Account plans not only serve as a map to lead your account to success, but it’s also the recipe you can follow to reach your clients’ objectives and goals consistently. As a living, breathing document, having a value-based account plan is a must otherwise you’re leading your clients nowhere, working in a tactical manner, all while failing to build credibility as a Trusted Advisor.
At Kapta, we know how valuable your account plans are, and our tool was built to make the account planning process easier. While you can’t build and update a custom account plan with the press of a button, with these tips and considerations, building a value-based account plan is a breeze.
Where is the Account Going?
One of the most common sayings we have around here is “start with the end in mind,” and we repeat it for good reason. For many account managers, they feel like building an account plan is like solving a puzzle and they just can figure it out. When you are tasked with strategically planning the foreseeable future of your accounts, it’s no surprise that many of us freeze up.
To overcome this, you need to start at the end of your account plan with the goal post that you’re trying to reach. Once you know what the end result is such as 12% revenue growth, you can then work backwards to create clear objectives and actions along the way that will help you get there.
We choose to start with the 12-month goal because it is typically more challenging and will keep us moving and thinking for an entire year. If you were to start with a simple and easily achievable goal right out of the gate, then you wouldn’t be providing much value to the account. The higher that you can set the bar for your account and for yourself as a key account manager, then the more you’ll do to accomplish the task.
Once you have a 12-month goal at the end of the account plan, you should start working backwards with every quarter and then breaking it down into months from there. This will make the entire account plan more detailed, and you’ll also have clear, actionable items to work with (more on this later).
So, how do you determine the goals and objectives related to your account? Well, asking probing, specific questions is a good start.
Get Some Answers
The Voice of Customer feature in the Kapta platform is one of the most popular because it helps KAMs get to the root of their client’s wants, needs, and problems. As you start to build out your account plan or you revise it to boost the value-adding actions of your organization, conducting a Voice of Customer interview should be one of your first moves. What should you ask in this interview? Essentially any question is fair game as long as it goes deeper than a simple “yes” or “no” answer.
VOC interviews are sacred times for KAMs, which is why it’s important that you are making the most out of that time, so you aren’t wasting any opportunity to learn more about the client’s organization. If you don’t have an end goal in mind for the client’s account plan, then that’s a good place to start.
Ask them where they would like to be in 12 months if they could snap their fingers and make it happen. What does ultimate success look like to them? How would they measure the success of your work on their account? If you never entered the picture, where do they think their account would be in 12 months?
Understand their opinions on success along with their specific definition of it when related to their account is crucial for adding value. With these answers, you should come away with a deeper understanding of not only where they want to go, but how they’re judging you at every step of the way.
Every organization will be different so it’s important to keep in mind that while you can use templates for the bare bones of a value-based account plan, you should never treat every client like they are the same. While one organization wants to double its customer base in 12 months, another would be happy if they could increase margins by 2% on their services. When you can provide personal and actionable insight into their goals, you can build an account plan that truly brings value to their organization.
What Will It Take?
For many key account managers, the renewal period is the busiest time of the year and for good reason. Getting your clients to sign on the dotted line and locking them into your product for another 12 months is paramount to the success of your organization when you’re dealing with the top 20% of clients that make up 80% of your results. It’s all hands on deck and, unsurprisingly, the best KAMs will start preparing for this period 12 months in advance while developing their account plans.
As you’re developing these accounts, you need to consider what it will take from your organization to not only help your customers reach their goals but to also increase their chances of renewing or making additional purchases throughout the year.
Remember, existing customers and key accounts that have had success with your product or service are much more likely to make premium purchases than new customers, so giving them the highest quality experience and reaching their milestones at the right time is crucial for bringing in the additional revenue stream. Timing is everything so you must deliver the results your clients want and show them that your product helped them reach that milestone just before it’s time for renewal.
When you get results, and they reach themselves, you’ll find that it takes less selling and prodding to get them to sign on for renewal and they’ll be so worked up and excited about their latest account report that they won’t even blink an eye at the renewal sheet.
To prepare for this, it all starts at the top where you’ll map and list the things that must happen within your organization at the highest levels to make it much more simple to deliver the results and get clients to renew at the right time. Getting the timing right comes down to where you put your milestones throughout the account plan and when things happen.
You must be realistic with your dates, so you aren’t rushing around trying to do the impossible when the renewal date comes up, but at the same time, your milestones should still be pretty impressive on paper. If you give yourself enough time and are realistic, there’s no reason you can’t achieve these benchmarks along the way.
Make It Actionable
Once you have established a list of milestones your account should hit, it’s time to put it all in perspective and make it happen. With your key account plan already started with the end goal in place, the best practice is to put a point where you are right now.
With a start in the end, filling in the rest of the blanks becomes easier. Of your list of milestones, place one at the 6-month mark or close to it to establish where the midway point is as of right now. Break that up into three months between the beginning and middle and middle and end and the account plan starts taking shape.
It’s important to keep in mind that you can’t simply just throw some goals like “increase their retention rate by X%” and call it good. Yes, that’s a good goal and objective to have, but it isn’t very actionable. Your account plan should serve as the guide book for the key account manager role and should help keep you on track to exceeding your clients’ expectations. If you don’t know how to do it and wait for these goals just to happen overnight, you won’t exceed much.
Making these objectives and goals actionable is relatively simple, however. With a top-level view of your organization and your client’s company as a whole, along with your insight into specific processes at both companies, you have a general idea of actions that need to be executed in order to have success.
Inform the People that Matter
Key account management isn’t a game that you have to play alone, and with the help of your other team members, you can get more work done on a large client’s account while delivering better faster results. The first person that you should work with would be your boss. They likely have a macro view of the goings on of every single account that’s with your company. With that knowledge, they can provide insight into how other managers have overcome similar challenges in the past or even find new solutions that you hadn’t even thought of before.
Other key account managers are also great resources and can provide you with more specific information regarding how they’ve added value to their account plans. Experience is the best teacher so make sure that you’re consulting with some of the brightest minds at your organization. With all of this information in place, then you can start working with the client to show them how you’re going to make their account even more valuable 12 months from now.
Keep Them in the Loop
Nobody likes being kept in the dark. It’s just a fact of life that as social beings, humans want to know everything. Your clients are like that, but times 1000% because it’s their money that you’re dealing with. Budgets are tight and are only getting tighter in this economic climate, so you’ll find that more clients will want to be “hands-on” as opposed to a few years ago.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! Rather than running from client collaboration, you should welcome it, and treat their value-based account plan as less of a secret document and more as a collaborative work of art.
You should be talking to your customers on a regular basis while you’re building out their account plan. Because it’s hands down the most important document related to their account, they should be in the loop about everything happening with it. You don’t want to be annoying, so set up a weekly call to keep them up to date and send them an email if anything arises they should know about.
You can’t shy away from feedback on your account plan. Yes, you’re the KAM and know more than anyone how to manage an account, but they know their business better than anyone else and will provide quick information it might have taken hours of researching online to find. You’ll hope that they never want you to change your existing account plan for them too drastically but if they do provide feedback, adjust the plan as necessary and keep moving forward.
Building a strong, value-based account plan can take time and a ton of work, but in the end, the results are worth it. By taking the time to understand what your customer’s goals really are and which of those goals are achievable with a little bit of determination, you’ll be one step closer to being their Trusted Advisor.
Collaboration is a must in KAM, and your account plans will reflect that as well. When you work with your customers and members of your team, you can grow your account plans and iron out any of the details you might have missed. Finally, using a KAM platform that cares about your account plans and your time is a must too so you can spend less time in spreadsheets, develop a more dynamic process, and focus on growing the relationship.
Kapta is less of a KAM company and more of a relationship company. Rather than producing software that keeps you in the weeds and bogs down your daily work, with the Kapta platform, KAMs can spend more time building relationships and working with their clients rather than stuck in spreadsheets. The tool features a variety of innovative features that KAMs in any industry will find practical including the Account Planning tools, relationship health score, and contact management. If you want to see how Kapta can change your KAM program, schedule your free demo here.