Are Target Account Plans a Critical Sales Success Factor, You Bet They Are!

Sales teams today cannot afford to spend valuable time and resources pursuing mass markets or poorly selected segments.  Finding your firm’s perfect prospect is a critical market segmentation exercise that must be done at least annually.  Once the segmentation process is complete the next step is to remove those target accounts that have needs outside of your current portfolio or have a existing supplier relationships that limit the near and medium term sales potential.

Selecting the wrong accounts can cost millions in terms of selling costs and opportunities lost.

Now you have a prioritized target account list.  The next step is to implement a target account planning process with your sales teams to ensure a consistent approach and to gain selling momentum more quickly.  The account planning process also provides a structured process for the entire sales team to create account development strategies that can be shared during planning and executive team reviews.

Below is an account planning process roadmap that can be used as a starting point by most companies.  It should work equally well for companies selling either products or services.  We also include some examples of possible inputs.

  • Company overview
    • Revenue
    • Their strengths and weaknesses within their sector
    • Business unit structure
  • Industry trends and drivers
    • Is their industry growing or mature
    • Unfriendly regulatory environment
    • Increased foreign competition
  • Operating structure
    • Centralized or de-centralized decision making/purchasing
  • Key executives and background
    • Former companies
    • University affiliations
    • Non-profit affiliations
  • Strategic business imperatives
    • Lower costs
    • Managing regulatory compliance
    • Increase market share
  • Competitive landscape
    • Current suppliers of competing products/services
    • $ size of available landscape/spend
  • Environment impacting current spend rates
    • Need to reduce cost
    • Need to increase sales pipeline
    • Need to increase market share
  • Current relationship status
    • Current customer – are they happy
    • Past customer – why did they leave?
    • Any active sales pipeline?
  • Account relationship map
    • Any alignment between executive teams?
    • Any executive relationships from prior positions that can be leveraged?
  • SWOT Analysis
    • Your strengths
    • Your weaknesses
    • Your opportunities
    • Possible threats to you
  • Account level strategic objectives
    • Establish initial contact/dialogue
    • Establish executive-to-executive dialogue
    • Develop an active sales pipeline
  • Account plan initiatives
    • Establish a proactive education process
    • Provide capabilities overawe
    • Conduct center tours
  • 90 day meeting plan
    • Should be self explanatory

There are 12 key elements to a quality target account plan.  While the inputs will vary from company to company not performing one or more of these steps can waste valuable selling time and resources if you end up targeting companies that are a poor fit.  Account planning can provide you and your executive team the road map you need to stay on the right course to sales success.