Adapt and stay relevant: 5 shifts to uplift your strategic account management practice

by Pauline Bernard

Strategic account management continues to be a core part of many organisations' approach for nurturing priority accounts over the longer term. However, in the context of a globalised and digitised business environment, the foundations of strategic account management practices have been shaken. The balance of power has shifted; linear decision making, supported by face-to-face interactions with a single point of contact rarely exists. More commonly now, salespeople are having to navigate complex decision making, influenced by a network of stakeholders who are often offshore, fuelled by a constant flow of omni-channel information.

To remain successful, the strategic account model must be adapted to have fewer dedicated resources acting as connectors between functions, capabilities and channels, which leverage a core toolkit of processes, rhythms and technology platforms.
 
Here we will explore the five key shifts for uplifting your strategic account management practice to maximise return on investment:
 
Operating model
Strategic accounts are now synonymous with global matrixed corporations that yield diverse influence networks and complex decision-making processes. The role of a deeply specialised account manager solely owning a group of priority accounts has become redundant. To keep the practice relevant , organisations must uplift the role to a “strategic account leader” who is a generalist and master collaborator. Recognising the breadth of stakeholders involved in decision-making, these leaders command a broad knowledge across the business. They are responsible for orchestrating the overarching account planning and execution; collaborating with leadership, sales and marketing as well as engaging relevant technical experts who play a role in enhancing the customer experience.
 
Organisational alignment
Harmonising short-term functional wins against a longer-term strategic play, will often set teams up against each other. Instead, organisations must move beyond departmental objectives and rewards, to create aligned cross-functional strategic plans. These should provide clarity around the hard and soft ground rules, roles, responsibilities and reward systems that will enable teams to work cohesively when nurturing their priority accounts.
 
Channel integration
Seemingly, face-to-face interactions have been the mainstay in strategic account planning. However, in today’s customer environment, it is essential to acknowledge the increased connectivity between digital technology and the role of content in influencing customers. Organisations need to transform their thinking on customer activation, and integrate digital content as relevant and efficient components of their strategic account management plan.
 
Account management rhythm
As the rate of influence increases with the sustained growth of digital channels, strategic plans often become outdated before they are actioned. To keep up with this wealth of change, organisations must adjust the account planning cycle from quarterly or half yearly to a process of continuous review, enabling them to deliver value in real time.
 
Technology enablement
As the cadence and methods of interaction grows within an account, legacy manual ways of working (such as protracted Excel or PowerPoint planning templates) become redundant. Organisations must embrace technology by implementing an integrated strategic account management platform, to enhance team collaboration and alignment through real-time account data and streamlined planning.
 
Key takeaway
Some may argue that the world has moved on and strategic account management has no place in today’s agile, emergent, omni-channel world. However, with customers more complex and more discerning than ever, the need for account management disciplines has never been stronger. To stay relevant organisations must realign their operating model, redefine account leadership roles, hone capabilities and competencies and refresh their account management rhythm.

To find out more about Blackdot’s approach to strategic account management, contact us now.