Success in selling to your most important accounts requires a team approach.
Whether you classify customers as “strategic, major, key, target, or focus,” your probability of success in meeting your goals with an account will increase substantially when you assemble a team of supporting resources to supplement the work of the Account Manager.
The Account Manager and a supporting cast of sales, technical specialists, and other internal and external resources working together will result in the greatest return from your relationship with your important customers. The customer’s cross-functional decision teams will find value from this approach too, as the “right” resources are applied to addressing all business issues related to a purchase from all impacted groups.
This is a summary of an interview with Victoria Hibbits, VP of Imaging Sales, Government and Complex Accounts at McKesson.
Victoria Hibbits is the VP of Imaging Sales, Government and Complex Accounts at McKesson. She is responsible for Government and Key Accounts for Imaging Workflow Solutions. She has played leadership roles, directing national account and government account efforts at a number of other medical equipment manufacturers, including Siemens, Acuson, Stentor and Vital Images.
Here is what she had to say about the importance of account management and how to do it effectively.
Helping you improve account planning process effectiveness.
Plan 2 Win was launched by sales leaders who noticed a great need for better sales planning process tools. Our objective is to:
Deliver sales planning tools that are straightforward and effective
Respond to the changing needs of the dynamic world of B2B sales
Make it easy for sales leaders and sales people to see what is going on
Support sales teams in using sales planning best practices
Ron Snyder / President
As President of Plan 2 Win, Ron has led the effort to continually improve Plan 2 Win products to meet the dynamic challenges of the world of sales; adding capability and maintaining high quality. As a consultant in Silicon Valley for over 20 years, Ron has helped many companies improve their sales effectiveness and results, including HP, Siemens, Philips, Alliance Imaging, Synopsys, Mentor Graphics, Adobe and other, rapidly-growing companies. As a consultant, he noticed that there was a great need for better key account and territory management and was excited to take over as President of Plan 2 Win Software in 2011. Prior to consulting, Ron worked at Hewlett-Packard, where he was consistently recognized as a top performer in sales, marketing and management roles related to computer, software and medical solutions.
Nilesh Shroff / Product Architecture and Development
Nilesh is responsible for Plan 2 Win product architecture and development. He has more than 20 years of software development experience in product definition, architecture and implementation with an emphasis on enterprise software. He has extensive experience developing new products and bringing them to market. In the last 6 years he has been working with product development teams of various startups, helping them with software design and implementation. Nilesh has earned a Master of Science in Information & Computer Science, and a Master of Science in Structural Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia.
Reuven Shelef / Technical Support
Reuven is a Salesforce Registered Consulting Partner and has been working with Salesforce since their early stages. He has over two decades of experience in the high-tech, military and other industries. He has directed and consulted for management teams; helping them to create more effective business processes and systems in various types of companies - from startups to large multi-national corporations. Prior to founding and running a Salesforce consulting service, Reuven was with a series of high-growth companies that were acquired and merged into large corporations - including 3Com, Infineon and Atrica (now Nokia Networks), where he served in a variety of senior roles in technical, operational, marketing and customer service. He also founded and managed Integral Axis, an innovative global outsourcing company.
John Reighard / Strategic Direction
John Reighard has worked for large organizations like Exodus Communications, Lucent Technologies and Octel Communications and with many smaller companies as a consultant. He has international experience leading corporate sales teams in the USA, EMEA and Asia Pacific. He has also served as an Advisory Board member for ten businesses. These experiences give him a unique background to understand the needs of many businesses and help address those needs. At Plan 2 Win, John is instrumental in shaping our strategic direction and advising on best practices for the use of our apps.
David Steinore / Marketing
David provides design and usability advice for Plan 2 Win applications and website and guidance on measuring marketing effectiveness. He has over 20 years of experience as a data architect and manager for business reporting and analytic systems. David has designed and built numerous data management systems in startups and large companies. He focuses on understanding the metrics and analytics the company needs and how to best gather and organize the data into an effective data warehouse and visualizations. He has worked in E-Commerce, Financial, Email Marketing and Insurance Industries.
Steve Harper / Founder
Early in his sales career, Steve took over a territory with a large installed base that was leaving to the competition at a very high rate. He learned that having a key account plan and a territory plan was critical to success. He saved several key accounts and grew the territory by 130%. Starting in 1994, Steve worked at some of the pioneers of the Internet, such as BBN and Exodus Communications. He then started a consulting practice. This is where he developed a compete methodology around strategic account planning and territory planning. He noticed that, in the 1990's and beyond, sales training and sales skills have to be taught after sales reps have already entered the territory. Account planning and account strategy were key concepts that Steve was asked to teach time and again. He decided to write an application to automate the process. Plan 2 Win Software was born, and today provides tools that enable sales people to create and execute effective key account plans and territory plans in Salesforce.
One of the most important sales battlefields is the account. Winning at an account is more than winning a deal. In account management, you are seeking to earn a position of trust at your customer that enables you to grow and build your business over an extended period of time. Maximizing your share of the dollars your accounts spend in your product/service area is a key driver of sales success.
The strategy decisions you make that position you to participate in and win an ever-increasing share of your customer's business are critical. Account managers should choose carefully the strategies in their key account plan that will yield the maximum results over time.
How do you approach account planning? Is it an individual or a team sport?
Michael Jordan and LeBron James couldn’t win without great teams behind them. Similarly, even superstar Account Managers need a team of supporters behind them to succeed.
When doing account planning we tend to focus on having the Account Manager develop “his/her” plan. Shouldn’t the entire account team be involved in building the account plan for your most important customers?
What is the worst account management practice you've ever seen?
Given the complexity of selling to large accounts today, it is easy to miss something that will end up costing you a lot of business. Further, one of the most important elements of account management is laying a good foundation. Without this, everything else is more difficult if not impossible!
Poor account management causes the following problems.
Missing important opportunities to win new business in the account.
An inefficient sales process that unnecessarily increases sales cycle length.
Creating unnecessary stalls in the sales process.
Losing business you could have won.
Selling at a greater discount than necessary.
Here are the Six Account Management Worst Practices to avoid.
Below is a list of our top 25 Account Management best practices.... your results will soar!
Anticipate needs as they evolve in the account- based on new technology and product capability, needs and their marketplace. This makes you a true business advisor vs. a vendor.
Touch base regularly with the key people in the account. This way you can “feel their pain,” and help them produce the key business results they are responsible for.
Understand top management’s strategic initiatives and create aligned goals. Get input and agreement from key people in the account and jointly pursue those objectives.
Always look for opportunities to expand your presence in the account, for example upsell or cross sell products, penetrate into new business units and influence new key people as a way to improve sales results.
Create a strategic account plan based on trends in the customer’s industry and your product/ service technology. Include your goals, strategies, target opportunities and action plan.
Do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis. Leverage your competitive advantages. Respond to threats from competitors, new regulations, technology…
Have a clear value proposition that describes how your solution meets their needs. You must understand their needs and the criteria upon which they will judge what meets those needs.
Have a relationship strategy for how you will leverage each of the key people in the account. Focus on helping them achieve their business results and personal agenda.
Identify the key members of your account team (internal and partner resources) and what they will do to help you win each target opportunity.
Share information across your team quickly so you can identify issues and opportunities and course-correct promptly.
Use your network to generate introductions from credible sources; enabling you to connect with people who would otherwise be unreachable.
Track the activities of key opinion leaders, industry journals, etc. Sharing the ideas of people with real insights is the easiest way to sound smart and add value.
Help them justify the investment via ROI analysis, testimonials, references and case studies. Although they may want to go with your product/service, they need to justify it to themselves and then to their management. Your job is to help them do this.
Make your strategies broad enough to have a significant effect over time, yet focused enough to produce measurable results in the account.
Make your tactical plan specific; who, what, when, how. The tactics must be clear to anyone who is implementing them.
You must have clear metrics so you can measure how you are progressing toward your goals… and if you need to course-correct.
Use your plan to engage the critical people needed to implement the plan, for example your management, other internal functions, partners and customer sponsors.
When managing meetings between the customer’s and your organization, use your plan to identify your meeting goals, an agenda to meet those goals, who needs to attend and what each person will contribute… including from customer and partner organizations.
Track progress against your goals, strategies and action plan. Fine-tune as needed. Focus on the high impact tasks and avoid getting overwhelmed by the many low impact tasks.
Perform strategic account reviews, including win/loss analysis, identifying common errors across the team, sharing best practices and enabling learning to improve sales effectiveness.
Have your plan readily available in your system of record, i.e. your CRM. This makes it much easier to access it, implement and fine tune.
Conduct quarterly customer business review meetings. Review the value/results you have delivered in that quarter, half year and year. Review progress toward joint goals. Get agreement on a joint tactical plan. This results-orientation attracts attendance of higher-level management.
Actively create and utilize success stories, case studies and testimonials to demonstrate your impact on results. Use videos - so people can sense the enthusiasm and sincerity.
Measure your team’s use of their account plans by including it as a measure in their performance reviews.
Encourage the use of account plans and account management by sharing success stories and best practices across the team.
From our account, territory and call sales planning tools, to our mentoring and seminars on sales management, Plan 2 Win helps you make your numbers by improving your strategic account sales planning process.
And we do it all within your Salesforce.com working environment.