In developing a sales account plan, realistically determine where you are today with each account before setting goals for the future. Sales Account Planning often sparks a “self-abusing” tendency of sales people to include unrealistic objectives as part of the plan.
Example: I recently worked with a Sales Team that identified a particular large customer as being a strategic, long-term account of significant importance to the company’s success for entering a new market space. The Sales Team had great intentions and ideas for managing the account strategically. They incongruously planned a quick first sale to the customer. I asked them if they thought it likely that this sales effort would happen quickly. They admitted it was not likely, particularly given that they were targeting this client as a market leader in a new market space and industry where they weren’t currently selling.
In this case, it was important for the Sales Team to realistically acknowledge where they were with the account – objectively, nowhere. The situation at the time of setting the account plan was that they were “just another vendor” to the targeted client, and an unknown vendor at that. The Sales Team needed to acknowledge this fact in their goal setting for the client. The Team needed to build a plan that would realistically position them over time. The team had a common misperception, one I see in most sales people and Sales Teams: underestimating the time it takes to change a customer’s perception of your offering. This can and does take a long time.