Thoughts on Account Development Planning

Earlier tonight I replied to a posting in a LinkedIn group and then thought I should share some of the same information here with a bit more detail.

The question was about the account planning process and I shared some of the things I’ve developed and taught over the years. I call it Account Development Planning, but different people use different terms.

Overall, the process I’ve developed includes:

  • Account Profiling – detailing or reviewing what you know (and don’t, but want to) about an account, including:
    • Decision Roles – who is making the decisions and what roles they play
    • Contact Viewpoints – how each of the decision-makers and influencers view you and your company
  • PCF and Likelihood Ratings – documenting the account history, its potential, and the likelihood of reaching that potential
  • Account Objectives & Goal Setting – based on the situation analysis and above factors, what do you hope to accomplish with the account
  • Force Field Analysis – technique to generate ideas about how to move from point A (Current state) to point B (desired Future state)
  • Action Planning – documenting strategies, tactics, actions, responsible parties and timelines

Here are some other definitions:

  • M = missing info
  • P = past account performance
  • C = current account performance
  • F = future account potential
  • L = likelihood of achieving the potential

Start by listing what you do or don’t know about an account. Consider things such as:

  • Decision-makers (and what you know and don’t know about them)
  • How they view you your company (and if you don’t know)
  • What you know about all the players (or don’t) even if they’re not decision makers (influencers, users, etc.)
  • What you know (or don’t) about their situations, circumstances, wants, needs, problems and goals (for the company and major players, if there are conflicting interests). This is sometimes referred to as a Situation or Factor Analysis. 

Documenting what you don’t know (but wish you did) is just as important as documenting or reviewing what you do know. This becomes your “M” or missing info, that you need to plan to gather.

As part of this profiling process, I usually also consider the old marketing RFM model, if it applies to your business and what/how you sell:

  • R = Recency of orders/business
  • F = Frequency of orders/business
  • M = Money/revenue and how it came in over the past <number of months you are analyzing>

This helps to set up the next phase of analysis.

Looking at this info, do a frank analysis of:

  • What data or information you are missing that you need to gather (the M or Missing Info)
  • The business they have given you in the past (P = Past)
  • The business they are giving you now (C = Current)
  • The honest potential for future growth (F = Future)
  • The likelihood of reaching that potential (L = Likelihood)

I usually rank accounts in each element of PCF with a rating system, such as 1 (low) and 5 (high). This creates a shorthand to talk about accounts.

  • PCF of 135 would be a good growth story
  • PCF of 425 would not be such a happy story if the likelihood of getting to the potential of 5 was low, but would be if the likelihood is high 
  • PCF of 125 would be worth some real focus, if the likelihood of moving from C to F is good (based on what you know about the account)

Then, I add the fourth Likelihood rating at the end, which is my estimate of the likelihood of reaching the P or potential.  I usually add a dash to make it look like this: 425-1 (probably a lost account, and a regrettable loss, to boot).

From this info, you can start to create action plans to close info gaps during every customer interaction (planned interaction management) and also plan to realize the account potential.

To do that, I start by  setting Account Objectives and Goals, and then conduct a Force Field Analysis to create action plans to close the gap between C and F.

I consider 5 objectives:

  • Acquire – P&C are low but the F potential is great and you want to win this new business
  • Maintain – no growth opportunity but good C and want to keep it flowing
  • Grow – plenty of C to F upside, if you do things right
  • Reactivate – P > C and you want to bring it back up
  • Deactivate – for whatever reason, the F is not exciting, or the likelihood of reaching the potential is very low, or the C is more pain than it’s worth (low ROI) and time is better spent elsewhere

Based on the gap between Current Performance (C) and Future Performance (F), and considering the Likelihood (L), I establish written Goals for the account.

This is a technique that was created in the 1940s by Kurt Lewin and is well-documented on the internet. Here are two good explanations:

As you see, this is a great method for turning account planning or factor analysis into something actionable. Considering all the factors from your work up to this point, you plan to minimize or eliminate restraining forces that are holding you back, and add or strengthen driving forces, which are propelling you forward toward your future account potential (F) and toward achieving your Account Objectives and Goals. Sweet, eh? Good ‘ol Kurt Lewin.

The steps and plans for gathering Missing information (M) and dealing with restraining and driving forces, simply become your Action Plan. Assign tasks (mostly you, if you’re the sales rep, but you may need assistance from others on your sales ops, service, sales engineering, or executive teams, or even others). It’s always an educated guess (more so if there is a lot of Missing info), but “timeline it” as best you can.

This is the “plan your work” stage. When done, all that’s left is the “work your plan” stage or execution.

That’s it. This is just the methodology I’ve developed over the years. As you can tell, it’s a pretty dramatic oversimplification crammed into a blog post, but it’s also fairly logical and straightforward, so hopefully something here might be helpful.

Happy Account Development Planning and be safe out there,

Mike Kunkle

Contact me:
mike_kunkle at mindspring dot-com
214.494.9950 Google Voice

Connect with me:!/mike_kunkle


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Mike Kunkle

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