6 Key Takeaways from the Podcast “Becoming Important to Your Most Strategic Customers”
Sales Leadership Community Podcast: Episode 2
When you think about your most important customers, it’s less about the wallet share you have across the portfolio and more about growth rates.
When you think about being important to your most strategic customers, it’s about your relevance and being engaged with them in a different way.
So how do you become more relevant? I recently listened to a fascinating episode podcast episode in the SOAR Performance Group’s new series around this topic. Here are my key takeaways:
Key Takeaway #1: Understand who your strategic customers are
First, it requires an understanding of your customer base, which means considering more than just current revenue. When you think about your most important customers, it’s less about the wallet share you have across the portfolio and more about the growth rates you’re seeing with those customers.
Key Takeaway #2: Think about ways to be more relevant with strategic customers
Rather than focusing on the perspective of your organization getting higher wallet share, what matters is how you explain the value proposition to bring these strategic customers forward.
When it comes to new challenges, you want to be the trusted partner and advisor that your customer goes to for advice.
Research issues or ideas they are exploring, or you think would be interesting to them, as forward-looking topics and engage around those. The answer might not be an out-of-the-box solution, so your key account managers will likely have to get creative to help solve these problems.
You want to set the stage for a long term partnership, 5-10 years down the road and help them solve that next frontier of challenges they will face in their business. You need to look beyond the next 12-24 months.
Key Takeaway #3: Invest in your sales team to move the needle with your strategic customers
It’s important to shift the mindset around the conversation that your front line sales reps are having with your most important customers.
It requires investing in and prioritizing continuous education for your sales team. The entire organization has to be able to deliver on solutions that are not standard for your most important customers. Strategic account management is a team sport much more so than standard selling, so you’ll need to nurture a consultative, team-like culture to be successful at scaling. You need to be equipped and ready to deliver on that vision and meet that need for those customers.
Think about how many different people and departments touch an account and how you can enable everyone – sales operations, finance, logistics, service, logistics. They all need to be involved and bought-in when it comes to this process.
Key Takeaway #4: Prepare your organization for strategic account management
When starting the journey of implementing strategic account management, you will definitely want to take the crawl, walk, run approach.
If your company is new to the concept of key account managers, don’t start with 50 key account managers. Start with what’s appropriate for your company size and experience, then scale from there.
You should also take the time to create a plan. Create a profile for the KAMs you need, get buy-in from leaders across the organization, assess support infrastructure, process, tools, etc. and get the fundamentals in place before you begin or scale.
If you’re pivoting how you sell to your customers, the change management process is especially key. You will need to drive the right change management, so be ready to prove results, build momentum, and get people on board throughout the journey.
Key Takeaway #5: Prioritize key account management and continue to work on it
Key account management is not a one time event. It is a living, breathing, long term commitment that requires constant communication and course-correction.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Are these customers connecting with our senior leadership? Are they buying more than just product? As you get higher level in the organization, you should be able to get feedback from the customer and you should actively seek that feedback.
- Are customers behaving differently toward us? You want to be able to notice and react to behavior changes so you can monetize it. You might have a strong customer relationship, but if you’re making a large investment and there is not an obvious increase in wallet share/revenue, you’ll need to consider making changes in your approach so you see that monetary return as well.
Key Takeaway #6: The future of key account management requires the right digital tools
Account teams must be empowered with realtime information to help them stay connected as they work towards key account management goals with your most important customers. It is pivotal to find the right the digital right tools around your CRM for a 360-degree view of an account plan in order for team be efficient and stay on-task.
Account teams must also be able to stay digitally (constantly) connected to their customers. We all have more and more information at our fingertips, which will enable and require key account managers to have a higher level of thinking when it comes to engaging with these customers. As technology and analytics grow and improve, building empathy and trust will be the most important tactics key account managers can apply in order to grow a key account.
Listen to the full podcast hosted by John Thackston, Vice President of Client Engagements at SOAR Performance Group, and featuring guest speaker Toby Carrington, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Sales Operations at Siemens Healthineers.