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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.
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
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
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
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 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
Substantiate ➟ “I don’t need it.”
Substantiate ➟ “What’s your best
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
“ 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,
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 Peer Client Client Peer
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
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.)
3Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plan
3) Relationship Strength Matrix
REPLACE US BY
5 - Essential
Rare or “through
4 - Important
(access to power)
Major Major challenges Resists
3 - Worthwhile
(some access to
Some Some challenges May resist
May listen to
2 - Trivial
Trivial to none No challenges Unlikely to resist
Typical - rarely
1 - No Relationship N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
0 - Peer / Negative
II. Right Players Playing the
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
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:
4 Strategic Account Management (S.A.M.) Plan
of below-average performers
struggle with cooperation and
collaboration among various
groups at their companies.
(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).
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 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.
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
Three Optional (or Outsourced) Roles:
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.”
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 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
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
Outputs: Outcomes of each stage
Actions: Core set of activities designed to produce
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
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
Who’s responsible for executing these strategies, and when
will key actions be completed?
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
Account Plan (start)
Account core team
Discovery Session -
Begin Account Plan
Form core account
Gather data to inform
Tighten plan with “VC
Launch plan into
Value discovery and
Core S.A.M. Selling
Shift back to strategy
Process and meeting
synthesizing data into
Action plan creation
Plan presentation “VC
Core S.A.M. Selling
Strategy pivots and
Not accepting “I don’t
Value co-creation and
Company change for
Core S.A.M. principles
Not skipping review
Driving strategy with
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).
HEADQUARTERS - 1025 10 St SE, Calgary, AB T2G 3E1
Phone: +1.403.228.7949 Email: email@example.com