Strategy counts for everything

One of the biggest differentiators of high-performing account teams is the amount of time they spend on strategic planning. They take a systematic approach to stakeholder mapping, and analyze account activity to identify the most profitable opportunities.

Account plans are even more crucial in a large enterprise environment, and the best are built collaboratively with a blend of people and rich insight – about your customer, their market, their competitors, and their stakeholder audiences.

Customer perspective

The best account plans bring in a fresh, outside-in perspective of the customer. This can be achieved by collaborating with a wider selection of functions (including marketing) or even involving the customer.

In your largest, mature accounts customers are often willing to collaborate in this exercise, knowing that the more you understand their business, the more you can add value. Gathering insight needn’t be complicated: you can conduct workshops, focus groups, or surveys.

In involving your customer, you create space to bring new ideas that they hadn’t previously considered, or a more provocative perspective that challenges thinking, introducing ‘constructive tension’ into the process.

You can also go one step further in this vein by ‘co-creating’ with your customer. This means testing, prototyping, and iterating new innovations or ways of working together.

Think big

Strategic account plans are not tick-box exercises, they ask teams to look more ambitiously at stretch targets. Not all your accounts warrant this time and investment. In fact there may only be a small handful of high-value customers you give this level of attention to.

Your goal should be big enough to inspire your team but in the realms of reality. By working with teams you can visualize the ideal future-state in one, two, or even three years’ time – and then work back to determine the steps to get there.

These steps should orchestrate the entire team’s efforts around the focus themes in the account – including the marketing function.

Try these ABM hacks:

  • Don’t leave the account plan to the account lead – make it a collaborative process. Consider using an external facilitator to assist with this.
  • A good plan should show where you will play, but also where you won’t. Saying no once in a while shows that you’re clear on your value – and gives customers even more reason to load you up with work when you say “yes”.
  • Whilst aspirational plans may have 3-year ambitions that stand the test of time, be prepared to flex your near-term activities in response to what is happening in the account. A merger, a profit warning, a new CEO – these events could and should disrupt or redirect your focus.