10 Keys to Leading a Strategic Account in the New World of Providing Value-Added Solutions and Services
by Gus Maikish and Mike Byrnes, Managing Partners, The Insight Group
These are the 10 keys to successfully leading a strategic account in the new world of providing value–added solutions and services - not just products.
1. Know the customer better than they know themselves
This means knowing their company, their organization, their culture and processes, their industry, their competitors and their people. People evaluate things differently. There are fact-based people, negotiators, people who never complain, people who complain all the time, some are ambitious, some political, some controlling, etc. You need to know what is most relevant to the person you are dealing with and shape your strategy so that it fits the individual.
2. Know your own company
The client may forgive you for not knowing their company but will never forgive you if you don’t know your own. You need to know your offerings and what your company can deliver. This will ensure that you don’t over commit and damage your credibility. You will need a network inside your company so that you can get things done quickly and so that you can make your firm deliver.
3. Know the client’s industry
Also know what their competitors are doing, particularly with your products. This is very valuable to the client. They are always concerned with their own competitive position. If there is a significant advancement in their industry, they need to know it and respond. If you know your customer, your products and your customer’s industry you can help them by providing ideas and innovation. Taking on this “advisory” role is what makes an account manager valuable. It is the way you become a “strategic partner” rather than a “vendor”.
4. Develop a network inside the client’s company and inside your own
The network at the client will provide opportunities. The wider the network the more opportunities you will see. A network in your own company will keep you up on what is happening at other clients and what your company is developing. It is also critical when you manage your company’s delivery. Your credibility internally is just as important as it is with the client.
5. Build a network of business relationships that will help you understand your client’s industry and business
Staying current on technology and new ideas in your industry and your client’s is critical. Knowledge comes from many sources: publications, academia, and most importantly people – customers, competitors and the guru’s of the industry.
6. Solve the client’s problem, with integrated solutions & joint solution development – don’t just sell product
There are situations where the customer just wants your product but in most cases what they are looking for is a solution to a business problem. Your understanding of “the problem” will help you tailor the solution for them and often results in a larger sale.
7. Make your company deliver – provide a single point of contact with authority
The Account Manager must always be the face of the company to the client. You must make your company deliver on what has been committed. You must be the “single point of contact”. To do this effectively you need to stay close to all projects. Your internal network should keep you informed of any issues or problems with a project. When a customer raises an issue, you should be able to respond by saying “here is the problem, here is how it occurred, and here is the plan to resolve it” rather than “I’ll look into it and get back to you”.
8. Lead and engage the entire team
Though you are the “single point of contact”, the account manager needs to engage all the resources needed from his/her company. The job is to bring all of them in, manage their work and help them be successful. You cannot be too controlling, everyone needs to feel as though they are a part of the team and be allowed to do their jobs.
9. Build credibility – through continuity, coverage and professionalism
Credibility is built over time. Continuity with a customer and the industry are critical success factors. If you deliver consistently, professionally and honestly, you will build credibility. Continuity is crucial.
10. Act with integrity
It is not always easy to put the customer first but you should always try to see things from the customer’s point of view. You can’t always take their side. When you cannot take their side, it is important that you explain why. Integrity and credibility go ‘hand in hand’ and are the key factors in any relationship.
These are proven requirements for being a successful strategic account manager. Many account managers try to take short cuts. There is no way to achieve significant results without putting in the effort to “do it right”.
Gus Maikish has extensive experience in strategic and global account management dealing with very large accounts, leading and coaching sales teams and leaders for over 30 years. He is a lecturer at the Columbia University Business School, the Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA), and at other institutions. He is currently co-authoring a book on the subject of Global Account management, combining his experience with both academic and research views on this subject.More on Gus at INSIGHT
Mike Byrnes is INSIGHT’s Strategic Account Management Practice Leader. He has consulted with a wide variety of organizations where he has assisted them in improving their global account management and revamping their services organization. He has over 35 years of experience in IT, sales, business strategy and management. Mike has been a speaker at the Strategic Account Management (SAMA) annual conference and led 2 joint studies with Arizona State University's Center for Services Leadership.More on Mike at INSIGHT
The INSIGHT Group is a management consulting firm dedicated to assisting product-based companies implement high growth services and solutions business plans and strategies. We help clients design and execute broad transformational initiatives including go to market strategies as they extend their product portfolio to include delivering capabilities as a service. Our partners are experienced line executives with a proven track record of helping our clients transform from a product-focused company to services and solutions led company.
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