Mention the phrase “strategic account planning” and most reps roll their eyes in dread of the annual event forced on them at the beginning of every new sales year. They grudgingly do the minimum necessary research and planning to fill out the templates and quickly drop their completed plans into the bottom desk drawer to gather dust until next year.

Sales account plans increase win rates

Very few sales people see the correlation between their quota attainment and their ability to develop meaningful and actionable account plans. But, according to the 2011 CSO Insights Sales Performance Optimization Study, there is a correlation and it is significant.

The survey asked more than 2,000 companies about their sales reps’ ability to develop and execute account plans. Companies indicating that their account planning needed improvement had an average of 55 percent of their sales team meeting quota. Companies indicating that their sales reps excelled in account planning saw on average 67 percent of their sales team meeting quota, a whopping 22 percent improvement for the reps making plans.

But, what should a good plan look like and what key components should be included?’

Strategic account planning is a process designed to assist sales professionals and their management and internal support teams. The goal is to help clarify the process of selling to crucial accounts and develop new sales opportunities. The sales plan is an important tool in defining a sales strategy, establishing a roadmap and identifying actions critical for success.

The account plan should be designed to develop a strategic client relationship with your most important accounts and to win targeted new business. The planning process usually involves several internal groups and may even include the client as part of the planning process.

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Matt Smith is the co-founder and executive vice president of 3forward, a sales consulting company that helps companies find and create leads, increase wins and accelerate sales. He can be reached at matt.smith@3forward.com.