Who is SAM?
You have heard the saying, “It’s cheaper to retain a client than it is to acquire a client,” right? Well, it is and if you are in the business of keeping your business thriving, then holding your clients close for a very long time is crucial to your company’s survival.
This is where SAM comes in. Strategic account management (SAM) is a process that business-to-business suppliers use to manage their relationships with strategically important customers that deliver the most benefits to their business. SAM is a plan. A plan on how your team will manage clients and the conversations that happen at all levels and verticals of both your business and your customers’.
SAM is not the same as sales although it often starts with the sales departments of a business. Sales has a narrow focus on creating leads and capturing opportunities while SAM is put in place to improve and measure customer satisfaction, creating value for your client and yes, growth in sales. A sales strategy is short-term while SAM plans when implemented are for the life of your business client-relationship, which hopefully is forever.
A SAM plan is implemented at the very end of a sales cycle and must include every single touch point a client has in your business, from your marketing, production, accounts and online platforms. The single biggest value your business will gain from having a SAM plan is building relationships with your clients and allowing smooth transitions of people on and off client accounts with little to no pain. You will become a partner to your client, not a supplier.
Your SAM plan should have 10 stages as follows:
- Develop your customer profile
- Analyse and understand your relationships
- Identify clients’ strategic requirements
- Analyse new opportunities
- Map the clients decision making process
- Analyse your competitors to the client
- Establish objectives
- Develop the account strategy
- Coordinate the action plans and tactics
- Manage the account relationships
When developing your SAM plan the main task is developing effective business relationships with senior customer decision makers and influencers. The stronger the relationship, the less threats will apply. You want relationships that have trust and integrity. Mapping out the people inside your client who matter, and deciding with whom you want to have a relationship with early on can achieve relationship development. Once you are engaging with the account it’s important to keep measuring the quality of each relationship owned on a regular basis. This can be done on simple 1 to 5 scales.
A SAM plan must be measurable, scalable and iterative in nature and must be managed as a marathon and not a sprint. SAM is about changing the way people work — it is not just a sales technique. People who maintain SAM plans are NOT sales people; they are people’s people. These people should have a talent on how to build quality relationships and have the hard conversations with both client and your team. Matching your account manager with the client for the best cohesion must be considered at the get-go.
A well thought out and run SAM plan will:
- Allow innovation with clients.
- Allow the sales and account Manager’s to work to a plan and process that you can measure.
- Allow you to influence your clients as you have a deep understanding of their business and markets.
- Almost be a database of the clients company and should allow the account managers and all stakeholders who have client touch points, to know the account inside and out.
- Define and deliver real value to your clients all while managing expectations.
- Give your business unique access to your clients and keep your opposition out.
- Identify new opportunities in your clients and allow you to proactively pitch these.
- Incorporate client on-boarding.
- Reduce clients’ costs and improve your businesses profitability.
- Understand the risks in your clients’ business.
Given time to germinate inside your clients SAM plans will allow you to enhance your own profitability, generate new leads and opportunities, deliver service unparalleled to your opposition and build partnerships that will last through all stages of your clients business lifecycle.
Remember, “What gets measured gets managed,” so start measuring now!
[This article was written for Betterman Magazine and can be viewed here]