How to be an Effective Strategic Account Manager (SAM) When Driven by Tactical and Reactionary Client & Employer Demands
By: Denny Chapman Jr
As a Strategic Account Manager (SAM) you are required to be overly attentive and supportive of the accounts that fall under your umbrella of responsibility – after all, these are your organization’s STRATEGIC accounts – which is to say, the success of your organization is often directly correlated to the success of these accounts. So it makes perfect sense that most SAMs, unfortunately, heed to their account’s every beck and call, and usually reactively, to keep the relationship solid and mutually beneficial. But what we know now, after 25 years of consulting with the world’s most successful strategic account management organizations, is that the most SUCCESSFUL and EFFECTIVE SAMs are those that stop reacting, and proactively manage the customer to keep and grow the relationships and revenues. What are the ingredients in the secret sauce of these overachievers…? 3 words…PLAN, MEASURE, and ACT.
A wiser person than me once said, “Why run around putting out fires after they happen, when you can PLAN ahead to prevent the fires from happening in the first place”. This is a great metaphor for illustrating the first thing effective SAMs do (the key ingredients of their secret sauce) to proactively manage their strategic accounts. Good SAMs minimize time spent in the reactionary mode by developing and executing their Strategic Account Plan – often more appropriately titled an Account Engagement or Action Plan. Without this critical living, breathing document…a SAM is lost as to what they need to do, and then becomes a glorified service rep, simply reacting and responding to account demands. The best and most effective SAMs work collaboratively with their account(s) and team members to develop the strategic account plan. This planning process is the absolute first thing any SAM needs to do in order to proactively manage their accounts…without a plan your direction may sway and what are you really accomplishing, and how are you accomplishing it?
The second key ingredient of the secret sauce of the most effective SAMs is Peter Druckers’ least kept secret…”If you cannot MEASURE it, you cannot manage it”. Measurements provide you (as a SAM) with benchmark indexes that further quantify the performance of you and the account, and highlight areas of strength and need. Think of all of the measurements that you currently use every day to make decisions about what might happen in the future if you do or do not act…Let’s use your car dashboard to illustrate this principle; when you see your gas needle getting closer to E, you know that your vehicle may not be able to make it very much further on the road, and you have a decision to make – either you make a stop to get gas so your vehicle has the fuel it needs to move, or you do not stop for gas and run out, leaving you high and dry on the side of the road waiting for a friend to help you out. Either way, without such a measurement, you would have no knowledge or indication of what could happen, nor could you PLAN and ACT to make corrective actions.
Which brings us to the final ingredient of the secret sauce of the most successful and effective SAMs; ACTion. What good are the plans you have created, or the performance measurements you take, if you do not take the insight(s) that you learned and act on them for the betterment of the account and the relationship?
In summary, if you are a SAM, or lead a SAM organization, and want to become more effective and successful…then proactively PLAN, MEASURE, and ACT – only then will you be able to transition yourself from fire fighter, to fire prevent-er – and time becomes your friend not your enemy in building strong account relationships and partnerships.