic Account Plan is actually its implementation and thus it must be taken into account during creation.

6. Formulating a fair and comprehensive compensation policy for Strategic Account Managers

Since the conversion in a Strategic Account happens over a period, incentive planning and compensation for Strategic Account Managers cannot be the same as your Sales team, yet needs to be fair. Proper metrics need to be defined and implemented, which is a major HR challenge. It will keep evolving over time and will vary from organization to organization.

7. Training and skills in Strategic Account Management

What kind of training and skill sets do Strategic Account Managers need to acquire and how frequently do they need to be trained, is often the question. It’s a crucial decision that leadership needs to take, as it is not a good idea to take chances with the capabilities and delivery of the Strategic Account Managers . We are certain there are many more such challenges beyond the seven mentioned here.

What is essential to this subject is the fact that the Top Challenges for high performers do differ from the Top Challenges of the average performer. Average performers are more concerned about the most fundamental challenges that are lower in the challenges hierarchy, such as ‘having access to an effective strategic account planning tool’ and ‘the tussle between short term and long term goals’.

On the other hand, high performers would be more concerned about challenges such as ‘fair compensation policy for strategic account managers based on sales results’ and ‘effective ways of building and communicating value’.

Let’s conclude with what McKinsey says , “It’s not surprising to learn that those who use an analytic approach achieve up to 10 percent sales growth, up to 5 percent higher return on sales, and a margin uplift of 1 to 2 percent.”

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About The Author

Milind is the COO & Co-Founder of DemandFarm. He co-founded DemandFarm to build smart software technology to bring Account Planning and Relationship Intelligence into your CRM, making Key Account Management data-driven, predictable and scalable.Milind has close to 25 years of experience in sales & marketing. He is an Electronics & Communication Engineer with MBA in Marketing. He enjoys long-distance running, loves reading history, and above all else, he is a humanist.

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Strategic Account Planning: How to Plan for Maximum Sales

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Strategic account planning is incredibly powerful!

Effective account planning not only helps close bigger deals faster but most importantly, helps establish amazing relationships with customers that will carry on for years. Strategic account planning should be recognized as a differentiator and value creator, not an administrative chore completed once a year. Make it be part of the rhythm of your business.

Investing time in building relationships and developing account strategies is time well spent, especially when you’re doing it with the right accounts, the right mindset, the right process and the right team. Account planning isn’t something you need to do with every account you’re selling to or in every segment; for example, it’s unlikely that you’ll drive a strategic account-planning program in your small business segments. On the bigger accounts, though, this is a mandatory practice.

We’ve worked with the best sales professionals and the best sales teams on the planet and through these tens of thousands of hours of working together we perfected a proven account planning template framework (see below).

What is Strategic Account Planning?

Account planning in sales helps prioritize your most important prospects and ensures they’re getting the best of what your company has to offer — and it’s as easy as following our template (listed below).

Whether it’s this year or five years down the line, account planners layout which accounts they want to win over and when. Then keep tabs on them all with monthly follow-ups, quarterly reviews , etc.

Account planning is not just about identifying which companies to target for potential business expansion – but also figuring out how each prospect will use your products or services, and the lifecycle of potential deals over time, which accounts they want to win over, and when.

Why is Account Planning Important?

Successful account plans have a clear strategy, goals, steps to reach the goal, tactics that are tailored to fit specific clients.

Account planning provides clarity and direction for growth-account planners to prioritize accounts to ensure that each one is being served properly.

Identifying who needs your product or service and mapping out when they may be ready to make a purchase, all the way through to keeping tabs on these client accounts with monthly follow-ups.

A Proven The Account Planning Process

Account planning is very focused on getting to the essence of what we’re trying to do with an account: plan, build relationships , identify strategic initiatives that we can solve, and build an action plan to sell. Here’s an Account Planning coaching video that maps out the proven account planning process.

Sales Account Planning Template

See our account planning template below. It’s a battle-tested and proven blueprint for closing millions of dollars in revenue, continually refined over years, designed for success using best practices across multiple industries so that all businesses can benefit from this account planning process framework.

1) Build An Account Planning Snapshot

It’s scary how many salespeople don’t even know where to begin when it comes to account planning and frequently ask “What is the first step in the account planning process?”

First – it’s incredibly important that we build out the Account Plan Snapshot:

  • What do we know about the account?
  • Who are the key executives?
  • What’s their current revenue?
  • Who is their Existing Customer?

An account planning snapshot is so important. Complete a snapshot first so you can get a clear executive overview of the account. This is the ground floor of our account planning process.

2) SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats

The second step of the account planning process is a SWOT analysis which helps to formulaically analyze the accounts strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats together as a team.

Remember this is still in the foundational stage. You may not have all the answers, and that’s OK, that’s why you’re bringing your team together. See potential strengths below:

  • What are the company’s strengths?
  • What are they good at?
  • Are they making money?
  • How are they performing?
  • Are they dominating in their market?
  • What are people saying about them?
  • What products are great?
  • How are their products?

Then, research weaknesses. See potential company weaknesses below:

  • What are the areas of weakness for the company?
  • Maybe a competitor of theirs is beating them in certain markets?
  • Maybe they’ve got huge attrition right now and you’ve read that on Glassdoor or wherever?

These are some potential weaknesses you can look for.

  • Opportunities

Researching the opportunities can be downright magical for you and your team. This research will help you learn everything there is to know about your market and its competitors, which are crucial components for success.

Hopefully by this time you’ve had conversations with:

  • Decision-makers
  • Your champion
  • Some influencers
  • Even maybe some of their customers

You want to list out any potential opportunities you see:

  • What are some opportunities for the company?
  • What people are saying about them in the press?

Research is critical in the Opportunities stage of SWOT analysis. It’ll align you around what you’re trying to accomplish, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and lastly – it will allow you to provide a huge amount of VALUE to your customer.

  • What are some industry threats?
  • What are some competitive threats to the company?

Overall the SWOT analysis is an incredibly powerful account planning tool in your account planning process.

I love building out a SWOT analysis for accounts that I’m trying to partner with. When I sit down with an executive, I like popping up that SWOT analysis, saying, and sharing:

  • Here’s a SWOT analysis: strengths weaknesses threats opportunities, etc
  • Here’s the research we’ve done
  • Does this look accurate?
  • How could this improve? Let’s work on it together?

Frequently what happens on calls and in rooms with executives when sharing this information we go through and we start tweaking the strengths weaknesses and threats and opportunities together – it’s an absolute home run!

We are now embedded within their company and proposing laser-focused solutions.

3) Map Out Top Initiatives

After your SWOT is complete – it’s time to list out top initiatives derived from the SWOT and decide what to prioritize as your top initiatives, as well as brainstorm initiatives for short, middle, and long term sales goals .

So list out the top initiatives and fill in the template list:

  • Who are these initiatives for?
  • Why are they important?
  • What are some dates we can attach to tasks?

Here we can start aligning with compelling events and other trigger events – this is a hugely strategic step.

At this point we haven’t done a deal review, we’re not really at a forecast stage yet – we’re focused on research, we’re building an account strategy and account plan ( see this article for territory planning ).

4) Conduct a Business Unit Analysis

After you’ve completed the top initiatives, you can now begin building your Business Unit Initiatives Analysis.

List out all the business units or departments of the company – just start listing them out and then start filling in information around each business unit:

  • How many employees do they have?
  • What are company goals?
  • Who’s the executive that owns it?
  • When’s the last time we’ve made contact with that executive?

When building out this business unit analysis it gets you to a point where you can:

  • Prioritize your time
  • Prioritize your team’s time
  • Focus goals that make bottom-line sense

This step is where you prioritize where you’re going to invest the resources to go execute the account strategy and the account plan that you’ve created based on all your great research and collaboration you’ve done with your team – you are now aligning ACTION to your great research.

5) Build An Organizational Chart & Political Map

Building an organizational chart is so incredibly important – it’s a critical aspect of the sales process too. For many sales leaders and sales teams, the political landscape of a company and a buying decision is where we found out if and when a deal will really happen. Spending time to map out who you know and who you’re connected with, will pay dividends down the line.

SalesHood Organization Chart

Always make sure there’s an org chart in your account plan. The chart should include:

  • All decision markers, influencers, champions, and executive sponsors, both direct and indirect
  • For each person list our their “buying roles” (decision maker, evaluator, user, approver)
  • For each person market their “relationship status” (supporter, mentor, neutral, non-supporter & enemy)

There are a ton of templates out there but keep it simple – build out your chart to get a sense of the political map:

  • Who has power?
  • Who reports to whom?
  • How do decisions get done?

Org charts are done in a bunch of different ways you can use a tool if you have one or you can just draw it on a whiteboard, do it in a document – however you want to do it – go crazy! But a solid org chart is a must-have.

6) Develop a Connect the Dots Strategy

The next step is to develop a connect the dots strategy .

Let me explain what that means:

  • We’ve done the SWOT analysis
  • We’ve identified top initiatives
  • We have a sense of the executives
  • We have a sense of which executives own which initiatives
  • We’ve also built an org chart

Now we want to figure out who in our company is connected, or who in our network is connected with people of the account that we’re targeting.

From here start mapping executives to executives so we can build a connected dots strategy:

  • Ask for referrals
  • What’s our best approach to go after these people?

Be mindful about who you should be going after. Remember these are strategic accounts building relationships through outreach should be thoughtful and strategic – we’re doing it with research, with intent, with purpose – and we need to remain mindful of that.

7) Build out an Opportunity Planning Map

We’re almost done! The next thing you need to do is build out your opportunity map. So far in the account planning process, we’ve done a ton of work and we’ve identified:

  • A good sense of their top initiatives
  • We know the org chart
  • We know where power lives
  • We’ve even got to connect the dots strategy

Think about how much work you’ve done already to set yourself up for success – now you just have to list out opportunities and start projecting deals:

“Here are some deals that we can go after, based on what we’ve learned from the account.”

And then we do an opportunity map where we start listing out, you know ballpark some deals that we’re going to you know kind of start thinking about, so directionally we know what this can look like in terms of a bigger deal.

List them out and talk it over with the team – which leads us to our next point:

8) Manage an Action Plan

We have now made it to the last step of the account planning process. This is the step where you take all of the info you have gathered and turn it into an actionable plan with personnel and dates attached to it:

  • Who’s connecting with who
  • Who’s doing what
  • What’s the timeline

It’s important to remember that although the salesperson is who’s running point on the account, it’s a team effort .

You win as a team, you lose as a team, so everyone on the team must have a role in this process to keep it moving along.

By assigning roles to everyone on the team ownership is distributed across the entire team and most importantly – multiple people are responsible for follow-through – so we can see the results that we expect.

Being very specific in your action plan is the difference between an account plan that’s developed, and not in action, and an account plan that has action, and turns into bigger deals.

As the strategies are put into action, nurture a culture that holds people accountable. Ask the tough questions when the sales team comes together. Once the executive interactions and conversations happen and pain is identified and validated, shift the focus to managing an opportunity. There is a point, once an opportunity is identified and qualified, when the actions created from your account-strategy work shift to sales process work. These kinds of accomplishments are great motivators for the team to create their own qualified opportunities by being strategic with their accounts.

Sales Account Planning Recap

Just to recap quickly – see the 8 step sales account planning template process below:

  • Executive Overview
  • SWOT analysis – Strengths, weaknesses, threats, opportunities
  • Top Initiatives Chart – Identify the company’s top initiatives that we’ve validated hopefully with some key executives
  • Business Unit Analysis
  • Build an Organizational Chart
  • Connect The Dots Strategy
  • Opportunity Map
  • Action Plan – Critical: the plan needs owners, timeline and dates outlined

Embracing account planning, collaborating with your champion to fill in blanks, and working with your team to execute will supercharge your sales efforts.

The account planning strategy above is not going to get filled in in one sit-down – effective account planning takes time. It may take weeks to build with your team.

It really all depends on the size of the account, the size of the opportunity, the size of your team – but the steps and process are important.

Above is a battle-tested framework that has evolved over time with some of the best salespeople and sales teams in the industry and resulted in important deals with astronomical sales revenue.

Account Planning Mindset

The Zen Buddhist concept of the “beginner’s mind” is something everyone should pick up before they begin diving into the creative side of sales strategy and account planning. The saying goes, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.” This is such a great concept for taking a fresh look at a familiar situation. Suggest to each new salesperson you hire and anyone wanting to kick-start their creative juices that he or she read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki. The notion of a “beginner’s mind” also helps a team get out of a rut on an account that may have had zero revenue growth. Account teams sometimes continue to focus on the same strategies, the same executives, and the same value propositions with their accounts. You can use the “beginner’s mind” philosophy to shake the proverbial tree with some of your accounts

Strategic Account Management

Effective account planning in the beginning stages sets up a lifetime of high performance, strategic account management, and a clear road map to success. By focusing on the information and roadmap laid out in the account planning, strategic account management builds trust, and leads to more deals in the future, as it proves you are a thoughtful, reliable partner that knows the customer’s business.

Final Thoughts on Account Planning

Account planning is critical at the beginning of a deal. It can help us determine who’s involved, what it will take to influence them, and how much our clients may be willing to pay for their products or services.

With this information, we have some guidance on which deals are worth pursuing further, and can help us create a roadmap so directionally we know what this can look like in terms of a bigger deal in the future, and help us allocate attention and personnel accordingly.

By starting with a solid account plan, demonstrating thorough process, insights, and strategic account planning throughout the course of the relationship, it will be far easier to find opportunities faster and be more informed than ever before, resulting in record-breaking revenue.

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10 Account Planning Best Practice Tips | How To Create Plans That Actually Work

For this article, I harvested the ten most potent account planning best practices from the dozens of companies that use the GSP Account Plan app.

Then I combined the results with my twenty years of experience working with customers to develop Key Account Plans that actually work.

The result is this all-new guide to account planning best practices.

So, if you are looking for tips and advice that will improve strategic account planning in your business, this is the right place to start.

Let’s begin.

What Is Account Planning?

All sales managers focus heavily on opportunity management in the short-term and  pipeline coverage  in the mid-term. 

Nevertheless, if you concentrate  only  on funnel management, your approach is inevitably tactical and non-strategic.

That’s fine for the customers and prospects that are not vital for significant revenue growth.

However, for the companies that figure in your high to critical importance category, you need a more comprehensive vision and strategy.

Like steering an oil tanker, it’s essential to look well ahead and know which port you are targeting. Leave it too late, and you risk ending up on the rocks. 

That’s what we mean by account planning:

Account Planning is the process of defining how to develop and extend your relationship with customers and prospects for mutual benefit over the mid to long term.

You memorialize the output in an Account Plan.

The plan acts as a reference point for carrying out the actions and initiatives you identify and provides a baseline for measuring the impact.

In other words, the plan is a route map for growth. It explains how we will develop the relationship and grow the business with critical customers and prospects

How To Create Account Plans In Salesforce

There is no standard Account Plan tab in Salesforce. Yet this activity is vital for most B2B companies.

That’s why we created the GSP Account Planning app.

Our goal was simple:

Strike the right balance between an Account Plan that is straightforward to complete in Salesforce. It mustn’t become a chore for salespeople. However, provide enough content and functionality for it to be effective.

We believe we got it right:

“ This app is extremely easy to use, customizable, and provides outstanding insight into account planning and metrics. Additionally, GSP offers outstanding customer support – Gary and his team are utterly AMAZING. ” AppExchange Review, January 2021.

And by the way, we also aimed to make it easy to buy. The price of the app is a straight  $350 per month  with no user-based fee.

You will find the full details about the app, including screenshots, video, and free trial options on the  AppExchange Listing .

With that, here are my best practices based on discussions with our customers and my experience in working with clients.

  • Define the Account Plan cadence.
  • Use a Four-Step approach to account planning.
  • Bring your goals to life with actionable objectives.
  • Write your SWOT using a pre-defined sentence structure.
  • Build multiple Account Plans for large, complex customers and prospects.
  • Create holistic, multi-team plans.
  • Raise quality through peer, manager, and customer coach reviews.
  • Define (and agree upon) your internal resources.
  • Apply the Three Handshakes Rule to stakeholder management.
  • Use vital metrics to measure success.

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Create Key Account Plans that drive business development and sales.

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10 Account Planning Best Practices

1. define the account plan cadence.

What period should your plan cover? A quarter of a year? A half-year? A full year?

Here’s my best practice rule of thumb:

An Account Plan should cover a period of three to four times your typical opportunity sales cycle.

In other words, if it takes, on average, three months to do a deal, then you should be working with 12-month account plans.

Here’s the reason:

The thinking that goes into your Account Plan is more strategic than that for managing an opportunity. Executing the work takes longer to accomplish than that for a typical sales deal.

On the one hand, if your plan period is too short, you may as well dispense with it and managed individual deals. On the other hand, too long, and it is no longer meaningful.

I’ve found the multiplier of three to four times the sales cycle to be about right and for many companies, that will be twelve months.

Often, you will want to align this cadence with your companies’ financial year for the  reasons I outline here .

2. Use a Four-Step approach to account planning

Often, “here’s the template, go and build your account plans” is the straightforward instruction given to salespeople and account managers.

Unfortunately, without guidance and structure, expect a wide variation in the number, quality, and depth of the account plans created.

Instead, here is the four-step best practice approach I’ve found works best:

a) Territory planning.  Segment your territory to identify the customers and prospects that need account plans.

You can use the two fields that we include in the GSP app to do this.

The Current Segment describes your current relationship with the Account. The Target Segment reflects how you want to develop that relationship. Define these two values for each Account.

For ALL Strategic Customers, you need an Key Account Plan. This Account Plan will explain how you will maintain the relationship.

For all the other Accounts, build an Account Plan where there is a significant journey. In other words, if you want to transition a business from Steady to Strategic Customer status, you need to explain how you will make that journey.

b) Account Planning.  Create the Account Plans for those customers and prospects where you aim to transition the relationship.

c) Objective Planning.  Build the objectives that bring the Goals in the Account Plan to life. This article includes specific best practices on Goals and Objectives.

d) Opportunity Co-creation.  This step means you must meet and engage with the customer.

In this final step, you talk about the projects the customer is planning over the next twelve months. Jointly identify the opportunities that you will work on together that relate to these projects.

You ask the customer for a commitment, not that you will win the opportunity. Instead, you ask for a promise that you will both invest time and effort exploring whether a deal is achievable.

Finally, create Salesforce opportunities and double-check that the Account Plan aligns with your revenue goals fully.

3. Bring your Goals to life with actionable Objectives

The best goals are challenging and ambitious. (No one gets motivated by mundane goals).

However, it’s best practice to combine vision-setting goals with down-to-earth objectives. Here’s what I mean.

Goals set the direction and are often broad in nature. They explain what we want to achieve, but unfortunately, they are tricky to measure.

Objective Details displayed on an Objective, attached to a Key Account Plan

As goals are visionary and broad, we don’t have a report or dashboard chart in the GSP Account Plan app that measures them. However, we do, of course, have reports and charts on objectives.

Salesforce Dashboard Chart to measure Key Account Plan Objectives

In summary, use goals to set the direction. Define the objectives that will take you on that journey.

4. Use a pre-defined SWOT sentence structure

Don’t be tempted to write notes or even one-word responses within the SWOT.

For example, ‘Price’ or even ‘We charge more than competitors’ can be a strength, weakness, opportunity, or threat. It depends on the context.

Instead, write whole sentences that give the context. You can pre-define this structure.

I recommend starting with the condition within your customer or prospect.

Here’s an example of a threat:

“Acme’s fall in revenue during the pandemic means they are aggressively cost-cutting. As we charge more than competitors, to negate price competition, we need to demonstrate how higher product quality reduces manufacturing faults and lowers total costs.”

And an example of an opportunity:

“Acme is preparing for a significant uplift in the quality of customer service to reduce customer churn. We can demonstrate that our products’ higher quality will reduce manufacturing faults and significantly improve customer service ROI.”

Now that there’s clarity on the SWOT, you can define the specific objectives needed to take advantage of the situation.

5. Build multiple Account Plans for complex customers

Sometimes your customer or prospect is a large organization with many parts. These parts can be geographical areas, individual business units, or even departments within the same company.

Should you create one big Account Plan? Or a different Account Plan for each part?

The best practice is to do two things.

First, create a Strategic Account Plan for each decision-making unit.

If each part of the company is responsible for its own buying decisions or significantly influences HQ buying decisions, it should have a unique Account Plan.

Second, take steps to coordinate and collaborate on the various Account Plans.

For example, if the headquarters make buying decisions on behalf of the overall company, you likely only need one Account Plan. This approach assumes no other parts of the company influence the buying decision (which might be a dangerous assumption).

However, if each country or business unit makes its own buying decisions, you need a Key Account Plan for each.

What’s the best way for many people in your company to collaborate if there are multiple Account Plans? This collaboration is essential if you want to act with a unified voice with the customer.

First, I recommend using Chatter to collaborate on individual Account Plans. All team members follow each plan on Chatter. Doing this means you get automated updates when critical information changes.

Collaborate with Chatter inside the Key Account Plan

Second, I recommend creating a Chatter Group for each strategic customer or prospect. Use this group to share qualitative information that’s of interest to everyone.

For example, you can share information about the customer’s strategy, business plans, gossip, or rumor at the head office.

Chatter Group for a Key Account in Salesforce

By the way, don’t forget that our app gives you a new Account Hierarchy button on the Account page.

Click the Account Hierarchy button to view corporate relationships

You can use this button to get tremendous visibility of the corporate relationship and contacts in large, complex organizations.

Account Hierarchy tree inside the GSP Key Account Planner

In this blog post, I explain in detail how to achieve all of this in Salesforce:

How To Build Powerful Key Account Plans in Salesforce .

6. Create holistic multi-team plans

Should you have different Key Account Plans for your internal sales, marketing, customer service, and other teams.

My answer is straightforward.

No, you should not. Instead, create a single Account Plan that spans many departments and teams.

Remember, the Account Plan is a strategic document explaining how your company will drive the relationship with another business.

The objectives and activities needed for this may be widespread in your company. However, your customer doesn’t care about your internal boundaries.

What they want is a joined-up service that delivers on your promise. That means you need a single Account Plan on which everyone works together.

Again, you can use Chatter on the Account Plan to keep each other informed with updates. Many of our customers are also using  Quip , embedded as a separate tab:

An example of Quip being used inside Salesforce

It’s a great way of sharing notes on topics related to the Account Plan.

7. Raise quality through reviews

You can maximize Account Plan quality through peer, manager and customer coach reviews

Two brains are better than one, as they say.

I consistently find that the highest quality Account Plans happen when two or more people work on the content.

Here are three ways you can do that.

  • Peer reviews

If you are a sales manager, I recommend you insist that a colleague reviews each Account Plan the sales team creates. The teammate is there to improve and enhance the Account Plan.

They should be asking challenging questions like:

  • What additional opportunities can we develop?
  • Who else, apart from the people you have listed, will influence our success?
  • What other things need to happen to achieve the goals?
  • What could go wrong, and what can we do about it?

I also recommend you draw from examples of other Account Plans within the team. Fine-tune and iterate until you have a strategy with which both team members are happy.

  • Manager reviews

In most businesses, the manager will naturally want to review the Account Plan. Optionally, you can also wrap an Approval Process around this process.

Approval Process directly on the Key Account Plan record

Either way, it’s a similar process of collaborating and working together to produce a high-quality document that you are confident is deliverable.

  • Customer reviews

Yes, you read that right.

The best Account Plans contain opportunities co-created with the customer. I wrote about this earlier in this article.

It gets even better if you have a coach. A coach is an employee at your customer or prospect that, “ wants to see you win, because when you win, they win. “

The right coach will guide, direct and counsel you. They will point out obstacles in advance and help you figure out how best to present your case.

It’s not easy to find the right person or build this super-powerful relationship. But if you have a coach, your Account Plan is vastly improved if they are involved.

8. Define and agree upon internal resources

More often than not, you can’t deliver an Account Plan entirely on your own.

Frequently there’s a team involved, even if it’s only behind the scenes. For strategic customers, it’s sometimes more like a small army.

Even in small companies, you’re likely to need other resources in delivering a plan that works.

Nevertheless, this area is commonly weak in many Account Plans.

Internal resources, of course, come in many shapes and sizes. It’s not just people – pre-sales engineers, project managers, customer service leads, and senior managers.

You may also need access to special pricing, vital equipment or facilities, marketing programs, and content.

I’m sure you can refine the list based on the knowledge of your company and customers.

Therefore, it’s essential to define AND agree upon the resources you are going to need. That’s especially true when there is competition from other salespeople and day-to-day operations for those same resources.

Make sure these resources and the commitment are explicit. And of course, use the Account Plan Colleague Role section of the GSP app to list the critical teammates upon whom you rely.

An example of the Meaningful Connect Call Result being stored inside the Log A Call popup

Measure won and pipeline deals against target and quota.

9. Apply the Three Handshakes Rule to stakeholders

We all know you need to manage your stakeholders for success with your Account Plan.

Yet too often, we limit our stakeholder thinking. We may even only include people we know or have met in the Account Plan.

Unfortunately, decisions within your customer or prospect are likely to involve many more people. That means you need to cast your stakeholder net more expansively.

Here’s a critical account planning best practice, that I call the Three Handshakes Rule.

The Rule says you must shake the person’s hand within three degrees of separation from the person you know.

(Admittedly, I thought of the Three Handshake Rule name before I’d heard of Covid-19, and we all began touching elbows. But you get the idea).

Two people touching elbows during the Coronavirus Pandemic

For example, you know John. He’s your primary contact at Acme. The Rule says not only must you shake hands with John’s boss, but also John’s boss’s boss.

However, it doesn’t stop there. The example above uses the Rule vertically. Can you also apply the Three Handshake Rule laterally?

Of course, you can, and you must.

Who is the person that influences John, other than his line manager? Whoever it is, the Rule says you need to shake her hand. And the hand of the person that influences her.

Naturally, I’m assuming a mere handshake is not sufficient. However, you get the idea. You’ll engage in dialogue with each person whose hand you shake.

Use the Account Plan to identify these vital relationships and your strategy for reaching these interconnected people.

10. Use vital metrics to measure Account Plan success

An Account Plan is only worth its salt if you can measure success.

Within the GSP Account Planning app, there are two ways to track the success of your plan.

The first is to monitor the outcome of the Objectives. There’s a report and dashboard chart within the app for this.

The second method is to measure the value of opportunities linked to the Account Plan.

As a variation to this, you might want to track the scheduled revenue that lands during the lifetime of the Account Plan. That’s instead of the total opportunity amount.

Both are possible with the GSP Account Planning app.

In this example, we can see the opportunities linking to the Account Plan.

View all Opportunities related to a specific key account plan

The opportunities are associated with the Account Plan because they have a Close Date within the lifetime of the Account Plan.

The value of these opportunities rolls up automatically to the KPI section.

See KPIs on the Key Account Plan, figures from Opportunities roll up to these fields

We can see in this case there is $18,000 of opportunities already won. There is $28,000 of open or pipeline deals. The weighted value of these pipeline opportunities is $17,000.

That means our  Expected Revenue  is $35,000; that’s the sum of the won deals plus the weighted pipeline.

Consequently, in this example, we are forecasting a small shortfall. However,  knowing  this information means we can plan steps to correct the negative shortfall.

You can take the same approach if scheduled revenue is the critical revenue metric in your business.

For example, you can use the GSP Revenue Schedule app to  track won and pipeline opportunity income over time .

What To Do Next

If the best practices in this blog post sound like the sort of things you should be doing in your business, here are three things you can do next.

  • Take a free trial of the  GSP Account Planning app . Do this by clicking the  Get It Now  button on the AppExchange listing. You can choose to install the app in your production or sandbox Salesforce environment. There’s straightforward instructions for setting up in the app in the  Quick Start  section of our Knowledge Base.
  • Request a free consultation . A colleague or I will facilitate a one-hour web meeting to help set up and drive Account Planning in your business.

You may also want to use this session to talk about any changes or customizations that will fine-tune the GSP to your specific business.

  • Try the  GSP Revenue Schedule app . This app is tailor-made for companies that need to schedule revenue over time in Salesforce. Visit the AppExchange Listing for full details, including screenshots, videos, and a free trial.

Speak soon!

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7 Free Account Planning Templates for Sales Teams

ClickUp Contributor

February 13, 2024

Clients are the lifeblood of our business. That’s why it’s important to give them world-class service. To do that, you need to understand their needs and problems and do your best to address them.

An effective way to ensure client satisfaction is to use account planning templates. They allow strategic account managers to collect valuable info a breeze and let you create tailored strategies for nurturing existing partnerships and forging new ones.

Check out our list of the seven best templates for improving client communication , retention, and revenue potential!

What is an Account Planning Template?

What makes a good account planning template, 1. clickup account planning template, 2. clickup account management template , 3. clickup large account management process template, 4. clickup resource planning template, 5. clickup business plan template, 6. sales strategic account plan template by template.net, 7. google docs business plan template, types of account planning templates, how to use an account planning template, an overview of the best account planning templates.

Account planning is a strategy that allows you to better understand potential and current clients and customers, improve interactions, and foster relationships. An account planning template is a pre-built framework for streamlining this process, mainly by helping you organize vital information. Equipped with a well-designed template, account planning is more focused and efficient throughout.

These templates help key account managers, marketers, and sales teams with tasks such as:

  • Setting KPIs , measuring success, and optimizing future efforts for strategic account planning
  • Onboarding new clients and understanding their objectives and challenges
  • Researching the clients’ industries, trends, and competitive landscape
  • Developing collaboration strategies to maximize the provided value

Here are the key qualities of an account plan template that ticks all the right boxes:

  • Comprehensive structure : Contains sections for optimizing the most important steps of the process. These include account overview, goals, insights, budget, and evaluation
  • Intuitive design : Easy to navigate and understand, suitable for all skill levels and departments
  • Customizable and scalable: Flexible enough to accommodate various types of clients and their key account plan
  • Integrates with your favorite tools : Easy to incorporate into your existing workflow
  • Actionable : Allows you to transform your goals and plans into tangible tasks and deadlines

7 Account Planning Templates To Use in 2024

If you need a solid foundation and guidance to revolutionize the way you interact with clients, use the account planning templates below to centralize information, manage relationships and processes, allocate resources, and create superb business plans—your clientele will thank you!

ClickUp Account Planning Template (List View)

The ClickUp Account Planning Template is a simple but powerful tool for strategic account management. It’s beginner-friendly, allowing anyone to pick it up in no time. Despite its simplicity, it offers numerous views and features to level up your client relationship game.

The Accounts List view provides a crystal-clear overview of all your clients, complete with their basic info. The accounts are grouped according to their status by default, but you can sort them based on their stage, priority, or other key account planning details of your choice.

If math is not your strongest suit, you’ll be happy to hear that this template can even do mathematical operations. If you need to calculate the sum or average of, say, earnings from a particular account, hover with your mouse below the column and select the Calculate option. 

ClickUp Gantt Account Planning Template

ClickUp Account Planning Template (Gantt view)

The template’s Gantt view takes account planning one step further by helping you visualize all your client-related activities. Unlike your typical calendar, it’s a two-dimensional chart showing the task timeline and its dependencies. Use it to manage tasks and create accurate project plans for your accounts.

On the left side of the view, you’ll find a roster of clients and their associated tasks. This list also displays details such as priority, status, assignee, and other info you choose. To the right of the screen, there’s a bar chart whose length symbolizes the estimated duration of the tasks. The bars are colored based on their urgency for easier prioritization. 

Now that you’re familiar with its basic elements using the Gantt chart will be a walk in the park! Click and drag to move the tasks around, or expand and shorten them by pulling the edges.

You can also add dependencies to lock tasks together. When you make changes to any of the two or more tasks, the other ones will automatically shift to maintain the relationship.

For instance, say you planned to meet with a client to discuss the next steps of your partnership, and you have to reschedule it for the following week. You don’t need to reschedule the entire workflow task-by-task. You can move up the meeting only, and the dependent tasks will follow suit.

ClickUp Timeline Account Planning Template

ClickUp Account Planning Template (Timeline View)

The Timeline view is similar to the Gantt view in terms of facilitating time management , but there are some crucial differences to keep in mind for account managers.

While a Gantt chart depicts the complexities of tasks, the Timeline view is simpler and features a single chronological line of events. It gives you a bird’s-eye view of your upcoming work.

It’s a visualization tool that gives a quick overview of tasks, their names, assignees, duration, and dependencies. You can use it to see what’s coming next, set milestones, and create project roadmaps. All this helps you effectively allocate resources , increase accountability, and instill confidence in the stakeholders.

Choose which criteria you want to group and filter tasks by. As with Gantt charts, you can reschedule and change the duration of items with a few clicks. By clicking on a task, you’ll reveal all the information you need to complete it.

ClickUp Board Account Planning Template

ClickUp Account Planning Template (Board View)

If the List view is too overwhelming for you, fear not. The ClickUp Account Planning Template also has a simplified Kanban-style board for better visualization and management of accounts and related tasks. 

The clients are represented with cards, which you can move around by dragging and dropping between columns. It doesn’t get much simpler than that!

By default, the grouping criteria is the account stage, but you can select a different one, such as priority or complexity. If you switch on swimlanes, you can introduce a second dimension to further personalize the key account planning process.

The cards contain information such as assignee, duration, account health, completion percentage, and monthly revenue. As usual, you can customize their appearance and click on the task to reveal more information, add comments, and track time. 

ClickUp Account Management Template for account managers

Account planning and management are closely related. While planning focuses on studying the clients’ needs and strategizing, account management deals with the day-to-day execution of client-related work. They’re like a lock and a key—one is useless without the other!

To help you with account planning efforts, we’ve created the ClickUp Account Management Template . It serves as a central database for all account-related information and activities. Use it to track tasks and deadlines, and streamline communication. 

The template is in folder form and includes dedicated lists for key account plans and past clients. They’re packed with vital information such as contact info, chosen pricing plan, and estimated revenue opportunity.

The master view offers as many as six custom views:

  • At Risk : A list of existing relationships with low engagement and are likely to churn
  • Engagement : A list of all clients grouped based on their engagement level
  • Priority Accounts : An agile board that classifies accounts by their priority tag
  • Gantt : A chart for keeping up with the task schedule 
  • Client Success Playbook : A document for recording critical processes
  • Signup Form : A Form that prospects can complete and connect with dedicated key account managers

ClickUp Large Account Management Process Template

Despite your finest efforts and the help of a handy template, key account management is still complex and labor-intensive. The best way to streamline it and establish consistency is to document every step of the process.

The Large Account Management Process Template by ClickUp is ideally suited for high-level planning. It helps you develop an efficient account management workflow and centralize critical account-related information.

It’s in list form and contains multiple views. Use the Process Overview List to jot down all the stages and tasks of your account management process. With a few clicks, you can:

  • Assign tasks to team members 
  • Define their priority and complexity
  • Update the status

Add your own specific fields and play around with the filtering, sorting, and grouping to get the overview you need.

After defining the tasks, use the Gantt and Timeline views to schedule and visualize them. This helps you identify critical path tasks, track progress, and allocate resources to optimize productivity .

ClickUp Resource Planning Workload Template in Timeline view

Account management typically requires some serious juggling between the client’s wishes and your capabilities. You want to provide as much value as possible without overworking your staff or maxing out your resources. It’s all about striking that perfect balance.

Luckily, that’s where the Resource Planning Template by ClickUp steps in. It’s like having a personal resource management assistant that’s available 24/7. It’s a comprehensive system designed for businesses of all sizes, particularly those dealing with resource constraints and capacity gaps.

The template comes in list form and includes numerous views:

  • Clients List
  • Project Coordinators Board
  • Project Coordinators Workload
  • Team Workload
  • Activity Gantt 

Feel free to add custom views to tailor the template to your workflow. For example, you can create a new list view dedicated exclusively to budgeting or equipment.

The template also includes many time management tools. In the Workload view, you can quickly assess team members’ availability and capacity. Distribute tasks by dragging and dropping them from the right sidebar onto the chart. Employees can also track time in-app, which helps ensure accurate billing.

ClickUp Business Plan Template

This ClickUp Business Plan Template is a game-changer for up-and-coming businesses and those looking to propel their existing operations to new heights. It’s a user-friendly tool that provides a structured framework for outlining your goals, strategies, and action plans.

Although comprehensive, the template is easily adaptable to various scenarios and purposes. The best part is—it allows for easy scaling once your business takes off.

The template is available in multiple views, including:

  • Topics : A list of subjects to cover when discussing the launch of a new business
  • Status : A Board view of topics, i.e., tasks, grouped by status
  • Gantt : A chart to help you plan and stay on top of the timeline 
  • Business Plan : A document in which you can describe your company and vision, outline marketing and sales goals , and define metrics and milestones 

Sales Strategic Account Plan Template by Template.net

If you want to optimize your sales efforts and align them with your client’s needs and goals, check out this Strategic Sales Account Planning Template by Template.net. With all the key information in a single document, you can create a winning sales growth strategy and build a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship with your account.

Within the template, you’ll find sections covering all critical aspects of sales account planning. For starters, lay out the executive summary, objectives, and account details. In the next section, perform the SWOT analysis for the client and their competitor, then compare the results to gain valuable insights. 

The final section, which is the action plan, defines the steps needed to reach the desired objectives. Top it off with key performance indicators and a sales reporting schedule, and you’ll have a perfect roadmap to success.

This template works in Google Docs, Word, PDF readers, and Apple Pages. You’ll need to subscribe to Template.net to download the document, but you can edit it directly on the website for free.

Google Docs Business Plan Template

This Google Docs Business Plan Template can be an invaluable resource for all newcomers to the world of business. To call it comprehensive would be a massive understatement—it’s 45 pages long! 

The document covers it all—from the Confidentiality Agreement and executive summary to the expenses and appendices. It contains tables, charts, and lists for easier readability.

Setting up and using the template is a breeze. After opening the doc, create a copy so you can edit it. Then, section by section, replace the decoy text with your own, following the provided guidelines for optimal results.

Account planning templates come in various forms, each designed to cater to different aspects of account management. Here are some common types of account planning templates you might encounter:

Strategic Account Plan Template : This type of template focuses on long-term strategy and goals for a specific key account. It typically includes sections for objective setting, understanding the customer’s business and needs, identifying opportunities for growth, and outlining a strategic action plan.

Sales Account Plan Template : A sales account plan template is geared towards sales teams. It often includes sections for identifying key decision-makers, analyzing competitors, tracking sales targets, and outlining strategies to increase sales within the account.

Customer Success Account Plan Template : This template is designed to help customer success teams manage their accounts effectively. It usually includes sections for understanding the customer journey, identifying customer pain points, setting customer satisfaction goals, and planning initiatives to improve customer success.

Account Management Plan Template : An account management plan template is a comprehensive tool for managing an account across all fronts. It may include sections for setting objectives, identifying key stakeholders, SWOT analysis, developing an action plan, and tracking progress.

Key Account Plan Template : This type of template is used for managing major clients that make up a significant portion of the company’s revenue. It generally includes sections for understanding the client’s strategic goals, identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling, and creating a tailored service plan.

Account Development Plan Template : An account development plan template is used when the goal is to grow the account. It often includes sections for identifying growth opportunities, setting growth targets, outlining a sales strategy, and tracking development progress.

An account planning template is a valuable tool to streamline your sales strategies and enhance customer relationships. But how exactly do you use it? Below, we break down the steps to effectively utilize an account planning template.

  • Understand the Template : Each account planning template may vary in design and structure, but they generally include sections for objective setting, SWOT analysis, key stakeholders, action plans, and progress tracking. Familiarize yourself with these sections to understand what information is required.
  • Set Clear Objectives : Begin by setting clear objectives for your account. What do you aim to achieve? This could be expanding your business within the account, improving customer satisfaction, or increasing the account’s profitability. Write these objectives in the designated section of the template.
  • Conduct a SWOT Analysis : The SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis section helps you understand the current state of the account. Identify your strengths and weaknesses within the account, as well as any opportunities for growth or potential threats that could hinder your progress.
  • Identify Key Stakeholders : Every account will have key stakeholders or decision-makers. It’s essential to identify who these individuals are, understand their needs and expectations, and document this information in the template.
  • Develop an Action Plan : After setting objectives and conducting a SWOT analysis, develop a strategic action plan. This plan should outline the steps you will take to achieve your objectives, with clear actions, responsible parties, and timelines.
  • Track Progress : Most templates include a section for tracking progress towards your objectives. Regularly update this section to keep track of your achievements and adjust your strategies as needed.
  • Review and Update Regularly : An account plan is not a set-and-forget document. It should be a living document that you review and update regularly. This ensures the plan remains relevant and aligned with any changes in the account or your business strategy.

Remember, an account planning template is a tool to guide your strategy and actions. It’s not about filling in every section perfectly; it’s about using it as a framework to deepen your understanding of the account, align your team, and drive strategic action towards your objectives.

Take a look at the table below to compare the templates on our list and their benefits:

Elevate Your Account Planning With ClickUp Templates

With their flexibility and user-friendliness, these templates are sure to take your account planning to the next level. Use them to strengthen your client relationships and ultimately drive growth and bring mutual benefit . Start a free ClickUp Workspace today!

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Sales - 9 min READ

Sales account planning: a step-by-step guide

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Shabnam Kakar

Contributor

Sales account planning is one of the most important but underused tools your sales reps should be using.

A sales account plan is a single document that contains important details about a new prospect or existing customer, including information about their decision-making process, the companies you’re competing with to close them, and your overall strategy to win them over (and retain them) .

It’s kind of like a handbook with all the information you need to close each of your most crucial accounts and keep them around for the long-haul for account growth.

Sounds helpful, right?

It’s interesting then that more than half of sales reps simply don’t bother with sales account planning . Why? Apparently, because they find it too hard to be an account planner.

Funny enough, however, 19% of the highest-performing sales reps would disagree and would recommend acting as an account manager for existing accounts.

Putting account plans together, as part of the account planning process, takes some time and effort, sure, but it’s worth it. (Guess they’re high-performing sales reps for a reason.)

In this article, we’ll go over why you should be using account plans as part of your sales process, how to put one together and finally, how to put it to work for each key account.

Why should you use a sales account plan?

It’s important to have a fully loaded arsenal of effective tools to help you win as many deals as possible—account planning is one of those tools. An account plan strategizes your sales by outlining exactly how you’re going to win or retain an account, giving you a blueprint to work with from the get-go.

Note that we said win or retain an account using a key account plan.

According to one study , 44% of companies actually rely more on acquisition for existing accounts. Interestingly enough, the same study also showed that customer retention is more important to your business financially—just a 5% rise in retention rates can equal a profit increase between 25-90%. Wowza.

SaaS companies, in particular, rely on subscriptions to generate their revenue, so every account truly does matter (especially the enterprise accounts, which likely make up a big chunk of that recurring revenue).

That’s just one of the reasons why it’s more important than ever to prioritize retention, when it comes to account growth and every key account, just as much—if not even more—than acquisition.

Okay, now that we got that out of the way, let’s jump into how to actually do the thing and work on a successful account planning process.

How to put together a sales account plan:

We’ve broken down the process of sales account planning into four, actionable steps. They are:

Step 1: Decide which of your accounts need plans.

Step 2: figure out what those accounts need by gathering data..

  • Step 3: Put your data together into a document + add action items.
  • Step 4: Put your sales account plan to work.

Is sales account planning helpful? Yes.

Do all your accounts need plans? Probably not.

Account planning, while effective, does take a fair amount of time and resources. If you’re selling to both SMBs and enterprises, for example, you should probably only be pulling out your account planning tools for enterprises, as SMBs might not give you enough ROI on the additional effort required to put account plans together.

After all, there's a reason why enterprise sales are also called “complex sales.” So, reps should be using every resource they can to maximize their chances of closing these big-deal accounts. Plus, SMB opportunities are usually pretty manageable without the need for extensive planning.

Sometimes though, the line between a midsize company and enterprise are thin or blurry; or, all the companies you deal with are generally the same size. So, it’s a good idea to build specific criteria that can help you decide if an account or opportunity needs a plan. You can divide your opportunities into “simple accounts” and “strategic accounts,” with the strategic group needing plans.

For example, here are a few questions that can help you decide if your account is "strategic" enough to require a plan:

This criteria doesn’t just apply to new accounts either. Take a look at your existing customers and determine which accounts are the most strategic ones. Maybe they're a flight risk, or it's almost time for them to renew their contract with you. Then, put together sales accounts plans for this group of customers so that when it comes time for them to renew, you’re prepared to make sure they do.

After you’ve identified which of your accounts are going to need sales account plans, it’s time to start putting those plans together. To do that, you’ll need to collect the following data about the company:

This information will make up part one (the account analysis) of three in your sales account plan. We’ll go over the other two parts (short-term and long-term action items) in the next step.

Step 3: Put your data together into a document + add action items

Great, now that you’ve gathered the necessary data on your customer, it’s time to throw it all into a document and start building out your sales account plan. Remember: this account plan will both help you close the account, and keep them around for the duration of their customer lifetime. So this effort is worth it.

Your sales account plan can be divided into three sections:

1. Account analysis

This is a compilation of everything we went over in the previous step.

2. Short-term action items (~the next 3 months)

Based on your account analysis, what actions can you take in the next 90 days or so to help your prospective customer reach their goals? If it’s an existing customer, what can you do to make sure they renew their service with you?

For example, some short-term action items we have for our brand-new customers are:

  • Help them import all their existing customer data into Copper so everything’s in one place
  • Integrate and sync the rest of their tech stack with Copper to ensure a seamless experience
  • Conduct regular check-ins to make sure the customer is getting the hang of the new product and answer any questions they have (this helps make for a successful onboarding)

3. Long-term action items (~the next 1 year)

Now, think longer-term. Similar to step 2, you'll need to figure out the actions that'll help your customer achieve their long-term goals and retain them. What can you and your customer do over the course of a year to help elevate their business?

Pro-tip: Work with the customer to put these action items together, as they likely have plans of their own and you want your account plan to help them—not impose on them or disrupt their existing vision.

Ta-da! You now have a sales account plan to guide you through your most complex accounts and a bird's eye view of exactly what you need to do in the short term and long-term future to both close and retain them.

Step 4: Put your sales account plan to work

You have a document now, but how do you apply the knowledge you’ve collected? Well, for starters, your initial sales email can be written from the point of view of someone who actually understands the account—which you do, now.

Some examples of factoids to include in your sales email are:

  • “I read in the news recently that your business did X, Y, and Z.” (This shows you’re up to speed on them, plus everyone likes to hear you saw them on the news.)
  • “I noticed you’re currently hiring for X roles and hired around X people already this year.” (The roles they're hiring for shows which departments they have needs in and, of course, shows you did your research.)
  • “Your competitors are currently doing X and X.” (This shows you recognize their threats.)
  • “Based on this information, your business objectives are likely X, X, and X?” (You’ll want to confirm this with the customer, but this shows you have an idea.)
  • “My company can help you achieve these goals by doing X, X, and X.” (Tell them how you will solve their problem.)

Now, its sales pitch time. (Learn how to deliver a killer one here .) This is where you’ll present your sales account plan—namely the action items you have in mind for them.

The goal here is to present your account plan to the customer (or potential customer) and make sure they’re on board with it. This is, after all, your long-term plan for the customer. In fact, give them a copy. #transparency

On the other hand, if you’re creating an account plan for an existing customer, an appropriate time to present this plan would be at least a month before their next renewal date.

You can hit them up with a check-in email (which you should be doing regularly anyway) and mention that their renewal is coming up, and you’ve got some ideas that’ll help make their next service period even better. Invite them to set up a call and walk them through your account plan.

Chances are, they’ll be delighted—and super impressed—that you care enough about their business, you’ve put a whole blueprint together on how you can improve it, together.

Basically, sales account plans help position you as not just a salesperson, but a trusted business partner who can work with the customer to help improve their business, together. It also positions your product is a long-term solution, not just a quick fix.

Sales account planning doesn’t have to be scary.

Account planning isn't always super time-consuming. Think of it this way: the time you spend creating detailed plans would’ve been lost anyway through delays in your sales process as you do impromptu research on your customer (with each delay being a potential for drop-off).

In just a few steps, you’ll be that much closer to winning your biggest accounts. There are no downfalls to a key account plan, really. So, just do it—you’ve got this!

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Account Planning: Defining a Sales Account Plan Strategy

Sales account planning views “closed-won” as an oxymoron—the initial sale is a mere foot in the door to opening a much bigger opportunity that should never be “closed.” 

In some cases, that’s exactly what it is: a foot in the door. And in all cases, that’s exactly what it should be.

So why not leverage your existing relationships to drive more revenue? In this article, you’ll learn why this is a responsibility your team should be embracing and how to build a sales account plan. But first, some foundations: 

What is Account Planning in Sales? 

A sales account plan is a detailed strategy for building upon existing relationships—the account—to uncover the customer’s needs, how to deliver the most value, and subsequently increase their customer lifetime value and likelihood of retention. 

Sales account planning is the process of researching and strategizing the account in question but should be treated as an ongoing process because the landscape can and will change. Think of the account plan as a sailboat’s itinerary, the destination is known and the route decided, but the boat must still tack with unpredictable and ever-changing winds. 

Strategic Account Management

Often confused with account planning, strategic account management is the methodical approach of identifying and prioritizing the accounts that should be given more attention and how to allocate the required, and limited, resources at your disposal.

Often, reps choose their largest revenue accounts, but you should stop and think about the ultimate goal of strategic account management: which accounts have the biggest upside potential? And remember, past performance is not a perfect indicator of future performance. 

When prioritizing which accounts to focus on, you can consider metrics like their TAM (Total Addressable Market or Total Potential Revenue), market share, and growth rate as good determining factors for future account growth potential. These are critical to prioritizing your accounts, but there’s an ocean of metrics out there; we’re here to help you cut through the noise.

Importance of Sales Account Planning: A Double-Sided Coin

When executed properly, account planning is a win-win pursuit for both customer and seller: both parties capture the greatest value and nothing is left on the table; as every great negotiator knows, you never split the difference. That’s why it’s important to incorporate an account plan into your sales process.

Customer Lifetime Value

An account plan is ultimately successful if it enables you to win renewals, increase contract size, or otherwise grow the account. These factors directly impact your customer lifetime value (CLV), or the amount of revenue you’re able to generate from a given account.

An alternative method for increasing CLV is lengthening retention, or contract length, even if the contract size remains unchanged. Many companies front-load their investment in sales and marketing, only to leave their customers in the dark after the sale is won. Companies that provide as good an experience post-sale as they did pre-sale are more likely to retain customers. 

Yet 51% of sales leaders report missing account growth targets due to ineffective account management, in one Gartner study . 

Lifetime Value for Customers

On the flip side, account planning should also help increase the value for customers over the life of the engagement. Since account planning is essentially a structured process for learning how to make your product or service indispensable to the customer, if successful, that’s exactly what you’ll become.

How to do Sales Account Planning

Below we've outlined the elements that should be included in your sales account plan. 

1. Account Overview

Before trying to understand the business needs, it’s helpful to get a sense (or reminder) of what’s previously been closed, attempted, and the strategies that have been successful or not. 

Have we already been successful in cross-selling, upselling, or renewals? What products did we close and who was our primary point of contact in that deal? If any attempts at account expansion have been unsuccessful, take note of the attempts and any detail or insight you can provide as to why the deal fell through. 

2. Company Overview

The company overview is an opportunity to research the company’s foundations, history, mission, and evolution. It’s also a great place for any newcomers to the account to quickly grasp what the customer does at a high level.

If available, you can use this section to include any recent or major news, either positive or negative, or any other signals that might indicate their current north star metric or where the business is ultimately heading. Below are a few examples:

  • New C-level hires
  • Product launches
  • Acquisitions
  • Losses to a competitor
  • Stagnation/declines in growth

It’s important to note that any information disclosed during your private discussions with the company must remain confidential to preserve trust with the account. 

3. Goals and KPIs

In sales and especially in negotiations, prospects aren’t very forthcoming with information, only giving the minimum amount necessary to get the deal done. Even with a non-disclosure agreement, your counterparts aren’t going to be transparent about the true state of the business, and it’s possible they themselves aren’t fully informed. 

It’s up to you as the relationship grows to identify the north star metric for clients and how you can help them achieve it. It’s also worth noting that in business, unlike in astronomy, the north star metric could move as the business evolves, so your account plan will need to be updated accordingly. 

Below are some questions to ask which may provide insights into a company’s overarching goals and KPIs: 

  • What are their top priorities for the next 12 months?
  • What efforts have already been made? 
  • What is their biggest challenge?
  • How will they measure success?
  • How will they achieve success?

4. Let’s Competitive Landscape

Understanding the industry your customer plays in and other key players can help you in many ways. One way is to track what is and is not working for competitors and incorporate that into your strategy or advise the customer on strategy as you see it for added value.

Another benefit of conducting a competitive analysis is that you’re able to see for yourself their place in the market, and therefore get a better understanding of their growth potential and opportunity size.

5. Account Landscape

Now that you have a good grasp of the industry, business, and competition, it’s time to look at the company’s organizational structure. How are departments segmented (i.e. geography, product, revenue size, etc.) and who are the key people that make up the hierarchy? Is the company PE-owned and held to strict growth targets?  

You’ll also want a clear understanding of what degree of manager you’re working with, which can help clarify their degree of separation from the ultimate decision-maker. 

Mapping the account and relationships between the account’s key players can plot your course of future introductions and connections. If you want to win the affection (and business) of other departments and persons, you’ll need a firm grasp of the politics, power dynamics, and cross-pollination of ideas between them.  

This is where the relationship map comes in handy and with People.ai, these networks are mapped automatically based on connections and communication with contacts at the account. 

6. Action Plan

Now to the part where you actually plan. 

You’ve got a good grasp on the variables, including the company’s fundamentals, competition, and relationships, and you know the goal, now you need to formulate a solution for achieving it. 

It’s important that your plan be detailed but it doesn’t need overkill. If the company’s goal is to achieve TTM of increasing profitability month-over-month, all of your plans should be in service to that goal, and understand that including someone’s name or title as details in the plan might be unnecessary because chances are, team restructuring will be a byproduct of optimizing for profitability. 

It’s also important that you align your goal of account expansion with the customer’s goals, and not sacrifice their goal in service of your own, or vice versa. To continue with our example, if the customer’s top priority is to increase profit margins, upselling likely won’t be in your account plan, but if you can streamline workflows across the company, cross-selling should be a keystone of the plan. 

Sales Account Planning Best Practices

Although your planning processes may look different and you may modify our template to meet your needs, below are best practices that apply to every sales account planning procedure:

Account Plan Audit

One thing that you should incorporate in your process is a regular check-in on the plan to determine how things are progressing. Many people create a plan and then simply fail to follow their own prescription. It might be because the information gets out of date or it lives where you don’t work. An account plan audit can hold your team accountable for the strategies they initially identified. 

It’s worth noting, however, that plans do change and you can’t hold reps to the book for not executing on the plan word for word. The audit is an opportunity for these plans to be recalibrated and reset moving forward. 

If you have a free tool like PeopleGlass , you can create all the spreadsheets of your heart’s desire and have it automatically maintained by simply being connected to Salesforce. Making that audit painless.

Utilize Account Data

As you navigate your account planning processes, one of the best ways to monitor progress towards your goal of closing more revenue per account is to utilize activity tracking, deal scorecards, account maps, and other signals of leading indicators.

If AEs have not been engaging their accounts on a regular basis, this data will be surfaced, giving you the ability to coach them towards a more involved and effective account plan. People.ai whitespace maps allow you to visualize where you have a foothold in growth opportunities within current accounts.

sales account planning whitespace map

Lost Account Plans

Many, if not most, sales organizations have too short a time horizon when it comes to their deals. If one ends in closed-lost, they quickly forget and move on to the next deal. Previous leads that were lost are possibly your biggest source of untapped revenue potential. Although this idea is not new , it is underrepresented in practice. 

You should make micro account plans for your lost deals. Take a snapshot of performance at the time the deal was lost and if things have not improved in a few quarters, it might be an even better time to re-engage those accounts. 

Sales Account Planning with People.ai

We’ve provided a few resources and insights into our sales account planning thought process but the real progress in planning is being enabled by generative AI.

If your customer’s spend is exceeding the realized value, you can look to account planning as a good method for digging yourself out of that hole, and People.ai can help. Leverage your team’s previously ignored data to gain a deeper understanding of what drives predictable revenue and growth for your company. 

Get a demo for sales account planning to learn more about how taking an automated, data-driven approach to sales account planning can help your team stay on the fastest path to revenue.

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I'm a financial planner — I have 4 tips for my business owner clients looking to open a business bank account

Our experts choose the best products and services to help make smart decisions with your money ( here's how ). In some cases, we receive a commission from our partners ; however, our opinions are our own. Terms apply to offers listed on this page.

  • Legally protecting yourself in case of an audit is the No. 1 reason to use a business bank account.
  • Different banks will offer different levels of convenience, and they'll come with different fees.
  • Fraud detection and other security features are especially important for protecting your business.

Insider Today

When starting a business, it can be overwhelming thinking about all the things you need to do and consider. However, it is essential that you do not overlook the value of opening a business bank account — usually both a business checking account and a high-yield business savings account .

As a CPA and financial planner, one of the first things I tell all my business owner clients to do is to keep their personal and business transactions separate. While there are a multitude of reasons you should have a separate bank account for your business, legal protection is certainly the most important.

If you experience an audit, it is important to have an easy way to track your business expenses and income. When business finances are commingled with personal finances, it becomes nearly impossible to provide a clear financial trail.

When choosing a business bank account, there are several important factors to consider. Here are four things I tell my business owner clients to consider when choosing a business bank account.

1. Access to banking services and customer service

When it comes to running a business, a variety of banking services can help you effectively manage your business finances. Beyond just opening a business bank account, you want to ensure that the financial institution you choose can provide access to services such as a checking account, savings account, business loans , wire transfers, fraud prevention services, a notary, checkbooks, business credit cards , online and mobile banking, and bill payment services.

If you want more one-on-one attention from a banker, consider opening an account with your local bank or credit union. You may also prefer a physical branch if you plan to make daily deposits or withdrawals of cash or checks.

This may be more challenging to do with an online bank. Many online banks may offer deposits and withdrawals, but their ATM network may not be as large as a well-known brick-and-mortar bank. For this reason, some small business owners open an account at their local bank where they have their personal accounts and know the level of customer service they will receive.

Consider opening your business checking and savings accounts at different financial institutions so that you can have access to both better banking services at a physical branch and higher interest rates at an online bank.

2. Terms and fees (including minimum balance)

The fees associated with business bank accounts can vary widely depending on the financial institution. Some of the most common fees to be aware of include monthly maintenance fees, overdraft fees , wire transfer fees, minimum balance fees, and ATM fees.

You may find that online banks charge fewer fees than brick-and-mortar banks, but you must consider this in conjunction with the other features.

Seek an account with reasonable fees that can accommodate your business.

3. Ease of paying contractors

Some business bank accounts, especially online accounts, offer free invoicing and bookkeeping software/features.

If you use accounting software (such as QuickBooks) to manage your business finances, accessing a business bank account that offers integration features may be desirable. Trust me, this will make your or your accountant's life much easier.

In addition, some accounts allow integrations with payroll and tax preparation software. This will help to make the process of paying contractors with 1099s more seamless.

4. The bank's security offerings

One of the most important things you should consider when choosing a business bank account is security. There are certain features that you want to look for to make sure your account is protected.

First, you want to make sure that the bank you choose is FDIC-insured (or NCUA-insured if a credit union). In addition, you want to make sure that the institution has additional layers of security such as multi-factor authentication and fraud detection services, which include account monitoring and alerts for suspicious activity.

Ensure that whatever bank you choose offers the best security features to protect your business from fraud.

When choosing a bank account, consider all the various banking features offered by different financial institutions to find the one that best suits your business's financial needs. Also, remember that your decision is not permanent. It is easy to switch banks if necessary.

Watch: The 3 most important things you need to know about starting a business

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How Machine Learning Will Transform Supply Chain Management

  • Narendra Agrawal,
  • Morris A. Cohen,
  • Rohan Deshpande,
  • Vinayak Deshpande

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Businesses need better planning to make their supply chains more agile and resilient. After explaining the shortcomings of traditional planning systems, the authors describe their new approach, optimal machine learning (OML), which has proved effective in a range of industries. A central feature is its decision-support engine that can process a vast amount of historical and current supply-and-demand data, take into account a company’s priorities, and rapidly produce recommendations for ideal production quantities, shipping arrangements, and so on. The authors explain the underpinnings of OML and provide concrete examples of how two large companies implemented it and improved their supply chains’ performance.

It does a better job of using data and forecasts to make decisions.

Idea in Brief

The problem.

Flawed planning methods make it extremely difficult for companies to protect themselves against supply chain disruptions.

A new approach, called optimal machine learning (OML), can enable better decisions, without the mystery surrounding the planning recommendations produced by current machine-learning models.

The Elements

OML relies on a decision-support engine that connects input data directly to supply chain decisions and takes into account a firm’s performance priorities. Other features are a “digital twin” representation of the entire supply chain and a data storage system that integrates information throughout the supply chain and allows for quick data access and updating.

The Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, trade wars, and other events in recent years have disrupted supply chains and highlighted the critical need for businesses to improve planning in order to be more agile and resilient. Yet companies struggle with this challenge. One major cause is flawed forecasting, which results in delivery delays, inventory levels that are woefully out of sync with demand, and disappointing financial performance. Those consequences are hardly surprising. After all, how can inventory and production decisions be made effectively when demand forecasts are widely off?

  • Narendra Agrawal is the Benjamin and Mae Swig Professor of Information Systems and Analytics at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business.
  • Morris A. Cohen is the Panasonic Professor Emeritus of Manufacturing & Logistics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He is also the founder of AD3 Analytics, a start-up that developed the OML methodology for supply chain management.
  • Rohan Deshpande is a machine learning scientist at Cerebras Systems and a former chief technology officer at AD3 Analytics.
  • Vinayak Deshpande is the Mann Family Distinguished Professor of Operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

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IBM Reopens Its Frozen Pension Plan, Saving the Company Millions

The company has stopped making contributions to 401(k) accounts, and instead gives workers cash credits in a new version of its old pension plan.

An illustration of an old computer that's melting, with IBM on the screen.

By Jeff Sommer

Jeff Sommer writes Strategies , a weekly column on markets, finance and the economy.

Traditional pension plans haven’t come back. But the news from IBM might lead you to think so.

Last month, IBM thawed out a defined benefit pension plan that it had frozen more than 15 years ago. The company has also stopped making contributions into employee 401(k) accounts.

These moves are startling, because, on the surface, at least, IBM seems to be reversing a decades-long trend of corporations moving away from traditional pension plans. With the old plans, companies promised to pay employees retirement income that rewarded them for long years of service. But these plans were expensive, and IBM and hundreds of other firms instead began to emphasize 401(k)s that moved the primary responsibility for saving and investing to workers.

IBM’s new approach is significant because the company has been a leader in employee benefit policymaking. What it is doing now is no simple return to the classic cradle-to-grave benefits system. In fact, IBM’s new pension plan isn’t nearly as generous to long-tenured employees compared with its predecessor.

The move has real advantages for some people who work at IBM, particularly those who put little or no money of their own into 401(k)s and who stay at the company for a relatively short while.

Crucially, IBM’s maneuver is likely to be wonderful for its shareholders. The company is saving hundreds of millions of dollars a year by stopping contributions to employee 401(k) accounts. And it doesn’t need to put any money into the pension plan this year — and, probably, for the next few years — because it has plenty of money already in it. On a purely financial standpoint, IBM is improving its cash flow and bottom line.

For a small but important subset of companies — those with fully funded, closed or frozen pension plans — IBM’s move could be a harbinger of things to come, pension consultants say. IBM is using a surplus in its pension fund to simultaneously change its employee benefits package and help the company’s finances.

“You’ll be seeing more of this,” said Matt Maloney, a senior partner at Aon. “But I don’t think it’s really a watershed event because not that many companies are in a position to do what IBM is doing.”

Retirement Basics

IBM calls its new pension plan a “retirement benefit account.” It is nestled, legally and bureaucratically, within the old version. Because it’s part of the defined benefit pension plan, the new plan is backed by the government’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation , which will pay benefits , up to certain limits, if the plan runs out of money or the employer goes out of business.

Unlike 401(k)s, in pension plans the employer makes “the contribution, owns the assets, selects the investments and bears the investment risk,” said Alicia Munnell, the director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Employees are immediately vested in the new IBM plan, and can take their money with them when they leave, IBM says. So far, so good.

But for many employees, the change comes at a cost.

IBM will no longer make contributions to employee 401(k) plans. Until now, it made 5 percent matching contributions and 1 percent automatic contributions, according to internal documents that were posted publicly and whose authenticity Jessica Chen, an IBM spokeswoman, confirmed. That money and those accounts are owned by employees. It took a year for employees to be vested in those accounts.

The new retirement benefit accounts are part of a so-called cash balance plan, a pension plan in which the employer controls how the money is invested.

In the new IBM accounts, employees receive credits equal to 5 percent of their salary — 1 percentage point less than the company’s maximum contribution to the 401(k) used to be. For the first year only, employees are getting a 1 percent salary bump to make up for the discrepancy in contributions between the old 401(k) and the new retirement accounts.

Risk and Return

IBM documents show that in the new accounts, employees are guaranteed a return of 6 percent interest for the first three years — an excellent rate under current market conditions.

From 2027 through 2033, the return is likely to fall. Employees will receive the yield on 10-year Treasuries, with a floor of 3 percent. From 2034 on, there is no floor. So if Treasury yields fall below 3 percent — as they were most of the time from late 2008 through early 2022 — a paltry return is all that employees will get.

Remember, in a 401(k), employees are free to invest as they like. People with a long investing horizon can favor the stock market, which tends to produce higher returns than government bonds over long periods.

Although IBM workers can keep their 401(k)s and continue to add money to them, they won’t have the inducement of a company match. How many will continue to contribute remains to be seen. In the new accounts, employees are receiving only fixed-income investments.

That may be fine for people in retirement, but it’s questionable for those with years to come in the work force. Employees may need to increase the equity allocations in their 401(k)s or other accounts.

The Background

At the peak for defined benefit plans, in the 1970s, as many as 62 percent of workers in the private sector were covered solely by these retirement plans, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, an independent organization that researches retirement issues.

By 2022, the institute found , only 1 percent of private-sector wage and salaried workers had just a defined benefit plan, while 41 percent participated in only a defined contribution — or 401(k) — plan, and 8 percent participated in both.

Underfunding of corporate pension plans led to the great shift away from defined benefit plans. At first, 401(k)s were supplementary savings vehicles for employees. Now, along with Social Security, 401(k)s have become core elements of retirement.

By closing the old defined benefit plans to new workers and by freezing benefits for people already enrolled in them, companies reduced their potential pension liabilities. They poured money into the old retirement plans to bring them into compliance with government rules, which were relaxed to give companies relief .

But canny management and cooperative financial markets have helped increase plan funding, too. Because pensions are a form of annuities, the increase in interest rates over the past couple of years has made it cheaper to finance existing pensions. On top of that, strong stock returns over the past decade have bolstered fund assets.

These factors have led to a sea change in the funding of the old corporate pension plans. (Public pension plans, on the other hand, face an estimated $1.45 trillion funding gap, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts .) For big companies, the average defined benefit private plan now has more than enough money to pay off its pension obligations. For defined benefit pension plans at S&P 500 companies, Aon says , funding levels rose to 102.7 percent on Feb. 6 from 78.4 percent in 2011.

The Bottom Line

IBM’s defined benefit pension plan is now extremely well funded. Its annual report shows that it had a $3.5 billion surplus in the plan last year, while it paid $550 million annually in 401(k) contributions. It doesn’t need to put fresh money into the pension plan and now, with the shift to the new retirement benefit accounts, it isn’t making 401(k) contributions either.

Professor Munnell estimated that IBM would be able to credit employees with benefits in the new accounts for at least the next six or seven years. Several pension consultants said that if market conditions were favorable, and IBM invested the $3.5 billion surplus at a higher rate of return than the fixed-income rates it was offering employees, it might be able to avoid deploying any cash on these benefits for many years.

The company said its retirement innovation was improving its finances. In an earnings call on Jan. 24, James J. Kavanaugh, IBM’s chief financial officer, said the company’s cash flow was better this year, in part because of “lower cash requirements driven by changes in our retirement plans.” That could be true for years to come.

Other companies with frozen plans that are fully funded could follow IBM’s lead.

This isn’t a return to the richer benefits for long-tenured employees provided by traditional defined benefit plans.

But perhaps cash balance plans combined with 401(k)s are the best that most big companies are likely to be offering. If so, Zorast Wadia , a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman, the pension consultant, suggested, there are a variety of ways of designing retirement packages that make use of pension plan surpluses. Unlike IBM, for example, some companies could continue their 401(k) contributions while starting cash balance plans.

Finding ways to use well-funded pension plans generously but responsibly is a challenge for big companies. IBM has moved cautiously. But it’s in nobody’s interest for companies to make pension promises that they can’t keep.

Jeff Sommer writes Strategies , a weekly column on markets, finance and the economy. More about Jeff Sommer

A Guide to Making Better Financial Moves

Making sense of your finances can be complicated. the tips below can help..

The federal financial aid formula used to give a break to families with two or more children in college at a time. That’s gone now, and some schools may not fill the gap .

Student loan borrowers who have access to a 401(k)-type plan, may soon generate retirement savings contributions from their employer by paying off their loans. Here’s how it works .

Are you trying to improve your credit profile? You can now choose to have your on-time rent payments reported to the credit bureaus  to enhance your score.

Americans’ credit card debt and late payments are rising, and card interest rates remain high, but many people lack a plan to pay down their debt. Here’s what you can do .

When banks close checking and credit-card accounts because of “suspicious activity,” chaos and anxiety ensue. It doesn’t have to be this way .

There are few challenges facing students more daunting than paying for college. This guide can help you make sense of it all .

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  24. How Machine Learning Will Transform Supply Chain Management

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