March 23, 2017

Do You Have a Strategic and Tactical Plan for Your Largest Customer Accounts?
Mark Donnolo, Managing Partner, SalesGlobe

John Monahon:

Hello and welcome to In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, presented by Trusted Counsel, a corporate and intellectual property law firm. I'm John Monahon.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

And I'm Evelyn Ashley.

 

John Monahon:

We are partners in Trusted Counsel. Evelyn, Today we are talking about account planning.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

I think it's a pretty timely topic 'cause we've been talking about account planning at the firm. I know lots and lots of our clients need this kind of information and assistance.

 

John Monahon:

Absolutely, yeah. I know everybody's always interested in sales. That's been some of our best podcasts and particularly, this is helpful 'cause it's talking about digging deeper into the accounts that you have but also exploring some new accounts.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

We talk about educational sales and knowledge work in what we do, which I think the process in a professional services firm is probably quite different than in your standard product or technology product service business. I saw when reading through Mark's book, who we'll tell you about in a moment, that there were so many similarities and useful points that I think apply to all businesses, quite frankly.

 

John Monahon:

Yeah, it was a great read. A couple other things that just didn't go into the process, it went into the mindset as well.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Yes, this is the most important part to overcome.

 

John Monahon:

Yeah, talking about account planning is one thing but usually it's just a continuous talking about account planning and not actually doing it.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Yes, talking about it and not doing it.

 

John Monahon:

Right, exactly. We're very lucky. We have Mark Donnolo. Mark Donnolo is Managing Partner of SalesGlobe which helps companies connect their sales strategies to the bottom line. Mark is also the author of The Innovative Sale and he will release a new book in late May 2017 called The Central Account Planning: Five Keys For Helping Your Sales Team Drive Revenue. Mark has over 25 years of experience as a sales effectiveness consultant with companies such as Lexus, Nexxus, Comcast, KPMG, AT&T, IBM, and Accenture. Mark holds an MBA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Mark speaks on sales and marketing topics and has been published in numerous national publications. Mark, welcome to the show.

 

Mark Donnolo:

Well thank you, glad to be here. It sounds like you guys have both experienced some of the pain and suffering of account planning so you're familiar with it.

 

John Monahon:

Absolutely.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Yes, we're pretty excited about this topic actually.

 

John Monahon:

This is a learning opportunity for us. I guess the first question is, for those that might not be familiar, what is account planning?

 

Mark Donnolo:

That is a good question. Maybe a good way to approach that is to look at it from a bigger picture standpoint, which is if you think about a sales person, if you think about a business owner, they all have a goal to achieve, they all have a number they've got to hit, so that's kind of your big picture look at it. What do we do in those situations? We start ringing the phone or we start reaching out to people we know. We start looking for opportunities.

 

The account plan is really the strategic way to do that. It's not operating in a frenetic way, but it's saying, "I've got a set of accounts that are hopefully sizable accounts," and I can start to look at them, and I can start to dig into them, and I can develop this plan or think about it as an account strategy, which is basically an action plan to achieve your sales goal or to achieve your goal with that account. It's the action plan to achieve the goal and it's supported by a living process if it's gonna work well. It's a plan supported by a process. Ultimately, your goal is a business.

 

John Monahon:

Right. I think we all know that the best way to achieve goals is to set them and do a plan but yet account planning is hard to actually implement. There's a lot of indifference to it or just a lack of execution. Why is that?

 

Mark Donnolo:

I think a lot of it has to do with the thing itself, which is the account plan. If you think about what happens when you go into an account planning exercise in a business, you think about this big document that people create. There's approach avoidance when you start to look at, "I've got to do this account plan, it's got to have all these pieces, it's gonna be this big PowerPoint presentation, it's gonna have so many pages to it. I've got to return that call actually that my sales rep called me about that service issue with that customer. I need to return that call first, or I've got these emails I've got to return, or there's that internal initiative I've got to work on. I've got to get the next cup of coffee."

 

There's so many things that I'd rather do than do the account plan. Part of it is because I don't connect it to a result, I don't connect it to something good happening. It's hard for me to see how doing that account plan is going to result in the actual improvement of performance. I think that's because a lot of companies turn it into too much of an academic exercise. It becomes this big march through the wilderness to create this plan, we do it, and then after all of that pain, we put it away. Then next year comes along and we go, "Let's pull out the account plan. What did we do?" Then we realize, we did some of these things but a lot of these things we didn't do. It's not connected with results. There are a lot of avoidance psychology that comes into place when we start thinking about account planning.

 

John Monahon:

Right.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

I think that's an interesting part because when I was reading the book, particularly at the beginning and pardon me if it sounds insulting, but many of us think of sales as being, while it's the revenue generator for most businesses, we don't necessarily think of sales as being a deeply strategic kind of knowledge based process. Perhaps that's just the idea of solicitations and such. Is there an issue with the psychology at the level of the group that you're talking to of, "I don't even want to get into this 'cause I don't really even know how"?

 

Mark Donnolo:

I think there's a lot of it. People don't know how to do it, but I think there's a bigger issue that you're talking about, which is the positioning of sales in the business environment. I was talking with the dean of my alma mater business school last week and we were talking about the fact that marketing is very rich in terms of content and academia, operations, human resources, finance, but then sales really doesn't get a lot of attention. One of the points he made is marketing's got so much more data, it's so much deeper, there's so much more you can do with it, yet sales is really the driver of the business.

 

Now if you look at the type of information that we have in sales, you've got CRM, you've got a lot of great information sources, you've got a lot of market data. I thinks sales has become much more elevated as a profession. I think it has always been critical. When people kind of laugh about sales I say, "What's the top line on every income statement? Sales." If you don't have that, you don't have anything. The fact of the matter is that we all sell. If you don't sell, you really can't build a business. It's an essential thing.

 

I think there's a lot of history behind sales in that people have not done it as a formalized profession or as a formalized discipline. That's a lot of what we do in our consulting work, is we talk about the different disciplines that go around sales from the inside, to the strategy, to the coverage, to the enablement. When you think about something like account planning, it may feel academic. As a sales person, if you think about the psychology and the tendency of the sales person, I do this myself, I would almost rather be in action. I'd rather be out in front of the customer. I want to be talking to people, I want to be on a plane doing something. I don't want to be sitting in the office crafting this account plan 'cause I'm not comfortable with doing that.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Right.

 

John Monahon:

I think that's really actually important. It hits the nail on the head. It makes you dig a little bit deeper when you're actually doing account planning rather than, "Let's see whether this works. We're gonna go out there, sell it. It'll either work or not work," but account planning, you can't hit a button for that. You have to sit there, think, anticipate needs, and dig deeper into your client.

 

Mark Donnolo:

Right. We want the easy solution. You mentioned the book The Innovative Sale, that kind of connects a bit to what we're talking about here in that you want to be able to take the last proposal you created, you want to be able to take the last thing that you did and do a search and replace and you want the easy approach. You want to go with the answer that you think is gonna be fastest. When we go out and we go into action, we're talking to people, that's fast, it's easy. It doesn't tax our brains as much. It doesn't tax that prefrontal cortex as much and force you to think. The account planning forces you, as you were saying John, it forces you to think about those hard questions like, what are we doing? What are our opportunities? What's the customer really looking for? That's what makes it very hard, I think, for people that are used to just being in action and looking for the fast solution.

 

John Monahon:

We're going to take a quick break, but we will be back with Mark Donnolo and talking about account planning.

 

Welcome back. We're here with Mark Donnolo. He is Managing Partner of SalesGlobe and the author of Essential Account Planning: Five Keys for Helping Your Sales Team Drive Revenue.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Mark, on the break we were talking a little bit about who is it within a company that essentially makes the decision that we need to move toward creating an account plan and that process?

 

Mark Donnolo:

I think there's the who and I think there is the what, the situation. Things are very often driven by events. If we have an issue with sales performance or sales results, sometimes it sparks events like, "We need to start to do a better job of account strategy or a better job of account planning." The driver, the who of that in a company is typically the Head of Sales, could be the Head of Sales Operations. Sometimes we'll see a C-level like a CEO or a President get involved if they happen to come up through sales, if they have a sales heritage. They'll be the kind of people that tend to keep their fingers in the sales organization as well, but it's usually driven at the senior level and it really has to be driven at the senior level.

 

If account planning is happening as a grassroots things, in certain places it could be successful for some groups but it really requires a senior level leadership mandate that we're going to do this. You've got to build the case behind why you want to do it as well because, like CRM as well, you have to expect there's gonna be resistance in the organization. If I have to do anything as a sales person other than what I want to do, I don't want to do CRM, I don't want to do account planning, I don't want to do a lot of things, there's got to be a case and there's got to be a mandate behind it.

 

John Monahon:

I want to dig into a little bit of the nuts and bolts of it. What are the keys, the big components to successful account planning?

 

Mark Donnolo:

I think if you look at a lot of account plans and if you ask anybody in a sales organization about account planning, they'll be happy to pull out the last couple of years of account planning that they've done and they're probably 50 pages plus and they've got a lot of sections. The sections of the account plan, the components of the account plan are fundamental but they're not the most important thing. I could mix and match and do different components in a plan. What happens within those components, the strategy, the thinking, the actions, that's what really makes it work.

 

If you think about the basic components of an account plan, you're gonna be looking at things like, where are we now with the customer? What's our current situation with the customer in terms of revenue, in terms of growth, in terms of white space, opportunities that we might have to grow further with that customer? Where is the customer in terms of their business? What kind of results do they have and what are their plans looking ahead? We've got a whole area on our current position in the profile of the account so we have to know what's happened.

 

Then we get into looking at what the client's needs are and starting to map our team to the client. Ironically you go, "That makes a lot of sense." You'll see so many account plans that say nothing about the needs of the customer. They just get into, here's what we're doing, here's what we did, and here's what we're going to do, and we don't think about what's happening on the other side of the table. When you start looking at customer needs, you start looking at what their big priorities are as a business, you start looking at the priorities of your individual buyers, you start looking at the pain of those individual buyers.

 

We know that in sales all decisions aren't made logically or intellectually. A lot of the decisions are made emotionally, a lot of decisions are made for personal benefit. If I'm talking about the overall goals of my client and that's all I'm talking about, and I'm not talking about what John is looking for, and what John is dealing with in his job, and what personal wins are for John, and what John's pains are, I'm probably missing a lot of opportunity. So we really want to dig into understanding what the client's looking for.

 

The team alignments or the mapping starts to get into how our team aligns to the client or the customer. We start thinking about this idea of facing. We'd say we have certain people on our team aligned with certain people on their team and we'd start talking about what our team should be doing, the value our team should be providing. We're kind of setting up in that section. Then once we have the table set in terms of what the situation is and what the client needs and how our team looks, we start to get into the goals, what we want to accomplish in the account, and the strategy. How much do we want to grow the account and what's gonna be our action plan for getting there?

 

That strategy can go into how we address those needs, how we develop value propositions to align with those needs and align our offers, and then we get in the next section more tactical in terms of the action plan. We've said we're going to expand out in terms of selling hardware and software services with a client. How are we going to do that? What's gonna be our action plan? We're gonna have specific steps for each of those strategies or each component of that strategy for how we're going to do that.

 

We get into how the organization's going to support the effort, our own organization, because we might be just talking right now about the sales organization and what the sales organization is going to do, but we also want to talk about what other organizations, other functions in our company are going to do. Organizations such as marketing, operations, finance, the other people come into play and have to support the plan.

 

Then you finally get into your dashboard. The dashboard is really going to happen after the fact. The dashboard's gonna say, "Here are our expectations according to the action plan that we've developed." The dashboard is gonna be a look back over time and say, "How are we doing according to that action plan?" You've got a number of components like that in the plan. Sitting alone in static, it's not gonna do anything on its own. What has to happen is the plan really has to be engaged by the organization.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

To just back it up just a little bit, a couple of things. First of all, who's in the room when you are actually engaging in the initial strategy and then even getting it down to the tactical plan, going through the different process?

 

Mark Donnolo:

Starting in the room, the plan itself starts with the leader of the account. Maybe let's go a little bit higher than that. We talked about leadership of the organization having to create the mandate for account planning. The CSO, the Chief Sales Officer, the Chief Revenue Officer has to really create the strategy for account planning overall, not the account plans themselves, but the Chief Sales Officer has to say, "Here's how we're going to go about account planning. Here's how it fits within our business and our process."

 

Then the plan itself is typically owned by the account leader. If we're talking about a strategic account, it might be your SAM, your Strategic Account Manager, or your MAM, your Major Account Manager. It's that account leader that owns the plan. When you look at who's in the room typically, the Strategic Account Manager is there and you have the people that are working with that Strategic Account Manager, usually people that maybe are Regional Account Managers, people that are covering parts of that account in different parts of the country. They could be people that are technical specialists like sales engineers. It's usually people that are directly involved in the client relationship and selling to the client.

 

You also typically would have people that are involved in offer development or product marketing or product management. It's the people that are engaged in or necessary in creating that plan. As you go along, you're gonna then expand that circle out and you're gonna have more people involved as you start to develop that plan. You'll say, "If we're going to build a new facility for the client because we're doing outsourcing work for them, we're gonna have to have our operations people involved in that. Let's bring them in. We're gonna have the finance people involved 'cause we're gonna have to figure out how do we finance a project like this? Do we want to ask the client to partner with us on it and put up some of the financing for the facility we're gonna build for them?" We would start to bring different people into the fold as we do that, but initially you're gonna have that core group of people that are just involved in the ongoing client relationship.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Then the preparation for going into the room once the head of sales or the Chief Revenue Officers has decided we are going to engage in this process with each account, as the account leader, am I out gathering information on the customer prior to the meeting? You mentioned one of the elements of the process is we need to know what the needs of the customer is. So is that usually just in the room already or what kind of preparation has to happen?

 

Mark Donnolo:

It depends on the organization that you have. In a lot of organizations, the account leader will have to collect that information themselves. Optimally though, what we'd like to see is for that information to be collected for the account leader, the account manager. What that would mean is that there would be some role of sales operations, some role of marketing, some role of finance to be able to put that together.

 

Pretend that we're in an organization that is of decent size, that we've got a good size sales staff and a good size sales operations staff. What you don't want to happen is you don't want your account leader to be spending time doing research trying to figure stuff out. You don't want your account leader spending time trying to figure out the financial performance of the account over the last five years because it's probably not gonna match up with the other accounts and the methodology is gonna be different, but probably more importantly, it contaminates that person's job. They're spending time doing things that they shouldn't be doing. Their highest misuse is actually in doing account strategy in selling.

 

What we'd like to do is we'd like to set up a system that says, "For the account plans, we're gonna need this type of historic information, we're gonna need this type of customer insight," tell us what's going on in the customer over time. Customer insight might even include voice to the customer. It might even include interviews that we've done with a customer. Marketing, sales operations can help prepare that. Optimally, we want to have that kind of enablement for the account team so that when they go in, they have that information ready for them, it's done at a high level of quality, it's done consistently and allows them to stay with their core jobs.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Okay. Yes. In thinking through where does that derive itself, I can't imagine just walking into the room and saying, "Okay, let's get started."

 

Mark Donnolo:

Right, that's a lot to do. We've seen that happen and the whole room falls silent.

 

John Monahon:

What? We're getting started?

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Perhaps we need to take a break but the other thought that I have is if you come from the perspective that 80% of your revenue is coming from 20% of your customers, and we'll take a break and we can follow up with this, I'm wondering how we choose the accounts. Is it within the group that we know is largest already or are we looking at it from an evaluation of, there might be an opportunity to grow these guys that are not so big?

 

Mark Donnolo:

Right.

 

 

 

John Monahon:

Welcome back to In Process. We're here with Mark Donnolo, Managing Partner of SalesGlobe and also the author of Essential Account Planning: Five Keys for Helping Your Sales Team Drive Revenue. Mark, when we left off Evelyn was starting ask a question about how do we identify the accounts? Obviously this account planning, it's a very detailed strategy. Maybe there's some clients we've identified who have room to grow or maybe we're identifying our biggest clients. What's the process in finding out who needs account planning?

 

Mark Donnolo:

I think for an organization that's starting account planning, the biggest mistake they could make is to try to do too much of it. Even if you're already doing account planning, a lot of organizations probably should back off and do it within just the accounts that really matter. We see a lot of situations even with major accounts or organizations that are trying to cover too many of those accounts too thinly with too few people. If you're trying to do plans or strategies for all those accounts, it's really ineffective. We talked about 80/20, or the Pareto rules as most people know it by, but the whole idea is that if you look at a small number of accounts, you can probably get a lot of impact from that small number of accounts.

 

When you ask the question, how do I classify those accounts, this gets into another discipline that we'll talk about for a second, which is segmentation of targeting. The whole idea behind segmentation of targeting is we start to identify the groups of clients or the groups of customers that we want to focus on, and the ones that we want to pay attention to, and the ones that we want to concentrate on. That can be defined by size, of course. That might be one of the most obvious of criteria, is size. We don't want to look just at the largest current revenue clients, we probably also want to look at the largest potential clients, probably have some mix there because a lot of times some of our largest potential clients we have relatively little revenue with because we haven't done much business with them.

 

We talk about how to do this in the book. If you literally sort in descending order on revenue for your biggest accounts, you can start to identify the ones that are probably comprising the bulk of your revenue but then you might find other factors such as indicators of company size. It could be operating revenue, employee size, or you could even hand pick a lot of those out that you might say, "This account actually is way under classified." Another way to look at it in terms of segmentation criteria might be industry. There may be certain industries they would want to focus on or strategic importance. There may be certain types of customers or clients that are a better fit with us for some reason. You want to hand pick those, but what I would try to do is I would try to get a group of accounts that makes up probably 60-80% of the revenue and ask, is that group manageable in terms of doing the planning around those accounts? Revenue/potential, we want to have some high potentials low revenues mixed in with those.

 

John Monahon:

Once you identify the accounts, what's the process for figuring out, let's say, the goal-setting process for this? Is that just top down or is it a democratic process?

 

Mark Donnolo:

Well, you've got a couple things happening with goal-setting. We talk about in the book, try not to mix your quota-setting, you goal-setting with the account planning. The reason is if I believe, as a sales person, that my quota is gonna be related to how big my account plan is and how much I come up with, I'm gonna sand bag. I'm not gonna develop a big number 'cause I'm like, "Well, I'm just gonna get hooked into that." We'll talk about aspirational planning in a few minutes here and how to get past some of that, but you want to separate out those two exercises.

 

 

If you take quota-setting, we're looking at it from that perspective, the account plan can be very useful for quota-setting because it can give us a lot of intelligence and insight on the account with which to identify potential. When we look at quota-setting, we really want to look at two sides. We tend to almost always look at the opportunity side and we say, "We think there's this much opportunity in this set of accounts. We think based on the revenue we have we can grow at this much." We tend to look at the opportunity and we saddle the organization with how much opportunity we have or, even worse, how much we've done historically and therefore how much we think we can continue to grow. The more we do historically, the more we saddle somebody with a bigger goal. You get a performance penalty 'cause John, you had a great year last year. We're gonna reward you with giving you a bigger quota for next year 'cause you did so well. So the history can be a trap as well.

 

That's the whole opportunity side. The other side of goal-setting is around the capacity of the organization. You have to balance those two. You can only give a goal that has so much opportunity to an organization with a certain amount of capacity. Capacity is driven by things like head count. How many people do we have on the team or in the sales organization? It's also driven by the talent of that head count. Do we have high competency A players in those roles or are they people that actually are not doing what we need them to do? Capacity is also driven by time allocation. A sales organization, on average, spends about half its time selling and the rest of its time doing other things, operational activities, customer service activities, et cetera. The more we can decontaminate sales roles, the more time we can get them to sell.

 

We go back to the example we gave before. Evelyn, if we're asking the account leader to come up with all this market information and information on the account, we're contaminating that job. That's taking away from selling time. Increasing selling time increases capacity and then also we look at workload in terms of capacity. How much time does it take to manage an account, sell a new opportunity? How far do we carry things through on the pipeline or the funnel? The thinner we can make the funnel at the higher levels, the more we increase our sales capacity 'cause we're spending less time on deals that aren't gonna close. Balance capacity and balance opportunity from a quota-setting standpoint.

 

To go a little further on your question though, in terms of the goal within the account plan, you do have a process where you build up to how you're gonna achieve that goal. If we said, "This is going to be a $40 million account, that's the goal that you're going to have for the account this year," when we go through our opportunity identification and our action planning in the account plan, we start to build up the pieces of opportunity so that we know where we think each of those is gonna come from. We go opportunity by opportunity, what's the value, what's the probability of that? We start to build that pipeline. We try to get up to two and a half to three times what the goal is once you have that quota allocated to the team.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

So then your goal is set. Talk a little bit about the tactical part of executing the goal because it's fabulous to say it's gonna be a $40 million account. I think it would be interesting to talk to us a little bit about what that implementation process would look like.

 

Mark Donnolo:

If we go back to the components of the plan we talked about, we have goals for the plan and we have a strategy for how we're going to get there. Each of the components of that strategy is gonna identify certain types of opportunity, certain opportunities that we think are going to add up to getting to that goal or beyond that goal. The tactical thing that happens behind that is, maybe we take an example here, let's go back to hardware software services from a technology company.

 

If we said we're going to expand our services offerings to a certain client and that's gonna comprise $5 million of additional revenue, we think, in the account over the next year, we would take that idea and we would say, "That was based on a customer need, obviously." The customer was looking for something and we're addressing a need so what does the customer need that we have in that situation? How would we define our value proposition to get that service's business? Are we better than everybody else? Do we have a better cost structure? Can we help them do something that somebody else can't do? What's the value proposition that's gonna line up to that need? Then, how are we going to address that in terms of the action plan?

 

The action plan, the way we think about it is it's usually the steps, it's the timing, it's the accountability of who's going to do that. We talked about the account team and we talked about the broader team of operations, marketing, et cetera. Somebody's going to have accountability for each of those steps and we're gonna be probably aligning to different customer points as we go through those steps. So that action plan is gonna get into the tactics of how we go about it. That action plan really becomes the map for how we go to market with the account on that specific opportunity. Say it's that service's opportunity. Your account plan is going to have a set of these action plans, it's gonna have a number of these action plans when it's done that comprise your goal or actually go beyond your goal.

 

So when we get to managing the account plan on an ongoing basis, we're looking at those action plans and we're making sure that people are doing what they need to do or are course correcting along the way. That's where it gets really tactical. I think that's what a lot of account plans miss, is that we get too much into, "Here's the big strategy, here's the big plan. We did the presentation in front of management. Okay, let's get back to work." Then we go back and we do the same stuff we did before. There is no action plan. That's one of the key differences, I think, in doing it effectively.

 

John Monahon:

 

 

Welcome back to In Process. We're here with Mark Donnolo, Managing Partner of SalesGlobe. Mark is also the author of Essential Account Planning: Five Keys for Helping Your Sales Team Drive Revenue. Mark, one of the things about account planning is once we have the meeting and people leave, are they usually pretty engaged? They've had the whole meeting. How engaged are they when they leave and then how do we keep them engaged and accountable to the plan going forward?

 

Mark Donnolo:

I think their level of engagement depends on their leadership, the account leader, whether they feel that the process was a useful process. Did I go to a meeting where I just spent a day or two days kind of going through charts and things that I didn't find inspirational or didn't find motivational or did I go to a meeting where there was a clear direction from leadership about what we're gonna do, there was a vision created by the account leader about what we could do with this account, and I could understand the connection to me, I could understand how it was going to benefit me? The last thing I want to do is I want to go to account planning meeting, spend two days going through a bunch of wrote stuff and I don't see how it's going to benefit me, but if I can see how we're going to grow this account and I can make the connection to my own incentive pay and how it's going to make my life better, then I'm more excited.

 

There's the initial excitement coming out of the meeting. Then you've got to keep it going. How do you keep that going? One way you keep it going is to not forget about it. You have to have re-engagement at certain points. Companies will typically get people back for reviews quarterly but more frequently than that as we're working through our pipeline reports. If we're having our weekly status update meetings, we should be talking about what's going on from our action plan from the account planning meeting. That should be a regular part of our conversation. It's harder to hide when it's always being talked about. When we put the plan away until next year, everybody has this collective conspiracy thing. It's like we're all a little guilty about it but we're not gonna deal with the account planning thing. It'll come back later. So you've got to keep it part of the live conversation.

 

I think a big part of motivation is around, I mentioned, incentive compensation. People need to see their path of how they're gonna earn more with the plan. Then they'll put more effort into it. Think about Pavlov's dog. I ring the account planning bell and then I salivate. It's working. Another thing is reward or recognition, if I'm being recognized for what I'm doing in terms of growing the account. We expanded out the ACME account and I'm being recognized in front of my sales team, I'm being recognized in meetings. Then I'm more motivated to put a lot more into it. You really have to tie it into those pieces as well.

 

Then I mentioned the role of leadership. I think the role of leadership is critical. If leadership is not committed to account planning, if they're doing it as "an exercise", and it's not a strong commitment, and they're not asking about it along the way, people will lose motivation. There also has to be the hammer on the other side. If people are not doing what they need to do, there have to be consequences. A leader can determine what those consequences are but it has to be shown that there's not a tolerance for not doing the work.

 

The account planning itself, the success of the account planning, can almost become an opiate to the organization by its success as well. That's the other thing to watch out for. If we did a great job on the planning, the strategy, we grew the account, we're on a good growth run, you really don't need to do so much of the planning 'cause things are going well. We're busy working on the account. We don't need to do all that planning. That can kind of make us a little passive and we stop doing the things that made us successful. We lose the discipline. So that can also be a trap.

 

John Monahon:

When the goals are set, if they're not met, and we talked about a little bit of a penalty if they're not met, but is there ever a time to revisit them and say, "Maybe we set that too high and we need to figure this out." Continuously missing goals also starts to just give a sense of failure along the way as well.

 

Mark Donnolo:

True. The account plan is not the death march. What that means is it's not a document that memorializes something that is unchanging. The account plan is a live, working document. The account planning process is a live process that evolves. In fact, when I think of account planning, I almost don't want to use the term "account plan" because the term "plan" makes it sound like it's a static thing. It's really a living process.

 

Absolutely, things are going to change. When you set up your dashboard for your action plan, you're going to expect that those things are going to change as you go along. Think about it this way. There was a great general who I won't remember now, but he said something like, "The battle plan is great until the battle starts and then it falls apart." It always does. You have to expect that things are going to change as soon as you start to put the plan in place. Customer priorities are going to change, budgets are going to change, and a lot of things like that. You always have to be evolving it.

 

John Monahon:

I wanted to touch real fast on politics. Obviously people have competing interests. What are some of the politics you see going into account planning?

 

Evelyn Ashley:

And its execution.

 

Mark Donnolo:

Right. I think about this client I worked with recently where I was asking the sales leader about who owns the account plan and how the account plan is developed. Then I went in a few minutes later and I talked to the head of account management and I said, "How does account planning work and who owns it?" She said, "Did you ask Joe?" Joe was the sales leader. There were politics, obviously.

 

I think of this situation where I went in and I talked to a sales leader, Joe, and asked him, "How does account planning work and who owns the account plan process?" He talked about it and then I went into the next interview and I talked to the head of account management. I asked her the same question. I said, "How does account planning work?" She said, "Did you ask Joe?" It was almost like it was this accusational thing. There was tension around account ownership and who owned the plan. That's an example of politics.

 

People own accounts and they're fighting over accounts and therefore they have vested interest and they don't want to change things. Marketing wants to come in and they want to do something in terms of expanding out their product line in certain accounts but sales doesn't want to do that. We don't want to disrupt it 'cause we already know what's going on. You get this natural tension. You see drivers of politics being things like scarcity. If we think there's scarcity of opportunity, we tend to get more political 'cause we're squabbling over a smaller base of stuff.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Start siloing down.

 

Mark Donnolo:

Right. Who owns the account? I'm thinking about what the current revenue is. I'm not thinking about the new opportunities and other places that we might go after. What about culture? Culture plays into politics. Culture can be a contributor to politics because that's the way people have always operated in the business.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

I would also think that psychology plays into it a bit too because I know that we've seen a technologist interacting with a sales person, interacting with finance. We're talking about kind of groups where they don't communicate very well to each other because there's often lack of trust.

 

Mark Donnolo:

Right, absolutely. I think when you talk about technology, talk about engineering, compare that to sales, you've got very different psychologies, very different DNA patterns. I'll stereotype here, engineering, technology, they love to create what they want to create. Sales wants to hit its goal and hopefully it does it by meeting the needs of the business. Those things may not align.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

And meeting the needs of the customer too.

 

Mark Donnolo:

Right, exactly. You get these natural misalignments. How do you overcome the politics? It's almost like a garden that's overrun with weeds. It takes a lot to pull it out but it starts with leadership. It starts with the mandate of transparency and openness in the organization. That's got to come from leadership. When you think about politics, it's really a cultural change which happens at three points. It happens at leadership, saying that we're going to do it. It happens with what we reward. Do we reward people for good open behavior, transparency? It also happens through the middle of the organization in terms of the behaviors that we demonstrate. If I see people demonstrating our core values of openness and non-political behavior, that helps as well.

 

John Monahon:

Mark, we're getting close to the end of the show but one of the things in your book is you talked about aspirational account planning. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

 

Mark Donnolo:

Right. I think account planning on its own, if we just look ahead over the next year, tends to be too incremental. We tend to not stretch ourselves enough. The whole idea behind aspirational account planning is thinking further out. You do two things. You pick a point in time and you pick where you want to be at that point in time. Envision yourself somewhere. If the account's $10 million right now, do we want it to be a $40 million account? For what time period do we want to get to that goal? That creates a trajectory. It creates a line that we need to follow in order to get there, but you'll never get there if you do that incrementally.

 

You have to put a big vision out there to your team and you also have to do that to the customer, to the client. You've got to tell them what you're thinking in terms of partnership and that will often change their view of you as a partner as well by putting those big aspirations out there. That's the key point. We could talk a lot about it, but that's probably the key point. It's just really thinking big and stretching your goal but getting free from the next step or the next year and getting people's minds free from what their quota might be, thinking way ahead.

 

John Monahon:

Mark, I found this to be very interesting and helpful.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

Excellent, really excellent.

 

John Monahon:

We really appreciate it.

 

Mark Donnolo:

Thank you.

 

John Monahon:

We'd like to say thank you to our wonderful guest, Mark Donnolo of SalesGlobe. Mark's upcoming book is Essential Account Planning: Five Keys for Helping Your Sales Team Drive Revenue. It will be released in May. If you would like to learn more about SalesGlobe, please visit their website at salesglobe.com. We hope you enjoyed In Process today. If you have any questions on the topic, please reach out to info@trusted-counsel.com. If you're interested in learning more about us, please visit our website at trusted-counsel.com where you'll also find a listing of our past and upcoming shows. Thanks for joining us.

 

Evelyn Ashley:

See you next time.