Strategic Account Management, or SAM, is all about the relationships you build with company customers or partners. But even with that idea in mind, building strong relationships worth the time and effort isn’t always an easy process. If you don’t have a clear pathway to strengthening and maintaining those connections, your company relationships could be suffering. Finely tuned communication and negotiations skills, trusting relationships forged over time, and regular reassessments all contribute to an effective plan. You may want to learn more about our negotiations skills training program.
A proper strategic account management plan can help you and your team stay on track and ensure you’re giving each customer and partner the proper amount of attention. This step-by-step guide can help you create a plan that fits your needs and moves your company forward.
The Importance of a Strategic Account Management Plan
As with just about everything in business and sales, when you have a plan in place, you can stay organized more easily while ensuring that no projects, customers, or clients are neglected. SAM planning works largely the same way.
Without a strategic account management plan, you approach your customer relationships without a checklist of bases to cover or things to address. This means that projects and tasks can easily become forgotten and get pushed to the side, while customers and partners are left feeling like they’ve been ignored. But when you have a plan in place, you can ensure you’re nurturing key relationships, giving each customer, client, or partner the appropriate amount of attention.
If you’re ready to get started on creating your own strategic account management plan, these steps can help you out. These ten steps, broken down into three main portions, can get you on track to building stronger relationships.
Phase 1 – Developing a Portfolio
Before you can begin working with a client, you need to do the research to understand who they are, what they value and what their goals are. Within this phase, there are four key steps.
1. Create a Profile
The profile of your customer, client, or partner will share a brief overview of who that person is. Much of the information that appears in a customer profile will not be extremely detailed, but it will serve as the foundation of your work. The customer profile should be referred back to whenever you need a refresher about the personal or business details about this individual.
2. Develop Trust
Because trust is the foundation of all relationships, both personal and business, your second step will be to show your client or customer that you are serious about helping them fulfill their needs and desires. Throughout this step, your main goal will be to develop an effective working relationship with the customer and identify areas that may need strengthening.
3. Identify Targets
Once you have been able to develop who the customer or client is, you can start working towards figuring out their wants and needs. These needs will be the items or ideals that drive you and the client forward through the next steps of your account plan.
4. Find the Opportunity
Everyone brings their own value to the table, and now that you and your client have gotten a clear understanding of who you each are and what you are intending to accomplish, you can determine what opportunities are available to you. Analyze what the competition is doing and what distinguishes you and the skills you bring from what is already out there.
Phase 2 – Creating a Strategy
The next phase of your strategic account management plan should be to lay out an angle of attack based on the information outlined in your portfolio. In some cases, you may be able to create multiple pathways for the second phase of your account.
5. Determine the Value
Understand what value can be provided by the client. When you understand what customers can hope to get out of a purchase, you can better understand how to push that idea forward.
6. Create Objectives
It isn’t enough to say you want to “sell a product” or “get things done.” Instead, you need to set out clear long and short-term objectives that can be reached and measured. Outline a few of these growth objectives beforehand as part of your account plan and you’ll have an easier time developing your strategy in the next step.
7. Take Action
Using all the information you previously gathered, develop an action plan for accomplishing your goals and objectives. Look at the value you hope to provide, the opportunity you have created, and consider what customer needs will need to be addressed. All these pieces of info should influence the decisions you make.
Phase 3 – Growing
The final phase puts all the information into motion and continues to measure what has been developed. Throughout this phase, you and your customer should continue to implement the strategies and ideas created in the first two phases. Once a change needs to be made, you can return to Phase 1 and readdress the ideas and issues.
Recognize that this relationship is important and that it will consistently need to be maintained. Both you and the client should commit to moving forward.
9. Follow New Leads
Once you have prepared yourself to continue forward, look for new leads that may allow you to grow. These opportunities are what pushes your business to the next level.
10. Always Reassess
Very rarely will a strategic account management plan work for years and years without needing to be readdressed. Whether you accomplish your goals or you’re struggling to see any developments, you may need to restart the process earlier than you thought. Always be ready to begin again when the time is right.
The art of strategic account management planning is becoming increasingly important for businesses. If you understand how to approach building each relationship and move forward as a team looking for mutually beneficial rewards, you can increase your position, develop the company to see more profits and returns, and have an overall better sense of what you are able to accomplish. If you’d like to accelerate the learning of your team, don’t hesitate to contact SNI so we can assist you in your specific goals.