Julia, tell us about your journey as a Key Account Management Professional and how do you help companies achieve growth through focusing on their strategic partnership with the key account?
I’ve worked in the area of global business strategy for more than two decades. Prior to founding my firm, I was based in the high-growth regions of Asia and the Middle East for many years working in the technology and financial sectors.
I grew increasingly curious about what exactly makes strategic account management “strategic.” I was concerned by the lack of rigor and breadth that strategic account managers were given in their professional development programs.
My research underscored that “strategic” account development was focused on the mere mechanics of strategic planning — and strategic thinking wasn’t even in the picture. This restrictive focus fell short of the strategic challenges that are present in our highly complex and constantly changing world in which senior leaders are being asked to make the strategy.
Now I support senior leaders and strategic account managers worldwide to strengthen their strategic thinking by offering seminars to become more competitive in this highly complex global environment.
When is the right time for businesses to start looking at their client relationships in the more strategic manner?
Anytime and all the time. I believe all client relationships should be assessed within a strategic framework, and this should happen on a continuous, ongoing basis. The nature of strategic relationships is changing rapidly and unpredictably. This means that the criteria for what constitutes “strategic” need to be constantly tested to ensure they are actually aligned with the strategic intent of your business.
What are the biggest obstacles you see businesses face toward becoming more oriented toward servicing & acquiring a deeper understanding of their strategic accounts?
Two things. Firstly, many leaders hold on to a static rather than a strategic mindset. They rely on a prescriptive, linear, rational planning approach. But a complex business environment calls for an ability to think strategically — to be agile, adaptive and expansive thinkers.
Secondly, studies indicate that 90-93% of strategic plans never get implemented. A major reason for this is an insular mindset and an absence of strategic thinking — relegating strategy to the brightest and the best within your ranks. We need to bring in an outsider perspective — mix up the faces, places, and spaces regularly.
Software is eating the world & account management could not escape! Do you feel there is a need of having specialized platforms or software for strategic account management?
There’s no doubt that having specialized platforms and software is at the forefront of account management. However, it would be prudent to not over-rely on convenient, efficient, and essential platforms and software. There’s no substitute for mastery of strategic thinking with its complex thinking capabilities — to identify the underlying premise of data and to critically challenge the fundamental assumptions about the conclusions that software generates.
Will such tech platforms become ‘a must have’ for account managers and their leadership or do you feel it constitutes ‘a nice to have’ capability?
Yes, customized tech platforms have picked up momentum to become a ‘must have’ as a means to efficiently generate and categorize enormous volumes of highly targeted data. However, more bells and whistles don’t necessarily mean better strategic decisions. In order to optimize tech platforms as a ‘must have,’ account leaders need to embed strategic thinking into their repertoire.
What is your one mantra for growing strategic client relationships?
Keep your eyes on all the moving parts and take a broad panoramic view of your strategic issue. And expect constant change, a high degree of uncertainty and complexity. Paradoxically, to grow a strategic client relationship, you need to pay attention to what you can not control in addition to what you can control — these are the things that can undermine a strategy in a cinch.