I have had the recent opportunity to consult on several large account sales planning initiatives in the high-tech industry. Leading a corporate-wide strategic account initiative is a challenging role with a lot of responsibility and visibility. If you are successful, you’ll be well rewarded. If not, the outcome can be unpleasant. From my observations, there are five factors that must be present to increase your probability of success:
1. An Executive Review Committee
You must have executive stakeholders committed to the strategic account program. Geography leaders, sales management and product-line leaders should all be represented on the executive review committee. The formation of the committee will demonstrate commitment to the program and ensure the planning process gets the time and the attention it requires from the account teams. The committee will be instrumental in reviewing the initial and follow-on account plan presentations and making recommendations for supplemental actions, investments, and resources.
2. Ability to Select the Composition of the Account Teams
A complete team will most likely include representatives from: global sales, marketing, sales support, engineering, manufacturing, the product lines, post-sale implementation and quality support. If potential participants can have a significant impact on the account, they should be involved. Even the best designed planning sessions will be undermined if the relevant team members are not present. All members need to be actively involved as a unified team to best understand, strategize, and plan the targeted account.
3. Authority to Institute Interim Plan Reviews and a Team Coaching Process
The best programs provide interim plan development reviews to give the cross-functional teams feedback on their draft plans. For example, a 90-day planning process may warrant 30-day and 60-day coaching sessions to improve the quality of the final plan. Interim reviews will help identify the need for any additional data or resources required. A final draft rehearsal should also be scheduled. The team rehearsal will significantly improve the quality of the final account plan presentation to the executive reviewers.
4. Ability to Influence (or Set) Account Team Compensation
Major account planning and execution is a team activity. As part of the program, team roles, responsibilities, and incentives must be reviewed and updated. The program leader needs to be able to influence team compensation in order to drive the desired behavior and reward positive results. In most situations, growth within an account is a team effort. No single team member should receive a financial windfall. Compensation models should be designed to financially reward all team members when account growth exceeds expectations. The involvement of HR will be essential.
5. Global Account Sales Team Leader Training
Global team leaders will require additional training to manage the newly-formed teams. As in professional sports, the best performers do not always make the best coaches. Pipeline management, sales opportunity coaching, selling skills assessments, and performance review input are typically tasks assigned to global account leaders--regardless of the sales model implemented. You’ll need to partner closely with HR to make sure your account leadership career model and training aligns with your role expectations.
When done correctly, with the right level of corporate commitment, leading a global strategic account planning initiative can be profitable to the organization and rewarding for the leader assigned. Though there are many factors that contribute to a successful account plan initiative, control over the five key areas I’ve mentioned will provide a strong footing upon which to build a successful program.
You may also be interested in our case study, "Strategic Account Planning in a Global Team Environment at Analog Devices".
Mike Peters is the managing director of the Whitespace Consulting Group, a global business development strategy firm. The Whitespace Consulting Group has been helping multi-cultural clients optimize their business development strategy since 2005. He can be reached at email@example.com.