With many organizations facing budget constraints and less willingness to invest in new products and services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, account management has never been more useful as a tool for sales professionals to retain and grow their business.
While strategic account management (or key account management) may be linked to sales, it goes beyond just short-term selling and quotas. Instead, it aims to build mutually beneficial partnerships between a company and its key customers. In this way, it is a higher-level, longer term process that starts at the organizational level of a company.
By focusing on creating value for both the client and the seller, strategic account management builds trust between the two organizations and helps your company become an indispensable partner. This increased trust increases the opportunities for you to go “deep and wide” within your accounts and help provide value for an entire enterprise, instead of one department or buyer. The result is that your company will reduce competitive threats, improve client retention and maximize ROI.
Managing your sales at the enterprise level not only helps you grow your business, but it can help remove some of the reluctance a buyer might have to talk to a sales professional like you, especially when COVID-19 has strained budgets and placed further pressure on organizations around the country. A buyer is much more likely to work with you if they feel like they are talking to a potential partner and they are not being sold to.
Strategic Account Managers – Becoming a “Strategic Partner”
Once strategic accounts have been identified at an organizational level, the role of a strategic account manager is to act as the point of contact between the strategic accounts’ stakeholders and the company. They are responsible for nurturing, developing and maintaining a long-term partnership with the customer.
Strategic account managers need to have a skill set that helps them become a solution provider at the enterprise or organizational level. The need to understand organisational priorities; have strong planning skills; act as a problem solver; be adept at collaboration, with strong leadership skills; and have the financial and business acumen to successfully navigate negotiations while maintaining profit margins.
Analysis and Planning for Success
Success in this approach to strategic account management comes from deep analysis of the customer, market and industry. These insights can help you become indispensable to your enterprise partners when you leverage them to create effective client-specific plans, strategies and time frames that optimize efficiency and effectiveness. Additionally, a consultative approach must be taken in interactions with account stakeholders to uncover account needs and goals and formulate a mutually beneficial business case.
Creating Long-Term Value for Accounts
While a purely sales role might see a rep focused on winning specific opportunities with a company, in strategic account management the focus is on creating longer-term value for the key account. You need to see how you can make your company invaluable to the customer and this will inevitably involve a large degree of organizational investment. This means that, at an organizational level, the company must plan how to apply company resources and align operations/organizational structure with the account’s direction and needs.
If you want to maximize your revenue potential by taking a more strategic approach to sales, please check out Enterprise Sales Management provided by Rotman School of Management.