Let’s face it: A lot of people have gone to counseling because of account planning. When most sales professionals hear “account planning” they immediately think: Pain. Suffering. Presentations. File cabinets. And all those pesky questions about whether we actually did anything that we said we were going to do.
At SalesGlobe when we hear “account planning,” we think about creating a living, breathing process. One that fully engages the account rep and the client, that uncovers opportunities in a defined process, that provides an action plan to maximize the value of the relationship.
This isn’t about old-school meetings. This is about a creative, dynamic, engaging process that pulls you in and captures your imagination.
Part 1: Account Planning really can be a creative process and reap results
Part 2: Account planning and the account rep
Below is the transcription of the radio interview. If you would like to listen to the whole interview or other sections, please click the links below.
Steve Maul: [00:00:06] That’s great. Any other hot spots we should all be talking about?
Mark Donnolo: [00:00:11] Gee, I think we did talk about account planning briefly, but I’ll mention that again just because it really deserves that, which is another one of those that everybody does it. Everybody’s had some kind of experience with it. A lot of people have gone to counseling because of account plans.
Steve Maul: [00:00:29] Yeah, the worst words in the world. It’s time to build our account plans again, at which point, everyone rips out a clean sheet of paper, and starts from scratch.
Mark Donnolo: [00:00:35] Right. So, like we said before, Steve, it’s one of those terms or one of those sets of words that we automatically attribute meaning to. So, whenever you say account planning, people have images flash up in their mind of what that is – the pain, the suffering, the presentations, putting in the file cabinet, pulling it out next year, and wondering if we actually ever did anything that we said we were going to do.
Steve Maul: [00:00:56] If it was in the filing cabinet, we didn’t.
Mark Donnolo: [00:00:58] Right, right. So, I mean, we’re lucky, but account planning we think of as creating a living account planning process. So, how do you do something, number one, that’s simple that the organization will actually do, and they’ll follow up on it? And how do you create a process that keeps them engaged throughout the year? And it’s not about the presentation, but it’s about making that plan visible, so that the entire sales team that’s relevant to that plan can see progress on it. Building action plans within that account plan, putting it in CRM to make it come alive. So, it’s not your your father’s account planning process anymore. It’s a very alive, enabled, active account planning process.
Mark Donnolo: [00:01:40] So, that’s really important. So, we’ve got to get rid of those old meetings, and we’ve got to teach people how to do that and in very simple way. So, we’re spending a lot of time doing that right now. And, of course, it gets results because we go through some creative exercises about, okay, you’ve got to make sure — for example, we’ve got a big account. We’ve got to sell $10 million in that account next year. How are we going to do that? Well, how do we start to come up with ideas for all the opportunities that we can pursue? And then, how do we start to push our thinking to come up with new ideas that we haven’t thought of before? So, there’s some techniques we use there as well.
Steve Maul: [00:02:09] Yeah. And because we, so often, talk now about the buyer journey, instead of asking the question, “What do we need to sell?” we might ask ourselves what they might need to buy in order-
Michelle Seger: [00:02:20] That’s right.
Steve Maul: [00:02:20] … in order to accomplish their business objectives.
Michelle Seger: [00:02:22] Yeah.
Mark Donnolo: [00:02:22] Right. So, what they need to buy, we’ll usually break it into a few pieces. What can we do to sell our stuff to the customer? What can we do to partner with the customer to help them sell their stuff to their customer? What can we do to partner with somebody else that is related to us in our business to work with the customer to give them value that we can’t give them alone? So, we start thinking in different dimensions like that, and we start saying, “Well, if we’ve got a $10-million goal for the account, how do we find 30 right now? You’ll run out at about probably 15 or 20, but we can find 30 by using some of those creative techniques, by using those different angles.
Steve Maul: [00:03:05] That’s great.
Steve Maul: [00:00:06] So, you guys have been talking so far about stuff that happens organizationally, leader-sponsored, everything else. What’s your advice, and what parts of this might be applicable to the individual who’s looking at his or her territory, looking at the accounts, looking at their own performance? What can they do? What would be your advice be to them that if they don’t have organizational change underway to try and do better themselves?
Michelle Seger: [00:00:33] Mark, you want to take that?
Mark Donnolo: [00:00:35] Well, I think it starts — I’ll take one piece of it, how you spend your time. So, that’s one big sales operations area that we look at is time allocation or time focus. And on average, sales organizations or sales teams spend about half their time actually selling, and they spend the rest of their time doing other administrative or operational things. So, understanding what I’m doing with my time as an organization or as an individual makes a big difference. And we find the biggest predictors of success are going to be areas like time spent in contact with customers, assuming the right strategy, assuming the right messages, et cetera. So, knowing where I spend my time.
Mark Donnolo: [00:01:12] And I’d say the other big area, at least, for me, would be taking my goal as a rep and knowing how to break my goal down or rebuild that goal. So, if I’ve got a goal of $5 million, how many deals do I need to close to get that $5 million? And what does my pipeline need to look like? And we all know all the old adage is about pipeline, but in the organizations that do well with quota change and giving quotas to their teams, their sales leaders spend time with the reps talking about how to break that goal down and how you can hit your goal.
Steve Maul: [00:01:45] Right. Knowing what your average sales price is by route to market, new name versus existing customer, all those various attributes.
Mark Donnolo: [00:01:52] Right. And you could build a basic capacity model with a rep that says average deal size, the number of calls you need to make to get a call, to get a an opportunity, the number of opportunities that go to proposal, proposes to close, et cetera. And you can look at those factors. So, you can do that as a rep and as a sales leader.
Steve Maul: [00:02:12] Great.
Michelle Seger: [00:02:12] Okay. So, you made an assumption there I believe, Steve, which was, “I don’t have the support,” right? Did I hear you say-
Steve Maul: [00:02:18] Or there is just no initiative underway.
Michelle Seger: [00:02:21] No initiative underway. I like to-
Steve Maul: [00:02:22] I still got my quota. I just got it. I got my comp plan. I still think the quota comes from a Ouija board, but I still want to do better. So, what should I do?
Michelle Seger: [00:02:35] Okay. Scream quietly in your room now. Actually, just like, “Oh my God. What do I do?” So, that’s what I want.
Steve Maul: [00:02:43] Sure.
Michelle Seger: [00:02:43] I always like to get the context.
Steve Maul: [00:02:44] All right.
Michelle Seger: [00:02:44] Yeah, the changes are really underway. So, I’m always thinking about the people side of things and whatever. So, look at — just like what Mark said, I’d be looking at my accounts first and looking at how I can create my own level of account planning. So, be a little bit more strategic about your accounts this year. So, if I know I did X this year, what exactly did I do? And I would, at its most simple account planning, assuming that you don’t have this process under way, the most simple thing that an individual can do is looking at, let’s say, you got 10 accounts, take the first one. Okay. Who are my buyers there? Who are my contacts? What do we sell them today? What else could we sell them? Who else might be selling there? What other buyers might there be? Like go through a little bit of discovery on the pain points that your customer may have and engage them in the process.
Michelle Seger: [00:03:43] So, if you have a good relationship, talk to them about it. Let’s talk about, together, how we can solve. What are the problems that you’re trying to solve? We’ll do a little discovery there. And then, together, how can I get you where you need to go? So, just kind of — I think that account planning is just a real — without going — if they don’t have a formal account planning process, I’m not talking about a document that’s created and just sits on a shelf. Just in your mind, you can even think through some of the really first steps, which is, “Who are my buyers? What are their pain points? Who’s my competitor? What are their weaknesses?” Like there’s very simple things that you can do. That’s one thing technology has done for individuals is it’s put a lot of power in the hands of our customers but, also, in salespeople and individuals.
Steve Maul: [00:04:28] Because I hope the phone rings off the hook for you guys as a result of the show, but I always like to leave the people who are listening, who are the individual contributors, the ones who are out there facing the customers day in and day out, with some hope. They can’t have to wait for the rest of the world to change around them. They need to be able to feel a sense of responsibility and accountability for their own performance. And I just want to clarify one thing you said, Mark, because you said about 50% of their time is spent selling. When you say that, what does that mean? Does that mean face time with a customer, or voice time with the customer, or the preparation for those meetings, or what kind of goes into that selling basket?
Mark Donnolo: [00:05:07] Yeah, it’s about half the time on sales and sales-supporting activities. So, what I mean by that is proposal development and things that you’re doing to-
Steve Maul: [00:05:18] Call planning, preparation, research.
Mark Donnolo: [00:05:20] Actual customer contact time tends to be about a third of total time.
Steve Maul: [00:05:23] Right, okay.
Mark Donnolo: [00:05:24] And then, the other areas outside of the sales time would be operational, administrative, putting out fires. Some of those are a little tricky because people will say, “Well, that is a sales activity. I do have to work with the customer on those issues.” Well, that’s where we would look at this idea of job decontamination to say, “You really need to be dealing with those service issues, or could we have another person, another role do that?” So, what’s the highest and best use of-
Steve Maul: [00:05:50] Who doesn’t cost quite as much and whose opportunity cost isn’t more revenue.
Mark Donnolo: [00:05:55] That’s exactly it. That’s exactly it, yeah.
Michelle Seger: [00:05:57] And Steve, whether you have support inside for an initiative around that or not, typically, there is someone inside. It becomes a trust thing. Your salesperson doesn’t want to trust that inside person, or customer service, or whoever it might be to really handle that problem, but they have to. I mean, they have to retrain themselves.
Steve Maul: [00:06:20] So, there’s only 168 hours in the week.
Michelle Seger: [00:06:22] Right. That’s it.
To listen to the full interview, which covers a range of topics from quotas, incentive compensation, and coaching talent, to Sales Design ThinkingSM, the future of inside sales, and the benefits of change management, click here.
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