Designing a Winning Opportunity Plan for Target Accounts


Maximizing Sales: Ask, Plan, Succeed

Without a plan, even the most promising sales opportunities can slip through your fingers. 

As a lover of all things systemized and organized, the importance of account-based planning can’t be overstated.  But it’s not always practical for small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) because of time constraints. 

Thank goodness for sales management tools and their CRM dashboards!  If you’re like me and my team of B2B lead generation heroes, you’d leverage the heck out of intelligent automation.  

And if you’re in a pinch for a quick plan for small deals to bring into meetings, check out the Sales Opportunity Canvas from part 1.  

But, let’s talk about the big dogs. Closing multi-million dollar deals is no easy feat! It’s a delicate dance of strategy and persistence. One misstep with a big company account could spell disaster for their bottom line. 

Related: How to Close Multi-Million Enterprise Software Deals

Unfortunately, deals can fall through the cracks.  They happen when there’s an undersupply of actionable customer insights and supporting data. That’s why it’s crucial to focus on understanding your customers and using data from key resources to craft a plan that delivers measurable and sustainable results.

Maximizing Sales

If you apply the Pareto principle here, 80% of your sales opportunity plan should be customer-centric and the remaining 20% should be data-driven

So, time to slip on those dancing shoes and plan for success.

Internal Strategic Data For Opportunity Planning

It’s not only about crunching numbers and looking at financial data, sales figures, and customer information. It’s also about keeping tabs on our performance across a variety of areas, including action plans, customer outreach strategies, technical solutions, and past performance. 

And that’s why internal analysis data is so crucial.  You can collate the data that you need from other departments.  

If your sales opportunity plan becomes a point of reference to present to your potential clients, you should include data that should be able to define who you are as an organization and how you plan to deliver.  That means your plan should have:

  1. Mission and positioning
  2. Team structure
  3. Goals and targets
  4. Strategies and methodologies
  5. Execution plans
  6. Measurable performance and results
  7. Action plans

Mission & Positioning

Since 2020, the digital economy has exploded.  Like the universe after the Big Bang, the online market continues to expand at an exponential rate.  When you look into any category now, there are HUNDREDS of options for buyers to choose from– especially SaaS.  This means buyers could afford to compare everything.

That should be a daunting thought, but it isn’t!  

One of the best things to come out of industry 5.0 is that buyers want to receive value and not just buy the product features.  Meaning, anyone can sell anything as long as they know how to communicate and deliver that value.

You can do that in two ways.

Be Impactful Under 20 Words

When it comes to closing deals, a company’s mission and positioning are the ultimate wingmen. They can communicate the unique value proposition and benefits of your offerings, giving you the edge you need to effectively differentiate yourself in any competitive landscape.  

For potential customers with limited time and resources, your company’s mission and positioning are essential in allowing them to quickly understand the key benefits of your products or services and how you can help to solve their specific problems.

First, let’s take a look at the 3 principles that make mission statements so powerful:

Mission Statements
  • Simplicity: If a statement could inform everything that you and your company could do in the most straightforward manner, then it becomes more memorable and compelling.
  • Defined by who they serve: A clear and concise statement outlining the purpose of your product or service can differentiate you from competitors, and ultimately help them understand its true value.
  • Empowers productivity: Unifying your company’s efforts behind a compelling mission statement can boost productivity by aligning everyone towards a common goal.

Positioning Is The Invisible Influencer

If your potential buyers aren’t resonating with your mission statement, they should be persuaded by how you’re positioning your product or service.  

Positioning is a way to provide context and structure to your solution which helps them grasp its value and understand how it addresses their needs.  Although your offer can’t be everything for everyone, positioning can make your target buyers feel like your solution is exactly what they need!

Keep in mind that even if you have amazing positioning, your organization might have to reposition when facing new competition or when a majority of your customer base changes their preferences.  The other reasons may be:

  • Sales have decreased over time
  • When there are major changes in the company structure
  • When your organization changes the brand’s status in the marketplace
  • To keep up with customer wants and needs
  • When there are changes to the marketing mix such as product, place, price, and promotions

Unlike Mission statements, Positioning doesn’t have to be under 20 words to be memorable.  It’s more important to articulate what sets you apart from everyone else.  

Positioning statements should be able to address:

  • Target Market: The specific group of customers the product or service is intended for.
  • Unique Value Proposition (UVP): The unique benefit or advantage the product or service offers to the target market.
  • Competitive Frame: The main competitors in the market and how the product or service differentiates itself from them.
  • Points of Difference: Unique features or attributes of the product or service that set it apart from competitors.

If you put it all together, your statement should look like this:

For [Target Market], our company provides [UVP] that sets itself apart from [Competitive Frame] with [Points of Difference].

Let’s compare it to Zoom’s positioning statement!

“For people and businesses who need to meet with others virtually, Zoom offers a seamless video communications platform. As the only platform that started with video as its foundation, Zoom’s platform set the standard for innovation in intuitive, scalable, and secure digital connections.”

And break it down!

Target MarketFor people and businesses who need to meet with others virtually
Unique Value PropositionZoom offers a seamless video communications platform
Competitive FrameAs the only platform that started with video as its foundation
Points of DifferenceZoom’s platform set the standard for innovation in intuitive, scalable, and secure digital connections

You’ll find that top companies have been able to stand out from overcrowded markets by using the same formula in their positioning statements!

Sales Organization: Who’s Handling It?

People are not just resources, they’re invaluable assets that are critical to the success of your team. Selecting the right individuals ensures that your project will be completed efficiently and effectively. 

This section of the plan is your opportunity to justify the budgeting for the recruitment, retention, and even outsourcing of top talent.

The Ideal Account-Based Planning Framework

Participants– Direct sales
– Sales operations
– Channel sales
– Channel marketing
– Marketing
– Direct sales
– Sales operations
– Partner management
– Marketing
– Direct/indirect sales
– Sales operations
– Channel marketing
– Marketing
– Direct sales
– Partner sales
– Channel marketing
– Partner marketing
– Sales operations
– Sales management
– Channel sales
– Channel marketing
Purpose– Data collection
– Supplier-led vs. partner-led
– Organizational alignment
– Account selection
– Partner criteria and scoring
– Reconcile accounts
– Joint account planning
– Target opportunities
– Solution messaging
– Marketing planning
– Buyer engagement
– Offerings mix
– Pipeline build
– Data management
– Analysis
– Performance management
Outcomes– Account profile
– Partner profile
– Resource commitment
– Planning process
– Target accounts
– Rules of engagement
– Persona targeting/ account insights
– Account plans
– Buyer alignment
– Opportunity qualification
– Revenue
– Reporting (dashboards)
– Productivity initiatives
Sourced from a presentation by: Revegy / SiriusDecisions

Define Revenue Goals 

Attaining clear and resounding success means setting clear and achievable revenue goals. But, it’s not just about setting goals and hoping for the best!  You’ll need access to performance insights and strategies.  Account managers and Chief Revenue Officers (CROs) should be able to provide you with the information you need.

Insights on past performances will allow you to reverse-engineer quotas, sales activities, and staffing needs which also increases the accuracy of sales forecasts.

Revenue goals can also be broken down into sales and activity targets.

Define Revenue Goals

Sales and activity targets such as timeframe and metrics can significantly impact what kind of service-level agreements (SLA) will benefit both you and your potential clients.

Optimizing each step by setting goals for both activities and results can help you achieve your revenue goals quickly!

Outsourcing will help you reach your revenue. Here’s an article about Sales Outsourcing as a Revenue Channel for Financial Firms.

Mapping Out Your Sales Execution

A well-crafted sales opportunity plan lays out a clear roadmap for achieving key milestones.  That means making sure you can outline your timelines (including recruitment or outsourcing), and report on when projects, sales & marketing activities will have reached their end goals.  

Brilliant sales teams often prioritize activities that will have the biggest impact on the bottom line. 

For example, you might find that certain products or services have a high customer retention rate. You can focus on upselling and cross-selling these successful offerings to your existing customers to increase revenue and strengthen relationships with your key clients. 

Also, why settle for short-term gains when you can have your cake and eat it too? Prioritize activities and goals that will not only bring in immediate rewards but also lay the foundation for long-term success. 

If hitting your revenue goals is a process of “divide and conquer” by setting sales targets— then segmenting your sales execution plan by priority on a monthly and quarterly basis is the next step!

To map out your Sales Execution, get your buying centers involved in setting the timeline!  Use data visualization for your itineraries and key milestones. 

Mapping Out Your Sales Execution

Establish key milestones for projects, activities, and recruitment to align with priorities and revenue goals. Map out a schedule on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Strategize short & long-term goals by creating a high-level schedule to ensure balance and successful outcomes.

Measure Sales Effectiveness

To optimize your sales pipeline and achieve maximum results, it is essential to track your sales effectiveness using performance metrics. 

Closely monitoring key metrics such as the revenue generated from new business and specific areas of your account-based sales process can help you gain valuable insights on how to improve and streamline your approach.

One effective way to do this is by breaking down metrics by each stage of the sales opportunity. For example, at the needs analysis stage, you can measure the number of sales appointments scheduled. 

By focusing on metrics that closely align with your goals and sales activities, you can make data-driven decisions that will drive your sales efforts forward and help you achieve your desired results.

When putting this all together in account planning sales you’ll need the following measurements:

  • Performance: Detail the technology and methods used to track and evaluate team activities and metrics.
  • Tech Stack: The reasoning behind the selection of the current sales technology stack and its function.
  • Sales Stage: Outline the metrics for each stage of the sales process and ensure alignment with KPIs.

Move Forward With Sales Action Plans

Action plans, ahoy! Including them in your sales opportunity plan is a must, as it lays out the nitty-gritty details of how to hit those sales targets. Skipping this step can lead to a lack of direction and make measuring success a tall task. 

Here are some actionable tips on creating an accurate and informative action plan:

  • Assess your current position by identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and develop a response strategy to address any potential objections or obstacles.
  • Use Sales Plays to stand out from competitors and inspire customer action.
  • Identifying insights can provide a deeper understanding of customer needs and preferences, as well as identify patterns and trends in sales data. 
  • Keep track of any critical comments or unanswered questions to reference later in the sales process.
  • Create a plan of action for the next steps, including those needed to move forward and ultimately win the sale.

Growth Hacking Opportunity Management

Qualifying leads may be a breeze, but opportunity management is just as complex as target account selling and opportunity-based selling. It’s all about putting in the work to strengthen opportunities by making meaningful connections with key players at target accounts as well as utilizing all possible sales strategies.  

Of course, even with all that effort, sometimes things don’t work out– whether it’s due to budget constraints, misaligned priorities, sneaky competitors, or not fully understanding the prospect’s buying pattern

So, how exactly can you improve the odds in your favor?  By accurately evaluating risk factors!

Data-driven sales strategies are made more effective by utilizing opportunity management techniques and sales opportunity planning to analyze risks and past losses. 

Evaluating & Mitigating Risks In Opportunities

Have you ever found yourself at risk because of (the):

  • Close date has changed multiple times: This may indicate problems with the deal.
  • Unrealistic close date: A close date that is shorter than usual may be a sign of unrealistic expectations.
  • Significant changes in deal value: This may show a change in the buyer’s circumstances or process that has not been fully considered.
  • Weak economic justification: A lack of clear return on investment or agreement from the prospect may put the deal at risk.
  • Stalled progress: If the opportunity has been stuck in the same stage for too long, it may be at risk.
  • Decreased activity: A decrease in recorded activity with the prospect may indicate risk.
  • Unclear decision process: Uncertainty about how the prospect will make their decision may put the deal at risk.
  • Lack of engagement with the decision team: Little engagement with the decision-making team may indicate risk.
  • Over-reliance on an unproven champion: Relying on one person without a track record of success may put the deal at risk.
  • Recent changes: Any recent changes in the decision team, sponsor, or other factors may indicate risk.
  • Failure to align with priorities: If the opportunity does not align with current organizational priorities, it may be at risk.
  • Unusual characteristics: Opportunities that are significantly larger or in a new sector may be at risk.
  • Missing steps in the process: If key steps in the sales process have not been completed, the deal may be at risk.
  • Other issues not confronted: Any other issues that the salesperson is aware of but has not addressed with the prospect may put the deal at risk.

As you can see, every deal has its fair share of potential pitfalls. And as sales professionals, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new opportunity and overlook the risks.  

With risks, there is impact.  One tiny risk can set off a chain reaction of negative consequences that can seriously hurt your sales and your customer’s business. But by understanding the impact of these risks, you can strategically allocate resources to mitigate them. 

This not only helps protect the bottom line but also upholds customer trust and maintains a solid reputation. Plus, being aware of potential risks allows for swift damage control!

Opportunity risk assessments should be a fundamental component of our Value Selling System.  They can help you identify potential roadblocks and force you to consider factors that can make or break a deal. 

How To Mitigate Account-Based Opportunity Risks

There are seven core principles for managing or mitigating risks.

  • Consider risks in the context of a global perspective and business objectives.
  • Anticipate future risks and create contingency plans.
  • Foster open communication and encourage team members and clients to raise potential risks.
  • Incorporate risk management into the sales and purchasing process.
  • Continuously review and update risk management strategies as new information becomes available.
  • Establish a shared understanding and vision with clients to aid in identifying and assessing risks.
  • Utilize the collective expertise and experience of the team in managing risks.
How To Mitigate Account-Based Opportunity Risks

Competitive Intelligence Analysis

It all comes back to asking the 4 fundamental opportunity questions.  Is there an opportunity?  Can we compete?  Can we win?  And is it worth it?  It’s a definite assumption that your competition has also considered the same questions.  Assessing the opportunities of your competitors can help you pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses, and understand what they know or don’t know about your customer base.

But hindsight is 20/20.  So, why don’t you take a look at the samples below and tell me if that doesn’t give you a good idea of where you stand in the competitive landscape?

Is there an opportunity?Your CompanyRival SolutionsABC CompanyXYZ Firm
Can we compete?Your CompanyRival SolutionsABC CompanyXYZ Firm
Solution Fit For Business InitiativesGOODUNKNOWNGOODUNKNOWN
Resource/Capability RequirementsHIGHUNKNOWNLOWHIGH
Current Customer RelationshipSTRONGUNKNOWNSTRONGWEAK
Can we win?Your CompanyRival SolutionsABC CompanyXYZ Firm
Is it worth winning?Your CompanyRival SolutionsABC CompanyXYZ Firm

Ghosting Your Competition

Another way to leverage competitive analysis is being able to use a cutthroat method known as Ghosting.  It’s a tactic that’s pretty common in designing and presenting proposals.  But what is a sales opportunity plan if not a much more complete and detailed proposal to your potential clients?

However, be aware that naming competitors in a sales opportunity plan may provoke negative reactions and potential legal action from those very same competitors when the plan is presented publicly to stakeholders.

If Differentiation is polite, Ghosting isn’t.  The goal of ghosting the competition is to create doubts about them in the minds of potential customers. By highlighting competitors’ weaknesses and downplaying their strengths, you can establish yourself as the superior choice and reinforce the strength of your value proposition

There are several ways to do this:

  • Draw attention to your strengths by highlighting your closest competitor’s weaknesses (e.g. safety issues, weak customer support, poor delivery performance).
  • Explain the drawbacks of your competitor’s richer features (expensive, failure-prone, not required for performance, costly to repair)
  • Highlight your company’s responsiveness, ability to provide a single point of contact, and track record of successful projects if your company is smaller, or stress your service footprint, depth of technical resources, and benchmark strength if your company is larger.
  • Cite features of your offer that reduce the total cost of ownership (longer life, low maintenance design) and costs attributable to satisfying the prospect’s list of must-have features.

It’s important to keep in mind that while the strategy of ‘ghosting’ can be effective, it should be used sparingly. Overuse of this method can come across as preachy or even offensive to decision-makers and proposal evaluators. Remember, less is more.  

Sales Forecasting Is A Must

A well-crafted sales plan, paired with precise sales forecasting, can empower you to focus on growing your business instead of constantly reacting to sales and marketing fluctuations. By forecasting your sales, you can gain a clear understanding of your customer base and anticipate future sales trends

Begin by analyzing last year’s sales data and identifying key factors such as new customer acquisition and loss, average sales per customer, and seasonal fluctuations

Reach out to major customers to gauge their future purchase plans and make informed assumptions about new customers based on market research. 

Utilize your forecast to plan for necessary resources and stay one step ahead in the game. 

Sales Assumptions

Changes can greatly affect your sales and they happen more often than you’d think. Sales assumptions can form the foundation of your forecast and help you understand the potential impact on your business

Including numerical data and the reasoning behind your sales assumptions will enable other sales leaders or team members to evaluate whether they’re realistic or not.

Here are some examples of assumptions that may be considered:

  1. The Market
    • The market you operate in is projected to experience a 5% growth in demand for your products or services.
    • A new competitor is expected to enter the market, potentially impacting your market share by 3%.
  2. Resources
    • The market you operate in is projected to experience a 5% growth in demand for your products or services.
    • A new competitor is expected to enter the market, potentially impacting your market share by 3%.
  3. Overcoming Sales Barriers
    • You have implemented a new digital marketing strategy, which is expected to drive a 40% increase in website traffic and online sales.
    • Your company is launching a new loyalty program, which may increase customer retention and repeat purchases.
  4. Your Products Or Services
    • You are launching a new product line, which is expected to generate significant revenue within the next two years.
    • You have a product that is facing increased competition, and sales are expected to decline.

New businesses should base their assumptions on market research and wise decision-making. It’s crucial to frequently re-evaluate and adjust these assumptions as needed to guarantee the precision of your sales forecast.

Related: Choosing Callbox for Sage Lead Generation Proven to be Wise Decision

Avoiding Forecasting Pitfalls

Forecasting is a crucial aspect of any business, but it’s not always easy to get it right. Here are five common pitfalls to watch out for:

  • Wishful thinking: The key to making accurate forecasts is to ground them in reality by looking back at past predictions and evaluating their accuracy. Don’t settle for the bare minimum in your sales projections, instead strive for realistic and achievable targets.  
  • Ignoring assumptions: Imagine you’re launching a new product in a highly competitive market. Before you invest time and resources into your account-based sales strategy, it’s crucial to ensure your sales assumptions align with your forecast. Without this alignment, you could be faced with conflicting information that could cripple your efforts. For instance, if you expect a decline in market share but forecast a significant increase in sales, it’s clear that something is off. 
  • Moving goalposts: Once your forecast is finalized, stick to it. Making excessive adjustments can distract you from your targets.
  • No feedback: Your team may have valuable insights into your customers’ buying patterns. Allow for feedback from customer interactions, and reach a consensus on established goals.

After creating your sales forecast, it is important to have it reviewed by someone with more experience or an expert in their field, such as an accountant or a senior sales leader, to ensure its accuracy and identify any potential issues.

Leveraging The Right People And Resources

Business leaders would often attribute losing important sales to sales professionals being possessive towards clients, reluctance to work with others, or thinking that they have to reinvent the wheel every time they sell.

That’s simply not true.  In reality, it’s because sellers often forget to capitalize on opportunities to bring in top talent and resources to aid in crucial sales. 

There are lead management solutions maestros who can help because of:

  • Deep industry and functional expertise
  • Strong executive-level connections
  • Unique capabilities, such as needs analysis, solution crafting, negotiation and agreement making, presentation, and events facilitation
  • In-depth understanding of the buyer’s company
  • Professionalism and credibility, including the right personality, background, and gravitas

Who can leverage the right resources:

  • Intellectual capital, including case studies, presentation material, and product and service information
  • Opportunities for buyer interactions and needs discovery resources and tools
  • Guides for sales conversations, opportunity planning, account planning, objection handling, and solution crafting
  • Industry and functional expertise guides
  • Proposal checklists and strategies for winning against competitors
  • Sales and Marketing messaging resources

Imagine the potential benefits if these resources were available and utilized by sellers. It would eliminate unnecessary tasks, improve decision-making, and allow for greater creativity in closing deals.

The Importance of Anticipating Change

Change is the only constant in business.  To be successful in anything, one must be able to anticipate and adapt to these changes with agility. Sure, plans may not always pan out as expected, but that’s why they call it “planning” and not “perfect execution.” 

Be honest though, did you ever get to where you are exactly how you thought you would?

It’s not what you plan to do, but how you plan to do it.

Once a plan is written, it increases the likelihood that you will execute it, and even allow other sales leaders to challenge, vet, and improve it.  Plans may end up being 80% worthless in the long run, but it’s the vetting and improving where the real value comes from.

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