10 Reasons Why Strategic Account Plans Fail!

Many sales professionals are asked to develop a Strategic Account Plan (SAP). These plans allow sales professionals to keep management abreast of changes with their customers and competitors, develop strategies to foster profitable growth and define success metrics with a focus of 1-3 years. Because SAPs are plans they need to be reviewed, updated and adjusted with some frequency. Usually this is done quarterly between the account and the sales organization. While well intentioned, these plans often fail for several reasons:

  1. It Starts with a Lack of ProcessBecause a SAP is a deep dive into a specific account, it must begin with some type of template or process so that all of the relevant information can be collected. Best in class sales organizations have a specific methodology and format that are used company wide and can be shared and updated easily.
  2. Too Much Gut Instinct and Not Enough Hard Data- You can’t develop an effective SAP without conducting empirical research and collecting facts to support your assumptions. This means gathering information from industry reports, 10-Ks, annual reports, chat rooms, blogs, white papers and financial reviews and from social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Strong Account Team but Little Collaboration- A strong SAP team is comprised of a cross-functional team that is quarterbacked by the Strategic Account Manager (SAM). The team can look strong on paper but the team members have to enjoy working together and have a common purpose to be successful. Faulty team communication frequently undermines coordinated team action.
  4. Failure to Get Customer Buy-In- Most SAPs are developed by the account team. They are based on their knowledge of the account and their business. This information must be verified for accuracy and completeness by the client. A failure to do so will result in no alignment or shared goals and responsibilities. Best in class sales organizations collaborate with their partners in all stages of plan development, execution and measurement.
  5. Too Much Focus on You and Driving Your RevenueA good SAP is focused on the account and their customer’s priorities. It’s not about you and your revenue goals.
  6. Too Much Focus on Driving Your Specific Product Sales– A good SAP is focused on helping the account achieve its goals and objectives. Yes, your product, service and solutions will help them achieve these goals but it isn’t the focus of the plan.
  7. Short-Term Focus (Quarter) versus 1-3 YearsMost SAPs need one year or longer to deliver measurable and repeatable results. While your focus is on making your number for the quarter, it takes time to implement strategies and tactics that will help drive results in your client’s business. Your success horizon has to be longer term and patience is required.
  8. No Measurable Value – An SAP is meaningless unless it can provide measurable value. How will your plan “move the needle” on your client’s dashboard?
  9. Too Many Tactics Not Enough Strategy Good strategies always lead to a number of tactics that can deliver the results desired. Be sure to take the time to develop good sound strategies that work for the account and the sales organization.
  10. Completing Forms Versus Insight, Adaptation and Timed Change- One of the most common reasons that SAPs fail is because the team members think it’s all about filling out the forms for the initial development or updating of the account plan or for the account reviews. Nothing could be more wrong. Most of your customers are facing rapidly changing market forces that require nimble partnerships that adjust quickly to new pressures. Good SAMs and their team members analyze industry data to bring insight and understanding that, in turn, drives better strategies and tactics.

Parting Thoughts

Good Strategic Account Plans improve relationships between the account and the selling organization and drive measurable business results for all parties. Avoid these ten (10) pitfalls as you develop your strategic account plans and reap the rewards.