5 Ways to Align Better With Clients Through Joint Account Planning
June 17, 2019
In today’s world of SaaS customer success, most CSMs and/or Account Managers are held to some sort of revenue goal. Whether that revenue comes from an upsell, cross-sell, expansion, or something else, it’s still new revenue attributed to the customer. This is where differences start to come into play. While some organizations have CSMs handle the entire upsell process, others bring in sales team members to help facilitate negotiating and contracts. In reality, this process should be a joint effort between multiple teams, with the customer at the center. This is what’s commonly known as joint account planning.
Joint account planning takes customer success a step further by analyzing and strategizing how a specific customer account could grow. Planning out account growth like this, between CSMs and sales team members, can help plot out potential areas of revenue growth, identify new ways to deliver value to customers, and proactively plan for potential questions or escalations from customers.
Here are 5 tips for aligning better with clients through joint account planning:
1. Include stakeholders from all departments
Much like a convoluted customer account handoff process, joint account planning can quickly go off the rails if the right people are not involved in the planning process. CSMs, sales reps, marketing team members, and product developers all have a different lens through which they engage with customers. By including all of these departments (and more) in the initial strategic account planning process, CSMs will be able to glean insight from everyone about what customer value actually looks like.
2. Know what a strategic account looks like
Typically, a strategic account goes beyond the typical vendor/consumer relationship and takes on more consultative or partnership tendencies. Basically, through a strategic partnership, a vendor should be able to expand or grow a customer account while the customer itself receives a corresponding benefit, both in terms of the partnership and the additional platform value. Brands thinking about entering into strategic partnerships with clients might offer a reduced usage rate for a few months or work on a scientific report that is co-authored.
3. Align internal goals with customer goals
In most SaaS businesses, the ultimate goal is to increase revenue. As one of the leading drivers of recurring revenue, the existing business arm of a company is, of course, intent on expanding accounts, adding new users, and upselling customers on increased functionality. While this is great from an internal perspective, it’s also critical to keep customer growth and value goals in mind during the strategic planning process. Strategic planning is all about finding the intersection between a company’s revenue goals and a customer’s goals for what they want to achieve with their product or service.
4. Build an internal account planning strategy playbook
Many times, customer accounts can be segmented into different groups or buckets based on what functionality they’re using, how they’re using a particular solution, and what their projected growth goals are. Instead of having to start from scratch with every new account, CSMs can build a strategic template playbook with key steps, best practices, or critical notes about the strategic planning process.
5. Review strategies with customers for feedback
Once you have worked to build a joint account plan with your internal team, it’s time to run it by your actual customers for feedback. If you are already talking with a customer about entering into a strategic partnership, pitch them the plan and ask for immediate feedback. If you’re trying to overhaul or update your existing account planning process, work with your current strategic accounts to develop a winning strategy. After all, your customers are your best advocates and will definitely have some helpful tips to put into play.
While joint account planning isn’t new, it is a critical part of scaling a customer success department and optimizing incoming revenue from existing accounts.
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