Key account managers (KAMs) are always working together with customers to achieve something. The end goal for the KAM’s company is growth for each key account, while the end goal of the key account is usually revenue growth as well. Mutual growth doesn’t happen without a well thought-out plan, the account plan. Not only should you have an account plan for each and every key account, but it should be written down in full if you want to best chances of success.
All Great KAMs Have Account Plans
Account plans are already a common practice among KAMs. It would be difficult to avoid making an account plan if you wanted to succeed with each of your unique key accounts. Having an account plan isn’t always enough. If you don’t write it down, you may not be able to follow it as well, share it with other involved, or expand on it when needed.
It’s easy enough to keep your strategy and plan in your own head or to write down the very basic parts of it. But, if you want to go from a good KAM to a great KAM, one of the steps you need to take is writing out your entire account plan for each separate key account. Differentiating plans for each customer and keeping the details written down will help you achieve your goals, keep your objectives clear, and share the details with your team and each customer separately.
The Nature of Account Plans
For KAMs, account plans cannot be one size fits all. Each key account needs a different strategy to get on the best course towards success. You cannot keep one account plan and try to fit it into your strategy for all your different key accounts. Instead, you need a written document for each and every key account.
It’s not necessary to re-invent the wheel. Account plans may end up following similar templates, but the details of each must be unique for each separate account. Key accounts are too important to give anything but the best. Growing your key accounts requires you to come up with an effective account-particular strategy and stick to it. You will have a lot more difficulty doing this if you don’t write down your goals, methods, progress, and other details.
Characteristics of the Best Account Plans
What does an account plan for a key account need? Not all plans are equal. The most effective plans usually have these three characteristics:
- Fully Written Out
Having a plan in your head works for some things, but account plans need to be entirely written out so they can be shared, adjusted, studied, and truly scrutinized. If you write out the highlights of the plan or major points only, you may miss a lot of the finer details that are necessary for success. Don’t focus just on writing down the “important stuff”. The entire plan is part of the important stuff, and you can’t really afford to forget anything along the way.
Be thorough. It’s better to be too detailed in your account plan than to accidentally leave out crucial customer information. Everything you know about how your customer operates and how you need to work with them should be included in the plan. This plan is all about helping fulfill customer needs to get them closer to their goals. Because of that, a great plan needs to be very detailed to explain exactly how those goals will be met. Every little extra piece can be helpful.
- Flexible and Dynamic
Just because it’s a detailed, written document doesn’t mean it has to be stale and outdated. An account plan is a living and breathing document that needs to be frequently re-read, updated, revised, and changed to fit the constantly changing climate around your partnership. Just as you would expect to adjust your strategy as challenges come and go, your account plan has to be flexible in order to be relevant for the current situation and to prepare for the future.
Don’t be afraid to change your account plan as time goes by. Never expect it to stay the same from one year to the next. After every quarterly business report (QBR), you should be checking to make sure the account plan is still up to date. Every time you learn something new about your customer, you need to see if it’s reflected well in the plan or if you need to revise it again.
- Focused on Customer Goals and Needs
Your customers will not agree to a plan that is not directly related to them. You need to plan for the success of both parties if you want to get the right level of buy-in. This focus must be clear in the written goals and methods. Showing the pathways to success for both sides will help you to demonstrate your commitment to your customers.
Who Should Be Involved in Making the Plan?
It’s not just a plan for you to reference. Your customer needs to be aware of the account plan, involved in making it with you, and part of the implementation. This is a shared effort, not a solitary thing. Working with key accounts requires you to focus on making the partnership work out well for both sides. It’s more difficult to do this if the customer is not in on what’s going on.
As long as the deal gives a win-win for both sides, customers have no problem working with you to reach their goals. When you demonstrate that you’re in it for the benefit of your customers, they are likely to cooperate on a plan and reach towards goal fulfillment together with you.
Does Writing Your Account Plan Actually Help?
Having goals is a great step towards success but writing them down can help more than you think. A study done by Dr. Gail Matthews found that those who write down their goals and send periodic updates about progress are 42% more likely to achieve them. This means that as a KAM, writing down your goals in an account plan and keeping yourself accountable will help you to succeed at your goals.
Goals are not enough by themselves. If you want a better chance of success, write down all of your goals in the account plan and how you plan to reach them. Then, revisit your progress regularly with your customers. Although the actions themselves are simple, the results are worth the effort. If something as simple as writing down goals and checking progress makes you 42% more likely to succeed, account plans are a great choice for fostering success. Your goals and customer goals are represented in the plan, both of which should be aimed at pushing you ahead.
Written goals are more likely to achieved. When you write down your full account plan for each key account, you’re increasing your chances of succeeding with each account, especially if you also follow up on the progress of each plan regularly. Account plans that are already in place can still be written out and expanded to gain the same benefits; you don’t have to start from scratch if you have a plan already.