Sales Teams That Fail to Plan Are Planning to Fail
Trying to drive growth in a competitive market without leveraging the power of account planning is setting sales teams up for failure - and most don’t even know it’s happening.
Winning Deals Is Already Difficult -
We Don’t Need to Up the Difficulty
Account planning exists because consistently winning deals is hard, in an age of more competition, where most companies have a lot of the same features and functionality.
The pressure to drive quarterly results makes most reps and sales teams go month to month doing everything they can to hit quota, with a lot of uncertainty around how to hit their number.
As soon as a goal is reached, it quickly becomes stressful to start thinking about how you’ll hit quota again next month or next quarter. The thought of planning out key accounts to drive expansion in 3-6 months down the road is tough to fathom; when you’re in the ocean drowning, you’re not making plans for the future.
So Why Aren’t Sales Teams Doing Account
To answer that question, let’s look at the three levels of how sales teams use account planning today:
1. Power Users
“We not only create detailed account plans, but follow them religiously, both inside and outside of our CRM. Everything revolves around account planning.”
2. Aspiring Users
“We try to use account planning and follow the plans we create, but we could be better at the process, and at even knowing if the account planning is working.”
3. Lagging Users
“Account plans exist to check boxes and nothing else – if we do them at all. Our reps don’t follow them, our managers don’t enforce them, and honestly, they may not even be that good.”
You don’t have a process that empowers your teams to collaborate on key accounts.
Lack of Knowledge
There's a lack of visibility into key stakeholders and the risks of losing the deal.
Lack of Technology
You're missing technology that allows you to map out stakeholders.
Every sales org falls somewhere along that spectrum. Only a fraction could be considered power users.
The rest fall into the latter two categories for a variety of reasons that can be boiled down to three things:
- A lack of belief in account planning as a process
- A lack of knowledge in how to do it well
- A lack of technology to execute it efficiently
All three reasons are related.
B2B sales teams may not believe account planning works because they don’t know enough about it to make that determination. And if they don’t know enough, they certainly won’t have the right tools to enable the process for their reps.
According to Gartner, companies who use customer-aligned strategies to plan, orchestrate, and execute account-based selling will outperform those who don’t with 50% higher revenue growth.
Account planning is worth doing…if you have the right process in place.
At its core, this process is about:
• Knowing your customer
• Figuring out what they need
• Engaging the key stakeholders
• Getting everyone on board
• Closing the first deal
• Finding many more
Account plans align a team’s resources – sales, marketing, customer success, and sales enablement – to map out how they’ll find, influence, create personalized messaging for, and win over key stakeholders.
During this process, you’re assembling a concrete vision for where to go and how to get there. That includes mapping out relationships by identifying supporters, champions, and blockers within the company. It includes understanding how influence works, not just following an org chart.
Account planning also means knowing the sales cycle not just from your end, but from the buyer’s perspective – taking into account their budget, purchasing timelines, and any other factor that’ll impact how they spend.
Finally, it’s about not just winning this deal, but winning every possible deal in the future. That’s where growth gets multiplied.
Account Planning Outline
Successful Sales Teams Put Principles Into Practice
The right account planning strategies help sales teams follow all of the best practices and principles they know they should be doing, but rarely have a structure in place to do, things like:
• Sales is all about getting multi-threaded
• Reps should be organized and ready to share valuable deal information at the drop of a hat
• The best reps find pain points from the lower positions and present them to the top
• Top reps use their ‘detective skills’ to find past deal/account information stored in their CRM
That last point, though…that’s the rub.
Truth be told, sales teams either don’t have the right sales tools and tech to execute all those principles, or they don’t use them.
“Why on earth would reps not use these tools we spent thousands of dollars on?”
Because most sales tools are either:
• Not worth the time (they don’t get the job done)
• Waste too much time (they’re too inefficient)
• Are too difficult to use (they’re not user-friendly)
That’s where over one thousand (literally, over one thousand) sales enablement companies attempt to step in.
You’ve probably gotten emails from technology companies with value props like this:
• We automate your selling process!
• We make your selling process easier!
• Our tool will give you deal visibility!
• Our tool fills the final gap in your tech stack to start scaling success!
Not to be Captain Obvious, and we hate to say it but….
Cool Sales Technology Does Not = a 1:1 Increase in
Sales Rep Production
For the reasons listed above, and contrary to popular belief, having more selling tools does not mean better sellers.
Sure, sometimes it helps, but sometimes it means that teams are not hitting numbers – and management is willing to make desperate spending decisions in hopes of better outcomes.
Speaking of putting principles into practice, here’s one: “Sales is an everyday motion. Sellers work Monday – Friday, and that work is habitual. Tech stacks don’t change habits.”
Tech stacks don’t change habits. The sales process comes first, not the sales tool.
(A sales tech company saying this? What is the world coming to?)
What changes habits? Success (and compensation for success).
But – and this is a big one – just because sales success breeds habits doesn’t mean only good habits are formed.
You’ve probably come across reps who excel at their job, but still maintain these unhealthy habits:
- Hunters who excel at cold calling, but can never get opportunities past the demo or disco call
- Reps with excellent negotiation skills, but poor time management skills
- Farmers who have fantastic account relationships, but seem to fumble on the 2-yard line when trying to upsell large accounts
- Top reps who are stuck with a process that was effective 15 years ago, and don’t see a need to change because they still hit quota (think of reps who can sell anything, but couldn’t bother with data entry into your CRM)
To build better selling routines, sales leaders bring in tools and tech to drive productivity, enhance communication, and so on and so forth.
But there’s a problem.
The Gap Between Need and Service in the Sales Tech World
Today, though, the biggest gap between sales technology companies and actual sales teams is that, due to the habitual nature of sales, most reps can look at a sales tool and decide in about 10 seconds if that tool will actually be helpful in their everyday motion.
A tool that isn’t being used – and despite your best entreaties, if it’s not useful, it won’t be used – isn’t helpful.
So what makes a sales tool actually worth using? How can we enable account planning, this supremely important process, in a way that the sales force will actually use and benefit from?
And more importantly…how will we know?
Think back to account planning itself. We need to be able to measure how well we’re hitting our goals, not just this quarter but the next few quarters in terms of pipeline and potential.
How to measure that your account planning process is working
Expansion revenue - this impacts your net revenue retention (NRR). Win rates and sales cycles should be quicker than your historical customer expansions
This includes marketing sourced opportunities and outbound. Compare both types of opportunities versus historical averages
Account & Opportunity planning directly impacts how often you win, due to staying multi-threaded and documenting goals & objectives
It’s one thing to be able to measure success versus these main KPIs. It’s another to put together a tech stack that not only provides superior enablement, but is one you can prove works.
At Its Most Basic, Sales Technology Deals With Data
Sellers, especially enterprise sellers, are usually dealing with A LOT of information and data.
No matter how you twist it, even top sellers struggle with keeping their deal information top of mind and in a format that anyone on the team can access.
Of course, it must be said that just because reps organize sales info doesn’t mean they’re using it effectively. Most reps store account and sales information in the following places:
• An Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet
• A Word document or Google Docs file
• Physical notebooks or binders (which if lost means those deals are lost)
• In their head
• In their customer relationship management (CRM) platform
Only one of these locations actually enables account-based selling. (Hint: it’s not a shared Google Sheets doc.)
The only place where the majority of your account-based selling data should be stored and utilized is the CRM.
That’s why we made Prolifiq.
Prolifiq began because a group of Salesforce employees began to notice how information that would have been useful to progress and win deals was siloed and difficult to find.
It’s frustrating when your single point of contact becomes unresponsive. It’s irritating when you feel like you’re undermanned in conquering an enterprise account. We’ve all been there and done that, and wondered if there was a better way to do account planning the right way, with the right tools and right process.
Salesforce, at the end of the day, is what you make of it. It can be a powerful tool used to shorten your sales cycle and accelerate deals…or it can be a glorified phonebook.
But you don’t make big-ticket sales at the enterprise level by using a phonebook.
You turn your CRM into an account-based selling command center that stores, analyzes, and makes available data to drive your most lucrative selling motions.
The entire promise of account planning – all of the terrific benefits it can offer – lives in your CRM. Or it should, if it doesn’t already.
That’s why Prolifiq’s ultimate goal is to help your business use Salesforce better. To actually leverage the data you have in your CRM to plan around your top accounts.
That’s planning to succeed – not fail.