May 16, 2018
Strategy, Process and Tools for Strategic Account Development
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Organizations of all sizes often have a similar issue around developing Strategic Accounts. For larger companies, one issue that comes up repeatedly is the right-hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Silos are built up and hard to break through. For smaller companies and start-ups, most of the revenue comes from a just a few accounts. Yet, resources are tight and monthly/quarterly revenue targets take precedence over longer-term sales cycles.
In all scenarios I recommend a three-tiered approach that would include organizational strategy, management process and workforce tools/skill.
From a strategic prospective, organizations need to understand the value of going after and winning specific accounts. In addition, once an account has been closed for initial business, continual account growth needs to be a priority. From the top down, strong communication throughout various business lines and cross-functionally within divisions needs to be fostered.
I’ve worked with so many diverse clients where this is not the case and as a result, they are missing a huge revenue opportunity to leverage the accounts that they already have and grow revenue exponentially.
Understanding the importance of communication and strong cross-functional engagement is the first critical strategy to the initiative. Objectives, Timelines, Resources, etc., must be committed to and adhered to, so that specific goals for Strategic Accounts are reached.
In addition, there needs to be an assessment of the internal resources to have the correct personnel in place to lead and manage Strategic Accounts. This person or team needs to be customer-centric. The ideal Strategic Account Manager is a problem solver and one who is respected enough internally to be able to marshal the resources needed to effectively work with Strategic Accounts.
Building strong business relationships is the key objective with Strategic Accounts – to learn how to achieve that desired, but elusive goal of becoming an integral part of the account’s business, not just an undifferentiated vendor.
To create, develop, and maintain a strong and enduring business-based relationship – the three necessities to have are Credibility, Trust and Comfort.
Building strong business relationships really begin with the initial interactions. Credibility comes first and will need to be established with all account contacts. Achieving Trust and ultimately Comfort with your organization are more difficult and require long range engagement.
Once a strategy for high potential account development is initiated, there needs to be a specific process outlined to effectively manage the ongoing sales cycle.
Progressing the sales cycle, closing business, implementing solutions and building strong business relations is about playing the long game. And as such, needs to be viewed that way. Create key action items with resources/persons responsible and concrete timelines. Establish KPIs – both performance and results metrics. Follow-up is critical, along with timely follow-through. Here’s a saying to remember when thinking about creating a tight process – What is Inspected is Respected!
Here are four specific tools with the overall goal of building strong business relationships needed to successfully develop Strategic Accounts.
1. ASSESS THE ACCOUNTS TOOL
Time is always a limited resource. Therefore, it is critical that it be used working on accounts with the highest payoff.
2. ACCOUNT MAPPING TOOL
This tool is designed to help explore the full dimensions of account-decision-making.
Managing Decision Stakes is based on the premise that to effectively orchestrate a positive decision, one must analyze the full extent of a person’s involvement in the decision and the impact on the decision – two sides of the coin.
3. VALUE ENGAGEMENT TOOL
People look for value. That single issue underlies every decision they make. In a Strategic Account, it’s imperative to know Who does What…and What does Value mean to that specific contact.
Value Engagement Tool helps the account representatives zero in on the value expectations of specific contacts within a strategic account and to build a value-based foundation for the sales efforts.
The tool helps to create a series of value messages unique to and focused on the interests, tolerance for detail, and functions of each contact that needs to be engaged. There is no one message for every account contact. One message does not fit all.
4. ACCOUNT TRACTION TOOL
Account Traction helps build upon success within the account by helping to drive your value throughout the account.
In other words, how to gain traction in the account by leveraging your presence … developing opportunities you see … and sustaining your value-based momentum within the account.
As the title of Strategic Account Development suggests…. it’s strategic. The strategy relies on ongoing work, critical planning, and skillful execution……and having the tools in place to implement and execute the plan. And remember, once all of this is in place creates a tight management process….
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