The Best Account Plans Start in Sales

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By Ashley Hall

It’s me again! Here to be your customer success conscience, reminding you how and why growth plans are a powerful and necessary tool of the trade.  

So far, you know the 5 elements that outline a strong account plan. You also have a firm grasp as to why they’re important as well has how they support your role and also your colleagues. Now I’d like to discuss how you can get account plans going before your first meeting with the client.

My most impactful account plans have greater context from our sales team on what was important to the client at the time of purchase and what their long terms goals were. More importantly they also include relationship details regarding the stakeholders and their purchasing team.

This information is amazing to have organized access to. Why? It’s a great snapshot of their challenges at the time, their main goals at a time when they were evaluating solutions, and a glimpse into their excitement about your product upon purchase.  This intel empowers you as a relationship manager from day one to have full context into their lifecycle with your product and allows you to drive the strategic relationship forward.

There are a number of ways you can kick off the account plan process in sales. In my current role, we pull certain fields from a won opportunity in the CRM into an object both in the CRM and into our account plan document in a collaborative sheet. With a minor investment in development and CRM magic you can be pulling the key data points important to your account plan automatically.

If this doesn’t sound like a feasible solution for your team, I suggest getting started with form submittals (Google Forms are super easy to set up!) or hand off meetings where the salesperson shares the story verbally. Regardless of the method, set up a standard set of 5-10 key points you need from the sales team regarding this opportunity and record it in a place that is accessible company-wide.

What should you be collecting? Here are some ideas on what to start collecting in the sales process.

Client industry

Previous solution your product is now replacing

Summary of the client’s business model

Top challenges the need to solve for now

Long term goals

Summary of their current tech stack or tools

Planned growth or opportunities for cross/up-selling

Special contract terms or agreements out of the ordinary

Immediate action items

Customer success and partnership is a team sport! While the success team may own the retention and expansion goals, every department participates in customer success. Building an open and communicative relationship between success and sales ensures that the client wins every time but also your customer-facing teams.

Curious about learning more on how sales and customer success can work together as a team in your organization? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers a CSM Certification Program that includes selling-focused classes like Uncovering Opportunities and Managing a Selling Cycle. For more information on these classes and workshops, please visit

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Ashley Hall - Ashley loves to lead account management and success teams; from training newbies to building processes out of chaos. Ashley is one of the founding advisors to The Success League, and serves as a regular instructor for the company's CSM Training Program. She is a senior account manager for Copper, and brings her work experiences to her articles and classes. Ashley holds a BA from the University of Colorado, lives in San Francisco, and and enjoys global travel.

Strikedeck Radio - Episode 53


In this week's episode of Strikedeck Radio, Kristen is joined by Jim Johnson, Director of Customer Success at Corcentric to talk about Journey Teams. Jim discusses who is on these special cross-functional teams, how to form them, and how they create an exceptional customer journey. Enjoy!

Strikedeck Radio is a partnership between Strikedeck and The Success League. You can subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Play, and anywhere else you get your podcasts or follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter to get updates on new episodes.

4 Ways To Prevent Sales From Overselling

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By Jeremy Gillespie

Sales is incentivized to close deals and customer success is incentivized to keep those customers. It’s pretty straightforward. But what happens when sales is closing the wrong type of deals? Deals that make it hard for customer success to do their job properly? Tension between the teams can arise and finger-pointing ensues. You may have experienced this yourself.

Growing a sales team is no easy task and being a sales rep isn’t either, but to prevent the sales team from over-selling takes practice. In this post, I’m going to cover four ways you can prevent this from happening.

Why This Needs to Be Solved

This is not a new problem, and it’s certainly not easy to solve, but the reality is - this is bad for the company. To start, it’s generally unprofitable. Of course you capture the initial revenue from the customer, but once sales commission is paid, the client is on-boarded, and time is spent on management you break even at best. However, the biggest cost is the opportunity cost to the company. Precious time and energy is spent focusing on customers who are going to quickly churn, while your best customers could have been getting the white glove treatment.

In addition, allowing this to go on reinforces bad habits. Sales reps who get by on misrepresenting the product, or continually using massive discounts to get sales on the board will continue to do so as long as it goes unnoticed or unchecked.

Lastly, it’s the customer who loses the most. They have purchased a solution and invested time and resources in it, when it ultimately won’t be a good fit for them. You lose the customer’s trust, eliminating any chance to expand the relationship. This can have ripple effect on your reputation in the market. So let’s discuss some ways you can prevent this.

4 Ways To Prevent Sales From Selling Bad Deals

Below are the four ways to prevent this. While there are other tactics you can use, I would suggest starting here.

1. Sales training

This is the number one way to prevent bad deals. Sales training is vitally important not only to get reps to meet quota, but to make sure they’re representing the product correctly. In addition to training, I would suggest you create an internal FAQ for reps to reference during their calls to drive accuracy and consistency.

2. Record & Review

There are a number of tools on the market, which let you record sales calls. Use them. Make it a habit to review calls on a monthly basis, especially while new reps are getting ramped up.  By recording calls you have a way to continually educate and coach reps so they can optimize their message and prevent mistakes.

3. Customer Success Approval

With larger sales opportunities, it’s a good idea to loop in customer success toward the end of the sales cycle. This allows sales and success can go over the requirements from the prospect to ensure your product can fulfill their needs. Some success teams even have veto power over deals (although they need to use it carefully!)

4. Clawbacks

Institute a commission clawback for customers who churn quickly. Clawbacks can be a little tricky, so do your best to make it as fair as possible and only apply it to deals where the customers has been misguided. Doing so will keep retention in the minds of your sales reps. If you prefer the carrot to the stick, try offering the sales team a bonus based on year one retention.

Just as the marketing and sales teams will always have some level of tension, so will sales and customer success. These tactics will align the teams on a common goal, which will help improve the relationship between the teams, as well as churn.

Need to learn more about how sales and customer success can work together better in your organization? The Success League is a customer success consulting firm that offers a CSM Certification Program that includes selling-focused classes like Uncovering Opportunities and Managing a Selling Cycle. For more information on these classes and workshops, please visit

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Jeremy Gillespie - Jeremy is a growth marketing expert who loves using complex data to build creative retention solutions. He is a founding advisor to The Success League, and is also the founder of Built to Scale, a consulting firm focused developing customer acquisition and retention programs. He holds a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and MBA from Point Park University. He's a proud former Pittsburgher, currently living in San Francisco.

Success on the Road: Chicago & San Francisco

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By Kristen Hayer

Last week I was in Chicago training the fabulous team from 4C Insights, and then back in San Francisco working with a couple of different teams, including the Customer Success CAP class at University of San Francisco. Over the past several months I’ve worked with people who were totally excited about training, and others who felt forced into it by their boss or company. This has me thinking about learning a lot.

Two thoughts I wanted to share: First, I’ve used StrengthsFinder with a number of my own teams, and one of the strengths that almost always surfaces for top CSMs is Learner. I believe this is because Learners like to ask questions and listen (great skills in CS!) but also because our field is changing. Those who never stop learning naturally keep up with trends and rise to the top. Second, I think you can always learn new things, even when you’ve covered a subject in the past. Practical tips, new angles on a topic, fresh ways to practice a skill; these are part of the continual learning that is so critical in CS.

What are you doing to continue to learn about our field? How are you helping your team grow their careers in success? Always be learning!