Involve Your Clients in the Account Planning Process
By Andrew Sobel
In working with many client teams on account planning, I’ve learned that there really is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach. The planning process and the tenor of your discussions for an existing multi-million-dollar, mature client relationship will be different from that for a relatively new client that is currently quite small.
Broadly speaking, the following elements should be present in a good planning process:
- Upfront involvement of the client to provide input on key issues, needs, and goals for the coming year
- Leadership of the planning process by the most senior professionals on the client team. You cannot delegate the plan to junior staff!
- Periodic meetings of the full team to reflect and strategize (at least once a year and probably two to four times a year)
- Development of a written account plan. This can be brief. Remember—too many long, complex plans get created and then deposited in a file somewhere and then never used or referred to. It’s about the planning process, not so much about the PowerPoint slides themselves.
- Weekly or monthly update calls or meetings
- Individual follow-up between the relationship manager and individual team members
For any client, the core of the client account planning process is a team planning session to reflect on the seven key questions (see the video, below) and strategize how to improve and grow the relationship. A best-practice planning process, set against a calendar year, should reflect the kinds of activities listed in the graphic, “The Account Planning Cycle.”
If you want to learn more, watch this short video I made about seven key questions you should use to drive the creation of a client account plan: