Monday, July 17, 2006

Account Planning in a Web 2.0 world

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i met with a company today that i think is at the point where enterprise Web 2.0 could have a dramatic impact on the sales and services organization. actually- i know it will-i monitor some of their employees' blogs- i just hope i get invited to play along.

i have posted about Web 2.0 in the enterprise before and many of my posts revolve around things like OS from everywhere and social bookmarking in the enterprise space. During my day job, i typically look at the external information as used across a variety of different groups in the enterprise. Basically my elevator 5 second pitch is delivering the right information to the right person at the right time- when and how they want it- how? with an information delivery strategy into the users' everyday tools.

In the last year i have spent a lot of time with sale operations folks who are tasked with making sales people smarter, better and they can make...yes you guess it...more money. They might give them
different titles like Account Managers at banks or Account Executives at a high tech firms or even consultants, but they all are looking for the same thing- how do we help our sales team know their customers, industries, triggers, competitors etc. and facilitate decisions and action based on that information?

One of the integration points that i think is extremely important and where the power of web 2.0 application will be felt, is in the Account Planning process. Account Plans are typically part of enterprise sales processes, most of the companies i run into have them- some implemented successfully (the sales teams benefit from the creation of them) and others not so successfully-(management makes it another administrative duty with little to no value for the sales staff). i believe that with web 2.0 - the notion of account planning- or strategically thinking about your sale can change and the account plan will become a 'living document' that travels with the sales team wherever they go- not owned by one but shaped by many.

In today's meeting we had a discussion that i have been having over and over again about automating the account planning process. Something i have delivered before- identifying the external data fields that apply to a specific section of the Account Plan(AP)- and facilitating the input of that data into the AP- which can be in a Word document, a CRM system etc. With Web 2.0 features, an account plan can even grow beyond that and follow the user as they journey across resources available to them to build a strategic winning plan:
  • internal marketing sites } reviewing product specs that marketing have posted- and adding it as a 'note in reference' in your AP
  • internal competitive intelligence web sites } reviewing your competitors offerings as related to that account - and adding it as a 'note in reference' in your AP
  • internet websites } searching and browsing for information about the client, their products their customers -- and adding it as a 'note in reference' in your AP
  • blogs } reading client's corporate and employee blogs - and adding it as a 'note' in your AP
  • e-mails } receiving, sending , deleting- - and adding it as a 'note in reference' in your AP
  • internal documents } finding other proposals for clients in the same industry with similar issues-- and adding it as a 'note in reference' in your AP

A couple weeks back i did a presentation for a client, where i discussed using web 2.0 functionality to do exactly what i outline above. I mocked up a quick page for that discussion modeled after services like Kaboodle-(see below) essentially a Sales Account planning 'cart' if i may call it- that quickly allows the user to add it to a specific section of the AP (a structure sales process needs a structure format), allows for user notes and even tags and is easily shared with other team members (and management) on demand from wherever they may be.

The end result- if that is what the company is looking for is a well defined document- probably in Word or in a PDF format- but the act of creating that document is from a contextual bookmarklet type of application that follows the user- storing the knowledge that the sale person gained in 'real time' during their journey and straight into the corporate memory.

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