Subscribe to The Art & Science of Complex Sales

    How to use account planning to improve customer success

    New Call-to-action

    When most sales professionals talk about account planning, they immediately think of how they can maximize the revenue from their existing accounts. Or how they can prevent accounts from selecting a competitor.

    As I’ve been saying in previous articles, I think this is the wrong approach.

    Account planning should be about helping the customer to grow so that you and the customer grow together.

    When viewed through this lens, it becomes clear that customer success is a critical piece of the account planning picture. If the customer doesn’t value the relationship, you can’t grow the account. But beyond that, if the customer isn’t growing, neither is your account.

    The good news is that effective account planning can also help you improve customer success, thereby setting up a positive feedback loop that improves both companies. Here’s how to leverage the process at every step of the way.

    1. How account planning helps with onboarding

    Effective account planning includes collaborating with the customer success team to ensure effective onboarding. This means making sure that all information gathered during the sales process is transferred to the customer success team. The customer success team should begin the process with a clear understanding of what the customer goals are, what was promised to the customer, and what the customer expects to get out of the relationship.

    This information can then be used in onboarding, importing information, and training the customer. An effective account planning process takes into account the importance of all of this and includes the information transfer process as part of account planning.

    2. How customer success affects account management

    Your customer success team is responsible for keeping promises and improving how your customer uses the product/service. All of this information should be captured and returned to the account management team. Likewise, all of the information captured by the account management team should be shared with the customer success team so that they can continue to keep promises and raise the bar.

    Effective account planning includes a plan for what information will be captured by whom, and how it will be recorded and shared. It also includes procedures for ensuring that changes in the account are communicated across the board so that the customer success and sales teams can respond appropriately.

    Account planning should be about helping the customer to grow and to grow together.

    By improving customer success, account management becomes simpler. A happy customer is a stable customer. A customer that is growing because of the value you provide, is a customer willing to buy more.

    3. How account planning ensures account growth

    At Membrain, we actually don’t talk very much about account planning. We call it account growth. Why? Because we don’t believe the “plan” is the whole picture. We believe the whole picture is what happens when the plans are executed and the customer grows, and you grow with them.

    Account planning is focused on how we can help our customers grow. We think this is how it should be. Through this lens, it’s easy to see how customer success is tied up with account growth planning.

    It includes identifying untapped potential, such as the need for more licenses (using our example) and ways to expand the value of their purchase with additional offerings. In traditional account planning, the focus is simply on how much more money you can get out of them. In an account growth mindset, the focus is on where you can provide more value.

    This in turn improves customer success, because everything your sales team is offering is aligned with the customer’s needs. In turn, by providing more value and introducing expanded offerings to help them grow, your company becomes more sticky with them.

    4. Looping in marketing helps too

    The best account planning is collaborative across external and internal stakeholders. When you loop marketing into the account growth process, marketing can use the data inside your accounts to understand what collateral and enablement support you need in order to help your customers grow.

    This then becomes part of your overall account planning process.

    5. Key point: Put it all in your process

    The idea of collaboration among customer success, account planning, and marketing all sounds nice, but how do you actually execute, maintain communication, and create a seamless experience for the customer?


    You need process tools that enable you to create and use a consistent account planning process across all the functions in your organization. These tools need to be easy to use, and make it easy to embed process guidance into each team member’s workflow.

    That’s what Membrain does. Our new account growth module makes it easy to take all of your planning and turn it into checklists, process guidance, and enablement that converts plans into action. We’re in the early access phase - reach out if you would like to explore this new capability to grow your accounts and your business.


    George Brontén
    Published June 10, 2020
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn