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The Account

Planning
Process
WHITE PAPER

Sell Smarter. Manage Better.

The Account Planning Process


INTRODUCTION
The TAS Group has been developing and sharing
Account Management best practices since the late
1980s. Our Account Planning and Management
methodologies are in use in some of the worlds most
admired selling organizations, and it is their insight
that has helped shape what we deliver.
This White Paper addresses the Account Planning
Process. It covers selecting the best opportunities

to pursue, preparing, executing and monitoring an


Account Plan, and how to use the Account Plan to
improve sales performance.
To learn more about The TAS Group sales
methodologies, processes and solutions, we urge you
to get in touch with us directly. You can do this via
info@thetasgroup.com or thetasgroup.com

ACCOUNT PLANNING IS
A TEAM SPORT
Aristotle was by common consent one of the cleverest people
to have lived, and he is often credited with originating the
saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This
holds true for team sports and in fact Account Planning is no
different. Put another way, when you put the abilities of an
Account Team together, their collective success exceeds the
sum of their individual contributions.
Brainstorming, discussion, creativity and collaboration all
combine to make the account team a powerful entity for
action, change and progress. So who should be in your
Account Team? Whats the right blend of people? Besides
the Account Manager(s), Solutions, Marketing, Pre-Sales,
Bid Management, and Finance all have a role to play in the
Account Planning process, but already your team is getting
unwieldy and coordination becomes increasingly challenging.
In our experience, Account Planning is not done effectively. It
is typically reactive, with unprepared resources brought in at
the last minute, and thats not a good recipe.

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Account Planning takes a lot of time and effort, and at


first glance there seem to be good reasons why: its time
consuming, it decreases selling time, people dont always
want to be held accountable, and plans change, which has a
tendency to waste the effort.
These are the excuses of the organization that is too busy to
take stock, is tactical over strategic, short term over long term,
and is rushing towards failure. After all, to paraphrase the
well known comment from John Preston of Boston College,
the great thing about not planning is that failing comes as a
complete surprise and is not preceded by a period of worry
and depression.
Following an Account Planning process brings order to the
often chaotic world of the sales organization, and the benefits
contribute directly to sales success: sales opportunities are
better qualified so that teams pursue the right deals; Team
resources are better utilized to increase productivity and
reduce wasted effort; Team efforts are better coordinated to
increase the chances of winning.

Copyright The TAS Group. All rights reserved.

Sell Smarter. Manage Better.

ACCOUNT PLANNING SELECTING THE


BEST OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE TEAM
Good, effective selling organizations use both sales
methodology and sales process in their daily selling efforts.
Account Management is concerned with the creation of
opportunities, turning ideas, research or inbound leads into
opportunities. Opportunity Management is about winning as
many of the right that is, properly qualified opportunities
as possible. Performance Management is about maximizing
revenue from the opportunities. Sales process is the series of
selling activities that an organization performs to align itself
with the buying activities that the customer wants to perform,
through time, as opportunities work their way through the
funnel.
You can only win a percentage of the opportunities put in
front of you, so the creation and finding of opportunities are
crucial, since they determine the size of the pie you can win.

Account
Management

Opportunity
Management

Leads >
Opportunities

Opportunities >
Close

Performance
Management
Revenue >
Increased $

Opportunities

TIME
YOUR SALES PROCESS
Figure 1: Methodology and Process in the Selling Organization

So if Account Management is about creation, Account


Planning is about selection, and the Account Planning
process enables Account teams to be proactive. This means
identifying the opportunities your team should pursue, rather
than working every single opportunity that comes along. It
also implies confidence in your decisions not to pursue the

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wrong deals, resisting the temptation to chase everything.


Then your team can get specific on the chosen deals, which is
the domain of opportunity management.
Why is selecting the right opportunities so important?
Surely its about winning any opportunities you can? The
right opportunity is the one where the return exceeds the
expenditure outlaid to win, deliver and service them by an
acceptable amount, and where the fit is good between the
customers requirements and the unique business value
you can bring. To answer this vexing question, you need to
understand how long it takes to win an average deal in your
organization, and how long to lose one. You might feel that
where it takes 6 months to win a deal, it only takes a second
to lose a deal. In a recent TAS Group webinar, over 96%
of an audience of over 130 who voted admitted that they
have forecasted a deal that didnt close, ever. Furthermore,
research from The TAS Group shows that it takes 50% longer
to lose a deal than win one, and those are generally the deals
you should never have contested in the first place. Imagine
the money and resources you are committing for 9 months,
working on a wrong deal, only to lose it, when you could have
effectively won the right deal and be half way towards closing
the next right deal in the same time frame.
Selecting the right opportunities is a 3-step process. First,
define a targeted subset that you will address; second,
uncover potential opportunities to prioritize; third, create
a plan to purse those opportunities. You should start by
considering the universe of places that you could sell into
your Account. Thats the easy part. Then you have to do your
homework. You need to define a targeted subset of the entire
account. This involves learning which areas of the business
are the highest priority for your customer, the areas in which
they are investing. These are the important projects where
they will look to speculate with you ideally to accumulate.
Often, Account teams only identify areas where current
relationships exist, but these might not be where the
opportunities are, otherwise you would probably know about
them. Account teams need to study the Account to figure out
the ideal Business and Service Units to target.

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Sell Smarter. Manage Better.

FUTURE

Once identified, these areas need to be plotted against a twoby-two matrix, as shown below. Your two key axes should
be current revenue to you, and future revenue potential. In
terms of prioritizing, A targets are those which have high
current revenue and high potential revenue. B targets have
low current revenue and high potential revenue. C targets
have high current revenue and also low potential revenue.
And D targets, well, you get the picture; thats not where you
want to be investing your teams precious resources. Account
Planning is all about the future; you cant alter the past, and
the present is what it is.

CURRENT

The way to uncover potential opportunities is to focus on your


customer. What are their objectives? What do they want to
accomplish? Then you need to consider the challenges they
face in achieving their objectives. What types of problems are
preventing them from achieving them? The key to finding
the right projects is to learn the motivation that would cause
the customer to act. What are the consequences to them of
inaction? What is compelling them to act?
From here, Account teams can identify which challenges
could become projects. How could you help them overcome
these hurdles? This is where your team once again
brainstorms on how you can help the customer address these
challenges. Remember to look beyond the quarter, or even
beyond the year, into the future.
With global or remote Account teams, it can be a challenge
getting together as a team, either physically or virtually, to
do the brainstorming. The TAS Groups Dealmaker platform
makes it easier for Account teams to collaborate on this
critical part of the Account Planning process. In the sample
screenshot below, you can see how it is possible to record and
map out the Account goal (in light blue), the business drivers
pressuring the customer (in mid blue), the initiatives they
could deploy to address those drivers (in pink), and how these
initiatives are manifested in critical success factors (in yellow).
This process can be developed and its output shared with the
Account team in real time.

Figure 2 : Prioritizing Potential Opportunities

As you may have realized, this exercise occupies the research


and brainstorming efforts of the entire team, but the time
invested will pay your Account team back many times over in
the medium to long term. With this good foundation in place,
you can start to build the fabric of success with your potential
opportunities.
The critical word is potential here, and gets to the real
power of Account Management and the Account Planning
process. Potential opportunities are opportunities that you
have uncovered, and which may not yet exist in the mind of
your customer. At this point, they may not have identified
them as projects. But they are in addition to all the projects
that your customer has already identified, what we term
current opportunities, and the value of all these potential
opportunities is down to your and your Account teams efforts
and the great homework you have done on the Account
so far.

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Figure 3 : Business Strategy Map in Dealmaker

Notice that the value for the team is that they are forced
to focus on the customer, and their issues, not the vendor
solutions. Once the customer-focused work is done, you can
then start to marry your expertise to the customer projects, in
the form of the potential opportunities.

Copyright The TAS Group. All rights reserved.

Sell Smarter. Manage Better.

PREPARING, EXECUTING AND


MONITORING THE ACCOUNT PLAN
Preparing your Account Plan is about establishing the facts
on your customer Account which is all about them - and
creating your plan, which is all about you. First, who are they?
Who are the key people in the Business and Services Units
that you need to get to? Who do they report to? Where are
they in the political structure? Who wields the power? Who
influences whom? What sort of people are they? Using an
application like Dealmaker, which sits transparently inside
your CRM system, organization charts can be quickly created
with detail on each individual, so that teams can have
productive discussions and make specific input.

The OSA framework makes your team think in specifics. The


Objective must explain what the team intends to accomplish.
It must be a SMART objective Specific, Measureable,
Achievable, Relevant and-Time bound. The Strategy describes
in detail how the team will accomplish the Objective, and the
individual underpinning Actions should be specific as well.
Dealmaker makes it easy for remote teams to brainstorm and
capture specific actions by each team member. You no longer
have to run one of those Account Plan calls that last an hour
or more and at the end you all hang up, youve had a good
discussion, but nothing specific is captured and no one knows
exactly what is going to be accomplished.
When it comes to successfully executing the plan, you
must capture Actions that support the strategy. Conduct
a meeting to learn about customer challenges is not a
good Action. You need to identify who you will speak to or
meet with, what the outcome should be, and what you will
accomplish. A better Action is: Meet with the CFO to motivate
him to become a supporter of our $200k solution. We will use
the CTO to communicate our unique value of providing 24/7
service globally.

Figure 4 : Mapping out Who is in the Organization Structure

As mentioned before, facts refer to your customer, which


means focusing on their objectives, their challenges and their
motivation to act. Then your team can start to create its plan,
and the vehicle for this is the OSA, composed of Objectives,
Strategies and Actions. The OSA is a critical success factor to
planning, because unless it is done well, it is of no value to the
team.

Customer FACTS: All About Them


Objectives

Challenges

Motivation
to Act

Your PLAN: All About You


Objectives

Strategies

Once the Account team members start executing on


the Actions, the team can start to monitor the plan. This
necessitates communicating the results, the progress made,
and then revising the plan accordingly. The Account Plan
should be a dynamic document that is constantly updated,
not something you do once, leave on the shelf to gather dust
for 11 months and revisit when you next have to do a plan.
For example, Jane, you were supposed to conduct a meeting
with the CFO, leveraging the CTO. What happened? What
should we do next? Devising and communicating specific
actions enables your teams to have productive discussions
around what we said wed do and what we did, and so
revise the plan. It is vital you ensure that these Actions are
strategic in nature, not tactical. If Actions become tactical, like
do a proposal, the plan will quickly become anodyne and
tedious and teams will cease to see the value.

Actions

Figure 5 : The Basis of Your Account Plan

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Copyright The TAS Group. All rights reserved.

Sell Smarter. Manage Better.

Figure 6 : Capturing OSAs in the Account Plan with Dealmaker

USING ACCOUNT PLANS TO


IMPROVE PERFORMANCE
Three steps are key to making Account Plans the catalyst for
improving Account Team performance. First, you should set
expectations for the Account Plan review. Second you should
review the plan. Third, you should provide feedback on the
plan and coach to greater success.
Setting expectations for the review is a simple but essential
task. You should decide the following: Who will be involved as
presenters and reviewers of the plan? What timeframes will
we adhere to? Who will be the appointed note-taker? What
is the intended outcome of this review? This puts in place a
repeatable formula to get the most out of the team.
Reviewing the plan is generally split into 3 discrete elements.
Presenting the plan, clarifying it, and improving it. We
recommend you allocate 40 minutes to do an Account Plan
review. For the first 15 minutes the team presents the plan,
with no interruptions, while the reviewers listen and taken
notes. For the next 10 minutes the reviewers ask questions,

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to test their understanding and to get additional information


to build the picture. The last 15 minutes should be spent
identifying risks and recommendations, and then presenting
them back to the team.
After the Account Plan review has been conducted, how
should sales leaders provide feedback and deliver useful
sales coaching? It may seem obvious, but diplomacy is an
essential skill for the sales leader. This means reviewers must
first compliment the team on those aspects of the plan
preparation and presentation that they have done well. Then
they can provide insight to improve the plan and coach
teams and individuals on how to get this done. Second,
managers should take the opportunity to define specific
skill improvement to address shortcomings or gaps in skillsets, such as selling to executives for example. This could
be specific for an individual or for an entire team. Finally,
leadership teams must identify next steps, to secure progress
and keep the momentum going.

Copyright The TAS Group. All rights reserved.

Sell Smarter. Manage Better.

SUMMARY
In summary, the Account Planning Process covers
selection of the best opportunities for the team,
preparation, execution and monitoring of the Account
Plan, and use of the Account Plan to improve the
performance of the Account team. Opportunity
selection centers around a targeted subset, uncovering
potential opportunities and establishing an Account
Plan for delivering on those opportunities. Preparing
and executing Account Plans involves dealing with
facts, people, actions and outcomes, while monitoring

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Account Plans ensures that results are measured


against targets, communicated to all stakeholders,
and targets are revised accordingly. Account Plans
provide the framework for team improvement through
reviewing, feedback and coaching.
To find out more about The TAS Group, Dealmaker or
Account Management, please contact us at
info@thetasgroup.com.

Copyright The TAS Group. All rights reserved.

ABOUT THE TAS GROUP


The TAS Group helps sales professionals sell smarter and manage better. Through a unique combination of deep sales
methodologies and intelligent software applications, customers achieve measureable results including increases in win
rates, deal sizes and qualified opportunities, as well as decreases in sales cycle length. According to the Aberdeen Group,
customers of The TAS Group realize 21 percent greater attainment of sales quotas.
Dealmaker intelligent software is the engine driving revenue growth and sustained adoption of improved sales
practices.
The TAS Group has helped more than 850,000 sales professionals in more than 65 countries, from small private
companies to market leaders. For more information visit http://www.thetasgroup.com and read the dealmaker365 blog
at http://www.dealmaker365.com.

ABOUT DEALMAKER
Dealmaker software from The TAS Group delivers real-time opportunity and account management, intelligent
deal coaching, accurate sales forecasts, smart playbooks, self-paced learning, and predictive analytics, resulting in
measurable sales growth.
Dealmaker can be delivered as a standalone application or can be integrated with Salesforce CRM, Microsoft Dynamics
CRM, Oracle CRM On Demand, Oracles Siebel CRM and SAP CRM, or with any third party software application through
the Dealmaker API. For more information visit http://www.thetasgroup.com.

Copyright The TAS Group. All rights reserved. This briefing is for customer use only and no usage rights are conveyed. Nothing herein may be reproduced in any form without written permission of The TAS Group.