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The Sales Warrior Within | Season 2 Episode 34 – Account Planning and the Coordinated Campaign
Andy Olen is a Sales & Leadership Trainer and High-Performance Coach. Andy works with talented salespeople, business teams, and leaders who seek empowerment, improvement, and insight. Andy’s clients strive to be the best in class.
“Good Selling, Good Leading, Good Living.” – Andy Olen
Account Planning and the Coordinated Campaign
- Great salespeople see account planning as a vital skill on their sales “toolbelt”
- Account Planning is not an activity in administriva, rather it’s the approach to running the coordinated account campaign
- Andy shares his experiences with account planning and provides advice on how to research the account plan, assemble the account plan, build alignment, and execute
- To put your best foot forward and achieve the goals you are seeking, account planning is critical… especially as the stakes go up
Speaker: Andy Olen
| 00:02 | There’s a sales warrior within each of us. My name is Andy Olen, and I’m here to help you discover and empower the sales warrior within. Hello, sales warriors. This is Andy Olen. Welcome back to another episode of The Sales Warrior Within Podcast.
| 00:29 | It is getting close to that end of year time, that time where we all activate a salespeople trying to not only close out what hopefully has been a great 2022, but also set the stage for what will be a successful 2023. It’s one of those things. Sales is one of the most rewarding and also one of the fastest professions, where you turn the page very quickly. What do I mean by that? It’s hey, congratulations.
| 00:58 | Pat on the back. Great 2022. What are you going to do for me now in 2023? So my hope is that you close out strong, you have a great end of year, can enjoy some of your successes along the way and start now setting the stage for a great 2023 so you can hit the ground running. I think about hitting the ground running. As many of you know, I’m a big Formula one fan. And if you think about auto racing, there are two different ways to start an auto race.
| 01:28 | If you look at the Indy 500 and you look at, I think, NASCAR as well, too, what they do is they have the parade lap, get everyone up to speed and the green flag or the start of the race hits, and everyone’s already doing 100 and 5200 miles an hour. So that’s a rolling start. They’re hitting the starting line like jet rockets just blowing past the start finish line. 200 miles an hour. That’s one way to start. I think for sales, that’s a preferred way to start.
| 01:57 | I would rather run into the next quarter, the next year already at full pace. F one cars do it differently. They go around the track and they all get into their grid position and they’re all standing still. And then the lights go from red and the red lights disappear. And once they disappear, all the cars shoot out of the standing position like a rocket ship as well. And it’s a standing start race that’s a lot harder to do in sales.
| 02:24 | If you start the race for 2023 with no leads, nothing close in the pipeline, it’s going to take a lot of time to get up to speed, get those tires warm, get it to where you want to be. So you know what? Take some time now to bring in the year. Take some time now to get ahead of 2023 as well. And that’s what I do. And the way that I do it is I actually have a little visual reminder here in my office.
| 02:50 | I’m looking at it right now, and I put up little thermometers, those blank thermometers like you’re raising money for a nonprofit or fundraising goals, but I put it up there for bookings. And as I book more and more business for 2023, I fill the thermometers and my thermometers set the goal, and then I add to it as I close the deal. And it’s sort of fun to draw in the space, but it’s a quick visual to say, okay, how am I doing? Here’s what I want to do, how much more do I have to go get? And as I look at it now, I got a little bit more to get.
| 03:21 | Definitely a different year this year, in 2020, starting 2023. I think recession, some economic uncertainty, companies are slowing down a little bit. So last year this time, I think things were a little bit more robust on my thermometers. But that’s okay because I like to see it, I like to visualize it, and I like to get after it then. And good news is, about 2023, there’s a whole year to fill in opportunity. I just like to get that running start going and hopefully team.
| 03:50 | That’s a good segue into our topic today. I wanted to talk a little bit about account planning. And sometimes people, when they hear account planning all of a sudden get like processitis or a real disdain for process. You don’t want to hear about it, you don’t want to follow it. You just want to follow sort of your instincts and go to where, you know, the opportunities hot and have your own process of managing things and not follow some sort of, you know, corporate structure.
| 04:19 | I used to have a colleague who would say, you know, leaders come in and if they overcook the process or add too much process, it’s like putting an iron maiden on the organization. And I thought about an iron maiden. I think that was like an old torture device back in medieval times where someone gets thrown into the iron maiden, then they get dipped into the ocean. Probably not a pleasant experience, but process can sometimes be the oh no moment that a salesperson hears. I got to do more reports, I got to do more administrative, more bureaucracy.
| 04:48 | You know, when it comes to account planning, especially in environments. And I think of a lot of b to b environments, business to business, selling environments where more than one person is activating and working on winning in an account, then if you have a multi channel or multisalesperson effort to win some business, then you need an account line.
| 05:14 | You need some sort of document and some sort of social and written contract among sales people. And here’s what we’re going to do, here’s how we’re going to do it, here’s what winning and good looks like, and here’s when we’re going to get it done. And if you don’t have that, it can be a real random walk. And salesperson A can be engaging the account in one way, working with a set of customers and making progress. But salesperson B isn’t doing anything.
| 05:43 | And if salesperson b doesn’t activate, then all of a sudden the account dynamic really starts to fall apart. Customers get confused, who’s leading this account from your company? The sales process grinds to a halt, and you can’t get that customer ultimately to say yes to you because you approach it in a very unorganized fashion. I used to run political campaigns when I was much younger, many decades ago now, multiple decades ago.
| 06:11 | And the structure that we had was called the coordinated campaign. And if you think about it, let’s pick a presidential election year. You have whatever party you’re working for. You have a nominee for president. Maybe there’s a senate race. A us. Senate race in your state. You have a Senate race for the same party. You have a set of congressional races. You have maybe a governor’s race. You have local, state senate, state assembly, state legislature races.
| 06:42 | And wouldn’t it be nice to coordinate the campaign? So everyone, if you’re going out with volunteers and knocking on some doors, it’s, hey, here’s who I’m supporting for president, senate, governor, and all the way down to state assembly person. And it’s a coordinated effort. When you’re organizing volunteers and you’re sending people out, they all have to be trained on the messages. You have to send them out to different areas so they’re not knocking on the same doors.
| 07:06 | And you need to have coordination between the campaigns in order to maximize the impact of that messaging, of that very important person to person interaction, campaign volunteer with voter. And that’s the same in an account, is that you need a coordinated campaign to win in a complex sale, in a multi customer sale, or multifactorial sale, if you will.
| 07:32 | And you need to have the account plan really be that source of truth to prioritize and set the different actions and tactics in place. Set the goals in place, the strategies in place in order to be able to get out there and execute in a coordinated fashion and maximize the opportunity to win and maximize the amount of resources that you’re deploying for that account.
| 07:58 | So account planning, especially in complex sales environments where there are multiple salespeople or multiple functions, like the lawyers, the financial people in your organization, maybe it’s getting your leadership team engaged with a customer. All that has to be coordinated. The only way to do that is by building an account plan. There are four, excuse me, five tenants that I’d share with you in account plan excellence. Let me walk through those really quickly.
| 08:28 | And what’s really interesting about this, let’s say that you’re the lead in this account planning exercise. Let’s say you’re I’m going to use a football, a US. Football analogy here. So let’s say you’re the quarterback. If I were using a soccer analogy, I might be off on this a little bit, but you are the person wearing the armband, so you’re the captain out on the pitch. That could be. I think that’s comparable. My friends who are really into football played with your foot soccer, also known as here in the United States.
| 09:00 | Please let me know if my analogy holds. Nevertheless, let’s say you’re the go to person for this account. What that means is it’s your primary responsibility to really organize as much of the account plan prior to ever bringing people along for the ride for you. So what do I mean by that? Well, think of it this way. If someone that I’m working with is that quarterback, and I’m a support player in this account, I have a little bit of skin in the game.
| 09:31 | I have some relationship equity. But there’s another person, let’s say Jill is the quarterback of this account. She’s the primary lead on this account. And she comes to me and says, hey, Andy, what do you think I should do with this account? How do we win there? That’s way too open ended, in my opinion, for the leader to come to me and just let me try to fill in the blanks. I’m not as close to it as she is. I may not have the full picture. I’m playing more of a support role.
| 09:59 | If Jill came to me and said, andy, here’s what I’m thinking good looks like, or what winning looks like in this account, here are a couple of key strategies. Here’s some goals that I’ve jotted down. What are your thoughts on this? Can you make this better? Do you think this is right? Then all of a sudden, as the support person, as her teammate, she does a couple things. One, she shows her leadership cred and moxie in that moment by bringing me a recommendation. If I were a senior leader in the business, that would hold true as well.
| 10:29 | Hey, Andy, I’m looking at getting this account plan going and activated. I need your help here. Andy, you’re a senior leader. I want you to come in and try to open up some doors with the senior management at this account. Here’s my account strategy. Here’s my account plan. Here are the key dates. Here are the goals, strategies. This is just a draft, but I would like to get your reaction to this. Jill has done such an amazing job in that moment of impressing upon the account team that she’s in charge.
| 10:58 | She’s done, number one, her research. And that’s the first ten in a really good account plan is that you, as the quarterback, as the captain of this effort, has to get out there and do the research on the account. You need to know it better than anyone else. What does that look like? Google is a wonderful sales tool for US. Salespeople because it houses and stores the information we’re looking for. We might be able to find financial information on our account.
| 11:27 | We might be able to find current topics in the news. We might be able to find who the entire leadership team is and then go investigate what their backgrounds are. And oh by the way, two or three of them have been on podcasts. They talk about what they need for their account to succeed or their businesses succeed that year. That’s all super important research. As the quarterback, Jill needs to get out there and get that research done and dusted.
| 11:53 | Second, once you do the research, gill needs to assemble the account plan, bring all the pieces together and start to draft goals, strategies and tactics. Start to put forward a vision for the account team of what winning looks like. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this here, but we’ve gone from research to assembly to sort of some hopefully you can visualize the role play that I’m sharing with you between myself and Jill and what her role is and how she’s getting things going.
| 12:23 | And I really haven’t said the term account plan yet. I’m just building the foundations of the information and the knowledge she has to have and the organization of it and within the account plan so she can coordinate all the resources of the team of the company to put her best foot and her company’s best foot forward. So she needs to assemble the account plan and then maybe at that point that’s when after the research and after the initial assembly, if she wants to reach out to the key stakeholders and say, hey, I have a working draft, I want you to react to this.
| 13:00 | Great salespeople. In my experience who lead multi salesperson effort or a coordinated campaign to go out there and win business, what they do really well is they create followership, they create buy in, they create belief by being out ahead of the curve. They get a lot of the work done on the front end and ask people to react to it. They don’t ask everybody to simply be an author because if you ask everyone to be an author, boy, you’re going to get 10,000 different opinions.
| 13:32 | And then if you tell the later on show the account plan or the strategies and for example, mine wasn’t there, well then, you know, I don’t feel really good about that process probably cause you asked for my opinion but you didn’t take it. Instead, show me what you’re thinking, let me make it better. Do that around the entire account plan team and you’re in really good shape from then sharing the initial account plan, proactively the goals of strategies, tactics, measurement, everything what success looks like with the account team.
| 14:03 | You have that alignment, you have that buy, and you start executing. That’s a fourth pillar. So we’ve gone from researching to assembly to sharing, gaining alignment, and now fourth is execution. And execution is all about hitting dates. Back to my campaign analogy. One of the things that I love working on political campaigns was that it was the ultimate deadline that that first Tuesday, after the first monday and then month of November, it was election day in Wisconsin. At least at 08:00 at night, the election was over.
| 14:31 | And you better have done everything you can in order to hit perfectly that election day turnout. Getting your voters to the poll and having them pull the lever for your candidates. After that, the election’s over. Hitting dates, executing on the dates in the account plan is critical to build momentum. Having an escalation process is critical as well, too. If someone doesn’t get it done, what’s your process?
| 14:57 | How do you get that person to act or engage, even if they are not getting done what they said they would get done? So execution becomes a really important tenant of it, and then ultimately it’s being nimble, it’s coming back to it and saying, you know what, plan A didn’t work. This bundle of tactics didn’t work. Let’s go to plan B quickly, make adjustments, off you go again and keep working the successes that you find. There’s a saying, keep feeding the hot hand.
| 15:25 | Once you get going on crushing the tactics that you’ve built in your account plan and people see that there’s success out there and it’s making a difference, the momentum is really cool and really flourishes. So hopefully, as you listen to this podcast, you don’t think of account planning, this process, itis and it’s like, oh my God, why are we doing all this administrative bureaucratic work just so we can show people we’re getting things done? And account plans value is about the coordination of the campaign. It’s about bringing the resources together.
| 15:54 | For you as the account plan owner, it is about demonstrating to others that you are in command of this account plan, the execution of it, you are to be trusted with it. And boy, you share that with a senior leader. And I remember when I asked people, like, what do you need me to do to help you be successful? When I saw a great account plan and a great account plan review, as a senior leader, I would say, how can I invest? What do you need from me? And they would say, I need Andy. I need one, two and three. I’d make it happen for them.
| 16:24 | So really good account planning creates more momentum in terms of senior leaders. Push their chips all in and bet on you. That’s a pretty cool place to be. Hopefully a pitch for account planning, hopefully some motivation to get after it. And four simple things you have to do with account planning. Do the research on your own. Get it going on your own. Assemble the account plan on your own. Goal, strategies, tactics, measurement. Third, get alignment by bringing your recommendations to others.
| 16:55 | Give them something to react to so that it creates that momentum and then execute. Have an escalation process and ensure that you’re knocking out your tactics by the dates that you put down on paper and make adjustments quickly. If needed. Team, that’s just a couple of thoughts, a couple of minutes on account planning. Would love your feedback and reaction. Andy@andyolen.com is my email. And https://andyolen.com/ , you can also send a contact note into me with your thoughts and feedback on account planning.
| 17:27 | All right, team, couple thoughts for the day. So I want you to get back out there and get after it. Let me know how it goes. You’ve been listening to the sales warrior within. My name is Andy Olen, and as always, good selling, good leading and good living.