Strategic Account Management is entering a golden age. In times to come, it will have even more importance and will require further discipline and structure. It is beyond doubt that it is becoming strategically significant to organizational success. Hence, it is turning to be formalized and measurable process. To keep pace with the needs of the time, a Strategic Account Manager (SAM) needs to be prepared to respond to competitive pressures within key accounts and also to changes in how large customers buy.
The strategic account management process is about building value-driven relationships with your key customers. It is a synonym of Key Account Management. The strategic account manager’s role is to identify those key customers that generate maximum revenue and profitability as compared to other regular accounts. These managers act as a bridge between the company and stakeholders at the customer side. The idea is to increase customer lifecycle value by starting small like with a free trial or test project, adding value and building trust.
The processes and skills to be a successful Strategic Account Manager can be learned. Here we are giving you few tips on how to be a highly effective Strategic Account Manager.
A critical requirement for success is the skill to spot stakeholders within the key account. Sometimes the Key Account Managers may have to deal with multiplicity of new stakeholders.
Today, it is not just enough to interact with the technical buyers like the engineering managers, IT managers, etc. Key Account Managers these days must engage with finance, procurement and other so called ‘business buyers’.
Only identifying who the stakeholders are, is just not enough. They must understand the requirements of all the different stakeholders – from procurement to technical and finance. It is vital to identify prospective buyers and strong influencers early for being successful.
Grabbing win-win opportunities
To go beyond the obvious and look for new win-win opportunities for making your client’s business profitable, is the most significant trait in being successful in this field. Building strategic accounts comes out to be best when the SAM starts playing a consultative selling role, and looks out for opportunities to add value for clients. These white space opportunities help them in saving money, making more money, or even managing risk. In very simple terms SAMs can achieve this by responding to an opportunity, shaping an opportunity or creating an opportunity, and help the clients in achieving their goals.
Making plan of action
Once they have identified the profitable opportunities for their clients, Strategic Account Managers need to clearly establish a step-by-step approach to achieve all the identified goals. Through proper and meticulous planning, everyone in the organization can function being aligned with each other.
Also, since each account is so critical, there should be an individual plan for each of these. For an effective and successful working relationship with their key accounts, they need to understand the expectations of their clients and design strategies accordingly.
Effective communication and collaboration
Effective communication is the key to set the balls rolling. Communication channels should be kept open all the time. This helps in establishing strong relationships and building trust between all stakeholders.
Frequent discussions and effective use of feedback helps in reducing frictions. By taking directions from the client on a regular basis, and sharing your own approach towards goals helps in establishing a camaraderie, which becomes the basis of a long lasting relationship with the client.
A Strategic Account Manager must try to become a part of the structure of the strategic account’s organization. That is, to make the key accounts dependent and in turn becoming indispensable for them.
This dependence could be operational dependence by channel partnerships. It could also be technological dependence by bringing about systems integration. Another way is to bring about business dependence through financing or introducing any special clauses or terms. Multi-year contracts or automatic renewals can ensure contractual dependence of the clients.
Sometimes, if the client’s plan to hire new key account specialists due to changed preferences, it will be hard for them to separate from your organization without giving a chance to make amendments. Hence, for a long lasting relationship, keeping the client dependant is also a key strategy.
Being innovative and futuristic
Predicting the clients’ needs and preparing to meet those needs is extremely critical. Even before the problems may arise or challenges may come in the forefront, a smart Strategic Account Manager will be ready to meet them. Keeping your team abreast with latest technological innovations and to help forecast the needs of your key accounts is a crucial factor in staying ahead.
The role in a nutshell
Strategic Account Management or Key Account Management (KAM) is one of the most imperative changes in selling that has evolved during the past two decades. KAM is an organizational process used by B2B suppliers to handle their associations with their key customers. KAM is a major change, but the probability of success can be dramatically augmented by a smart Strategic Account Manager.
Strategic Account Managers, needs to establish themselves as valuable partners to their clients. Strategic Account Managers work with the clients to build up strategies for attaining their goals. Strategic Account Managers are tasked with supporting and maintaining the company’s most significant business relationships, which is no easy task. To position yourself as a precious strategic partner to your key accounts and ensure their success, a KAM champion should be passionate about KAM and needs to have superior influencing skills and enormous energy levels.