Account planning in B2B sales: Everything you need to know

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Account planning is a critical part of B2B sales. It describes the process of building a unique strategy for each account that helps grow important relationships into revenue opportunities further down the road.

The result: account growth and long-term client retention.

This article looks at why account planning should be prioritized and features expert strategies from Revenue Reimagined, a GTM strategic consultant, and Affinity. Don’t miss out on worksheets for revenue leaders and Salesforce Admins to help optimize account planning further.

How to think about account planning

Ben Maxwell, Strategic Account Executive at Affinity, describes account planning as:

“The way that you can envision account planning being done today in the SaaS space—or any kind of selling role—is putting together a collaborative document that your whole team, including CS, sales, and account management, can work in to provide a point of view. It’s a living, breathing document that catalogs interactions with customers and brings together relevant information on customers and new business prospects. An account plan should act as your guiding document as you're trying to source a new opportunity, bring that customer on board, and eventually expand through upsell and cross-sell.”

This definition touches on both elements of account planning, which run similar motions but ultimately have unique purposes: 

  1. Account plans for net new deals
  2. Account plans to grow within your existing customer base 

The importance of account planning was summed up by Mollie Bodensteiner, a Go-to-Market Strategy and Operations Leader who works with a company that uses a partner-led sales motion. 

She says, “We work with our partners on account plans. The organizations that we do a proper account plan with—one that gets validated, reviewed, and is worked through and coached with a sales manager—sell at an 81% higher ACV than partners that don’t do account plans.”

For more of an overview of the account planning process, check out this article featuring four best practices. Already got the basics covered? Dive deeper with a look at what makes key account planning different.

Account planning strategies from two B2B sales experts

Don’t recreate the CRM

A common pitfall that sellers face when starting the account planning process is to make it complex to the point that they replicate information that already lives in their CRM. An account plan is not intended to be a source of all records. That can exist in Salesforce, whereas your account plan is where you bring a project together and create visibility on all the moving pieces involved.

Salesforce plays a critical role in account planning—especially when it’s supported with advanced features like Affinity’s for Salesforce’s automated activity capture and relationship intelligence—but CRM data should be viewed as inputs into the account plan, rather than a like-for-like.

Salesforce Admins interested in how they can set their CRM up more effectively for account planning can start with this 5-step checklist.


Communicate clearly and set expectations

In an evolving deal with many parties involved, it’s important to ensure that account plans have an owner—someone who is ultimately responsible for driving that revenue. For new business this is typically a seller, whereas it may be a Customer Success or Account Manager for existing customers. Jake Reni, Chief Growth Officer at Revenue Reimagined comments, “I would say you can leverage [your team] but at the end of the day, it’s your quota, it’s your responsibility.”

He continues, “Great enterprise account executives know how to align their internal resources to get the job done. A lot of that is making sure you're communicating, setting expectations, and asking for alignment. If you’re going to the effort of actually building an account plan with multiple people involved, you’re going to need regular conversations with the people involved on strategy and next steps.”

Proactively work account plans (and seek feedback)

Account plans take a team to execute, and they only work if they’re documents that live and breathe. One way to do this, Maxwell suggests, is by making account planning a regular part of the agenda for one-on-ones.

He explains, “Sellers probably have a recurring meeting with their leader or direct VP every week or every other week. Make your account plans a motion within those, saying ‘hey, here’s a strategic account I have and here’s what I want to do in the next three and six months.’ You can review the plan together, get feedback, and also probably get some additional context and input from that leader.” 

Sales leaders are responsible for setting expectations around account planning from the top. This worksheet helps by outlining 5 Salesforce optimizations that support strategic account planning.


Invest in technology that drives collaboration

To create a truly collaborative document, Maxwell argues that there needs to be some kind of element of technology involved. He says, “It doesn’t have to be complex. I’ve had success with Google Docs all the way up to solutions that are embedded within Salesforce.”

Building on this, more advanced tools can help to surface new deal opportunities that warrant an account plan. Reni explains, “There are solutions that track engagement and buyer behavior so you can utilize data as an insight to trigger when you should start targeting and building an account plan.”

When new accounts are identified, Affinity for Salesforce can be used to identify points of connection between your company and the prospect—with relationship intelligence revealing who has the strongest relationship for a warm introduction.

Plan for the handover

In account planning, the handoff from sales to customer success sets the direction for customer retention and growth. Reni recommends requiring certain closed-won fields in Salesforce be completed, but also acknowledges the importance of having a conversation with the stakeholders next involved with the account plan. 

He says, “Ask these organizations what you currently don’t deliver but should to avoid the same discovery conversation happening with the new customer. Don’t make your customers go through the whole rigmarole all over again, instead create a process so that no learning is lost in that handoff.

Ensuring that everyone has access to the full context on the relationship and history of engagement is crucial in avoiding crossed wires. With Affinity for Salesforce’s automated activity capture, the entire team has visibility and can act from a place of understanding for upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Why teams like yours choose Affinity for Salesforce

Account plans are critical for B2B sales success and the best are built on extensive—and accurate—data. This is where Affinity for Salesforce comes in.

Using automation, Affinity for Salesforce captures all your email, event, and calendar data and automatically syncs it in Salesforce. You get a complete picture of every account (with far less reliance on manual data entry). 

Affinity for Salesforce enriches this data using AI-driven algorithms to deliver relationship insights that uncover warm introductions. Learn more about account planning in Salesforce and how Affinity for Salesforce can help. 


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