By Mobolade Ekujumi
A summary of a report by J. Kelly, C. Larson & Dr. J. Kaplan
After The 2008 downturn, executives at Autodesk, the $2 billion design software company, made a surprising discovery. The financial collapse of 2008 had frozen the company’s impressive growth streak and almost all of the organization’s business segments were shrinking—except one notable group; the accounts who had received dedicated sales services and staff. These accounts are referred to as Strategic Accounts. Companies like Siemens, Avaya, and Xerox have indicated that their Strategic Accounts have a growth rate 2 or 3 times higher than average company growth rate.
The highest performing Strategic Accounts Management (SAM) programs focus tirelessly and holistically on their customers’ growth agenda. These programs:
1. Develop account leaders to serve as strategic consultants instead of executing “sales as usual”
The SAM process includes taking a highly customer-centric approach to clients, analyzing their problems and offering a solution-based architecture instead of selling individual products.
2. Identify key decision-makers, and establish and grow relationships with them
Identify your client customer’s most important decision makers and target them for relationship development. Utilize social media to monitor customer’s tweets and RSS updates to have an idea of their preferences and opinions. The point of conscious relationship planning is not to manipulate the customer, but to find proactive ways to achieve more value for both parties.
3. Build executive sponsor programs that operate in the service of sales
Are Your CXOs at Your Service? Executive sponsor programs may not clearly define the executive’s role, which can lead to trouble if the sponsor swoops in or negotiates deals without buy-in from the team that has to deliver.
4. Collaborate closely with clients in account planning
Successful strategic account programs create such a high level of trust with clients that both parties share sensitive business planning information with each other.
5. Invest only in accounts most likely to respond to SAM treatment
High standards for strategic account selection must be imposed. In other words, use a rigorous process. Strategic accounts at Avaya for example must generate at least double digit million dollars in annual revenue.
6. Commit to the SAM program for the long-term
A long-term mindset is important for a SAM program. When you start a program you might not see the return till after a year or two down the line.
7. Impose P&L Responsibility
Give strategic account managers P&L (Profit and Loss) responsibility. By awarding managers the authority to allocate resources across divisions and geographies, companies could truly organize themselves around their clients’ interests, in a customer-centered model similar to that of management consulting firms.
Mo’ is a final year Student at the University of Toronto working full time with the Altitude Accelerator as the Market Analyst. He is currently enrolled in the CCIT program pursuing a specialist in Digital Enterprise Management. With a solid background in Marketing, Digital Media, E-business strategies & Public Relations, Mo’ is also a multi-talented Web designer, radio host & event promoter.
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