Strategic account management (SAM) is a complex topic. Although it can feel intuitive to many people and to smaller teams, there is need for an established, mature SAM process. If you don’t regularly check up on your progress, it’s easy to get too confident in a process that cold actually use improvement.
From our experience at Kapta, many SAM team leaders tend to be overconfident in how good they are at SAM. Some of this comes from seeing success in the existing framework. However, successful results don’t prove that your process is mature. Having a strong Strategic account management process help you achieve your full potential as a team, beyond the initial success you may experience already.
Diagnosing Your SAM Process
You can ask yourself a number of questions to get a better handle on how well you’re doing at strategic account management. Use these questions to help diagnose the reality of your SAM situation.
Is the process formal?
When you’re just starting out, or if you’re a small team that’s very comfortable together, it’s easy to operate without a formal process. However, the process must be formalized as you mature in practicing strategic account management.
Formal processes lay out the entire process in a recognizable pattern. As you formalize it, the process should be written out from start to finish. You should be able to define each part of the process and in what general order you go through it. Having your SAM process written down is a good sign of process maturity, because it shows a high level of operational consistency and accountability.
Is the process repeatable?
Part of maturity in a process is the ability to pass through it over and over again. Your SAM process should be easily repeatable with every key account customer. It will be difficult for you to keep track of analytics, measure your success, or fully understand your customers if you don’t have a mature process that you can follow through with consistently.
Repeatable processes establish a more definite customer lifecycle. You’ll have a better understanding of where a customer account is in comparison to another, and you’ll be able to monitor their progress more easily.
Does your team accurately use the process?
The strength of the process will have an effect on how strongly your team follows through with it. An immature process can be difficult for your team to follow properly. If the process is in any way unclear, is not straightforward, or is inaccurate to the true lifecycle of your key account customers, your team will have a difficult time going through it without tweaking it each time.
Another problem that an immature process has for teams is the tendency for people within the team to interpret steps differently. If each person is doing things a little differently, there can be dramatic differences in the customer experience and the overall results. That’s not to say that every client is treated the same way, because KAM demands a high level of customization. However, your SAM process does not need to be included in that customization. It should be a solid, understood process with wiggle room at each step for every individual client.
How easy is it to train a new team member?
It’s hard to say that something is really understood unless you’re able to teach it to others. New team members must be taught how things should go. When it come time for them to learn your SAM process, having difficulty teaching them is a problem. It should be relatively easy to teach the process. Whether the process is complex or not doesn’t have much impact on how easy it is to teach someone how to follow it.
Complexity is okay, as long as you thoroughly understand what’s going on and you’re fully capable of training new team members on how it goes. No one should be left confused after they finish learning about your process.
Can you quickly tell where a customer is in the process?
When you have a matured SAM process, you should be able to fit your customers comfortably into some part of it. Ideally, you should be able to look at your customer profiles and understand where they belong in the process based on that information. It shouldn’t take you a long time to figure out where they belong, because your process should be clearly defined and easy to apply.
Some processes suffer from unnecessary ambiguity and confusing overlap. As you mature the process, these errors should be ironed out and everything should become more straightforward and settled. If you can’t figure out which part of the SAM process your customer is in based on their customer profile information, your process may not be as mature as you think.
Technology Can’t Fix a Broken Process
It’s not uncommon to hear key account managers blaming an immature process on insufficient tech. The argument revolves around the heavy reliance many KAM teams have on software to keep track of what’s happening with and around customers. However, your process is unrelated to the software you’re using. Having a topnotch KAM software will not mature your process for you.
You have to get your process right before you can expect a software to help you out. Whether you’re using Excel spreadsheets or a hardcover notebook, refining your process needs to come before you can fully utilize your tech. No software will help you mature your process. The role of KAM software like Kapta is to make your process more efficient, not to mature it for you.
Establishing Your Process
If you’ve learned today that your strategic account management process isn’t as mature as you thought, or that you still have some room to grow in it, don’t give up hope. You’ll have to put in the work to mature your process. The results will be worth the effort!
Kapta offers a lot of resources for someone in your position. We have learning resources to help you improve your SAM process through greater knowledge and the experience of others. You can also hire a consultant to give you a pair outside eyes that will look at your unique situation and help you figure out how to move forward with your process. SAM groups can also be a valuable asset to you. Groups like SAMA are useful for this particular need.
Maturing your SAM process is up to you and your team. Now that you’ve gotten a “check-up” and you have a better idea how close you are to maturity, it’s time to work at getting your process firmly established.