What makes an account plan great?
For me, a great account plan is something that tells the account story. Now, I am not talking about a lengthy novel here! It is much more difficult to write a succinct summary than it is to write a lengthy story. So the first thing to realise, is that writing an account plan takes skill, practice and a reliance on some core guiding principles.
If the entire account team didn’t show up for work, would you know what was happening in the account?
Ok, so in terms of the laws of probability, it may not be that likely that an entire account team who had a syndicate win the lottery, but the principle holds true. If someone within your organisation was to look at a plan for an account that they knew nothing about, would they be able to understand what is happening?
A great account plan should present a clear story.
Core principles to follow for an account plan
What is the current situation in the account?
Using insight, the cross functional account team should be able to summarise the current situation in their accounts. This should factor in political, economic, sociological and technological factors which could impact the achievement of the account objective. This is something that requires local knowledge and insight. This should be summarised at the beginning of any account plan.
Many account plans take this to the next level and include a fully cross functional SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). I will focus on the SWOT in a future article.
Who are the key external decision makers?
Of course, it is critical to know the external stakeholders who make the decisions within the account. Regulations within the pharmaceutical and medical device industries require organisations to clearly record any activity with health care professionals and providers. It is not uncommon for these organisations to have very specific ‘target’ lists of key stakeholders to see within an account. However, it is much more difficult to fine tune this list and identify the real decision makers.
CEB, now Gartner identified within the Challenger Sale that most accounts have a decision making unit of 5.4 individuals. Whilst it is imperative to know these people, it is equally important to know those stakeholders who can influence these decision makers and why.
The account plan needs to document which internal account team members are planning to see these external stakeholders and why.
Access to key decision makers has become increasingly difficult. There is no doubt that many doors have closed because external stakeholders have become frustrated. It is not uncommon for multiple people representing the same organisation to call on the same stakeholders to ask similar questions or present the same value proposition. A more cohesive approach is required to provide an optimal customer experience.
We will explore the importance of mapping the decision making unit and external stakeholders in a future article.
What is the account objective?
Account team members often have different objectives. This is such a common cause of internal conflict. Examples of KAM best practice demonstrate that the cross functional account team agree the account objective together and work towards it together. Sounds simple, and yet it is not something that happens with regularity.
Having a clear account objective requires the use of SMART principles. An objective should be something that an account team works towards over a period of 6-12 months. It absolutely needs to be ‘S’ – specific, stretching, significant. ‘M’ – measurable, meaningful, motivational. ‘A’ – achievable, agreed-upon, action oriented. ‘R’ – realistic, relevant, results focused and ‘T’ – timely, tangible, trackable.
If we all know what we are trying to achieve in the account, and share that common goal, then immediately we reduce the potential for conflict amongst ourselves.
Who is doing what?
Having clarity on roles and responsibilities within the account team is something I have touched on in my previous articles. Using the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) matrix is critical to the success to any high performing cross functional team. The leader of the account, whether they are called the KAM or not, is the person who is ultimately accountable for what happens in that account. The buck stops with them.
There should never be more than one accountable person!
From a clear objective, the team can agree two or three core tactics that they will employ to help them achieve their goal. Within each tactic, account team members will have individual responsibilities for their own actions which should be documented within the plan. Any actions should directly relate to the account objective.
“….will my specific action help us as an account team to attain the account objective?”
Tracking progress against the account plan.
If the plan has a clear objective, and the team have individual actions that are documented, then tracking progress is a fairly simple process.
The account team should have access to the account plan to enable them to see not only their own actions, but also those of their account team colleagues. The plan should enable an individual to mark an action as complete, in progress or under threat. Employing a simple process like this provides transparency. In addition, the team can then focus on the actions that are under threat and find solutions to negate those threats.
Progress against actions should be reviewed every 4-6 weeks. This means that account team colleagues have a realistic number of things to do in a reasonable time frame. It also means that the plan does not become too lengthy!