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, goals and motivations, competitive landscape, pertinent technology stack details, key contacts and relationship maps, and your 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.
Think about account planning as if you were the CEO of your 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 you analyze and execute on your business with a specific account.
Account planning helps you elevate opportunity-driven conversations into value-based conversations that focus on the customer's value drivers. Good account plans help you 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 you 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 you:
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.
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 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 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 you track relationship health and trends.
As you build and continue to refine your account plan, consider the following:
This is the part of the account plan where account teams seek to understand and document the organization'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 you plan the work, be sure to work the plan! Account plans are meaningless if there is no clear plan of action for achieving your objectives. Once you've identified a prioritized set of objectives that will help you 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 you 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.
It is expected that all strategic accounts will have an account plan, but do not try to create an account plan for all of your accounts at the same time. Ideally, focus your efforts on building up to three account plans at one time. A limited number of thoughtful and robust account plans for your most strategic accounts is a much better approach than to spread yourself too thin by trying to create, manage, and maintain a larger quantity of account plans.
Invest time in researching your 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 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 you're 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:
If a Technical Account 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 your 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.