It is understood that within many organizations there are existing account managers who have either been trained or who are extremely gifted and intuitive in the art and science of strategic account management. These are often the top achievers in the organization. They often need little guidance and development; however additional development, and exposure to new ideas, processes, and skills are usually welcomed.
There are however, differences between the role of a traditional account manager and today’s strategic account manager in many organizations. The role “Strategic Account Manager” (SAM) itself helps clarify a need for differences based on the outcomes of an organization’s account segmentation exercises. Greater clarity on title and role within the formalized program often benefit all account managers; including the top achievers. Some organizations have also chosen the terms GAM (Global Account Manager), and CAM (Corporate Account Manager). What is most important is that differentiation of role from a traditional account manager is positioned to best serve the organization, as well as those accounts deemed as “strategic”.
Many organizations already have some account managers who may function very similar to what we are referring to as a Strategic Account Manager. The most significant advantages of the title of SAM (Strategic Account Manager) often include:
- Appropriating a clearer title and level of empowerment (may also include higher grade level positioning) to establish and maintain senior level account relationships within their accounts, as well as enable internal initiatives
- Provides a more Peer-to-Peer level role with senior leaders in their accounts when today’s lack of depth of internal senior leadership makes ongoing “peer-to-peer” exchanges more challenging
- Providing an additional career step opportunity for those who may want to remain in an account / filed focused career role; enables retention of the “best”
- Establishes a more formalized and universally understood role with greater clarity across the organization (including other unique Business Units that may play a critical role on a cross-functional account team) that represents accountability and responsibility for executing all of the organization’s preferred strategic account management “best-in-class practices”; “their way”
The underlying benefit of a more formalized SAM program is enabling the organization to create a common operating platform to achieve continued (well into the future) organizational excellence in the art and science of strategic account management; ensure the retention of their most significant accounts for the long-term.
As part of their responsibility of retaining a strategic account is the SAM’s coaching of any “Loyalty” type survey results. The SAM’s role in the loyalty survey process may include:
- Communicate the value of loyalty survey to account as part of the “strategic account relationship management process”
- Provide correct contact information to project administrator
- Review and assess survey data with team
- Provide interpretation of survey data to “team” and management as appropriate
- Collaborate with “Team Members” and integrate appropriate “action items” based on survey data into strategic account plan
- Coordinate with internal management team to address and resolve any critical issues
- “Close the loop” with account by including appropriate survey data analysis in ongoing “Collaborative Action Planning” with account
My experience and exposure to those companies who continuously strive to be the “best” are those who maintain their competitive advantage by always exploring and adopting new and innovative “best-in-class practices”. It becomes their competitive differentiator and their platform for continued success.
In summary, I recommend that any organization striving to be “best-in-class” review the following “best-in-class practices” checklist and assess their organizations against seven fundamental strategic account management guiding principles:
1 – Are our strategic account management “best-in-class practices” embedded (institutionalized) throughout our organization (across all Business Units) as regular business practices across all account leaders?
2 – Are these “best-in-class practices” inspected and validated on a timely basis?
3 – Are our team leaders with the support of a “Process Coach” driving and accountable for the practices within their teams?
4 – Is our senior management team part of this process?
5 – Do we have a sales information system embedded with methodology and metrics that validate the effectiveness of these practices at the team and program level?
6 – Are we adopting and trying any “best-in-class practices” that will enable us to maintain our competitive position in two years?
7 – Have we put in place career and reward motivators that encourage cross functional teams and team leaders to stay and excel?
What are some of these “Best-in-Class Practices”?
The Proven 8
- Account segmentation; (clients, customers and buyers)
- In-place “process coach”
- Competent Team Leaders placed in positions based on a defined profile
- Advisory board to support and participate in internal account reviews
- Cross-functional teams with a member from account on team
- Defined team member roles
- Senior management support and participation (Executive Sponsorship)
- Appropriately defined Reward System for all cross-functional members
- Client engagement process; who, when, and how?
- Loyalty assessment process
- Knowledge management; Account, relationships, opportunity and financial management
- Ongoing weekly, monthly, quarterly through formalized team collaboration; including reporting, communications and action planning
- Internal business reviews
- External business reviews; Collaborative Action Planning with accounts
- Economic Value Propositioning; creating, delivering and validating economic value
- Strategic and quantitative assessment of:
- Account situation, opportunities, finances and relationships
- Economic Value Propositioning (ROI calculations)
- Development of Strategy and tactical plans (action planning)
- Senior Level relationship building, management and engagement
- Business and financial acumen
- Facilitating, leading, managing and coaching the account team
- Regular team strategic planning/collaborating workshops
- Internal business reviews
- External business reviews with top level executives of our accounts
- Account site visits to our corporate offices with senior level leaders
- Metric-based, sales friendly and methodology rich sales system
- Institutionalized “simple” Strategic Account Plan (format and content)
- Account surveying (Voice of Customer); loyalty indexing
- Internal Profiling/Indexing; account, opportunity, and relationships
- Economic value calculating and capturing
- Strategy assessment and development
7. Measurements and Metrics
- Revenue, profit and EBITDA comparisons
- Internal account situational assessment index
- Relationship alignment and penetration
- Loyalty Index
- Opportunity Qualification and Pipeline Improvement
- Hi-value activity performance
- Economic Value Propositions
- Expectations and accountabilities are established and communicated
- A rewards system is linked to program, team leader and team member success
- Account satisfaction/loyalty is a component of rewards system