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What makes for a good sales account plan?

We are looking to sell our product into large enterprises. As such, I'd like to understand:

a.) how salespeople build, report, and maintain account plans.

b.) how sales executives use account plans to manage their territories?

c.) what do you find most challenging from either perspective?

5 Replies

Peter Kestenbaum
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Peter Kestenbaum Entrepreneur
Advisor, Investor, Mentor to Emerging firms
Anand.. Lots of different components here.. All will temper the plan Is it a company objective or an account objective... meaning secure early revenue, or secure first account in this vertical or penetrate the account... Is the product, even though you said enterprise, sold to departments/business units or is it one that perhaps a single copy or license or instance is sold What is the revenue goal for the account... and how is that revenue structured... do you think of it as a yearly annuity like a SAAS or recurring service or is it closer to a one time sale... training, HW, etc What is the "role" or structure of the sales rep... for example is it to break down a door and sell or is it to convert or grow after a freemium or home office/tele sales/web break thru? What is the nature of the sale... Is it to make a company more competitive or make it more efficient and secure in what it does... IE is the company going to make more money or take share from its competitors because of the product or is it going to be more efficient... they are different sales and require different plans and milestones... in the first case more evangelism is required.. in the second internal analysis is really needed.. An evangelism sales plan is a very different plan than an internal analysis one-- Not only are the actions different but the people you need to get buy and decisions are.. could translate to emphasis on a business unit leader, CMO chain.. vs someone in the CFO chain... and consequently very different sales plans... What is the role of partners at the account... for example if you were selling a database acceleration product what is your relationship with the data base supplier..... IE partners might or might not be part of the plan.. Where are you in the typical cross the chasm analysis... are you going to need an early adoptor of a new different technology... or an early adoptor of an improved technology... again different plans... What is your company goal... do you need revenue? industry reference? beach head,, (first account in New York or first account in fianance on wall street) or even first enterprise account... hope I gave you some things to think about.... Not pitching you here but we do workshops on this and they are multi day... you did not ask a trivial question...
Dan Ostroff
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Dan Ostroff Entrepreneur • Advisor
Founder & CEO at Doogma Inc.
Hi Anand,

I found this very useful:
http://www.saastr.com/a-framework-and-some-ideas-for-your-first-sales-comp-plan/

SaasTr is a fantastic resource for anyone building and managing a Saas business.

Good Luck,

Dan
Richard Janezic
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Richard Janezic Advisor
Growth and Digital Strategy, Sales, and Services; Transformations in Tech, Healthcare, Life Sciences
Anand, big questions. Many forests have fallen attempting to answer those questions on paper. Some brief observations:
a. Building sales plans - demand driven, market driven, competitively driven
b. Using sales plans - early stage, you're discovering a repeatable, successful recipe. Once found and repeatable, repeat and improve, and then sales plans become of value. At t=0, its a guess
c. Key challenges - getting a and b right, then understand and test must-have skills/experience, then select, train, field and lead the execution team. Sounds easy until you think about it correctly and get it right, as until you have revenue, all you have is expense

I'll suggest a few things to consider:
-How compelling is your USP/VP? Has it been distilled and validated in a model? At the enterprise level, youve got to get that right
-Is your strategy top down (corporate HQ, push down) or bottom up (dept members first, and push up)?
-Are you competing against other products, or status quo, and how demonstrable is your difference adjusted for change -time, -cost and -risk?
-Is distro model direct, channel or blended?
-Do you have clients now, have a distro model and sales process now, or de novo and looking for first clients? If youre in the process of determine that (t=0), understand landscape, and do a,b,c above before hiring a salesorg. Get help if you're not sure, as itscrit success factor-your org health and valuation dependon getting it right, and the $$$ difference is dramatic
Judy Frank
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Judy Frank Entrepreneur
Accelerate Sales Performance, Coach, Training, Consulting, Outsourced Sales Managment | jfrank@vortexology.net

All of the comments above are valuable if you don't have a sales strategy with a clear and compelling USP. If you've been selling into small/mid size accounts and now want to swim upstream, the sales process is different as are the account planning process and how account plans are used.

Identifying your top targets requires answers to many of the questions above. If they are already identified, then it is important to understand the personas of the people you are selling to, why/how they buy, and massage your marketing messages to align with what is important to them.

The account planning process needs to begin with a structure. What are the elements you need to know about the account, e.g. organizational structure, political mapping and alignment, account's key strategic initiatives, competitive positioning, cthe strategy of how you want to pursue the account, the tactics that will be used to execute the strategy, opportunity mapping(which products/services fit), resources required. Once you have a format, do strategy sessions within the company with representation from cross-functional teams might help the sales person to refine their plan. The account plan is a roadmap of how they are going to penetrate the account. It should be created and updated either bi-annually or annually, and becomes reference for the account manager who is responsible.

Account Planning is one of the top 15 sales processes needed to create a world class sales team. If you'd like to learn more, please reach out to me on LinkedIn.

Bob Fucci
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Bob Fucci Entrepreneur
Sales and Revenue Growth, Strategy, Advisor, Speaker

Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to see some of the formats I've used.

It is very important to teach sales people that the goal is not to complete account plans as an administrative exercise - the activity holds importancebecause when done correctly it serves todevelopment territories, specific accounts, verticals, etc.

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