Investing Intelligently in your Strategic Account Organization

I had a wonderful experience connecting with everyone at KAMCon in Boulder recently.  The team at KAPTA were wonderful hosts and brought together a very talented group focused on the future challenges impacting everyone’s most important customers.

In Boulder, I shared findings drawn from our SAMA (Strategic Account Management Association) community about the extraordinary financial performance of strategic account management (SAM) programs. In summary for those who could not join us in Boulder, SAMA Research shows that sales organizations with SAM programs experience 2x greater annual revenue growth from their strategic accounts relative to their non-strategic accounts. Also, importantly, this increase in the top line does not sacrifice profitability, as key accounts earn 10% higher gross margins against standard sales accounts.

At SAMA, we know that leading a SAM or KAM program is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Just declaring the start of a program does not guarantee these results. It requires, at a minimum, wise choices when recruiting your talented account team, aligning your entire organization for your customers as well as possible and selecting which key accounts demand your priorities. As with all businesses, making sound judgements on where to focus your investments are the lifeblood to delivering these extraordinary SAM results.

An important question that we get from SAM decision-makers is what are the most common criteria used to shape your SAM program and account investment decisions. Every business is different, but we have surveyed our SAMA community to dig into what criteria shape investments that achieve these remarkable SAMA community results. A 2018 SAMA Research study that we call Metrics to Help You Calibrate the Right Investments for a Strategic Account Organization (a snap shot of some of the findings can be found here) was designed for SAM leaders to benchmark their investment approach with our overall SAMA community that delivers these great outcomes.

This SAMA research interestingly shows that more organizations in the SAMA community apply the level of their customer’s current satisfaction more frequently as a factor in their investment decisions than the size of the customer organization. The size of your key customers, while an important consideration, appears to be less important than the customer’s perception of your group and the role that your organization plays in the customer’s decision making.

We see in our SAMA community that investing in areas where you are vital to strategic customer relationships brings better results than chasing targets measured entirely by the size of the opportunity or wallet size. The painful truth is that your key account does not always see you as a strategic supplier. You may have invested in the best talent development and have great products that are selling, but the customer’s signals indicate that they do not see you as part of their strategic future like you see them.

At SAMA, we try to help our community elevate to become trusted advisors to their key customers and not merely a top vendor competing for big deals. A hard look and evaluation of your customer relationship can make a difference from fine results to another level of sustained, profitably-growing results.

Our SAMA survey results summary shared here also can help SAM leaders with their decisions where to invest beyond account selections. Do you focus on your staff, your products or infrastructure? A tough call sometimes is which leaders are best at shaping the investment decision process and the metrics that factor into raising or lowering investments. This brief summary of our recent SAMA research may offer you some benchmarking insights that help you recalibrate your program and make a giant difference in your business results.

Not All Customers Are Alike

Not all customers are alike and your decisions where to invest in them make the difference. Some accounts will shape your organization’s future growth while others will continue to drain resources and never deliver a satisfactory return.

SAMA is always learning from our community. We share what we have curated or distilled around best practices and future practices to help SAM management teams benefit from the other experienced SAM programs in our community. Consider adding SAMA resources to your continuous improvement efforts when making your tough investment decisions in the future.