As a business coach, I’ve come to find that business owners will often overlook the advantages of client retention and tend to be rather shy in giving the right amount of focus, love and attention to both their new and existing clients.
And although it might seem like a heinous crime and a blatantly obvious area to focus on, you’ll be surprised at how many businesses don’t put the customer at the center of their attention.
That’s why making use of a strategic account management (SAM) plan allows for the development of an in-depth strategy that puts the customer in first place and draws out their needs so that you’re able to provide more solutions and retain them for the long haul.
Let’s look at how it works, why it’s necessary and how to differentiate it from the traditional sales approach.
What Is SAM?
Simply put, strategic account management focuses on building healthy and fruitful relationships with all of your clients or customers – especially the important and high-value ones.
It makes use of in-depth research and strategic planning to identify new problems for you to solve with the goal and purpose of enhancing the customer experience, strengthening loyalty and paving the way for better returns.
It’s almost like finding ways to invest in your clients to get better profits and secure recurring revenues.
Using a SAM plan comes with some pretty big benefits, too: it builds and strengthens customer loyalty, it stimulates and motivates new growth, and improves profitability.
Setting up this sort of plan usually involves every department within your business, as it should be a strategy that everybody is aware of and actively participating in. This way, everybody contributes to a system that seeks to improve the interactions, experience and relationships with existing clients.
How Does It Differ From Sales?
There are a few key differentiators that separate SAM from sales.
The easiest way to look at it is that sales primarily focuses on seeking and capturing opportunities, while SAM focuses on providing consistent value and satisfaction to clients that result in more returns – usually being implemented after the sales cycle.
Sales makes use of small and dedicated teams that use short-term strategies and planning to achieve results. This is quite different to SAM, which functions across the entire organisation and acts in an intimate manner that has far more involvement with the client.
In other words, sales is for drawing in and getting more clients; strategic account management is for retaining and getting more out of clients post-sales.
SAM is seated in between both sales and operations in that it uses more complex, long-term strategies to both add and extract value from clients. Clients are also generally more open and receptive to strategic account managers as they’re viewed as partners, where sales teams have a relationship with clients exclusively based on the exchange of goods/services.
The adage, “It’s cheaper to keep your clients than find new ones”, basically sums up and differentiates the two from one another; retaining clients through enhanced satisfaction, better service, improved relations and attention to detail is far more beneficial than the costs, maintenance and unpredictable nature of sales.
What Is The Purpose of A SAM Plan?
If a SAM plan is implemented correctly, then there are certain key benefits and results that can be used to measure its success.
By using a SAM plan in the correct way, you’re able to identify new opportunities in your existing client base, allowing for you to upsell far more efficiently as you cater to new problems that they might be facing.
It also gives you far more intimate access to your clients in terms of influence, as you understand their needs and desires on a much deeper level – this also allows for more innovation with your clients to improve on new and existing services.
With this influence and access to your clients, you’re able to keep your competition at a distance, as a sense of loyalty is fostered between your company and the client.
How To Get That SAM Plan Started?
Firstly, you need to identify your key clients and create an offer that they can’t refuse – one that is unique to them and that other clients don’t get unless they’ve been ‘upgraded’.
You then sit those clients down individually and determine what the perfect system looks like from their perspective. This will give you more insight into what they desire most and will help you figure out the best way to deliver on their expectations without annoying them.
Bear in mind that you ideally want to focus on anywhere between 5 to 25 key client accounts when you engage in this strategy, so you’re not overwhelmed by too many.
Strategic account management usually follows a 10-stage plan when it’s implemented correctly:
1) Develop The Customer Profile
At this stage you determine what the client/customer looks like, what they want, what they do, their goals and the products/services that they use.
2) Analyse Relationships
Determining how the relationship came to be and what influences your relationship with the client is the next crucial step. You look at their attitude towards you, their concerns and expectations, the frequency and methods of contact, and a SWOT analysis of them.
3) Identify Strategic Requirements
The third stage has you looking at specific requirements for the strategy to be implemented effectively. Looking at the history of sales, any issues that have been expressed, what it would take to impress the client, as well as the current and future needs of each department should all be measured and evaluated.
4) Analyze New Opportunities
With the mounting information that you’re gathering on your client(s) and the business as a whole, you can begin to target and determine any new opportunities that might benefit you.
Figuring out ways to leverage your resources to find new opportunities, identifying what obstacles need to be overcome, discovering whether there are unique offerings that your business can offer, and correcting mistakes that haven’t been attended to is your goal.
5) Map the Decision Process
At this point, you need to plan out and explain to the client your decision-making process. Here, you determine and explain which factors and people will influence the decisions, who the key decision makers are, explain the external pressures that exist, and the level of influence each decision-maker has.
6) Analyze Competitors
Gauging how good or bad the competition is with the client can provide very helpful insight. During this stage, you have the client rank you against other competition in terms of speed, innovation, cost, quality, service, etc.
Together with the client, determine the benefits of buying from you over the competition, who their preferred choice is and why, and use a SWOT analysis of the competition from the client’s perspective.
7) Establish Objectives
Looking at goals and objectives that can be measured will help in setting out deadlines and key changes that need to occur for the plan to take effect. Look at your expected sales and profits from each client, map out the objectives that need to be completed in the next 3 months, and determine what relationships you want with your clients.
8) Develop Account Strategy
Working on a strategy that focuses on each client account will be your next step. Here, you figure out how to successfully present your USP, determine the success factors for each account and how you aim to implement these factors, look at how you’re going to provide better value than your competition, and how to motivate the client to purchase more.
9) Coordinate Action Plans
In the penultimate stage, you look at the best ways to implement the necessary actions that need to be taken. Figure out who will be responsible for taking action, how you will accomplish these goals, the order and process that needs to be taken, which methods to use for measuring success, and what resources/people you need for the strategy.
10) Manage Account Relationships
Your final stage would be focused on the management, maintenance and measurement of those relationships that you develop with your key clients. You need to look at more initiatives that you can take to improve relationships, identify which clients give you the greatest return on your efforts, look at how you’re going to extract feedback and improve performance, and how often you measure client satisfaction.
Get A SAM Plan Going
Remember that a SAM plan must be both measurable and iterative in its implementation. Look at it more of a long-term process as opposed to a short-term solution.
Try not to make the mistake of putting your best sales staff in the position of a strategic account manager, as not all people are comfortable with the change in roles and responsibilities. It might also result in losing some of your best sales staff.
It might seem like an intricate and long-winded process, but I assure you, it’s worth it.
And instead of looking at changing your business to embrace these new roles and this entire process, think about outsourcing the job to someone that has experience and practical knowledge in this field.
That someone could be me.
I’ll help you set up and manage a SAM plan with ease and comfort; other than all of the advice, skills and insight that I bring to the table as a business coach, I’m more than capable of providing you with a plan that will have your best clients fall in love with you.
I’m so good at it, you’ll probably fall in love with me.
So get that SAM plan going and bring me on board.
+2783 253 3339