June 13, 2024

Effective Account Planning: The Most Overlooked Skill in Sales

An effective account plan is one of the most important and one of the most overlooked skills in all of sales. For some reason, it hasn't been something that's been focused on from sales trainers or sales leaders or many sales enablement teams. And unfortunately, it sets salespeople up for poor conversations with their prospects and customers. 

You have to really understand the account that you're selling into in order to fully connect the dots to your value prop. So in this article, we're gonna outline the key sections that create an effective account plan. 

I've spent over a decade helping organizations optimize their sales processes. And if there's one thing I've learned, it's that success starts with a thorough and well-researched account plan. So what's the secret to crafting such an account plan? Let's dive in.

Section 1: Know Your Value Props Inside Out

First things first - you need to have a really good grasp of what products you sell to which personas, the features and benefits, and the pains they solve. I'm talking about having a deep understanding here. Write it all down. Don't just jot down bullet points, write out full sentences.

Why? Because you're going to end up using these value props in your cold emails, demos, discovery calls, talk tracks, the whole shebang. So be thoughtful about articulating them. Commit them to memory. Know them like the back of your hand. In fact, a LinkedIn study found 70% of buyers are more likely to engage with reps who can clearly articulate the value prop. It's that important.

Section 2: Analyze Their Job Openings

Next, dive into their job postings. Job openings are such an important indicator of where a company is making bets for growth. They are literally taking dollars and dedicating those dollars to hiring a person to fill a role. So you need to understand not just who they're hiring for, but you need to make inferences as to why. 

Spend some time looking at their job board, looking at their careers page, looking over job sites, like on LinkedIn or Indeed or whatever it may be. And understand who they are hiring for. This should give you a sense of whether or not there's an immediate need for a solution like yours.

Section 3: Dissect Earnings Calls and 10-Ks

Analyze their latest earnings call and their 10-K if they're a public company. These obviously only exist for public companies, so if you are researching private companies, you can skip this section. But this is a treasure trove of information where, by the rules of the SEC, these companies have to disclose what they're doing and why, what is going well, where are they challenged, what new initiatives are they pursuing, where are they making bets for growth. 

Wall Street and public markets reward growth, and that's what these earnings calls are all about. It's all about revenue. How are they performing against the revenue guidance that they had given to the street? How are they performing against the guidance that the analysts themselves have given? And what are they doing with either shortfalls or excesses in cash? How are they putting that money back to work? You need to understand those things. And then again, you're gonna be able to infer whether they have a growth strategy or whether they have a challenge area that aligns with your value props.

Section 4: Scour Company News

Section number four, analyze company news. This is a good old fashioned Google search, although you can use AI searching now. I would recommend using Perplexity AI for this kind of search where you can find out what's going on inside of a company. And often when I'm looking for company news, I care mostly about what the executives are saying. So my search is something like "company name, CEO interview", something like that. I know it's very on the nose but I want to find the things that the CEO is talking about because those are the things that they're gonna be thinking about, caring about, wanting to go and execute. So the CEO is typically pretty candid with growth strategies. And by looking for company news, press releases, interviews, things like that, you can get a really good sense of what the priorities are of the company.

Section 5: Study Their Website

Next, section five, spend some time on their website. You need to really understand what they do, the products they sell, the personas that they sell to, all of the things. So spend some time looking over their website and make sure you have a really good understanding of all of the areas, the geographies, the industries that they support. Really know who they are, have a perspective on their company and get a sense of the industry that they're in.

Section 6: Research Industry Trends

You want to know the macro trends that are affecting that industry. So broader than the individual company, what's going on in the industry? And this matters because this is what's top of mind for C-level executives. 

They of course are steering their own company, but they're steering their company through the lens of what's going on more broadly in the industry. So the more that you show you understand those things, the better off you are going to be able to do.

Section 7: Generate Strategic Sales Angles

So, those are the main sections of the account plan and you can put all that together into a single account strategy document and have a really good point of view on the account that you're selling into. Now the magic happens in the final section or maybe it's a separate document, but it could be section seven here, of generating the sales angles that you want to pursue for that company.

So now, given everything that we just talked about - the job openings, the earnings calls, the company news and CEO interviews, the information from their website, the industry trends - now you can connect the dots back to your value prop and find the appropriate areas where there is connectivity. 

Where one of those research items you found maps back to one of your value props, and that becomes the golden nugget that you can use. And hopefully you come up with a handful, somewhere between five and 10 of these angles to go and pursue the company. And that's what effective sellers do.

And again, it's not just for cold outreach, it's not just for prospecting. This is a POV that's a living, breathing doc. The more you learn about the company, the more you can keep this document updated and you can continue to fine tune and find the sales angles that you're pursuing against all the information that you have inside the company.

Copy.ai Can Help

So there you go. Those are the elements of an effective account plan. Remember, the power of a well-structured account plan should never be underestimated. It's time to unlock your sales success with effective account planning.

Copy.ai has purpose built workflows to create these kinds of killer account plans. Interested in learning more? Get a product tour here.

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