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Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plans

Consistent b-to-b account growth is often hindered by organizations creating barriers to cross-selling and up-selling. This white paper outlines the 3 critical components of Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plans that high performing b-to-b organizations use to eliminate those barriers and excel at organic account growth.

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Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plans

  1. 1. 1 Companies should be selling more to their existing customers. Yet, year after year, too many don’t, resulting in increased burden and expense to acquire new clients. Consistent, predictable account growth is usually hindered by organizations inadvertently creating barriers to cross-selling and up- selling, such as: Compensation is not aligned for people to focus on growing their accounts 
 Lack of time or resources are available to the account manager to grow the account 
 Account growth potential is not properly identified so accounts are improperly assigned to the wrong people Too many accounts spread account leaders too thin 
 Lack of account planning frameworks and templates Pressure to focus on short-term results vs. long-term growth Account leads don’t know enough about the other offerings of the organization to know how they would be valuable to their client 
 Account leads don’t trust other areas of their organization, or are territorial about their pieces of business Management doesn’t bring the right people together to explore ways they can add more value to clients Existing personnel don’t have the skills to fully explore the value they can offer to clients internally Conversely, high performing organizations excel at organic growth (i.e. generating incremental revenue by selling additional products or Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plans services beyond the initial client engagement). They do so by doing at least two things better than their mediocre peers: 1. THEY UNDERSTAND THE PRINCIPLE OF VALUE CREATION They know the more clients value you, and what you bring to the table, the more they’ll buy from you by allowing you to expand the relationship. Value is defined as the monetary worth of something; that is, whether and how much someone will pay for something. Value creation hinges on honestly answering these questions: Why does the client buy from you now? Why are they willing to pay what they pay? What else would they be willing to buy from you, and at what price? 2. THEY EMPLOY EFFECTIVE STRATEGIC ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT (S.A.M.) PLANS Designed to assess additional value firms can bring to their accounts. S.A.M. Plans allow for internal and external collaboration with specific personnel to co-create value in innovative ways. All good S.A.M. Plans analyze, strategize, and communicate additional areas of value a company can offer their accounts and include the following three components: i. Relationship Evaluation ii. Right Players Fulfilling Distinct Roles iii. Regularly Scheduled Planning Meetings S.A.M. Plans ensure your firms’ offerings resonate with your clients and the current reality they’re dealing with. They help you more effectively demonstrate how your client’s pain points can go away, or how your solutions provide an attractive enough upside, that they’ll be open minded enough to consider your solutions. And when it comes time to share incremental offerings, S.A.M. Plans help
  2. 2. 2 Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plan you differentiate and make it easier for you to stand out from the other available substitutes. And finally, when you’re ready to close a deal, S.A.M. Plans inform how you can mitigate the client’s risks by helping them believe that you can deliver on your promises. You’ll be better able to substantiate via process-framed case studies, pricing models, and/or warranties. ...What Buyers Say Weak Resonance Difficult to Substitute Able to Substantiate ➟ “I don’t need it.” Strong Resonance Easy to Substitute Able to Substantiate ➟ “What’s your best price?” Strong Resonance Difficult to Substitute Not Able to Substantiate ➟ “I can risk it.” I. Relationship Evaluation Ask most salespersons or account managers about the strength of their core client relationships and they’ll say, “Great. Rock solid. Very deep.” However, too often they are commenting on how much rapport or trust they feel they have with the client instead of through the lens of business value the client receives. More enlightened questions include: “ Can your team call top management and get through easily?” “ If your relationship with the account ended, how difficult would the majority of people there perceive it to be to replace you?” “ Would the account themselves describe their relationship with you as trivial, worthwhile, important, or essential?” The companies that grow accounts are analytical about relationship analysis
 and specific about their relationship growth strategies. They view relationships less on how much they like each other and more on the business value of the relationship as the client perceives it. Specifically, they map out three areas: 1) 3x3 Relationship Mapping Client’s Boss Client Peer Client Client Peer Client Subordinate 2) Personality Profiling 7 Persona types, each requiring different sales approaches: Decisive Danielle – Code name “Driver” Decisive Danielle is directive. She solves problems in a decisive, active, and assertive manner. She’s proactive, results driven, and wants to win. If you’re dealing with Danielle, she might seem pushy and overbearing, and may lack tact. She’s probably pretty demanding and wants things to happen her way and in her time‑frame. Collaborative Claire – Code name “Consensus” Collaborative Claire is the yin to Decisive Danielle’s yang. Collaborative Claire likes to solve problems with other people. She’s deliberative, tactful, diplomatic, and adaptable. In a world where people can be pretty blunt, it’s likely you’ll find her to be respectful of you and everyone else. Relationship Renee – Code name “Friend” Relationship Renee is interactive. Social interaction and engagement are important to her. She’s enthusiastic, a creative problem solver, a team player, and (of course) a relationship-builder. She likes the big picture, and she’s not shy about taking up a lot of air time in discussions. A question or two will really get her going. Skeptical Steve – Code name “Guardian” Skeptical Steve is the yin to Relationship Renee’s yang. Steve is introspective. He’s a reserved critical thinker. Skeptical Steve won’t embellish and doesn’t want you to do so either. It takes a while for Steve to develop trust with people, which can be great for you if you put in the time and effort. (By the way, Steve doesn’t mind being called a skeptic. He’s proud of the realism he brings to the table.) Analytical Al – Code name “Spreadsheet” Past success is an indicator of future success. The way it’s been done, established methods, and data are important to Analytical Al. This doesn’t mean he won’t lead the pack and do something new, it just takes a lot of processing for Al to take a leap of faith. Al’s cautious. He follows rules, procedures, and established standards. He’s a comprehensive problem solver because he examines from all the different angles. Innovator Irene – Code name “Maverick” Innovator Irene is the yin to Analytical Al’s yang. When it comes to rules, procedures, and how things were done before, Irene couldn’t care less. While Al might say, “Past success is an indicator of future success.” Irene would say, “What got us here won’t get us there.” Innovator Irene develops ideas and strategies independent of rules. She’s informal and solves problems creatively. Boundaries are for testing, pushing, and crossing…that’s what Irene says. (Anyone who has a 3 year old has met this side of Irene.)
  3. 3. 3Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plan 3) Relationship Strength Matrix RELATIONSHIP STRENGTH PARTNERSHIP PERCEPTION OF VALUE RELATIONSHIP LOSS EFFECT REACTION TO REPLACEMENT COMPETITIVE BIDDING REPLACE US BY THEMSELVES 5 - Essential “Trusted Partner” Proactive strategic co-development (partnership with power) Breakthrough Catastrophic difficulties Fights Rare or “through the motions” bidding, typically shape procurement No 4 - Important “Strategic Suppliers” Proactive input (access to power) Major Major challenges Resists Sometimes sole source, sometimes “shape” bidding process Unlikely 3 - Worthwhile “Preferred Supplier” Reactive input (some access to power) Some Some challenges May resist Typical - sometimes preferred with early knowledge May listen to overtures 2 - Trivial “Supplier” None (trivial executive access) Trivial to none No challenges Unlikely to resist Typical - rarely have early knowledge Likely 1 - No Relationship N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 0 - Peer / Negative Avoidance of interaction Negative Benefits outweigh challenges Positive Avoidance of including you Yes II. Right Players Playing the Right Position Often account leaders are what we call Relationship Leads. They’re historically experts in a particular area of products or services the company offers. They often sell a lot of—and do a great job with— the area that they have historically sold. Their relationships with at least a few stakeholders at accounts are solid. However, they frequently don’t: Drive the account-growth process— they’re commonly happy with the business they have (even if they wouldn’t say it) 
 See the opportunities where their company can offer value outside of their personal area of expertise and comfort zone 
 Do a good job building account plans 
 Stay on top of implementation (if they do happen to build an account plan)—they don’t act on action plans consistently, don’t find new buying centers, create new opportunities, and if they do, they don’t win them often enough The key is to not try to find one person who can do everything well, but rather to make sure everything that needs to get done gets done well by assigning an appropriate team.
 There are six distinct strategic account management roles that must be played to maximize account success. These are: Relationship Lead Entrepreneur Innovator Technical Expert Project Manager Skeptic
  4. 4. 4 Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plan of below-average performers struggle with cooperation and collaboration among various groups at their companies. 36% (People may play several roles; rarely is any one role “dedicated”. Also, people can play these roles for multiple accounts. The key is to foster a culture of collaboration). RELATIONSHIP LEAD This role is the embedded player on the account who creates and strengthens relationships. This person defends against competitor inroads by staying abreast of how the client’s business is performing and how your firm is delivering on your promises. When a good Relationship Lead is missing, you don’t penetrate accounts deeply, and repeat business suffers. ENTREPRENEUR Entrepreneur leads the charge for maximizing business inside the account. Entrepreneurs are itching for growth. Many companies think their Relationship Leads can be molded into Entrepreneurs but that rarely works. Good entrepreneurs are more focused on what’s possible than who or how something can be sold. INNOVATOR This is the visionary who understand the marketplace and creates new capabilities. Innovators are internal evangelists for the breakthrough change your company can create for clients. The higher up you go within a client’s executive-level, the more this kind of vision and energy is appreciated. Otherwise, clients lose interest and you end up working a level, or two, or six lower in their organizations. Three Optional (or Outsourced) Roles: TECHNICAL EXPERT Technical Expert is the specialist / analyst / technician who has relevant depth of knowledge in specific areas and the ability to solve problems and facilitate discussions in technical areas. When the Technical Expert is missing, your possibilities are limited and ideas get shot down when “it can’t be done” trumps “we can figure it out.” PROJECT MANAGER The Project Manager is the organizer
 of the process that helps the Relationship Lead optimize the revenue possible from the account. Good Project Manager gets necessary resources in place, formulate an actionable, appropriately thorough account plan, and Tracks actions and outcomes When the Project Manager is missing, deliverables may not consistently be run on time or on budget. SKEPTIC Skeptic is the foil, the reality checker, and the devil’s advocate for all the big ideas your team develops to maximize your account success. Skeptic makes sure assumptions are questioned, strategies and plans are tested and vetted (and thus strengthened), and only the most promising opportunities move forward. When the Skeptic is missing, you move plans forward before weeding out the bad ideas. Of the six, Skeptics are most commonly outsources. III. Regularly Scheduled Planning Meetings Companies that don’t have regularly scheduled S.A.M. Plan meetings are clearly not committed to employing a systematic approach to account growth success. Particularly organizations just beginning will require significant time to learn new behaviours and unlearn some bad habits. Change isn’t easy, and only time and committed effort will make the difference. Effective S.A.M. Plan meetings focus on: Outputs: Outcomes of each stage Actions: Core set of activities designed to produce those outputs Concepts: Methods and conceptual models that the SAM team must understand to execute each stage Rising to the Occasion: Understanding what high performers do that sets them apart from the rest Each meeting Agenda should include the following talking points: What is the annual revenue target and how are we trending? What is the overall measure of our relationship with this account? What does it need to be? What do we need to do to get to a stronger relationship level? What are our overall strengths with this account? What vulnerabilities exist with our current relationship with this account? Across all buying centers in this account, where can they benefit from our existing offerings? What will surprise and delight this account? How are we unseating competitors, or preventing their inroads? Who’s responsible for executing these strategies, and when will key actions be completed?
  5. 5. 5 There’s no question that high performers in strategic account management achieve higher revenue growth, profit, and customer satisfaction than the rest. The right training, coupled with the right advisory services, can have a significant effect on your success. At Cult, we help build and execute strategic account management initiatives that achieve the greatest possible success. We’ll work with you to build the processes and skills needed to penetrate, expand, and protect strategic accounts. We help clients succeed by: Build account plans that actually work and result in revenue growth, deeper partnerships, and overall account success. 
 Lead value discovery sessions internally for the purpose of value creation, connection, and co-creation. 
 View needs from the customer’s perspective to strengthen and deepen your ability to create value for accounts. 
 Assess SAM success and determine whether they need to stay the course, pivot, or otherwise adjust the strategy. 
 STRATEGY RESEARCH ACTION PLAN EXECUTION REVIEW OUTPUTS Strategic accounts selection Account goal possibilities Opportunity targets Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Account Plan (start) Account core team Account Plan Account extended team Relationships deepened Opportunities - Created - Expanded - Captured Competitors neutralized Account Scorecard Action plan adjustments ACTIONS Charter team Facilitate Value Discovery Session - Internal Establish success metrics (KPIs) Begin Account Plan Form core account team Gather data to inform strategy Complete Account Plan Tighten plan with “VC Test” Launch plan into action Value discovery and co-creation meetings Alignment activities and organization adapting Core S.A.M. Selling activities Results tracking Short-term action adjustment Shift back to strategy CONCEPTS Maximizing account growth Business strategy Value proposition R|D|S Team building Process and meeting facilitation Systems thinking Conceptual thinking Account plan component specifics Account research principles Internal research principles Aggregating & synthesizing data into big picture Action plan creation process Resource allocation Project management Internal influence Plan presentation “VC Test” Core S.A.M. Selling concepts Influence Principles Conceptual Thinking Systems Thinking Facilitation Success analysis Action adjustment Strategy pivots and reallocations Communication RISING TO THE OCCASION Pro-activity Vision Urgency Value “A” players Not accepting “I don’t know” Research with accounts Excitement creation Influence Resource maximization Value co-creation and partnership execution Company change for accounts Internal trust Building enterprise relationships Relationship embedding Core S.A.M. principles Not skipping review Driving continuous improvement Driving strategy with review Based on validated research from Mike Schultz, John Doerr, and Mary Flaherty, Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management (Framingham: RAIN Group, 2012).
  6. 6. HEADQUARTERS - 1025 10 St SE, Calgary, AB T2G 3E1 Phone: +1.403.228.7949 Email: info@cult.ca