Skip to main content

How to Facilitate a Strategic Account Planning Meeting With Customers

strategic account planning

In its simplest form, strategic account planning is your ability to help customers define success in measurable terms, then lay out a roadmap that leads them to their definition of success. If you’re a customer success manager, there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re in constant reaction mode with a never-ending to-do list, hence the value of a well-structured strategic account plan.

Steps for a Successful Strategic Account Planning Meeting

Even though your customers think so, everything can’t always be a #1 priority! Here are the key steps for a successful strategic account planning meeting that gets you and the customer on the same page and puts more responsibility on your customers to clarify priorities so you have the necessary focus to help them.

1. Getting the Right Players

In the ideal scenario, you’d always have senior executive representation in a strategic planning meeting but that’s not usually possible unless your customers are smaller businesses.

The more realistic approach is to make sure you have senior managers present. These are typically VP and director level roles. They understand their organization’s strategic priorities and why they’re important. They also understand how those strategic priorities are shaping their day-to-day operations and the priorities they’re tasked with executing, especially the ones supported by your products.

In other words, the VP and director roles are your best bet to make sure you understand what your customers need to accomplish operationally and why those priorities are important strategically. It’s the best way to get complete context on what’s expected of your organization and how to best meet the customer’s needs.

2. Setting the Agenda

The most important tactic here is to set the agenda and get agreement long before the meeting. You want your customers to come prepared to educate you on the landscape of their organization and how you fit in before you dive into their needs.

Here are the key pieces of the agenda that set you up for a successful meeting. Make sure your customers have this agenda at least a week prior to your meeting. The following agenda will also improve your stock in the eyes of your customers because the emphasis is on their success.

  • Top priorities/outcomes for the customer department and why they’re critical to their success?
  • How these department priorities support the bigger strategic priorities of the customer’s organization?
  • Key obstacles from the customer’s perspective?
  • How will success be measured?
  • How your company/products can best support them.
  • Next steps, action items and priorities.

Notice where your products and company fall in the agenda. Near the bottom! The reason this is critical is because it puts your laundry list for each account into big-picture perspective, the key to determining which items on your to-do list are truly critical (in terms of measurable success) and which ones aren’t. This will be invaluable when it comes time to define action items and priorities.

3. Facilitating the Strategic Account Planning Meeting

Given the agenda above, this is the easiest part of the meeting if you’re a customer success manager. 

Your job is to just keep the agenda on track. You can count on the fact that it will go off track. You just need to bring the discussion back to the topic at hand and let everyone know their specific issues will be discussed at a later point in the agenda.

Be sure to ask WHAT and WHY a lot. Why does that happen? WHAT are you trying to accomplish? WHY is that difficult? WHAT’s the ideal outcome?

Your goal is to keep the discussion focused on the business until you have clarity on top priorities, desired outcomes, obstacles and success metrics. Once you’re there, all action items will be relevant with full context.

4. Getting Consensus on Priorities

This is where a customer outcome approach to strategic account planning pays big dividends. By default, well-defined outcomes can be quantified. That means you can take the customer’s priorities and the associated outcomes and start to bucket each item on your existing to-do list relative to their impact. 

Now the customer is in a great position to prioritize your current to-do list. Going forward, any new item that lands on your to-do list will have to be sequenced into the current priorities based on their impact to the desired outcomes.

As a customer success manager, your job gets a little easier because you’re managing everything in a few buckets that mirror the customer’s desired outcomes instead of managing a long list of single line items without any context.

Bottom line, this approach keeps everything from becoming a hair-on-fire issue that requires immediate action.

5. Defining Resource Requirements for Execution

The one thing that will be evident from the priority list created above is the customer will have to ante up resources to execute some of the to-dos. It’s not all on you!

For each item, both you and the customer can determine your necessary resources and put them into the plan with an owner and target completion date.

Closing the Loop With Product Management, Product Marketing and Sales

After a series of strategic account planning meetings, common themes and needs will emerge across your customer base. It’s a good practice for customer success teams to establish a regular cadence with product management, product marketing and sales to make sure everything they’ve learned is communicated back into the organization as it will be invaluable for future product plans, positioning and sales presentations.

The Value of Strategic Account Planning For Your Organization

As a customer success manager, your top priority is to keep existing customers paying and renewing their contracts. It’s a lot easier to do when both of you can quantify the value they receive from your solutions.

With the strategic account plan, you now have a project plan for making the customer successful in quantifiable terms that are strategic by their definition. It’s a customer reference in the making if they’re not already there.

Equally important is growing the revenue of your accounts. Regular strategic account planning means helps you uncover opportunities to sell add-on solutions that make it easier for customers to execute their priorities and get better outcomes.

It’s a win-win for both parties. Customers get measurable strategic value from your solutions. In turn, you get great references with a predictable revenue stream. 

What’s not to love?

If you want to experience the easiest way to learn customer success value skills with our unique hands-on learning format, contact us to discuss a personalized workshop for your team. Be sure to check out our Outcome-Based Value Framework that simplifies everything by making customer outcomes the starting point for building, marketing, selling and delivering strategic value.

Subscribe to The Product Vibe Monthly to have our best-practice publications sent directly to your inbox.

by John Mansour on May 20, 2024.