People now expect instant access to information. Sound bites abound. We expect immediate resolution of problems afforded by faster and faster search engines, more and more capable of giving sales people all the information they need at their fingertips.
Is account planing still necessary?
But where does this leave us when we come to account planning? Is there still a need to develop a long-term strategy for how we are going to develop ongoing future business with an important account? The activity is one of developing a strategy, taking a long-term view, looking ahead perhaps 1 to 3 years out.
Account planning is a long term strategy, the opposite of instant gratification
Account Planning requires time and thought. It requires the exact opposite of instant gratification. Sales professionals need to gather all the information they can and carefully assemble a plan to align themselves with the customer’s strategy and to show that they are a valued partner in helping the customer to achieve their business objectives. To that end the information they gather needs to be not only that which they can harvest from the web but more importantly from a series of meetings and discussions with key people in the customer’s team. Most likely it will also include information from other members of the extended team.
Will account planning become a dying sales skill?
Account Planning is thus something which requires a very different set of skills than those which distinguish most sales people. I wonder if it is a skill which will become even more rare? Will sales people entering the profession today be prepared to take the time required to develop a good Account Plan? Will newly promoted sales managers keep expecting their young sales people to develop plans? Is this a management problem or an individual problem? Or is it cultural, a function of company culture?