Strategic Account Management may be accepted by the organization and the leadership as a good Account Management practice, but it is not devoid of challenges. Once the managers start practicing it, they realize the real-world problems or rather, challenges that they must face while creating strategic account plans. Let’s take a good look at the 7 Big Challenges faced while creating strategic account plans. Where did we get this top secret information?
Straight from the managers themselves and their organizations, of course!
1. The eternal tug-of-war between short-term and long-term
Even when the organization has made a policy decision of having a Strategic Account Management cell for Key Accounts or Strategic Accounts, some managers may find it difficult to choose between the short term and long term.
Many times, the short-term wins as it is more achievable and managers often feel a quick sense of accomplishment. That’s exactly where the challenge lies; to choose the long-term over the short term when the situation so demands. It isn't enough for managers to hit short-term goals and give themselves the pat on the back, it is integral to concentrate on strategic account plan goals like maximization of customer lifetime value too!
2. Having access to an effective strategic planning tool
Strategic account management needs more work than normal accounts and hence better tools. Although strategic account plans are about building key relationships and nurturing them, this process does need to be automated. There are various strategic account planning softwares and tools available that help the managers in planning and managing their strategic accounts well.
But having access to a suitable tool may be a challenge, to begin with. Challenges of strategic account management can be overcome by ensuring the planning tool is made a part of the responsibility of the strategic management team and the leadership.
3. Having a good relationship with all key customers (other than that one key customer) within each Strategic Account
It's not enough to have a good relationship with just one key person within one Strategic Account. People move from one organization to another. Strategic Account Managers cannot afford to put all their eggs in one basket and need to form good relationships with other key people within the Strategic Account.
This ensures that a great account isn't lost, simply because the biggest influencer left the organization. A dynamic OrgChart can be extremely helpful to ensure that Strategic Account Managers know exactly where the influencers and detractors lie in an organizational hierarchy.
4. Interacting with enterprise-level organizations and key buyers at the top level
Strategic Account Planning requires a CXO-level management involvement in any client. This bottleneck may arise due to a lack of training. This is very easily rectified with proper recruitments, training and a top-down approach to Strategic Account Management.
5. The actual implementation of the Strategic Account Plans
Strategic Account Plans will remain so unless they're put into action by a motivated Strategic Account Manager. The biggest detriment of a Strategic Account Plan is actually its implementation and thus it must be taken into account while creation.
6. Formulating a fair and comprehensive compensation policy for Strategic Account Managers
Since the conversion in a Strategic Account happens over a period, incentive planning and compensation for Strategic Account Managers cannot be the same as your Salesforce, yet needs to be fair. Proper metrics need to be defined and implemented, which is a major HR challenge. It will keep evolving over time and will vary from organization to organization.
7. Training and skills in strategic account management
What kind of training and skill sets do Strategic Account Managers need to acquire and how frequently do they need to be trained, is often the question. It's a crucial decision that leadership needs to take, as it is not a good idea to take chances with the capabilities and delivery of the Strategic Account Managers. We are certain there are many more such challenges and that we can list more than the seven mentioned here.
What is essential to this subject is the fact that the Top Challenges for high performers do differ from the Top Challenges of the average performer. Average performers are more concerned about the most fundamental challenges that are lower in the challenges hierarchy, such as ‘having access to an effective strategic planning tool’ and ‘the tussle between short term and long term goals’.
On the other hand, high performers would be more concerned about challenges such as ‘fair compensation policy for strategic account managers based on sales results’ and ‘effective ways of building and communicating value’. Do share with me, your top Challenges of Effective Strategic Key Account Plans/Management!