How to Build a Winning Account Plan in 2024

Revenue leaders from Okta, Sailpoint, and Twilio share insights on how to use account plans effectively in 2024.

In 2024, just showing up on calls and going through the motions won't cut it. To come out on top, you need to up your game with solid planning, thorough research, and flawless execution.

And the best way to do this consistently is by creating detailed account plans. These plans cover everything from researching company priorities to mapping out stakeholders, aligning with executives, and devising creative strategies. 

In this masterclass, revenue leaders from Okta, Sailpoint, and Twilio share insight into how you can build account plans that arm your teams with the right information for their target accounts so they can land more meetings and win more deals. 

Watch the full masterclass and get their advice below!

What is an account plan?

In B2B sales, account planning is the process of mapping important details about your potential clients and existing customers. You gather information about their priorities and challenges to develop targeted sales strategies in order to close new deals and retain or upsell current customers. 

Interactions are customized to the specific needs of each decision maker. As a result, reps build trust and rapport, allowing them to grow and nurture relationships all while shortening the deal cycle. 

“For our teams, we refer to account plans as pursuit plans,” says Grayson Kimmel, Director of Enterprise Sales and SailPoint. “You’re doing the pregame planning and conditioning ahead of time. You’re telling people where they need to be and designing the plays. And then you go and execute on this plan.” 

Why is building an account plan important for reps?

A well-constructed account plan prepares reps for initial conversations and increases their chances of securing a meeting. With company, industry, and sector insights on hand, reps can easily personalize their outreach. And this often makes the difference between receiving a response or not. 

“Not many people are going to do the work required to find a unique point of view that enables them to speak the language of the stakeholders,” says Ross Rich, Co-founder and CEO of Accord. 

But those that take the time to do the work benefit. Many account plans can be repurposed for similar accounts within a territory, allowing reps to apply insights and primary pain points from one company to engage with other comparable companies. This makes it easier to build and maintain a healthy pipeline. 

Plus, account plans also provide a structured framework for identifying key decision makers, addressing objections, and closing deals. With each step outlined, reps can approach their interactions with confidence and clarity. 

“One of the things we focus on is giving our AEs permission to be wrong. When you come into an account, you have to have a point of view, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be the right point of view or resonate with the customer,” says Jake Kanter, RVP of Strategic Accounts at Twilio.  “By coming in and saying, ‘here’s the way I’m thinking about your business today, here are the problems I see, and here’s how I think Twilio can help solve those problems,' it’s okay if you’re off base. Having someone correct you and say, ‘that’s actually not quite right, we’re focused on a different area,’ starts the conversation and shows the prospect you have a vested interest in learning about their company and how it functions.”

How to do the right research on your target accounts

To conduct impactful research on your target accounts, start simple and approach your prospects from their perspective. Find out how they’re involved in the processes related to your product or service, why solving this pain point matters to them and their organization, and how they would change or improve their current solution or processes. 

There are several questions you’ll want to ask, including: 

  • What defines success for you internally? For example, if they could achieve one goal this year, what would have the most positive impact on them and the organization as a whole? 
  • What drives your financial decisions? For example, if their role is tied to cost reduction and your solution requires a significant investment, that may be a challenge. By understanding their financial motivations, you can customize your approach and offerings. 
  • How does our product or service align with your internal objectives? This question ensures alignment between the company, prospect, and other internal stakeholders.

Now it’s important to note that not every prospect will be comfortable answering these questions — and that’s okay! Sales is a numbers game, but the reality is if you do this work, you’ll probably know the business better than some of the internal stakeholders. And when you get in front of the right people, this knowledge builds your personal credibility, making your target accounts more receptive to your communications. 

Building a 10/10 account plan 

The first step to creating a 10/10 account plan is to empower your reps. Make sure they understand the ‘why’ behind these account plans, and see building them as positive net work. Otherwise, they may not allocate the necessary time to create account plans with the right information.

Also, originality is key, as Ryan Sydor, Area VP at Okta, emphasizes: “One of our reps took over an old account and I said to him, ‘Don’t look at the old account plan. Make a new one from your perspective. We need a fresh look.’ He went in and built a brand new account plan with a new POV, and we went in and talked to them and suddenly our access to their executive team changed.” 

In addition to empowering reps and encouraging originality, there are several other elements that are crucial when building a 10/10 account plan: 

Set clear objectives: Outline the specific goals you're aiming to achieve with each account. This lays the groundwork for your overall strategy.

Conduct in-depth research: Get digging for all the juicy details about your account. This means gathering info on company priorities, key players, and pain points. Leverage company websites, industry reports, and social media profiles to gather intel.

Identify key players: Who's who in the organization? Identify the decision-makers and influencers so you can tailor your approach accordingly.

Sync with internal stakeholders: Make sure you're on the same page as your own executive team. This ensures you've got the backing and resources you need to make things happen.

Get creative: Don your thinking cap and come up with some fresh strategies to tackle the account's needs. Think outside the box and find ways to stand out from the competition.

And remember — planning mode is just as important (if not more important) than action mode. It’s the research that ultimately lays the foundation for the conversations that follow, so take your time and be thorough. 

Closing thoughts

Building an account plan isn’t a futile task — it’s a tried-and-true strategy  that helps your reps build rapport and business acumen while winning more deals. By leveraging insights, establishing relevance, identifying knowledge gaps, and embracing vulnerability, your reps can navigate the complex business landscapes and drive success for themselves and your organization. 

To learn more, watch the full masterclass here