The beginning of the year sees a lot of long-term strategic initiatives – from sales training and new product roll-outs to sales forecasting and account reviews. It’s important to note that while the latter two (forecasting and account reviews) are similar in their long-range outlook, they have different purposes and thus should be held separately in many organizations. Today we’ll be looking at account reviews.
What an Account Review Is
The phrase “account review” is used in a variety of different contexts in the sales world. It can mean account executives conducting individual account reviews with each separate client or it can mean sales managers meeting with individual reps to discuss the latter’s current accounts, opportunities for growth within presently existing clients, and targets for outreach into new prospects and clients.
For the purposes of this post, we mean the latter kind – sales managers meeting with individual account reps to review the present state of accounts and a wider review of the sales pipeline – with an eye towards establishing annual goals related to pipeline growth and expansion of business within current clients.
How a Sales Manager Should Prepare for an Annual Account Review
The sales manager’s job in preparing for annual account reviews is two-fold: 1) having a general overall sense of the market conditions for their given industry(ies) and a rough composite of which directions to pursue internal client growth and pipeline expansion; and 2) determining growth and pipeline stocking goals for each individual sales rep. Note: We’re not talking about revenue targets here – that’s the realm of sales forecasting. Remember, this is about activities within the existing client structure and filling the pipeline.
When you have an idea of the general economic conditions through research and tracking of trends (including anticipating possible events that can be reasonably accounted for), you have a baseline factor to weigh against sales reps’ past performance and help determine future expectations.
Whether all account executives in an organization should have the exact same goals or whether targets should be individually set depends on your business situation. For example, if you divide your sales map according to territories, then greater customization comes into play. For example, an account executive in an A territory would naturally have higher expectations than one in a C territory, and your KPI benchmarks for the coming quarters and year should reflect that. Conversely, if your vertical is geographically agnostic (such as a business that’s primarily online or inside sales based), a uniform setting of account metrics makes far more sense.
To help your reps prepare for the meeting, give them advance notice of when the review will take place – at least a week, preferable two. If you only give them a couple days’ notice (or even less!), then the account review likely isn’t going to be very productive – it’ll be a lot of fluff and little substance.
Also consider sending an agenda along with the notice of the meeting. This will give your direct reports a better idea of what exactly you want to cover and thus be ready to relate relevant information and fruitful discussion.
How Account Managers Should Prepare for an Annual Account Review
In reality, an account manager’s preparation for an annual account review never ends. Customer and pipeline data is constantly input into the CRM and should be updated after each and every interaction. That said, when you know your account review is coming up, take time to go through the information you’ve compiled and create a document for yourself.
This document will include items like current accounts, prospects, opportunities for expansion in existing accounts, potential prospects within organizations of current accounts, networking contacts, etc. Ideally, all data should be scored through whatever opportunity score formula your organization uses.
With opportunity scoring, you can devise a ranking list of most likely or attractive prospects on down, and you’ll have the necessary information to talk intelligently about which growth opportunities you’re going to pursue over the coming year and your plan of action for pursuing those targets. If your organization doesn’t have an opportunity score formula, consider constructing one yourself, based on the KPIs and metrics your organization views as important. Even if it doesn’t work as well as you’d hoped, you’ll have shown initiative and creative thinking, which your employer will value.
If you’re having difficulty even coming up with a list of targets – perhaps you haven’t been as diligent about updating your CRM as you should or maybe your territory is operating at near-maximum capacity, talk to your clients and networking contacts about referrals for people and organizations who might have a need for your product. Then block out time for yourself every week to update your CRM and engage in business development, so you’re not scrambling at the next account review.
Practicing what you’re going to say is also a good idea. Use the agenda your manager hopefully provided to get a sense of the discussion’s sequence and mentally prepare for that order.
Account reviews are a vital part of the big picture, long-range planning of the sales process – both for account executives and their supervisors. However, for the sessions to be valuable and constructive, both sides need to adequately prepare and be on the same page before the meeting. Failure to do so will be wasteful at best and potentially damaging to the company’s sales at worst.