Account Planning

2024 State Of Account Planning: Survey Results

Posted On
February 23, 2024
Resource Type
Account Planning

The State of Account Planning in 2024


2023 was a challenging year for go-to-market teams. With economic uncertainty, slowing growth, and more scrutiny on every purchase, many teams struggled to close deals and retain accounts. To better understand how teams are adapting to this new environment, we surveyed over 250 professionals across sales, customer success, account management, and more about their account planning processes, challenges, and priorities for 2024.

This report aims to uncover how account planning has evolved as our new reality has set in over the last 12+ months. With more stakeholders involved in buying decisions and higher rates of “no decision” outcomes, maximizing strategic accounts is more critical than ever. We asked respondents how they’re building account plans, which KPIs they’re measured on, and what would make the process more effective.

A few key findings

87% – The number of respondents who said strategic account planning was important or very important to their organization. However a sizeable contingent of this group encountered challenges that left them feeling less than satisfied with the results and impact of their strategic account planning. 

While most respondents agreed or strongly agreed that CRM-based account planning drives better results, nearly 50% still use disparate systems. Lack of consistency and process adoption between sales and account management teams remains the biggest roadblock. Win rates and customer retention are top metrics, but CRM adoption ranked high with SMBs. As companies mature, digital channels for researching account planning tools also diversify.

Overall the report indicates that in 2024, improving processes, retaining accounts, and winning strategic deals will require tighter account planning.

 

SEE THE OTHER KEY FINDINGS

Survey Methodology

We surveyed over 250 professionals across different industries and company sizes through an online questionnaire. Below is a breakdown:

  • 48% were from companies with 1-500 employees
  • 31% from companies with 501-5,000 employees
  • 21% from companies with over 5,000 employees


The industries represented included software, manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, retail, and others.

The survey asked questions to uncover:

  • How companies are building account plans and where they are storing them
  • The frequency account plans are created and updated
  • The importance of account planning and the biggest challenges
  • Key metrics and KPIs used to measure account planning effectiveness
  • Whether using a CRM improves results
  • How companies evaluate different account planning solutions

The goal was to further understand across different sizes, industries, and roles on the current state of account planning and how it can be improved. We aimed to identify best practices, pain points, and priorities to provide recommendations for how teams can get more value from their account planning efforts.

Where Account Planning is Being Done

Showing how an account plan is built across multiple locations versus a CRM

Account planning is being done in a variety of ways, with nearly 50% of teams building plans that don’t live in their CRM. The data also shows us that around 72% of respondents felt their plans would be more impactful and effective if built inside their CRM. Microsoft and Google Suite continue to play a prominent role, especially in the 1-500 employee segment (59% used this method). The further upmarket, the larger proportion of respondents are currently using a CRM, with 68% of respondents using a CRM for companies with 5000 employees or more. 

As data models get more complex, and the number of internal and external team members involved in a relationship with a customer increases, centralizing and working out of one plan and system becomes more critical. 

This data highlights some key benefits of using a CRM for account planning:

  • Consistency – Having one place to build and store account plans ensures all teams are on the same page. Plans in docs or spreadsheets often become outdated, difficult to access, and aren’t used to drive action. 
  • Accessibility – CRMs allow broader visibility and access to account plans across the organization. Teams can see the most up-to-date info in one place.
  • Better tracking – CRMs provide tools to track account progress and account health over time. This leads to more data-driven planning.
  • Integration – Account plans in CRMs can integrate with other systems like email and calendars. This leads to better execution.
  • Engagement – CRMs encourage regular engagement with account plans through notifications, reminders, and alerts. This leads to more proactive relationship management.

Account Planning Frequency

Companies are 47% more likely to work on updating account plans regularly if they were using their CRM for account planning versus other methods. This held regardless of the company size or industry!

Respondents that use ClickUp or Asana were more likely to do account planning on an annual or bi-annual basis (10X) than companies that leverage a CRM. The benefits of regular account plan updates include:

  • Keeping account and relationship data current as engagements occur and the involvement grows
  • Identifying new opportunities, or deals that are at risk proactively
  • Maintaining alignment between sales, account management, and customer success
  • Driving smoother onboardings as critical account challenges/goals are identified and shared in the plan
  • Reinforcing the account plan so it remains top of mind for the team
  • Providing metrics and KPIs to showcase progress and impact over time
  • Ensuring historical information is documented, updated, and shared before it’s forgotten

Overall, regular account plan updates in any capacity will drive stronger collaboration and more meaningful progress for key accounts. 

Biggest Account Planning Challenges

CRM adoption image to build a better account plan

The survey revealed that the biggest challenge with account planning is the lack of consistency in processes across teams. Different departments often take different approaches when building plans, gathering account data, and reporting on progress. There isn’t collaboration happening around strategic contacts, deals, or accounts like there would be if it were all built in the CRM. 

Some teams use slide decks or spreadsheets that only get updated quarterly, meaning the data can quickly become outdated. Contacts leave, business priorities change, and none of this is updated in the plan. 

Account ownership changes frequently, and some teams thoroughly document their relationship history, while others don’t capture this information at all. Knowing who has generally been helpful or supportive to work with is a gap. 

With sales, marketing, customer success, and other departments operating in silos, there isn’t a singular approach to planning and executing against large accounts. This disjointed and inconsistent process was cited as the number one pain point and area for improvement by respondents. 

Key Account Planning KPIs

opportunity management, opportunity planning picture

While the scores didn’t drastically vary amongst the most important KPIs, winning new business and stronger CRM adoption were ranked 1 & 2 by a wide margin. However, CRM adoption was generally viewed as important or irrelevant, as it was also ranked the least important by 30% of respondents. Growing and retaining customers generally ranked 2 & 3, with new business win rates consistently ranking in the top half.

There was a drop-off in the importance of growing customer revenue based on industry, presumably for those business models that are not driven around licenses/subscriptions.

Winning new business, retaining existing customers, and growing them were the most important metrics overall, but improving CRM adoption was the most important in enterprise (10001+ & SMB (1-500). Company size played a major role in what account planning metrics were prioritized by a business.

Using CRM for Better Results

A clear majority of respondents (72%) agreed or strongly agreed that building account plans in a CRM would drive better results than other methods. However, despite this belief, about half of companies are still not leveraging their CRM for account planning purposes.

There are a few potential reasons that account planning is still being done outside of CRMs:

  • For sales cycles involving only 2-3 core people, a detailed account plan may be overkill so they opt for a simpler spreadsheet or document instead.
  • Transactional deals likely don’t require the same strategic planning and effort as larger, more complex sales.
  • Account planning and opportunity planning don’t provide as much value or impact for certain business models outside of traditional subscription/license SaaS.
  • Changing processes or adopting new technology is challenging, so teams continue using their existing account planning methods by default.

Even though the survey showed a clear preference for CRM-based account planning, the inertia of existing workflows and reluctance to introduce new tools means near-term adoption may remain slow. 

Evaluating Account Planning Tools

When evaluating tools to support account planning efforts, certain channels stood out as more important depending on company size and maturity.

Overall, search engines were the top channel used when researching account planning solutions. Review sites also played a critical role in gathering information and feedback.

  • Search engines ranked as the #1 channel for gathering information and evaluating vendors, regardless of company size. Being able to find detailed information through a search is clearly important in the research process.
  • Review sites ranked as the 2nd most important channel overall. Reading reviews provides helpful context and feedback from other users about their experiences with different tools.

There were some noticeable differences in channels used based on company size:

  • Smaller companies (1-1000 employees) relied heavily on search engines and review sites in their research process. These channels allow them to gather information efficiently.
  • Larger enterprises (5000+ employees) utilized a wider mix of channels beyond just search and reviews. Video content on YouTube, peer recommendations on LinkedIn, and word-of-mouth referrals played a bigger role in their research process.

There were some noticeable differences in channels used based on ROLE:

  • Sales and IT were most likely to use Google and ranked it the highest of all channels
  • Account Managers ranked YouTube and Review sites higher than Google.  They were most likely to begin searching for a product on YouTube looking for videos. 

Overall, search engines and review sites provide an important starting point when evaluating account planning tools. But as companies grow, the channel mix expands to include more social platforms and direct referrals. Understanding these differences can help providers reach customers more effectively through the right channels.

Key Takeaways

The survey results provide several key recommendations for how companies should approach account planning in 2024:

  • Consistency in the process is critical. With account plans being built across sales, marketing, account management, and other teams, ensuring alignment on information and frequency of updates is imperative. Centralizing account plans in CRM can enable this consistency.
  • Prioritize new customer acquisition along with growing and retaining existing accounts. In tougher economic climates, focusing energy and resources on the highest potential accounts is key. Use account plans to coordinate the targeting of strategic prospects.
  • Increase CRM adoption as a top initiative. The data shows CRM usage leads to better results. Getting all customer-facing teams bought into logging activities and managing plans in CRM should improve retention and growth.
  • Leverage broader channels for research. Use a mix of search, and review sites, LinkedIn, and YouTube when evaluating new tools and solutions. Relying solely on search omits key perspectives.
  • Understand that the importance of metrics varies by company size. Larger enterprises care more about CRM adoption whereas SMBs are focused on new customer wins. Tailor account planning processes and reporting to what matters most.
  • Satisfaction with account planning remains moderate, presenting an opportunity to demonstrate increased value through best practices. From executive sponsorship to cross-team collaboration, many areas can be improved to enhance retention and revenue growth through strategic account planning.

 

If you’re looking for a tool to help bridge the knowledge gap between stakeholder relationships, expansion potential in customers and a consistent process then we’re here to help.

 SEE THE PRODUCT

Posted On
February 23, 2024
Resource Type
Account Planning