An account plan is a document or record that contains important details about a customer or prospect, including information about the organization's business, strategic objectives, mission-critical priorities, goals and motivations, competitive landscape, pertinent technology stack details, key contacts and relationship maps, and the Strategic Account Executive's (SAE) strategy and action plan over varying time horizons (6 months, 12 months, 18 months) to establish and expand a mutually beneficial, long-term strategic relationship.
The SAE should think about account planning as if they were the CEO of their own territory. If you were a CEO, what information would you need to give banks, investors, or employees to demonstrate that you have a viable business plan that you can execute? An account plan is a business plan that helps the team analyze and execute on the business with a specific account. Like a CEO, the SAE need a leadership team to effectively plan for the account. Be sure to leverage the Solutions Architect, Customer Success Manager, and Channel Partners as you strategize and build the account plan!
Get started with the Account Planning template in our shared Google Drive (internal team members only).
Account planning helps the SAE and the larger account team elevate opportunity-driven conversations into value-based conversations that focus on the customer's value drivers. Good account plans help the team focus on what matters to earn strategic partner status with the customer which, in turn, will drive increased share of wallet and predictable growth. Account planning is NOT about creating a report for management–it's about helping the team create a strategic plan for long-term customer growth and retention.
An effective account plan defines a clear strategy and action plan to grow and expand customer relationships and will help the SAE and the team:
The account plan focuses on the account team's strategy to win, retain, and expand the partnership and business relationship with key customers. Success plans, on the other hand, clearly document what and how GitLab will deliver value throughout the customer lifecycle to help the customer optimize their return on investment and achieve specific business objectives aligned to the value drivers in the account plan. Success plans and the associated outcomes can also help inform and validate the account plan.
The opportunity plan (aka the Command Plan) outlines the strategy for closing business related to a single budgeted customer initiative. In contrast, the account plan is a more comprehensive, holistic, organization-wide strategy and action plan for earning the trust and respect of the customer. This is achieved by delivering value to the customer over and over again. Unlike opportunity plans, account plans span multiple customer engagements and lines of business across the account over a longer period of time and may include actions that don't directly align to revenue (e.g. customer appreciation initiatives, other).
There are two types of Account Plans, one for Land and one for Expand. The Land Account Plan is focused on landing Prospects. The Expand Account Plan is focused on exxpanding existing customers, which includes things like uptiering and new business units within existing customers.
Choose the "Land Account Plan" template in Gainsight. The team will not have as much information for this type of plan, but Demandbase has a wealth of information to help the team strategically approach the prospect.
Choose the "Expand Account Plan" template in Gainsight. Separate from the Expand Account Plan, CSM may have a private success plans, called an Internal Success Plan. This Internal Account Plan is for the CSM to track their own objetives related to driving product adoption, including primary use cases and expanded use cases (e.g., expanding into CI or DevSecOps). For example, she/he may be working a plan to get the CI team engaged to adopt CI so there may be internal GitLab objectives.
There are a few different components that are part of an account plan.
Basic account details should already be entered into SalesForce. The purpose of the Account Profile section of the account plan is to capture important details about the customer or prospect, including information about the organization's business, strategic objectives, goals and motivations, competitive landscape, pertinent technology stack details, and more. The account profile is all about the customer (not GitLab).
Start at a high level, for example:
Mapping the org allows us to analyze where we are strong and where we have vulnerabilities which will drive some of our actions later in the plan. Relationship mapping includes but is not limited to assessing:
If the account plan is with an existing customer, Net Promoter Score (NPS) data may provide helpful insights into and help track relationship health and trends.
As the SAE builds and continues to refine the account plan, consider the following:
This is the part of the account plan where account teams seek to understand and document the customer's technology stack as it relates to how they develop and deploy applications and begin to identify where and how GitLab can deliver value. This mapping can be done for each discrete buying center or line of business within an account and/or at an aggregate account-level view.
With this understanding, you can begin to formulate a strategy for where and how GitLab can streamline the customer's DevOps adoption journey in pursuit of achieving their positive business outcomes. The pace of adoption within and across lines of business will vary from customer to customer, and the account plan identifies the strategic objectives and supporting actions that facilitate this adoption and growth. This plan will be supported by one or more opportunity plans when the customer allocates budget to a defined purchase initiative (at which point a Command Plan should be developed to support each unique opportunity).
This is the most important part of the account plan! Once the SAE and the team plan the work, be sure to work the plan! Account plans are meaningless if there is no clear plan of action for achieving the objectives. Once the SAE and the team identify a prioritized set of objectives that will help the team deliver more value to the customer in support of the customer's strategic business initiatives, begin to identify and assign action items that will enable the team to achieve each objective. An action plan should clearly document the following:
Be sure to communicate and socialize the action plan with your account team to ensure alignment and understanding. Schedule periodic check-ins to drive accountability in execution.
Lastly, one of the fundamental benefits of an account plan is to figure out what you don’t know and what you need to learn, so iterating frequently on the plan will help identify and address gaps. This will put you in a much better position to make decisions and take actions which will lead to success.
Rather than building an account plan for each and every one of your accounts, it is recommended that you prioritize your accounts with a process sometimes called Territory Planning. Ideally, focus your efforts on building up to three account plans at one time. A limited number of thoughtful and robust account plans for the most strategic accounts is a much better approach than spreading yourself too thin by trying to create, manage, and maintain a large number of account plans.
Invest time in researching the customer and gathering data and insights. Document what you know about the account and try to answer the questions outlined in the Account Profile section above. Identify and work on closing information gaps with your team until you have enough information to formulate a strategy.
Collaborate with your account team to conduct this analysis. Discuss the implications of the team's observations and insights from this exercise. Identify and prioritize what additional information is needed to fill in gaps and help inform your account strategy.
Based on the information gathered, work with your account team to define a short and a long term ‘vision’ for the account. Even better, do this with your customer (or share your plan and solicit feedback). A good place to start is with a 6 month plan. You can start by asking the customer: “Where do you want to be in the next year as it pertains to your DevSecOps maturity and implementation?” Take that answer and continue to ask the question in different ways to drive to clarity with the customer. Sometimes we might have to push the customer to think about things is a fresh way. Based on this, identify and prioritize 2-3 objectives that will improve your position in and/or understanding of the account and/or that support the customer's strategic business initiatives.
The one year vision: The Customer says…“In the next year, the business will be …”
Build out a plan of required capabilities, prioritise them, and then order them. Some examples:
See the Action Plan section above for details. When the team is ready, share the plan with your manager and confirm next steps, resources needed, and review any information that is unclear. If appropriate, share the plan with partners to ensure alignment and commitment.
Account plans are living documents and are never truly complete. Plans will continue to evolve, and the account team should continue to iterate on them. Once you build the initial plan ask yourself and the team:
If a Customer Success Manager is assigned to this customer, check in with them on their Success Plan and ask if they are planning any Executive Business Reviews. These documents can help validate the account plan and determine if the vision is aligned with each customer's goals.
A quarterly cadence to review and update plans can help to ensure that plans reflect our current understanding of the account and keep the account team aligned on plan strategy and execution. Major changes such as personnel changes, mergers/aquisitions, and competitive threats may trigger immediate review and updates. Structured review sessions can help keep the account team aligned and keep leadership informed of changes involving customers.