In case you missed it, check out Part 1: The SAM Process and Part 3: SAM Skills and Competencies (The SAMA Competency Model)
These are crazy times for everyone - for our companies, for our families and for our customers. As we get accustomed to this “new normal,” companies will increasingly look to their suppliers for guidance on how to navigate what lies ahead. Those companies that make themselves essential to their strategic customers during the present crisis will be rewarded with increased market share and an unshakeable bond with their customers.
What does it take to come out the other side of this on top?
Number one: An organization designed around enabling and encouraging organizational alignment around strategic customers.
Number two: A repeatable process for partnering with customers to discover and co-create value.
And number three: Strategic account managers expert at marshaling their internal resources to discover, create and deliver customer business value.
While you’re tethered to your home office for the time being, we want to make sure we’re furnishing you with knowledge and resources to help you meet and defeat the challenges of the day. Below you will find some all-time great SAMA resources designed to equip you with tools, knowledge and inspiration to show up for your customers when they need you the most.
Engaging the C-level/ Executive sponsorship
Based on benchmarking SAMA has conducted with dozens of the world’s foremost SAM-centric companies, we have concluded that the most critical enabler of successful co-value creation is C-level support. While the most visible example of C-level support is executive sponsorship, it also includes:
● Setting the right expectations
for the strategic account initiative
● Defining the corporate strategic goals of the initiative
● Ensuring the right positioning and visibility of the strategic account organization within the enterprise
● Making it known that strategic account management is a corporate strategy, rather than just a part of the sales strategy
Account selection and deselection
Companies all too often confuse large accounts, critical accounts and strategic accounts. Large and critical accounts are very important for the company because of the impact their size has on the supplier business. But be very selective in choosing your strategic accounts, and make sure to prioritize strategic fit when making your evaluations. Just a few criteria to consider include:
Cultural fit between your organizations
● Whether your customer is considered a leader/innovator in its market
● Your customer’s willingness to invest in the relationship and innovative projects.
SAM talent selection, development and coaching
Research shows again and again that a superstar SAM delivers drastically more value than an average SAM. The latest SAMA research offers six key recommendations for those looking to find and select the right talent:
Raise the level of importance within the company of strategic accounts
and with it the integral role of the strategic account manager in
effectively managing, growing, and retaining top corporate customers
● Educate corporate HR and align their support, professionalism, and policies to legitimize, standardize, and publicize the SAM role
● Categorize job profiles for different types of SAMs and global SAM positions
● Where it makes sense, add more stakeholders to the recruitment and selection process
● Formalize internal processes for both sourcing and selecting SAM talent
● Consider screening first for desired personality traits and softer skills believed to be the most difficult to train or teach. Too many companies attempt to teach or train traits and softer skills instead of using them as a filter to select the highest-potential candidates.
Organization design and structure
There has been a huge body of work on organizing around customers, and the research is unanimous: Organizational structure follows strategy. In other words, you need to put the customer at the center and organize around them. Indeed, organizing around strategic customers is essential in today’s business climate of online purchasing, empowered procurement functions, and supplier reductions.
SAM process for optimal co-value creation with the strategic customer
Each strategic account and each strategic account manager must be held accountable for specific business outcomes. The importance of sketching out the SAM process and showing it as an integral part of the organizational enablers is that, like in all business processes, it has to be integrated into the entire organization, and the organization has to enable the most efficient process. If you want your SAM program to succeed, your company must be aligned to support and drive both the SAM and the strategic value-creation process.
Account plan structure and process across the matrixed organization
This is a highly structured process by which the SAM can communicate with his core and extended account team, as well as management and all other stakeholders involved in the design and delivery of customer value. It is an invaluable tool for internal selling—to align people and resources, to secure executive buy-in, to push for technical expertise, and to hold people accountable.
To be effective, the account plan must include:
● Customer strategy
● Key decision makers map
● Past and future value opportunities and the monetization thereof
● Current and future projects
Account and enterprise alignment
Most of the time, the value packages that a SAM proposes to a customer will involve the contribution of several product, business unit, regional, and country managers from across the enterprise, which is most often organized by product groups, business units (BUs), and geographies. Yet when SAMs are asked if it is easier to sell internally or externally, most (if not all) agree that internal selling is the bigger challenge. Usually this is because the company is not well aligned around the objective of co-creating value with its most strategic customers.
Knowledge Management Systems
There is literally no better guide for a SAM in the co-creation of value with a customer than a successful business case executed by one of his or her colleagues. Knowledge management systems serve as institutional encyclopedias of successful business cases. When a SAM is confronted with a business challenge with one of her customers, she can simply plug into this virtual library to retrieve the specific case that’s closest to the one she is facing. It’s like having the entire business knowledge of her organization at her fingertips, anytime and from anywhere in the world. Depending on the supplier’s business, the knowledge management system should include industry-based information on trends, practices and solutions.
Financial metrics and KPIs are essential tools to use to convince top management that investing in the SAM initiative returns significant financial rewards. Because investing in SAM is expensive and significant, top management will continue to demand exceptional returns. Revenue growth, gross margin, and net profit are absolutely indispensable for measuring the financial stoutness of the SAM investment, but keep in mind that they are lagging indicators. Just as important, if not more so, are predictive metrics, such as evolution in share of wallet, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
We recommend sitting down with your strategic accounts to identify a set of meaningful, measurable metrics you can use to gauge the success of a strategic relationship. The metrics you use will be specific to each customer, but there will be broad overlap. A few suggestions from one of SAMA’s most mature SAM organizations include:
● Target percentage of prior year sales for quantifiable business results (QBRs) implemented
● Percent of obsolete systems upgraded with the goal of 100 percent over seven years
● Number of opportunities identified for customer products to be potentially used in supplier manufacturing operations
● Joint customer satisfaction survey improvements
● Gains in share-of-wallet for the supplier with the customer