Archive for the ‘Account Management’

Executing your 2015 Account Plan

success 650One of my early observations of sales methodology was that it was very hard for sales professionals to execute on their Account Plan. There was lots of valuable strategy to use, but very little support on the practical execution. (That was why we developed Dealmaker). Developing a plan has limited benefit unless you have the requisite tools and action plan to help you follow through. In this post, I give a short summary of an account planning approach and detail how you might think about your action plan.

In my book Account Planning in Salesforce, I set out three basic themes or phases for your account plan, and ifyou are developing your plan for next year, you should keep these themes in mind.

Research for Insight: Account Planning is strategic business planning applied on an individual customer basis. Research, as you know, is not limited to the customer. It must also encompass all of the Three Cs: Customer, Competitor and Company. If you do your homework on the Account, and apply the experience you have gained from working with other customers, you should be able to bring insight to the customer. If you don’t do the research, then you won’t have the knowledge, and then you can’t bring insight – and that is a missed opportunity.

Integrate for Velocity: There are four primary sources of input to your Account Plan that you needed to integrate to achieve maximum velocity.

  • Existing CRM data in Salesforce (or other CRM).
  • Knowledge of the Account Team.
  • Information shared by the customer.
  • Supplementary data from research sources such as

Without a centralized way to manage the plan, velocity and effectiveness suffer. Integrating your team and the customer with the data in Salesforce and the pertinent data from supplementary data sources is the only way to provide a single sharable resource.

Focus for Impact: Focus is the parallel thread that runs alongside Mutual Value from the beginning to the end of Account Planning. It is in fact the catalyst for Mutual Value as you prioritize the Plan Units in your Account Plan and target the opportunities on which to focus where you can uniquely and competitively deliver maximum value.

As you become master of your plan, you’re also on your way to becoming a leader in your own marketplace. You understand business goals and pressures, initiatives the customer might consider, and the obstacles they must overcome to be successful.

Winning account teams respond to these goals and pressures, initiatives and the obstacles and work collaboratively to discover or deliver:

  • Information to create alignment between your actions and the customer’s business objectives.
  • Insight to see where the new opportunities are within the account, and to track the actions taken to pursue those opportunities.
  • Demonstration of professionalism through deep understanding of the customer’s needs.
  • Justification to secure scarce resources from  management.
  • Co-ordination among the team in a goal-oriented fashion.
  • An action plan.

This last piece, the action plan, comprises the directional signposts that point to the attainment of your goal. Experienced practitioners develop Objectives, Strategies and Actions that transform the plan into a sequence of actionable steps that you can be progressed.

It is best to think about objectives in three categories:

Revenue Objectives: Current opportunities that you are pursuing need a Revenue Objective. You should have one for each Plan Unit (Division or Account) that you have selected, focusing on the combined revenue from your current opportunities in that unit over the duration of the plan.


Business Development Objective: Every Plan Unit that has a Potential Opportunity needs a Business Development Objective that focuses on qualifying, in the short term, your future opportunities.


Account Objectives: In addition to Revenue and Business Development Objectives, you also might require broader objectives that apply either to the Plan Unit, or to all of the Plan Units that you have included in your plan. These objectives – that might include Marketing, Partnering, Relationship, etc. ensure that you utilize all of the resources available to you to effectively maximize your position.

Planning on its own can be valuable to help you to frame your thinking, but the execution of the plan is where you will derive the most benefit.








12 Steps to Account Planning in 2015

It’s that time. As you prepare for 2015 you need to be thinking about how to maximize revenue from your existing customers. I’m sure you know acquired business from an existing customer is six times more profitable than pursuing new customers. But, did you also know that you are seven times more likely to win business from an existing customer than you are when you are trying to capture that new logo? I have written about this extensively in my book Account Planning in Salesforce, but to get you started, here are 12 things you should think about as you look to how your existing customers can contribute to your 2015 revenue goals (with a focus on Salesforce users).

12 Steps to Account Planning in 2015

1. Research

If you are hoping to maximize revenue from your large accounts, it is really all about research, research, and research. You need to slow down your natural inclination to focus solely on pursuing deals now. Account planning is a long-term play. If you do your homework on the account, and apply the experience you have gained from working with other customers, you should be able to bring insight to the customer. If you don’t do the research, then you won’t have the knowledge, and then you can’t bring insight – and that is a missed opportunity

2. Customer Focused

Remember that the impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. Your role is to create value for the customer, not just to communicate information about your company or your solutions. Before you position your value, a prerequisite is having a deep sense of what the customer values. When you have done your research, you can begin to feel comfortable in the customer’s shoes, and begin the walk together toward Mutual Value.

3. Integrate

A single Account is a subset of your overall market, and a composite representation of all of the individual real and potential prospective opportunities within that Account. You must recognize it as an integrated component of the market ecosystem. You also need to integrate data, knowledge and information to achieve velocity. The data already exists in Salesforce – so your Account Plan must be integrated with CRM. Your Account Team has the knowledge and everyone needs a common platform to work together, and the customer has the information, so you need to integrate that into your plan.

4. Targeted

Focus is the parallel thread that runs alongside Mutual Value as a key aspect to Account Planning. It is in fact the catalyst for Mutual Value, driving you to uncover areas that benefit you and the customer. You will need to select which divisions or Business Units in an account are in your ‘sweet spot,’ that area where you can uniquely and competitively deliver true value, and then make some hard choices as you target the opportunities on which to focus – those that deliver Mutual Value – while at the same time choosing not to apply resources to less attractive opportunities.

5. Map People and Influence

As we know companies don’t buy – people buy, and the same is true of business issues, they are always owned by people and it is important understand the political landscape in the organization.

6. Aligned to Business Strategy

You’d be forgiven for thinking that being a customer is easier than being a sales person. All the customer’s got to do is pick a supplier, right? But when the customer makes that buying decision, we now know that the risk shifts from the supplier to the customer, and the impact on the customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on the salesperson of a lost sale. Your job is to align your account planning efforts with the customer’s Goals, Pressures, Initiatives and Obstacles.

7. Trust

Trust is the foundation on which you create, develop, pursue, and win business that delivers mutual value for you and your customer. It is fundamental to business, and built one truth a time, promising what you can deliver, and delivering on what you promise.

8. White Space

Your objective is to maximize your penetration in the account in a way that maximizes Mutual Value. Once you understand the people and the problems and have developed a trusted relationship with your customer you can identify areas of opportunity – the white space in the account – where your solutions can add value to the customer. This is a key way to develop new opportunities. In our case we use the Opportunity Map in Dealmaker to visually represent this.

9. Collaborative and Social

At its core, Account Planning is a team sport; one where you can collaborate with the team and the customer. We recommend attaching a Chatter group in Salesforce to each account plan so that the team that is working the account plan can also use Chatter to make sure they are all kept up to speed on all changes as they happen. Also, by having a collaborative application integrated with Salesforce all information is available to everyone at the same time so that there is no loss of productivity.

10. Regular Cadence

Account Planning should not be an annual event. It is not about reporting what you know; it is about discovering what you don’t know, and then acting to uncover the missing information to inform your subsequent activity. Account Planning must live and breathe as part of how you run your business. It needs to become part of your culture, and should be integrated into your overall business cadence.

11. Measurable

How do you know if your account plan is working? In the first instance you need to be able to measure that the plan is complete, and we recommend automating this measure. Secondly, you need to be able to create a scorecard that will help you to assess whether the objectives you set for the plan – the target revenue, the pipeline goal, the penetration of the strategically important Business Units in the account, etc. – are all on track. Without measurement it is hard to know if you are making progress.

12. Action Oriented

While the plan in itself can be hugely valuable – it all comes to like when you define Objectives, Strategies and Actions that define the tactics that you need to execute everyday to make progress. Planning is important, but it is the execution of the tasks and actions everyday that determines the level of progress you make.

I hope you found this helpful. Let me know if you think I missed anything.






5 Key Dreamforce Sessions and 3 Tips

5keyThere is a lot going on at Dreamforce. How do you choose which sessions to attend? This year there are many overlapping sessions, and conflicts between the keynotes and some fabulous breakout sessions.  It is not possible to cover everything, so you need to be judicious in your selections.

Tip: Remember that Salesforce make most of the keynotes available on YouTube very shortly after the event – so you will be able to catch up on these later.


My 5 Key Dreamforce Sessions for Sales Professionals

Tip: To get straight to these sessions in the Dreamforce Agenda Builder, first login to Dreamforce and then click on the title of the sessions here.


1. Sales Summit @ Dreamforce 2014: Mon 10/13 @ 10:00am

This is one mega event really. One day. Five sessions. Twelve of the world’s most respected sales minds. This promises to be one of the most educational (and entertaining) days at Dreamforce for sales executives. Bring your toughest questions. Walk away with answers — and a million new ideas on how your company can motivate sales teams and win more sales.

2.  How BMC Software Achieves Smart Sales Transformation: Wed 10/15 @ 8:30am

I am part of this session. BMC’s sales transformation story is amazing – a complete look at how to prepare a sales organization for our increasingly pressurized world.

3. Social Selling: A Live Conversation with Jill Rowley and Koka Sexton: Tue 10/14 @ 4:00pm

Two of my favorite social selling gurus, Jill and Koka think your sales team is on the brink of extinction! They will talk about the why, what and how to do Social Selling.  This session will not be boring!

4. How uses Account Planning: Wed 10/15 @ 10:00am

If you use Salesforce, and you care about maximizing revenue from your key accounts this is the session to attend. I am thrilled to host two charismatic leaders from to tell their story.  Everyone who attends this session also gets a free copy of Account Planning in Salesforce.

5. Triple Your Revenue With a Dedicated Sales Development Team: Wed 10/15 @ 2:00pm

There is a strong body of opinion on the rise of Inside Sales or Business Development.  This panel of 7 thought leaders in the area has a lot of insights to share.  Not to be missed.


3 Tips to Get The Best Out of Dreamforce

1. Attend the Early Sessions

Early sessions are better – energy level is higher and generally you get presenters who are at the top of their game.  Attend breakout sessions in the morning and visit the Cloud Expo in the afternoon.

2. Appropriate Clothing – Leave the Laptop

Ladies – leave the fancy shoes at home.  There will be a lot of walking. I am told that heels are a no-no. I wasn’t planning on wearing heels anyway :).

Ignore the forecast. It rains in San Francisco – so pack some light rain gear or a small foldable umbrella.

Don’t try to carry your laptop – it will get heavy really quickly. Ideally get a keyboard for your tablet, or carry an old-fashioned notebook and pen!

3. Be Social (Virtually and Physically)

There will be 125,000+ people at Dreamforce this year.  Connect on the Dreamforce app, or on Twitter or LinkedIn. There is a great opportunity to network.  Apart from the gala there are loads of parties – and they often fill up quickly – so pick the ones you want to attend and register.



Sales Metrics That Matter

The best sales professionals are constantly looking for help.  Winners are honest in their self-assessment of the skills and competencies – or at least as honest as they can be.

  1. Only 61% of sales reps think they are good at uncovering customer problems. Until they can do that they can’t know how to apply their solutions to help.
  2. Just over half (54%) know how to access Key Players in the buyer’s organizations. The Key Players are critical in the buying decision.
  3. 80% of sales reps think are good at qualification. But 51% of forecasted deals don’t close. Sellers who qualify effectively are 58% more likely to make quota.

Here’s an infographic based on some research we did.


Battling the 57% – Part 3: Getting Ahead of the Curve

Much has been written about the research that suggests that a buyer is 57% through their buying process before they engage with a vendor. I have written about this how I think the ‘57%’ is sometimes misinterpreted. Sometimes buyers engage with you early, and sometimes the call you after they have done their own research. Strong patterns exist that correlate the level of awareness that a buyer has of a need to act as he rushes headlong to that 57% Point, directly with his propensity to buy something. That is really no surprise. The parallel pattern however is that his level of awareness is inversely proportional to your opportunity to create value. This is a vital opportunity to which every sales strategist should be paying attention and that’s because most effective selling happens before the buyer calls someone for a solution.



Selling early means working in the areas traditionally assigned to marketing: raising awareness, generating interest, and being top of mind as the buyer develops a preference. Our way of expressing this mindset is “Account Planning is the new Marketing.”

Think about what good you can do for your customer early rather than waiting for them to call. This gives you an opportunity to apply account planning principles early and helps you deliver superior value.

Focus on creating, developing, pursuing, and winning business that delivers mutual value to you and your customer. If you can work on a project that’s good for the customer and good for you, it’s more likely to be non-competitive and less price sensitive. By delivering more value to your customer, you’ll improve your opportunity to succeed.


You need to have a deep understanding of your customer’s business problems and you need to know their people. Our surveys tell us that only 61% of salespeople think they’re good at uncovering their customer’s business problems, and only 54% of sales people believe that they know how to discover this key information. That’s a challenge that you must address and overcome to assure success. If you don’t understand the business problems and don’t know and understand the people, you’re unlikely to create value or make a sale.


Every buying decision is subject to these four phases: (1) Awareness of need, (2) Interest in solving the problem, (3) Developing a preference for a solution, and (4) Deciding to make a purchase. You need to determine

if you acting before the buyer develops a preference or not? Whenever you can, act early to have a greater opportunity to create value. If you determine that you’re acting after the 57 percent point, you can still prevail if you qualify carefully and work from deep insight about the prospect’s business needs. Then, flank toward your strengths with unique business, target the people who can assist you – and win.

Please feel free to download our latest publication:

Battling the 57%: Deconstructing the Buyer Seller Dance.

Battling the 57% – Part2: Flanking to Win

I have written before about the statistic that is out there ‘buyers have progressed 57% through their buying process before they engage a salesperson’ – is in fact an average and that how you act before and after ‘the 57%’ is a matter of choice, not a function of averages. It really comes down to whether you engage first with the buyer, or react to their engagement with you. In this post I will set out some guidelines on how you might react ‘after the 57% point’ if you find yourself in that situation.

Let’s first consider the whole spectrum of engagement – the Sales & Marketing Continuum.


For any purchase, the customer goes through a number of phases, beginning with Awareness. At this point, they learn that you and your product exist. This is followed by Interest where they care about what you (and others) have. The next phase is the critical one. This is where they establish Preference for a given solution or supplier.

When you overlay the 57 percent point on the Sales and Marketing Continuum, you can see that it lies at the critical juncture between Interest and Preference: If they’re already 57 percent through the decision process before they engage you, there’s a high probability that they’ve already established a preference.


Consider what happens if  you’re late to the game. If that is the case, you’re probably chasing a sale that will be hard to win. In this case how you respond is really important. At this point your competitor is probably in the lead and has been established as the preferred supplier. You need to shift the focus of the customer’s buying criteria to a new or additional issue — one that your solution will uniquely deliver. This is called a Flanking Strategy and can reset the conditions of the sale in your favor.


There are four things to consider:

  1. Don’t follow the rules. (Your competitor is already winning under the current rules.)
  2. You need to have internal executive support. (You’re changing the game, and someone powerful must help.)
  3. Make your move last.
  4. Don’t open the door to alternative solutions.

However you can’t just arbitrarily adopt a Flanking strategy, you must also have the right conditions in place.

  1. A flanking strategy requires that you offer a solution with unique business value informed by genuine insight about the customer’s needs.
  2. The proposed solution must also favor your unique strengths.
  3. You are devising a specific benefit or value for the customer that your competitor can’t match.

Let’s look at some examples:

In the 1990s, Oracle and Siebel dominated the CRM market. In 1999, entered the field. Rather than asserting, “We’ve got a better CRM,” Salesforce focused attention on a new perceived value by stating that their approach of delivering enterprise software from the cloud would yield a 10X easier deployment cycle. They didn’t sell based on CRM features. Their proposition was that Salesforce was easier to use and easier to deploy – a benefit against which the others couldn’t compete: a unique business value that the customer cared about. Over the last fifteen years Salesforce used a flanking strategy flawlessly and changed the rules in a big way.

In our own case at The TAS Group, we also adopted a flanking strategy to introduce our solutions. We examined the business of sales training, methodology and effectiveness tools: $10 billion of expenditure every year. But research showed that on average 87 percent of that training was ineffective after thirty days: $8.7 billion wasted. Clearly, traditional approaches weren’t the most effective investment for improving sales team productivity. Our solution, Dealmaker – embedded decades of sales methodology in a smart, easy-to-use software application – uniquely helps companies to operationalize their sales effectiveness initiatives – for true, sustained sales transformation. Our flanking strategy was born of this insight and helped us establish a new market category: “How do you operationalize your sales effectiveness? What do you do when the sales trainer leaves?”

While customers have an ever-increasing opportunity to research their own solution before they engage with a supplier you have an opportunity to shape the subsequent interaction by helping them to learn what you want them to know.

Feel free to download The TAS Group’s latest publication, Battling the 57%: Deconstructing the Buyer Seller Dance or for a more detailed treatment of how to add value to your customers, check out the #1 Amazon Bestseller Account Planning in Salesforce.


Battling the 57% – Buyers Buy Different Things

There’s a statistic out there that buyers have, on average, progressed 57% through their buying process before they engage a salesperson. That ‘average’ piece seems to have been lost, and a commonly held-belief now is that this 57% is a fact in all cases.

How you act before and after ‘the 57%’ is a matter of choice, not a function of averages. Buyers buy different things, and sellers sell differently. You get to choose. But first, let’s explore the differences.

As we researched this topic, we spoke to many of our great customers to see what they had observed. Here’s their buyer’s point of view.

  • Xerox sells many things, including copier paper. Copier paper is a commodity. As a buyer I don’t need a lot of advice. I’m going to buy frequently and only care that the price/quality is reasonable.
  • Hewlett-Packard provides most things an IT buyer might need, including a cool laptop called the HP Envy – a little more complex than my copier paper.
  • If I wanted a temperature control system in our building, Honeywell is the place to go. It’s a more specialized purchase than a laptop.  I am probably going to need guidance and advice.
  • Harmonic sells media controller systems that manage video workflows in some of the world’s largest and most demanding video environments. That’s not something I want to buy on my own. I’ll need some consultative advice.
  • Box provides enterprise online data sharing and large-scale content management services. Buyers want to engage strategically when determining their enterprise content strategy. It’s a big commitment.
  • If you are choosing Salesforce as your CRM, it is likely to have significant impact on your business. You know it is important to get some serious advice.

As evident from these examples, there is a lot of variability in how buyers need to engage before buy, so let’s look about how you might deconstruct that.

Organizational Impact is a Driver of Buyer Engagement

If you engage early with the buyers in their buying cycle you will be more successful.  That is a core tenet of my book Account Planning in Salesforce (free extract here). Being a buyer isn’t as easy as it might seem. Understanding and articulating their own needs and then finding the best solution can be a stressful exercise.  The greater the organizational impact, the more stressful it gets.  Buyers need help.


The two axes on this graph are cost and intellectual property (IP) intensity.  As they increase, so does organizational impact. Buyers then need help in establishing criteria, evaluating options and choosing a solution. The engaged salesperson can create value for their customer and gain more control of the deal.

There are also two other factors that matter: risk and frequency. Organizational risk is higher when choosing a CRM system than it is when buying copier paper. The buyer performs greater diligence and needs more guidance. Also, greater frequency translates to greater familiarity and less need for help. I buy copier paper more often than I buy a temperature control system so I know how to make the copier paper purchase on my own.


In the chart here you can see in the top right quadrant, our buyer is more likely to engage the supplier early, because a business process infrastructure project is usually high cost, contains a lot of IP value and a bad decision carries significant risk.

Conversely, there is less IP value in purchasing utilities (e.g. electricity). The difference when buying office equipment is even more striking; Cost, IP and Risk are typically low and Frequency is high, so buyers are less likely to need a seller to guide them.

Here’s the thing: If your solutions don’t fit into the bottom left quadrant, your buyers likely want to engage with you (or your your competitor) much earlier in their process, and there are many things you can do to influence the outcome.

In the next post, I’ll help you understand how to respond when the buyer is in fact well along the path to developing a buying preference. In the meantime, please feel free to download our latest publication Battling the 57%: Deconstructing the Buyer Seller Dance.

Battling the 57%: From Sex to Romance – The Ultimate Flank

Don’t be put off by the title. This might not be what you expect.  And sometimes that’s the point.

There is a lot of nuance behind the 57% statistic – the CEB research that says buyers are 57% through their purchase cycle before they contact a supplier – and there are things you should do before, during, and after, the 57% point, if indeed this applies to your business.  (I promise I will get to the romance shortly.)

I think it is important to reflect on what the 57% really means and the limit of its impact. It is getting a little out of control. (I have organized a webinar on March 25 to dispute/clarify/de-bunk/resolve a few of the myths.)  What is obvious is that you want to be in a position where you can educate the customer before they get to the 57% point. But let’s say that your buyer has indeed progressed 57% through their buying process before they contact you.  What do you do?

If the buyer is 57% through the cycle, then they will most likely have a preference for someone. If it is you then you might have a short sales cycle. Perhaps their search has been truly unbiased and you are now part of a short-list. But if their preference is for a competitor, you will need to change the criteria they have used to get this far.  Redefining customers’ purchase criteria is one of the most powerful ways you can wrest leadership from a competitor.  In the TAS methodology we refer to this a Flanking Strategy – and that gets me to a story I read in the December 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review.

From Sex to Romance – The Ultimate Flank.

Pfizer launched Viagra (the erectile dysfunction drug) in April 1998, with a record 600,000 prescriptions in that month alone at a price of $10 per dose. Pfizer created an entirely new market on the basis of one key criterion of purchase: efficacy. The drug got the job done! By 2001 annual sales had reached $1.5 billion.

Not long after that Cialis entered the market. Whereas Viagra was effective for four to five hours, Cialis lasted up to 36 hours, making it potentially much more convenient for customers to use.

At the time, the key criteria that physicians considered when prescribing were efficacy and safety with a combined relative importance of 70%. Duration had a relative importance of 10%.

The marketing team behind Cialis decided to emphasize the benefits of duration—being able to choose a time for intimacy in a 36-hour window, and set the price higher than Viagra to underscore its superiority.  The new criterion of purchase – marketed as romance and intimacy rather than sex – caught on. A BusinessWeek article reporting on an early positioning study stated, “Viagra users who had been informed of the attributes of both drugs were given a stack of objects and asked to sort them into two groups, one for Viagra and the other for Cialis. Red lace teddies, stiletto-heeled shoes, and champagne glasses were assigned to Viagra, while fluffy bathrobes and down pillows belonged to Cialis. In 2012 Cialis passed Viagra’s $1.9 billion in annual sales, with duration supplanting efficacy as the key criterion of purchase.

Flanking – redefining customers’ purchase criteria – is one of the most powerful ways you can wrest leadership from a competitor; you will undoubtedly have a powerful competitor if you truly only enter the deal 57% of the way through the process. To flank successfully you need something to flank to (i.e. your competitive UBV that the customer cares about) and someone to flank with (i.e. a supporter with the buyer’s organization who will help you navigate the last 43%).

I will discuss this and ways to avoid the 57% trap altogether on the webinar. I would love if you can join the conversation.



Realtime (Honest) Feedback on your Sales Proposals?

As you may know I published my most recent book – Account Planning in Salesforce - earlier this year. I am always nervous when I am launching a book.  I put a lot of myself into it and, even with a topic like Account Planning, I find that my writing always seems to become infused with my values, my opinions and my beliefs.  I really just don’t know any other way and I wanted the readers to get value from the book. I want them to feel that the time they spent reading it was worthwhile.

So, as you can imagine, when Account Planning in Salesforce went to #1 Bestseller in its segment on Amazon I was really pleased.  And the reviews were pretty good too – even the ones from people I don’t know!

But what I did not realize was that as people read the book on their Kindle devices, they were highlighting the passages of text that resonated with them. Meanwhile, the elves in the background at Amazon are continually collating and analyzing the highlighted areas and can provide a summary of what people care about. (See below the top 5 highlighted passages – I am really thrilled with the one that came in at #1.)

These insights are hugely valuable to me and I plan to use what I have learned from Amazon’s analysis in a webinar I am delivering on Account Planning in Salesforce for 2014 later this month.

But also this whole process got me thinking,  what if …

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this for all sales proposals, PowerPoint presentations or marketing collateral?  It would be like having someone watch your customers as they read through your documents; highlighting, underlining, adding ? and X marks, circling paragraphs of interest or drawing lines through parts that they disagreed with.  Then you’d really know what they really think. (Scary? Maybe!)

At The TAS Group, we do a lot of micro-analysis on the effectiveness of our digital marketing, and of course that is really helpful in making sure that we are presenting the messages and content that add most value to our customers.  But we can’t micro-analyze on a personal emotional level … but thoughts are percolating here …

In the meantime, here are the Top 5 Most Highlighted passages from Account Planning in Salesforce.  (If you are interested, in an upcoming webinar, I will be discussing these comments and other issues that I think we should all be caring about as we plan for 2014).

Top 5 Most Highlighted


The impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. 


You need to be a specialist and expert in the business, strategy and market of those few customers with whom you are working. 


Research for Insight. Integrate for Velocity. Focus for Impact. 


Remember, customers don’t need you to learn about your product: they can get all of the information they need from the Internet. They don’t need you to recommend solutions: they can get that from their peers. Your opportunity is to help them shape their needs, identify or suggest initiatives, and then to figure out how you can apply your solutions to those initiatives. If you don’t know how to do that you should look for outside assistance. 


The cost of new customer acquisition is 500% that of customer retention. Increasing customer retention by 2% equates to decreasing costs by 10%. Reducing customer defections by 5% can increase profitability by up to 125% (depending on industry). (Source: Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy)

If there were particular parts of the book that you enjoyed I’d love to hear from you.  If you have not read it you can get an extract here.


The Role of Account Based Marketing in Account Planning

You may be aware that I recently published my latest book called Account Planning in Salesforce.  (You can get a free extract here.) I was driven to write the book by the need for sales professionals and account teams to maximize their revenue from their existing large accounts and also to build a framework for targeting new customers in a structured more customer-solution-centric way.  It turns out that about half of sellers do not know how to maximize revenue from their existing accounts. In Account Planning in Salesforce I spent a little time presenting how I think account planning relates to marketing.  I wrote …

As 2013 unfolds, my prediction is that Account Planning will eclipse general marketing as a source of opportunities for revenue growth among winning sales professionals. The ubiquity of the Internet, your customer’s ability to find out about your products and services as quickly as you can yourself, the impact on social networks as a driver of influence and preference, the pervasiveness of mobile devices providing always-on communication, and the growing barriers to customer acquisition all mean that you can no longer be a generalist in your market. You need to be a specialist and expert in the business, strategy and market of those few customers with whom you are working.

 I viewed a webinar recently hosted by the excellent Megan Heuer from the equally excellent SiriusDecisions research company.  Megan is a smart lady and she and I have bantered in the past about the relative value of Sales and Marketing, concluding of course that they should be two sides of the same coin, each adding a different perspective, both of which added value.

Megan and Sirius are leading a charge for Account Based Marketing, and I couldn’t be more delighted to see this account based approach gathering momentum where sales and marketing activity can be truly confluent and deliver synergistic special value.  I am passionate about the value account planning can bring and I feel that this is a domain that has been under-served. (Hence the multiple hours in writing the book and making my contribution to the design of Dealmaker Smart Account Manager.)  Account Planning is an organizational discipline and Account Based Marketing has a critical role to play. In fact ABM borders on business development, and is where the lines can get a little fuzzy.  It means that Marketing needs to stay very close to selling and the account strategy – and in fairness that is not as common as we’d like to see. Applying marketing strategy to sales plans, and influencing the development of the plans can be very effective – but understanding sales is critical.

There is a healthy overlap between the principles of Account Planning and Account Based Marketing.  Indeed in the webinar to which I refer it was said that ABM sits on a foundation of solid Account Planning and of course that is true. As I listened to the webinar I jotted down some notes that I thought would be worth sharing and I have used those to structure this blog post. I have supplemented those notes with other thoughts as they came to me, learnings from our customers and a perspective gained from the research I did while writing Account Planning in Salesforce. I say that so that you know that it is likely that any shortfalls are probably mine.  But I do want to give full credit to SiriusDecisions for their ABM leadership. Seems only fair.


Why ABM Might Fail

ABM, like Account Planning, can be a tremendously reward endeavor, but there can be things that get in the way that you should be aware of:

  • Lack of account insights – If you don’t know anything about the account, the people in the account, or their business needs, it is hard to develop an effective account strategy.
  • Lack of alignment to sales goals – Marketing needs to know what sales need to accomplish in order to construct the strategies and activities to deliver on those goals.
  • Overly broad deployment - When marketing tries to take on too broad a role in a specific account or too many ‘specific’ accounts at the same time, it typically does not work.  The very nature of ABM is that is has to be account specific and as I said in Account Planning in Salesforce, you need to Focus for Impact.
  • Unreasonable expectations – According to Sirius Decisions, for large accounts, marketing should not be expected to source more than 10% of the sales pipeline (in contrast with 30% of pipeline from general marketing).  As sales has a small number of accounts that they are responsible for, so they should be really on top of it in each case and should be developing their own opportunities. (I’m not sure I agree with the 10% number. I think it can be much higher – but this might depend on how you allocate opportunity credit.)
  • Lack of resources - ABM requires dedicated support (Should not be a part time job).  This is particularly true if Account Planning is critical to your company.  SiriusDecisions would suggest that ideally, if you have the resources, you should have account marketing managers as part of the account team.  In Account Planning in Salesforce I talk about one of the roles of marketing as developing Marketing OSAs (Objectives, Strategies, and Actions), a critical part of the account planning and execution process. Someone from Marketing needs to have the aptitude and bandwidth to do this properly if they are going to have a role.
  • Undifferentiated tactic execution – attempting to say the same things to targeted large accounts as you do to the general market will not work.  Using generic messages will not work. We know this is true.  In fact, if you are positioning yourself as a strategic partner for an account, and they perceive that they are getting the same messages as everyone else, it will in fact damage the quality of relationship.


What needs to change?

If you are really committed to an account based go-to-market model (at least for a segment of your market) then you need to change a few things in your approach.

  • The data and insights that you use to develop your marketing tactics must be transformed from the general to the specific.  They must be assessed only in relation to the account and industry, and in the context of each of the people in the account that you are trying to influence.
  • Your marketing planning must evolve from theoretical modeling with Sales and Marketing in separate silos into account-focused fact-based analysis account, with Sales and Marketing operating in tandem.
  • Effective account planning is about getting the right Demand Management balance, and you should weave ABM into that context, eschewing the singular focus on short-term opportunities for a more strategic approach that balances the longer-term view with the urgent need to fill your pipeline.  Sales needs to stop measuring Marketing purely on the number of leads, but instead hold marketing accountable to account-level SLAs for very specific marketing objectives that are linked to very defined opportunity goals.
  • Account Management, in most companies, has always been owned by Sales (or some off-shoot).  To maximize the impact that ABM can have on your account you need to consider sharing ownership of the account management activity with Marketing.  This should deliver to Sales complete visibility into what ‘marketing’ is being delivered to the account and continuous nurturing activity to help maximize the return from the account.


When does ABM work?

Marketing is usually involved in general corporate marketing, general event marketing, general field marketing. Note! All the words start with ‘general’.  ABM can build on all of these and can take advantage of existing marketing services that are horizontal, but ABM is about getting vertical and customized for the account.  It should feel different for the customer.  The longer-term goal is to create assets that feel customized to the customer but are in fact configured best practices.  If well designed, you should be able to re-purpose these assets in several accounts. This is obviously easier when these accounts are in the same industry.

As you define relationship development strategies, specific messaging strategies, account-specific awareness building, account specific references or case studies, applicable win strategies, you should find that you will be able to take a similar approach in multiple accounts but with each configured to the specifics of the individual account.  These activities should result in relationship acceleration, your company being seen as different kind of partner than your generic marketing would deliver. You are looking for greater access to the key individuals in the targeted accounts and momentum in opportunity creation and advancement.

But you haven’t a hope of leveraging ABM unless you can build credibility and trust between sales and marketing.  You should ask yourself three critical questions:

  1. Is sales open to new kinds of help?
  2. Is marketing invited to join planning and execution?
  3. How can marketing be aligned to best sources of growth

As ever, trust and collaboration are critical. Marketing needs to do the hard work to contribute to insights and planning for the account that add real value.  Constant communication is important as the fulcrum around which the iterative process between Sales and Marketing maintain alignment.

But remember that ABM is not necessarily for everyone. Sales teams vary greatly in their approach to their accounts.  The quality of the relationship in each account is different. Some sellers welcome Marketing’s involvement in their accounts and accounts teams may be hungry for help and willing to engage. In other situations, Marketing may feel less appreciated.  The relationship between Sales and Marketing is not always cozy or cordial.  ABM requires work from both and in some cases the sales folks may not be prepared to put in the effort. All these elements factor into which accounts might be good candidates for an ABM initiative.

Don’t forget that it is exceedingly rare for marketing to be able to add real value in terms of account research for existing large accounts in which you are truly active.  If you have account teams that are properly engaged in the accounts, they will typically know much more about that account than any desk-based research from Marketing can provide. So looking beyond basic research, you should consider perhaps, as an example, relationship development strategies to craft approaches that might help engage key individuals.  That may require executive sponsorship programs, understanding the profiles and backgrounds of the individuals and building programs that might interest them.  Most account teams know what is going on within the account, but can generally benefit from ‘external’ assistance to help with getting to particular individuals. Marketing should be able to constantly feed the account team with examples, references, competitive positioning etc.


How to apply ABM

SiriusDecisions sets out a list of what you need to know to build a plan, categorized into three categories:


  • Account industry
  • Account Buying centers
  • Wallet share (by buying center)
  • Sales goals  (by buying center)
  • Current opportunity status
  • Contacts  (by buying center)


  • Key initiatives  (by buying center)
  • Relationship status  (by buying center)
  • Relationship map  (by buying center)

Best practice

  • Growth trend
  • Competitive environment
  • Engagement history

I think this is a good list to get started with and in Account Planning in Salesforce I expand on each of these in greater detail. You might begin by using this list to ensure that  Marketing is aligned to the account objectives so that they can build visibility and credibility; and develop relationship strategies with key executives, decision makers and influencers. And it doesn’t stop just at the account.  At the end of the day the mission of account planning and management is to build long-term business relationships in a complex account that enable you to create, develop, pursue, and win business that delivers mutual value.  Marketing will also need to align to account objectives for opportunity development specific to align your solutions to the customer’s business needs, and to help with competitive positioning and strategy. They should be the engine that provides the relevant assets.  They can help with proof points through reference cases and other external validation of your company’s unique business value, all dome of course in the context of the needs of the customer. For example, there may be marketing initiatives to:

  1. Move a targeted account from disinterest or lack of awareness to engagement and awareness of your company’s solutions in the context of their industry to meet common business objectives
  2. Create campaigns leading to opportunities to position your company as preferred provider of choice
  3. After sale, continue to nurture to strengthen account position for broad and deep penetration, achieving strategic relevance.


Risks to Consider and Critical Success Factors

ABM is a critical component of account planning but it doesn’t always work. Here are some of the most common pitfalls:

  1. It is not built on a foundation of solid account planning
  2. Marketing is focused on or measure by number or value of leads
  3. Marketing tries to apply its existing tactics to ABM and look to see where those tactics might be used to ABM, rather than considering the objectives for the individual account and then determining the correct strategy.
  4. Sales is not open to collaborating with Marketing and inviting Marketing into their accounts.

So, what do you need to succeed?

  1. Sales (or part of the sales organization) must be focused on a defined set of accounts
  2. Sales is working on account plans
  3. Sales and Marketing can work well together to identify objectives and then develop the right strategies and actions together to make it work
  4. Sales and Marketing need to be aligned to the concept that it is not just about demand gen.  It is often more important in certain accounts to be focused on creating awareness and influence than looking just to find the short-term opportunities.


Finally …

This might all seem a little hard, and you might well ask yourself “Do I really need a different approach when selling to big companies just because they are big?” or “Does Marketing really need to change?” What’s the matter with just using the very same methods that have worked in smaller companies or in the market in general? Are there really considerations that are so dramatically different that they call into question the basic techniques that succeed elsewhere?

The answer is both “Yes” and “No.” Yes, you need a different approach, but no, you do not need to throw out techniques that succeed elsewhere. Instead you need to build upon them, extending the basic concepts, and augmenting the methodology to yield a model more suitable to the size of the task at hand. The factor that drives the need for this reinforced ‘industrial-strength’ process can be captured in one word: scale. The fact is that a large company is usually a collection of small, interrelated commercial activities, organized by function or geography, specialism or purpose, competitive forces or market dynamics. When approaching any such ecosystem, a deliberate design is demanded. Optimal outcomes are rarely achieved without such diligent efforts.


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