5 October 2011
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The Profile of a Successful Strategic Account Manager – Best Practice SAM Behaviors, Competencies / Aptitude, Skills, Style and Intangibles

One of the most common questions that I receive in the area of optimizing strategic account relationships is, what is the profile of a successful and effective strategic account manager (SAM)? This is a very important question, especially considering that this person (the SAM) will ultimately be one of the most critical determining factors of success, or failure, within each of your SAM accounts –

What follows, is a 5 part series of blogs that describes and defines the profile of a successful and effective SAM. We are going to break the definition of the SAM profile down into 5 distinct elements with supporting criteria for you to benchmark SAMs against:

  • Behaviors – The way in which one acts, or conducts oneself
  • Competencies / Aptitude – Capabilities or abilities; innate or acquired capacity for something
  • Skills – Proficiency, facility, or dexterity of an art, trade or technique, that is acquired or developed through training or experience
  • Style – The way in which something is said, done, expressed, or performed
  • The Intangibles

It is safe to say that you may not be able to find a resource who fits the profile perfectly straight out of the box…I have only met a few in my 30 years of SAM experience. Which leads me to this point – there are additional elements of SAM training, coaching, and development that need to be ongoing to ensure a SAM continues to match the profile…but you cannot develop, train, or coach just ANY resource into a SAM – it does take an extraordinary person – which is why the right SAM will deliver extraordinary results for all parties involved.

PART 1 – Behaviors

The first element of the SAM profile is BEHAVIOR. In my experience, it is best to look for a strategic account manager that naturally conducts his or herself as defined in the chart below. This not something I recommend wavering on – while the listed behaviors can be taught and learned, more often than not, such a resource that does not exhibit these behaviors will not last very long in their SAM role and may well cause long term detrimental effects to the overall business relationship.

Here are the key behaviors to look for in a SAM:

Behavior

Description

FILO; First in Last Out The SAM role is by definition, time consuming – there are no short cuts – it requires an individual who is able to and willing to execute and commit to the efforts and time necessary for success.
Exemplary role model / Leader Provides the model for success for the whole team;presentation, quality, communication processes and skills, etc. Reflects being the “best” and/or extraordinary in their role for both the account and the company. Assumes and executes leadership.
Professionalism In all ways presents self, company and solutions in a manner that any account would find extraordinary. Respects others as a matter of everyday life practices.
Customer-centric Places the customer at the center of their business universe. Listens to their customer and responds appropriately. Appreciates the importance of the relationship for all parties.
Fiscally responsible Manages organizational and customer finances as their own.
Measures efforts and progress Maintains a score card to support their action / reaction that might be necessary to obtain goals and objectives. Always knows where they are against goals and expectations.
Willing to take chances / change Appropriately offers alternatives as solutions to challenges. Always thinking how to improve and to resolve issues so they never return. Respects inputs / ideas of others (customers and their own organization) when they may differ from their perspective.
Takes Action Action oriented to get things done and resolved. Works toward timelines, goals and expectations.

While many could add other desired behaviors, it is our intent to help build a base of appropriate SAM behaviors that you can build from for the future. Beginning with a person who demonstrates the above mentioned behavior is a great start to finding an effective SAM – but remember, behaviors only speak to one fifth of the profile of a successful and effective SAM.

Coming later this week in part 2; Competencies and Aptitude!