The strategic account management process has always been complex. The complexities exist at all levels – thinking, documenting, presenting and reviewing. Therefore, key account managers dread that time of the year that they need to create account plans.
Taking you through the entire process may be a bit too long for a blog. But in this one let me make the ‘thinking’ part a little easier with frameworks and directions for a phenomenal account planning exercise.
Understand account information in terms of revenue/profitability/growth, products/services, geographic spread and the account’s strategic initiatives for the year.
This is publicly available data that can be easily found so it makes no sense to not use this to analyse your client’s financial position.
Voice of Customer (VoC)
What are the challenges, concerns and problems clients been talking about?
How can you address those problems with products/services of your company?
This kind of an insight is usually not available publicly. It involves having an in-depth discussion with customers to understand their pain points which can help in new product development or even tweaking the current product to suit their true requirements.
The success of this depends on the quality of relationships between the client and their customers, knowledge of both customer’s and your business.
Relationship Stage with Account
You can have multiple types of relationships with clients, and they can be either Tactical, Cooperative, Interdependent or Strategic. You can use a simple weighted attribute method to arrive at one of the four.
Relationship Study with People
Sketch an organization chart with hierarchies, titles and roles of all the contacts that matter. What is also helpful is to identify your supporters/detractors/champions among those contacts.
Who controls what budgets?
Who influences whom, both positively/negatively?
Growth Areas and Whitespaces
Based on the above 4 data points, identify the buying centres in the account and map which of your products/services is consumed in which buying centres.
That can give you an idea of two types of growth areas:
Finding out the which of the existing projects/contracts/business can grow this year is where mining can happen.
What are the new opportunities that can be explored this year in your strategic account management process? That’s where farming growth comes in!
All this can allow you to set yourself a revenue goal for the year.
To achieve the goal, list down action items, specific activities and the support required along with timelines.
I am a firm believer in keeping the strategic account management process simple and yet powerful. Over-analysis can lead to paralysis so keep it short and simple. I would emphasize more on action items and numbers, less on theory.
In today’s dynamic business world, I would also change the plan if there are any dramatic changes in the situation changes. Don’t constrain yourself by a rigid plan, make changes and roll with the punches.