May 5th

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The SAMA Knowledge Series

Part 3: SAM Skills and Competencies (The SAMA Competency Model)

In case you missed it, check out Part 1: The SAM Process and Part 2: The Strategic Customer-Centric Organization

While coronavirus has upended most aspects of daily life, both personal and professional, it has brought into focus the incredibly valuable skills inherent to the SAM/KAM role. As companies look to respond and pivot, suddenly the SAM’s deep customer and industry knowledge, strategic thinking abilities, interpersonal skills and more have become invaluable assets.

With so much of a company’s future value tied up with the health of its relationships with its most important customers, we would argue that the skills and competencies of strategic account managers have never been more important. While there exist some important differences in the implementation of strategic account management within various industries’ business models, there is remarkable consistency around the foundational skills desired in strategic account managers.


The SAMA Best-in-Class SAM Competency Model identifies five areas of job competence or capability as well as the three or four primary skills associated most strongly with each one. Under each competency is a short list of the key behaviors, actions, and/or activities most relevant to that skill. 

Below the competencies, you can find links to an excerpt from the SAMA book, “Customer Value Co-Creation,” as well as to relevant blog posts, podcasts and more for a deeper dive into the skills that make a great strategic account manager.

Competency 1.0 – Understanding organizational priorities
     •Ability to understand your company’s and the customer’s industries, markets, and
     • Determine customer’s buying behavior and metrics for supplier relationships
     • Map organizational structure and relationships to identify champions, influencers and decision  makers
     • Understand your company’s corporate strategy and business objectives, and those of the customer
     • Document knowledge of everywhere the customer “touches” your company and everywhere your company could potentially touch your customer
     • Profile the customer’s competitive position vis-à-vis its competitors as well as your competitors’ positions vis-à-vis the customer
     • Identify the key internal company stakeholders and functional resources currently and potentially required for effective management of the customer’s business and opportunities.

     • Customer orientation
     • Company knowledge
     • Industry knowledge
     • Customer knowledge

Competency 2.0 – Strategic account & opportunity planning
     • Ability to incorporate business intelligence and determine a go-to-market strategy through internal planning sessions
     • Define and manage the solution development process, develop a differentiated value proposition and value the ROI for both the customer and the company
     • Manage funnel of short- and mid-term opportunities and pre-formulate specific project management requirements
     • Provide for post-deployment customer support and evaluation
     • Engage the customer in the planning process.

     • Strategic thinking
     • Financial/business acumen
     • Value analysis and opportunity insight

Competency 3.0 – Joint solution development, co-creation & reaching agreement
     • Ability to communicate credibly and effectively at the customer CxO level, demonstrating understanding of the customer’s financials and financial strategy
     • Provide thought leadership about the customer’s business issues and priorities, uncovering and validating key challenges
     • Engage the customer in the account planning process and work collaboratively to identify value-based solutions
     • Co-create innovative solutions in areas of highest joint potential and innovation … Quantify the differentiated solution/value proposition vis-à-vis competitors demonstrating mutual ROI
     • Sell high and wide throughout the customer organization, managing Procurement and multilevel relationships with the support and coordination of the account team
     • Negotiate and reach agreement on company engagement and specific deals, specifying resource commitment and allocations internally and at the customer.

     • Communication & influence skills
     • Value co-creation
     • Negotiation skills

Competency 4.0 – Multifunctional account team leadership
     • Ability to create a team vision and strategy for effective account plan development and execution
     • Build and align the account team to the customer’s key functions and requirements, jointly developing team goals and KPIs
     • Establish trust, motivate and coach team members through regular communications
     • Input information on account data, activities and best practices
     • Structure role and deployment of internal executive sponsor/s for account team goals and customer relationship objectives.

     • Interpersonal relationship skills
     • Team leadership
     • Cultural knowledge and sensitivity

Competency 5.0 – Overall relationship & outcome management
     • Requires accountability for the sustained health and improvement of the overall customer relationship through regular business reviews against the performance dashboard and customer communications
     • Maintains and augments role as a trusted thought leader in individual customer relationships and owns the customer satisfaction/loyalty metrics
     • Maintains the internal network of relationships and aligns the internal and external commitments leading to execution of company and customer requirements and the achievement of desired business outcomes.

     • Corporate customer relationships
     • Process discipline
     • Business outcomes

The SAM role

The role of a strategic account manager exists to fulfill the business objectives of a corporate-level, customer-centric strategy designed to ensure the firm’s future for long-term growth and profitability.

Part 3 of the SAMA book " Customer Value Co-Creation " deals exclusively with the skills and traits needed to be an amazing strategic account manager. Read it here.

From strategic account management to strategic ecosystem leadership
Never has there been a better opening for SAM programs and strategic account managers to take on a bigger role in securing the future of their organizations. While many traditional SAM traits will remain, the overarching trajectory will see SAMs having to become even more strategic than they are currently.

The practical manifestations of becoming more strategic will take three distinct shapes:
     • SAMs will take alignment to the next level by becoming drivers of strategic development cross-functionally and inter-organizationally.
     • Strategic account management will be liberated from the shackles of the seller-buyer dynamic by transforming from account management to ecosystem or stakeholder management.
     • SAMs will develop new processes and skill sets that will make the future one of leadership, rather than of management. 


The SAMA Podcast
If anything, your customers expect more from you than ever. If you can be a source of stability on the one hand and bold ideas on the other, you will earn yourself a lifetime of customer loyalty. Easier said than done. The first two episodes of the SAMA podcast address exactly this topic.

Episode #1 What’s the single most important piece of advice for account managers guiding their customers through crises, like our current one? Avoid the impulse to speculate. So says SAMA’s Chris Jensen, who on 9/11 was a DHL sector head responsible for his company’s relationship with two of its most strategic accounts. Chris shares this and other pieces of hard-earned wisdom from 9/11’s aftermath in the first episode of the SAMA podcast. Listen here.

Episode #2 Still trying to predict what coronavirus will mean for your business? Much of it will depend on the value your own customers can create using your products and services. Find out what else you should be focused on during these unprecedented times, according to one of the smartest strategists working in sales excellence.  SAMA's Harvey Dunham interviews Whetstone Inc. President & CEO Adrian Davis in episode 2 of the SAMA Podcast.  Listen here.

The future of SAM 
In case it wasn’t obvious before, it should be now: The world is changing, and the SAM role is changing alongside it. In this excerpt from “Customer Value Co-Creation,” Francis Gouilliart makes five predictions for the future of SAM. Read them here.