Working for a large software company there were several template Account Development Plans (ADPs) open for our department to use. However, the VP was not happy with any of them and felt they all offered something, but none were perfect for his needs. The challenge always is that one size does not fit all. Perhaps for large complex high value sales a Miller Heiman approach might work. For quick wins and short sprint sales cycles SPIN is a very effective tool but is hardly an Account Plan.
I took on a task to gather input and ideas from each salesperson and asked them all to produce real examples from their current or recent sales pursuits – one a long complex sales cycle and one a simpler, shorter sales pursuit. I did not specify whether they had to be successful.
As one would expect there were some obvious templates people used and some stuck rigidly to previous tools or ones recommended by the company. For those that did they were asked to go around a second time and not to use key elements that they had previously fallen back on.
Data gathered we started to compare, and it soon became obvious what worked. The challenge now was to find a structure that could cover multiple spectrum of engagement, perhaps omitting elements for smaller or shorter pursuits.
The results were then tried in earnest with everyone required to present their top two opportunities, based on a set of metrics provided by the VP. Active participation from peers was encouraged. The result was a very well received success. Simplicity of process also meant that these were kept up to date by salespeople as a key tool – and not put together once a quarter for the sales review as is often the case!
Account Development Plans and Sales Plans are a vital tool. If they are not right for the team then change them. They have to work both as a method for tracking and reporting progress but also as a tool for the salesperson to improve their chances of success.