Strategic Account Management (SAM) is a company wide initiative in complex, highly matrixed organizations which focuses on building strong and mutually beneficial relationships with a company's most important customers and partners. Effective SAM programs create customer loyalty, stimulate growth, enhance profitability, and lead to innovative service delivery. Implementing a successful program requires a firm commitment from senior management to ensure the necessary corporate and organizational shift has time to germinate within the company.
“Strategic accounts” are, or are expected to become, a company’s largest, most strategic partnership prone customers. Identifying appropriate strategic accounts is crucial to implementing a successful SAM program. Factors influencing the selection process include the customer’s strategic direction, geographic presence, financial viability, cultural fit, and management philosophy. Once strategic accounts are identified, account teams must be established to support the relationship.
At the center of the account team is the strategic account manager. The strategic account manager must be a dynamic LEADER who can comfortably serve as the central point of contact for the customer’s executives and stakeholders. The goal of an effective strategic account manager is to develop and sell solutions rather than products, differentiate their company from its competitors, de-commoditize their products and services, and align the company key stakeholders to customer commitments, needs and deliverables.
Understanding the characteristics of strategic accounts and the function of the strategic account manager is critical to implementing a successful SAM program within an organization. At SAMA, our mission is to gather and disseminate SAM program best practices to enable our members and corporate member companies to achieve their goals.
Having the most talented Strategic Account Managers is not the only ingredient necessary to get the best results from your strategic accounts. Successful organizations focus on developing critical enablers that allow the SAM to achieve the desired results.
Companies develop a Strategic Accounts Program because they want to realize the Business Outcomes that have proven to be a result of strategically managing your top customers:
Successful companies achieve these desired outcomes because they focus on all of the necessary areas that enable a well-executed SAM Process.
It is imperative that significant effort is put into selecting, developing and coaching the talent that is necessary to execute the SAM process. The success of a highly-talented “Great” SAM is exponentially higher than that of an average SAM.
However, it is not enough to simply employ the best SAMs in the business. The most successful companies organize themselves by focusing on Key Tools & Process Enablers that allow talented SAMs to achieve the maximum results within the Strategic Accounts initiative.
Top ‘Enablers’ found within successful companies include:
The job of a strategic account manager (SAM) is to develop and sustain a long-term strategic customer relationship for mutual growth, profitability, trust, loyalty, and innovation.
Hence, the SAM must leverage the company's enterprise resources and capabilities in creating and fulfilling value-based solutions, to meet both the customer's and company's current requirements and expectations as well as future potential.