How Account Planning helps Crush your Sales Quota
Something my parents taught me from a young age was to be curious. I can still remember the 5 W’s… Who, What, When, Where, Why (and sometimes How). It’s almost as if my parents knew that I wanted to be in sales and found a way to help me develop my curiosity for the future.
Today, with most sales executives selling multiple products or complex products, it’s easy to get stuck in the day-to-day and forget to take a step back and do the important analysis first. It’s like the saying ‘If you stand too close to the elephant, all you will see is grey’. However, once you take a few steps back, you can see the entire elephant and appreciate its beauty. This analogy also applies to selling. If you are reactive, and make fast decisions without thinking them through, you will not have as much success than if you thoughtfully planned your every move, created a strategy and then.
Getting Started with Account Planning
Here are some tips to help you as a sales leader or individual sales executive as you plan your next month, quarter or fiscal year.
WHO – Who the heck are you selling to? Not just their name! People have so much information available to them these days. Look at their LinkedIn profile, google their name, read articles they wrote, watch videos they are in. Of course, some executives will have more info available to them than others but understanding who someone is and what they care about is crucial to building your relationship and driving customer satisfaction and revenue for your business. Make sure you know who you are selling to before you pick up the phone.
WHAT – Which products or services do customers, or prospects like your buyers use? What are the use cases? What are the typical outcomes? What is the business value to the person you are calling? It is very important to understand your portfolio and how to position it to different executives. A CIO buyer persona has different priorities than a CMO buyer persona. Know the difference and tie that business value to what you are positioning to them.
WHEN – Identifying a timeline and confirming that timeline with your prospect or customer is one of the easiest ways to avoid disappointment. A couple simple questions can avoid deals slipping into the next quarter and missing your number.
PRO TIP – Always tie your qualifying questions to your customer’s objectives! Instead of asking, “when can you sign my order form?” Perhaps you can say something like, “I know you wanted to go live by X date. Which steps need to happen on your side to hit your goal?”
WHERE – For the sales professionals selling to larger accounts, chances are they have more than one location. It’s important to know who is signing and where they sit. Do you need to schedule multiple on site meetings with different executives or do they all sit in the same location? It is so crucial to go “deep and wide” within your accounts so that you are not betting all of your chips on one single executive to get your deal done. Network around the organization, get to know who is calling the shots, schedule an on site and book a lunch meeting. Make your face known!
WHY – Why would this company ever use your solution? With executive’s priorities changing every day, it couldn’t be more important to know why an executive would spend time evaluating or pay for your services. Be prepared to answer the polite (or not so polite) question, “Why are you calling and why would we talk to you?”
HOW – One last tip for account planning is your understanding of how all of this comes together. This is why it is so important to have a process in place to understand who your best accounts are and having a plan to go after them. Contrary to your belief, you cannot sell everyone. Sometimes companies have other priorities and the last thing they want to do is talk to you. Qualifying accounts IN or OUT is one of the best indicators of a tenured sales professional.
As we say in sales, “We like Yes’s and No’s, but we HATE Maybes!” Constantly re-qualify your accounts. If they are not committing to next steps, ask why. Is it time to move on? Have you tried other stakeholders in the account? Is this the best account for me to spend my time on?
Remember, stay curious, create a plan and execute.