When an account plan fits on one page and is visually designed, the chance that you will use it during (or in preparation of) conversations with your account managers is many times greater! The form makes all the difference. A multi-page document will not be used during a review, especially not when it is not updated during the year.
A one pager is the best way to ensure that account plans come to life in the organization and do not disappear into a drawer (with reluctance to using account plans altogether as a result).
The Visual aspect
Visual account plans are easier to read and more inviting than pages of text. On a canvas with sperate boxes, you can pick out and read the part you want to discuss with an account manager within 10 seconds.
A canvas is an ideal form to use during a conversation. When shown on your screen or printed out and in front of you, it has much value in the conversation. It gives you a starting point, adds structure and direction. Your conversations are much more factual and concrete than a conversation that begins with “How are things with customer X?”
Another important aspect of a visual format for an account plan has to do with thinking and capturing. Plans just get better from it. People don’t think linearly, people think iteratively, integrally and by association. Everything is related to everything else. A thought about one part in a plan initiates new thoughts about the other parts. Or so it should.
A canvas with all the important questions on one page, gives overview and lets people make a coherent plan.
The art of leaving out
An account plan doesn’t have to include the entire thought process. That’s just ballast. It should contain the outcome of the thought process. Where we are, where we want to go, why and how. Not much more. If organized well, tactical thinking becomes easier and easier and the attention can go where it should, realizing the set goals.
A one-page format can also count on the enthusiasm of the account managers themselves. They quickly see the value of the content (it helps to think about the right things and to structure them), but without the ballast of having to describe everything that is going on in detail.
All questions are leading questions
Not every account plan format will do. Be aware that everything you organize has an impact. For example, the content of a standardized quarterly report affects what account managers discuss with their customers. If the quarterly report contains operational matters, they will have an operational conversation. Evenly so, the questions to be answered in an account plan influence the thinking of your account managers. The plan directs their thinking by asking questions.
Take a SWOT analysis for example that is often an important part of traditional account plans. This makes account managers think primarily from the inside out. SWOT is about our strengths, our weaknesses, ouropportunities and our threats.
However, a customer is only willing to pay for the value they seek/experience. Therefore you want your account managers to think from the outside in. And for that, the SWOT model will not be very appropriate.
So, think carefully about the content of the account plan you choose. There is a world of thinking behind it. Processes and tools are “solidified vision”. They guide an organization to achieve success. They are based on certain beliefs, assumptions, thoughts and experiences.
Take a look the Account Plan Canvas, you can download it here.