Account Planning: A Key to Success

Published: August 1, 2017

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When I started working at Ecosystems, I learned about account planning. I learned that every team member has an account plan for tracking and updating their weekly progress toward quarterly goals. In our meetings every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, we discuss our account plans.

But each week, I knew what I needed to achieve by heart. My goals and tasks were organized in my mind—so writing them in the account plan didn’t always happen. Account planning felt like an extra, unnecessary step—especially when I was busy dedicating my time to critical work for customers.  As a result, I was more spontaneous with my work and less strategic when it came to planning each week. 

However, over time, my responsibilities at Ecosystems grew. I had more outcomes to achieve each week, and many variables to track. My mental documentation of my account’s status was no longer sufficient. I needed a more tangible way to manage my account, my time, and my strategy.

That’s when I truly implemented Eco account planning, and I haven’t looked back since.

Benefits of Tracking Progress

After several months of careful account planning, I believe that it is critical to success, regardless of your responsibilities. Here are a few benefits of account planning that I’ve seen:

  • Tracks progress across various projects. Instead of wracking my brain for the latest update in an account (“Did I follow up with Trevor?” “Did Liz ever send that data I asked for?”), I can quickly identify what’s occurring in the account.
  • Increases visibility across the team. Occasionally, a team member will provide support on one of my accounts. When this happens, the team member can access the account plan to easily track the latest updates.
  • Improves organization and productivity. By clearly tracking progress, less time is wasted wondering what to do next or retracing steps, and more time is put toward doing work. It also helps me ask critical questions each week: What key wins give me the highest return? What outcomes do I need to achieve?
  • Shows the big picture. A huge benefit of account planning is that it provides a regular opportunity to look at the big picture. I can prioritize the tasks that are most important to achieving quarterly and yearly goals, and reassess regularly. It’s much easier to allocate time based on the biggest reward when I can see the big picture.

In addition, I can look over the last few weeks and see how each win was marked: red for a loss (didn’t get completed), yellow for a carryover (the win moved to the following week), or green for a win (successfully completed). This quick assessment helps me identify where my strategy is working and where it might need adjustment.

Ideas for Action

Since I’ve started relying on account planning, I understand my business better and am more effective in my work.

If you’d like to implement account planning, here are some ideas for getting started:

  • Begin account planning early. By starting account planning early in my career, I learned the difference between an outcome and a task. Aiming for an outcome is more productive than moving through a series of tasks—tasks that may or may not lead to an outcome. Ecosystems’ account planning taught me to think deeper. Instead of a simple task (e.g. “Call Tom”), I now think in terms of outcomes (e.g. “Tom agrees to share business review with manager”).
  • Know your goals. We set quarterly goals which then break down into monthly and weekly wins. But it’d be challenging to make weekly wins if we didn’t have a bigger picture of what we’re trying to accomplish in the quarter. Implementing a big picture and big goals are critical for week by week planning.
  • Make it outcome-focused. For example, there’s a subtle but significant difference between these two wins: “Send report to Karen,” versus “Karen provides feedback on the report.” The first is a task and doesn’t show clear progress toward a goal. The second is an outcome: If Karen provides feedback, we know we’re one step closer to achieving our goal for the quarter. Account plans change your mindset to be outcome-focused. 

I hope this is helpful to others as you plan your work and develop your careers. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions on the topic!

About the Author

Nicholas Yow

Nicholas Yow

Nick is a Value Consultant at Ecosystems. He focuses on equipping sales and marketing professionals to convey the value of products and services to their customers through Strategic Business Reviews (SBRs). Nick is working to transform business reviews from standard procedures to valuable, insight-driven conversations. As a result of his dedicated coaching, sales professionals around the world are now leading value-focused business reviews. In his free time, Nick enjoys music, traveling, and experiencing different cultures.