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Grow Existing Accounts with Account Planning

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This blog is part two of a two-part blog series on account development.  You can read part one, Questions to Consider for Account Planning & Growing Existing Accounts.

In this blog post, grow existing accounts with account planning I highlight the Grow Existing Accounts with Account Planningcommon challenges associated with growing existing accounts and account expansion and offer remedies.

First, if you want to grow existing accounts and develop a partnership, you have to strengthen and deepen your existing relationships, AND establish new relationships in other business lines or departments AND at the enterprise (executive) level.  This requires sales people to break out of their comfort zone mentality of “my client” and view the relationship as a “company to company” relationship. Organizations that do the most effective job of growing existing accounts focus less on how much they’re liked by the customer and more on the business value of the relationship (of how the client perceives the value).  And that involves getting your entire organization involved in serving the client. And doing that requires account planning.

Unfortunately, despite their best intentions, many strategic account/key account or target account programs under perform.  The most common reasons IT staffing firms fail at growing existing accounts are listed in the table below

Common Challenges


“We’re not developing new opportunities in our existing accounts”

Lack of sales opportunity pipeline

Competition “blocking us” from decision makers

“We’re not clear as a team as to what our strategy is when pursuing an account”

Limited access to decision makers

Lack of credibility with stakeholders

“We’re never getting ahead of the RFP nor are we effective if and when we do”

Loss of or inability to influence solutions

Competitive disadvantage, forced to sell on price

“We’re not effective at articulating a compelling value story to the account”

Lower win rates

Increased likelihood for discounted pricing

Margin erosion

The common theme and solution to all of the challenges above is account planning. Perhaps many of these scenarios sound familiar?  The good news is you’re not alone.  Below 

are some tips that can help you more effectively define and deliver value for your key accounts which in turn will help you grow existing accounts. Work these tips into your account planning.

1.    Define Value  That’s right, with your customer, you need to define how (the ways in which) you can deliver value to the customer and the overall account.  You also need to collaborate with your customer on how you will quantifiably measure the value you deliver for the account.  Remember, the only thing your customer cares about is how you can make an impact on their business.  Far too often sales professionals focus exclusively on simply “being liked” by the customer.  Change your focus by understanding what your customer values.  Figure out a way to quantify it and then work with your team to deliver it, consistently. 

2.    Relationship Mapping In order to sell up (not to mention deep & wide) the organizational chart you must not only understand who the key account stakeholders are but you must also have a relationship development strategy for each.  Starting with the basics, you must figure out what their perception is of you and your firm. What is their perception of your competitors? To what business objectives do you need to appeal to for each stakeholder?  To what personal agenda(s) do you need to appeal to for each stakeholder?  When working with each stakeholder you should also have specific, measurable goals that you’re working towards.  This will keep you in line with ensuring that you’re always focused on adding value with every client interactions.  By the way, when you do this, you change the conversation (you’re not talking price and your service, you’re talking about value creation).

3.    Account Development Methodology  Like grandma has her “secret recipe” for chocolate chip cookies, you need to develop an account development methodology that will work for you across all accounts. An account planning methodology for growing existing accounts will arm sales people (or account managers) with the ability to consistently create measurable value for their key accounts.  This includes strategy, processes, and dialog skills.  Keep in mind that this is much different than the all too typical once per year account review (an event) where you focus on known opportunities.  Account planning and an account development methodology should be designed to help sales people move beyond simply identifying needs to generating value for the client by bringing insights and expertise and collaboratively identifying ways to achieve their goals.  The methodology highlights what tasks needed to be completed, by whom and when and how.  Again, it incorporates processes but also includes multiple people or departments within your organization. The methodology provide account managers (and teams) with a consistent set of practices to follow which will result in a higher probability of success.

4.    Opportunity Map  An opportunity map is simply a map or illustration of all of the key departments or business units within your key account that map into your service offerings.  The goal here of course is to use the map to ensure we maximize account penetration.  To do this, the sales person needs to uncover what the high level goals are for each business unit or department and the business drivers for each.  Second, what initiatives are currently underway and which are scheduled to begin in the near future?  For example, Aura Inc.’s Zinc & Ion’s business unit could have a business goal to grow from $1.2B to $2B over the next 18 months.  One initiative to support that could be to expand the sales force. Assuming CRM consulting services is part of my service offering, I have a few ideas of how I could deliver value to this business unit. Keep in mind that there will often be many initiatives in place to support one goal.  Your opportunity (understanding you client’s goals and underlying initiatives) map is to help you uncover every possible opportunity, department by department.  From there you can track potential or pipeline opportunities, current opportunities and won opportunities. 

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