The three greatest challenges to effective account planning
Investing time through account planning to deeply consider the key accounts position, market changes and the options for growth is, most would argue, by and large worthwhile. It should lead to a proactive development of better – more profitable – relationships built on the broader consideration and improved selection of business development opportunities.
It’s perhaps surprising then that over the years we’ve come into contact with many organisations, business leaders and key account managers who find the progress of account planning frustrating and of questionable value.
So once an organisation has decided to embark on key account or strategic account planning – a discipline we actively support – there are several barriers to watch out for and steer clear of. Here are three we’ve become aware of and have seen more than once.
- Drowning in the detail
Key account managers complain of the requirement to fill in endless templates, collecting so much detail that it becomes brain-aching to split the wood from the trees. Business leaders reviewing the account plans then become alarmed by the lack of clarity. An easy recommendation – well, less is often more.
Keep the document short and sharp. Ask your key account managers to use the knowledge that already exists and spend more time working on what needs to happen next rather than searching for the exact sales achieved last year in region 35. A few templates help but overdo it. Plans of 155 detailed power-point pages – yes we’ve seen one – make most of us want to go to s l…e…e……
- Don’t kill the mockingbird
Too many plans are flavour of the month …but within three sit in the bottom drawer. The plan, if a good one, is best used and flexed as a ‘live’ shaper of activity. It doesn’t deserve to be consigned to the dusty bottom drawer. When it’s encouraged to do its job and is examined and explored regularly, it can set the tune for more productive, high-value activity across the year.
- One woman- or mans – view
Many people in your organisation and network have touch points with the customer. They almost certainly have insights and ideas that an account manager working alone doesn’t fully see. The answers to questions on how we grow with the customer and what key things do we need to do differently might well be within your grasp. People in your customer, not surprisingly, will have a view too.
Some hard-working but somewhat misguided account managers try to create plans from their own ivory towers. Account planning should be a ‘team- game’, so involve others in creating the plan…and then make sure those that deal with the customer understand and are regularly updated on progress and change. Oh, and do a test that your customer agrees with the main ideas. A little alignment goes a long way.