Guy, tell us about how you came to be a Strategic Account Management Professional?
I was fortunate to be part of the team that launched our company’s strategic account management program. I had been in a position where I was leading the curriculum to upskill our key account managers as part of learning and development. At that time, there was no differentiation of account management approaches and much of the focus was transactional in nature.
I was pulled in to lead the overall strategy for building new strategic account management capabilities which included the development of learning programs, resources, and tools. My role has now evolved to include support for our strategic account leaders and their teams through their engagement with customers.
What are the biggest obstacles you face in acquiring a deeper understanding of your strategic accounts?
There are quite a variety of ways that I can respond to this question, but I think there is one that stands out – especially at the beginning of your evolution to strategic account management. That challenge is the mindset. Most people believed we already had a deep understanding of the accounts; however, it was from our company’s lens. Once the account managers began understanding the overall business of the account and starting seeing the world from the customer’s perspective and priorities, not ours, they were then able to start building that deeper understanding.
Software is eating the world & account management hasn’t escaped! Do you feel there is a need of having a specialized platform or software for strategic account management?
I would start by saying that having a flexible, specialized platform can be a significant game changer if built to meet the needs of the account managers themselves and guide the defined account management process.
They can be very powerful tools with the ability to rapidly compile data in a digestible form. You can also use technology to ease the process for account managers and build in immediate access to tools and resources.
However, we have to remember that platforms are only tools. We can perform strategic account management with or without devoted technology. Therefore I would be careful not to imply that a specialized platform or software is the only answer.
Will such tech solutions become ‘a must have’ for account managers and their leadership or do you feel it constitutes ‘a nice to have’ capability?
This is somewhat similar to the previous question. If the solution is built well, so that the account managers see the value in using the solution and do not feel like it is add-on work, it can be transformative. When the account managers would rather use the tech solution than any other methodology, then you move from “nice to have” to “must have”.
What is your one mantra for growing strategic client relationships?
Truly understand your customer’s needs from their perspective so that you can align on areas where you may be able to generate mutual value.
To have a strategic relationship, you must be strategic together.