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Strategic Account Management A Trojan Horse strategy By Joseph DiMisa What can 21st century strategic account teams learn from the ancient Greeks? Plenty. When Odysseus wanted to penetrate the city of Troy, he ordered construction of a large, wooden horse with a hollow interior to house his Greek warriors. The Greeks towed the horse to Troy’s city walls and presented it as a gift. Thinking they had won the war, the Trojans pulled the horse inside the city and celebrated their victory. The triumph was short lived: In the night, the Greek army vacated the horse, fanned out across Troy, and established a stronghold. While strategic account teams would not want to swarm their customers, or conquer them, they do want to fully serve and penetrate their accounts. So, as the Greeks did, the key is to establish a beachhead in a customer’s organization. Working from a base of influence, a team of knowledgeable, well informed, aptly prepared strategic account warriors can identify the true potential of the account and launch multiple efforts to meet customer needs throughout the organization. Given the increasingly complex business conditions and competition for time, attention, and budgetary dollars, strategic account managers who effectively build this capability will likely enjoy a long-term relationship that will produce significant returns for many years. What it takes to Manage Strategic Accounts Winningly A strategic account is a critical relationship where there is a proven or potential need for one or more of the following: purchasing a broad array of services or products, establishing a long-term collaborative and meaningful relationship, and/or generating significant revenue over multiple years. With strategic accounts, the means to success is not an army prepared for battle, or a group of aggressive “hunting” sales people, but a team that builds credibility, trust, and thought leadership through a positive and mutually beneficial relationship with key contacts. Taking on strategic account management is a role, not a job. Individuals functioning in this role face a demanding set of accountabilities, including the following:  Increasing lead flow and growing profitable revenue through more effective strategic account relationship management,  Effectively managing key accounts as the company’s most important assets,  Leveraging the company’s products or services and developing business across a broad network of customer contacts, and  Contributing to the overall improvement of strategic account capability within the team. Strategic account management starts with understanding who the customer is and how they would like to be served; it culminates in trust and respect. Figure 1 captures the nuance and behavior that distinguish strategic accounts from transactional sales. Strategic accounts require a business-based orientation and building personal relationships. It’s not about “here is what we offer” but rather about “these are the business problems we solve.” Clearly, the account team must be skilled in the behaviors on the left before they can move to the right, but building the capability to demonstrate those right side behaviors is critical. From To Sales Orientation Impact Orientation Answer Provider Great Questioner Supplier of Product or Service Solution Supplier Sales Professionals Business Professionals Reliable Deliverers Reliable Partners Sales Expertise Trusted Advisor Figure 1: The Shift from a Transactional Mindset to Strategic Account Success Successful strategic account managers employ a rare blend of business acumen and relationship skills, engaging the key account in all facets of the relationship from developing new business and extending current business while delivering on current commitments. They build multiple relationships within the customer organization. Driven by a commitment to impact, they proactively reinforce, measure, and assess their influence on the customer and their ability to differentiate their company from competitors. The Strategic Account’s Trojan Horse: The Strategic Account Relationship Tool Clever strategy helped Odysseus and his band of brothers to triumph; similarly, smart strategy and attention to detail is the key to managing strategic accounts. A Strategic Account Relationship Tool can help managers and team execute that strategy. The tool can be the means to:  Orchestrate the strategic account and oversee delivery,  Discuss ways to expand current opportunities and seek new ones,  Identify the need for and effectively leverage other resources, and  Engage the team in discussing impact and value added in the context of business strategy and results. Figure 2 presents a sample Strategic Account Relationship Tool that can be customized to capture key information about an account and plan for strategic maneuvers. The Strategic Account Relationship Tool is more than a form to complete; it acts as a reference point that can be used to drive results. Employed wisely, the tool enables strategic account managers to actively manage the relationships, the resources, and the value the team is providing to the account. It engages the strategic account team in disassembling the account and the customer relationship to build a winning strategy. The Strategic Account Relationship Tool focuses on the following categories of information. The key is to develop a robust account plan and execute it profitably. sales and service excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 03.2015 Submit your Articles 9


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