In my latest book entitled, 6 Steps To Effective Key Account Management,’ the 6th step discusses how to evaluate progress of the account plan. This is best achieved with a robust Activity Plan that guides the key account person to flawless execution. Here’s an excerpt from my book.
There are two contentious issues most key account managers face almost immediately after the approval of the account plan: execution and evaluation. It’s where the rubber meets the road. We noted earlier that an account plan is a bad plan when it lacks a plan of execution.  The execution tool proposed in this book is the Activity Plan. In this chapter, we will discuss how to gauge the results of your efforts as mostly outlined in your Activity Plan to increase your chances of success and that of your key account.
Avoid the ‘If-it-ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it’ mentality. Evaluation of performance and the process to achieve it does not cease even when you have achieved or even surpassed your objectives. You still need to evaluate what happened so you can have a basis or reference for future plans. However, do not ‘copy, paste’ or simply duplicate your effective strategies and action steps as each situation is unique.  Albert Einstein once defined insanity as, ”doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Think about this quote for a minute and ask yourself, does this apply to the way I develop an account plan? Do I employ the same set of strategies and tactics? Sometimes, your most dangerous enemy isn't your competitor, but your old ways of doing things.
Steps in The Evaluation Process
Begin your evaluation process by going back to your objective. What did we want to accomplish and why? Make your Activity Plan handy at this point.
1. Go back to your objectives.
2. Evaluate the strategies you employed. Did you choose the right brands? The right approach at the right place and time? Remember, strategy is a choice where, when and how to compete to win. By consistently tracking outcomes from each strategy and tactics, you will find out what works and what doesn’t. This provides you with systematic judgments as to what went right and what went wrong in the plans.
3. Evaluate outcomes for each key sales drivers (KSDs). What are key sales drivers? They are critically important factors that directly contribute to the attainment of a sales objective. Meaning, key sales drivers have major impact on sales performance. There may be other external factors that affect sales performance, but you only need to focus on critical ones within your control.  A key account manager must identify and understand the key sales drivers of each account. A SWOT analysis is a tool you may use to identify areas in each sales driver that remain unserved or under-served by suppliers.
4.        Evaluate Execution of Each Planned Activity
Discuss your collective evaluation with all persons involved and responsible in making your plans happen. This is usually done in a meeting you will arrange where everyone from phase one is present.  Begin the meeting by showing the objectives, strategies and all the elements in the Activity Plan.  Inculcate a culture of excellence by celebrating even small successes. Thank and congratulate. Praise and honor. Massage egos. You know the drill.
Write to Document Your Key Learnings
As you track progress of the plans, you should be able to gather along the way some important information and insights you may not have obtained during the planning process. Keep a written record of all these as you will need them in the evaluation phase.  What did you learn? What are your insights? Oftentimes, people in the business write the minutes of the meeting but do a poor job in documenting key learnings or insights. You need to be able to intelligently draw insights from what just transpired so you can sharpen your ability to plan. This simple exercise also helps you build your cognitive ability. So, do it!
You may want to follow this simple format I use to organize my thoughts.
1.                 WHAT are my observations? What are the facts and figures? What stories are they telling me? In this step, just state your observations without making any interpretation yet. The next guide question will handle that.
2.                 SO WHAT?What are the implications to our business? To our relationships? What do they mean to us? To our customer? To our competitors? In this step, you are trying to look for causal relationships  -  a cause and effect.
3.                 WHAT NOW?What specific decisions or actions should I make to improve my current position in the account?
Here’s another benefit: writing down your learning and reflecting upon them enhances the meaning of your work. In their book, authors Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick discuss that, “Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning.…To reflect, we must act upon and process the information, synthesizing and evaluating the data. In the end, reflecting also means applying what we've learned to contexts beyond the original situations in which we learned something.”
Emilio Macasaet III is Partner and the Chief Distibution Strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc., the only advocacy-based training and consulting firm focused on marketing, sales, strategy and innovation. For inquiries, email or call 584-5858.