Sales White Paper: Great Account Management


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While it’s important to win new business, it’s also critical that you penetrate your existing customer base. If you serve your customers well you open doors not only for repeat business, but new growth potential which can often times be more lucrative.

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Sales White Paper: Great Account Management

  1. 1. Great Account Management WHITE PAPER
  2. 2. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 1 WHAT IS ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT? When we talk about Account Management, what exactly do we mean? Many readers will have different ideas of what Account Management is and what it involves. TheTAS Group sees three areas. First, it’s about penetrating our key accounts, getting into as much of the account as we want to. This works on two dimensions. On the one hand it’s about reaching the entire breadth of the account. On the other hand, it’s about getting as many of our products and solutions into the accounts. Great Account Management INTRODUCTION TheTAS Group has been developing and sharing Account Management Best Practices since the late 1980’s. In the last 7 years alone we’ve helped almost 55,000 account management professionals. Some of our customers have also helped fine-tune and influence the content of what we deliver over the years.With that experience behind us, chances are that we’ve seen all the variations and issues that can crop up, and we’ve helped organizations the world over to beat them. ThisWhite Paper addresses what Account Management is about. It also covers the how, that is the how to do account management, and how you can get great at it. Thirdly, it looks at the benefits of being great and overcoming the typical challenges that business in the 21st century throws at us. Within the readership of thisWhite Paper there will inevitably be different levels of knowledge and experience in Account Management. Some readers will perhaps just be starting out on their Account Management career. Others may be sophisticated practitioners, looking to validate their own insights into the market. ThisWhite Paper is aimed at the middle ground, to cater to the widest range of requirements. If you feel that your needs are not met, or would like to learn more aboutTheTAS Group sales performance methodologies, technologies and solutions, we urge you to get in touch with us directly. You can do this via If we’re doing this well, and have the right level of relationships with our customers, then we fulfil the second role of Account Management, which is to create the kind of relationships that help to defend against any competitive encroaches. Thirdly, Account Management has a very important role in targeting and creating new business within the account base or accounts portfolio. This could be in the form of brand new accounts, new products, or finding new routes to market.
  3. 3. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 2 WHAT ARETHETOP INITIATIVES FOR ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT? What challenges are facing the account management profession? Interestingly enough,TheTAS Group has been asking over 2000 organizations this very question since 2007. What came out of this was that existing customers were identified as a key, if not the key revenue growth opportunity going forward. Indeed, the top 5 initiatives for organizations were Revenue Growth, Customer Retention, Profit Growth, Sales Effectiveness and Increased Revenue per Customer. Four of these are lagging indicators, business results that come in some time after sales activity for a certain time period. They tie directly to account management work and how well it is done. Sales Effectiveness, while it’s number 4 in the table, is still viewed as‘mandatory’, or‘very important’by 84% of all respondents, and this a leading indicator. Account management is all about using resources effectively and it is sales effectiveness that drives the success in the other initiatives. If the sales effectiveness is right, the others follow, and that is the focus ofTheTAS Group. Furthermore, the same survey found that 55% of organizations feel that they’re not maximizing the potential of their existing accounts. That means account management professionals are collectively leaving billions of dollars on the table every year, or worse still, leaving all that business there for the competition to sweep it up. This is probably why, in the same survey, 48% of companies said they were planning significant investment in account management improvement. Top 5 Initiatives Percentage Revenue Growth 92% Customer Retention 87% Profit Growth 84% Sales Effectiveness 84% Increased Revenue per Customer 70% WHAT ARETHE ISSUES IN ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT? So what are the issues here? What is preventing us from doing this, what is stopping us from getting where we need to be, to be great? The first issue is often lack of knowledge, and that’s not just the‘what’to do. With account management you also need to know how to do something. In many cases while account management professionals know what to do, they’re sometimes at a loss as to how to go about doing it. We make this distinction when we talk about process and methodology. Process is the‘what’you should do in order for you to get from A to B. Methodology is the‘how’you choose to do it. To choose a driving analogy, how you get to your destination is a function of what lane you drive in, at what speed, down which roads, where you decide to break your journey, all with the desired effect of getting to your destination given your requirements. Account management, especially when it involves account teams, marketing departments and partner organizations, can be a complex task. Information sharing and communication are critical. Everyone needs to be on the same page, knowing the objectives and their specific role in accomplishing them. When people are in different regions and don’t have the right tools at their disposal, then planning, updating and disseminating the knowledge and instructions becomes a major ordeal. These problems get thrown into even greater relief when you consider global accounts and global account teams. Getting a global account team properly aligned across regions, borders, languages and cultures, to act as one unit, helping each other, can be a very big task. These reasons are probably the main ones that contribute to the feeling among the 55% of organizations that their account management is not yet great.
  4. 4. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 3 HOW DOYOU DO GREAT ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT? In theTAS Group’s experience, which distils two decades’ worth of best practice, it is generally lack of knowledge that is the most critical issue. So how do you do great account management? There are five main areas to great account management. These are: profile, segment, create, select and execute. Before you develop your ‘go to market’strategy, you first need to do the market research. Only then can you begin to understand the profile of the market and your customer – the issues your customers think about and their organizational structure. Certain slices of an account are more attractive than others. So you need to segment the account – establishing which particular destinations in the account are of high value to both you and your customer. Once you’ve prioritized the segments in your account, then you can look to create new opportunities.These solutions must address the business needs of the customer, based on your ability to understand their needs. With lots of new opportunities created, you need to select the appropriate strategy to approach the account and focus on those areas that will provide maximum return on your efforts. But as they say – when a ship misses a harbor, it’s rarely the harbor’s fault.With the right strategy, you need to focus on great execution – building a business development plan for the account while leveraging marketing, partners and other resources to help you succeed. If you adopt, use and keep using a structured account planning methodology, you’ll fix issues before it becomes too late, lose your way less often, and get to where you want to be. PROFILEYOUR CUSTOMER In the physical retail business they say it’s all about 3 important things, location, location and location. In Account Management it’s also about 3 important things, research, research, and research. When you are developing an account plan – it’s all about knowledge and knowing your customer’s mind comes from understanding it. Before you even start planning, you need to know a lot of things about the customer. These include: goals, markets, industry trends, competitors, relative market position, financial performance, merger and acquisitions activity, and the structure of the account itself. Today, the role of the professional account manager – indeed that of the entire account team – is to create value, not just communicate it. You need to understand what the customer values before you know how to position your value. Understanding the landscape your customer is living on is critical and is related to something called mutual value. Mutual value is the desired destination you want to reach when building a business relationship with your customer and it’s where the investment levels of you and your customer are truly aligned. If you don’t get that alignment, then either you or your customer is not getting the return on effort. Organizations are usually comfortable articulating the value for their own products or services. And this is where the homework comes in, because you can’t find the areas of mutual value until you know what is valuable to your customer. If organizations get the homework right, they have a great foundation. This will save a lot of time in the long term and will also help establish immediate credibility for you when you collaborate with your customer. S1 S2 BU1 BU2
  5. 5. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 4 a true partnership with your customers for very significant value – and that’s what account management is all about. Operating as a trusted advisor can be expensive. If your customer is not willing to invest with you then you’re wasting resources. You need to understand what the customer values and how or if, based on your resources, you can deliver that value profitably. If you’ve ever been unable to answer the question‘what business project of my customer’s does my product support?’, then you’ll know you haven’t figured out the elements that are central to understanding your customer’s business. After determining the kind of relationship you should have, you also need to think about the client’s business drivers and associated critical success factors. Then you’re able to categorize the kinds of opportunities you have, and develop new ones – from the installed base variety through to the potential new opportunities. It is important to acknowledge that opportunities created by you are by definition unqualified, and you need to choose carefully which ones to work on. SELECTYOUR STRATEGY Strategy selection is built on the work you will have done so far, and you need to regroup and look at all business, installed, current and potential. By giving your installed base opportunities and current opportunities due consideration, you can decide which ones are worthy of taking their place alongside the potential opportunities in your view of the account. This picture will enable you to determine your entire account level objectives and devise your strategies to maximize the return from the Account. You must consider the resource implications, the risks and the costs of your selected strategies – and equally look at the balance of your account plan. Think about the correct combination of business and service units. Think about whether there really is mutual value there. And think about revenues in the short versus the long term. The last part of strategy selection is to develop a revenue objective for each target unit. This gives you a good picture of the overall revenue potential your effort represents. SEGMENTYOUR ACCOUNT Account segmentation is the process of identifying all the discrete divisions or units within an enterprise account, where you might find a fit for one of the solutions you offer. A good place to start is Business Units and Service Units. Business Units manage the primary customer-facing activity of the company. Strategic decisions are made here. Service Units work internally to serve the Business, and they are typically areas like IT or purchasing, HR and so on. There is a tendency for account managers to focus their attention on service units as the easy to spot budget holders, at the expense of the opportunities lurking in the business units. When you’ve figured out the Units, you need to weight them, to help you find those intersections of what is important to you and important to them. The first part of this equation is easy. But you can’t get the second part unless you adopt the customer’s perspective. Put yourself in their shoes and be as objective as you can. Looking at how these map out, mark out the various focal points – yours and your client’s – and look at the points of intersection. Some are going to be more important than others. A professional approach to Account Management walks you through the steps of identifying the mutual priorities, and these are where the potential lies. This is a very important stage in great account management too, because the decisions that you make here build the foundation of your account plan. You should make sure they’re all taken with the customer’s perspective as your spectacles. CREATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES In the create stage, you’re looking to create new opportunities within your accounts. It has already been emphasized how important it is to understand your customer in order for you to do this. Account management is a partnership with your customer, and this partnership can be thought of in three broad areas: first the level of relationship you enjoy with them; second, their business drivers, business initiatives and how they measure success; third, the mutual value of potential opportunities. Taking level of relationship first,TheTAS Group identifies a number of levels of relationship.The highest form of relationship is called theTrusted Advisor where you form
  6. 6. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 5 EXECUTE In many ways execution is the last 10 yards of the race to get to the tape. You’ve got to be decisive there. But you’ve got to be in the right position after the first 90 yards, and that first 90 yards is about planning. Here’s where the methodology, or the how to do it, can help. Remember that Account Penetration is a team event, and you’ll want to involve your team in this planning. Once you have identified the goal for your account, there are a number of objectives you will want to achieve: Revenue objectives – for your current and installed base opportunities; Business Development objectives – for your potential opportunities that you identified in your Account Map and Cross-Account Objectives – which ensure that you effectively manage your extended team of specialists, such as marketing and partners and which cover other non-revenue issues such as‘customer satisfaction’– in other words, keeping your house in order. Remember, don’t try and do everything, you have your Account team, other internal teams like marketing, as well as partners and other third parties to help you. An individual’s decision orientation is often determined by the role they play in a company or their natural leaning toward one approach. Understanding an individual’s orientation is critical to being able to relate to them, and offering them solutions which fit their needs. A company’s culture also impacts how that company buys, and therefore how you should sell to it. As with decision orientation, there are a number of types to consider. Each culture requires a different selling approach, and you need to assess the prevailing culture in your account to correctly position yourself, your company, and your value proposition. It is unrealistic to expect that you can provide all of the answers for your customer all of the time. Maybe there are partners whose skills and resources you can leverage. In fact, there are probably many other organizations involved with your account and you may need to find partners that can help. These could be influence partners who can provide access or complementary offerings, or reseller partners, who can provide additional coverage and implementation. Leveraging partnerships can accelerate and extend your reach, but you should treat them well, like you would treat your customer, while making sure you see return on your efforts. RECAP ON GREAT ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT First there is the research, so that you can profile the market and the business challenges your customers think about and their organizational structure. Then you need to segment the account to find out the pockets of the customer’s business which are important to them and also to you. Third, you should look to create new opportunities which meet the business needs of your customer, built on your understanding of their needs. Fourth, you should analyze and select the appropriate strategy to address the account and focus on those areas that will provide maximum return on your efforts. Fifth and finally, you need to focus on great execution, which involves building a business development plan for the account while leveraging marketing, partners and other resources to help you succeed. Keeping a structured account planning methodology will make sure that your account management team is on the same page, they all understand their role and what is expected of them. You can’t do great account management on your own, it won’t scale. It is definitely a team exercise.
  7. 7. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 6 HOWTECHNOLOGY HELPSYOU EXECUTE InTheTAS Group’s experience, organizations find that execution is the most difficult. Technology has been at the forefront of trying to make things easier and better for salespeople for quite some time. While some salespeople struggle to see the‘what’s in it for them’from CRM systems, there are now software applications that are designed with the sales person exclusively in mind and are built around what they need to do. It is important to see technology as just another delivery mechanism, but it has the power to scale, the power to leverage and the power to inform and communicate, when done the right way. The software-as-a-service model, of which the screenshot of Dealmaker fromTheTAS Group is an example, provides anytime, anywhere access to a whole team of people, and in the account management domain, this means that the process of sharing, updating and communicating information is made straightforward. In this picture, which is an Opportunity Map for an enterprise account, all team members can see at a glance the business units and service units down the left hand side, they can see what solutions are in the organization’s portfolio across the top, and they can see where the opportunities are and the value associated with them. There are also links to business drivers, initiatives and critical success factors for the team to follow. This is just one screen of a software application, but what it illustrates is that your account management team is properly informed and engaged, and this greatly increases the chances of successful execution. As well as software tools to improve communication and productivity, the Internet is also making account management more effective. The advent of web 2.0, with blogs, discussion forums and multi-media content means account management professionals can reinforce their own knowledge and execution best practice whenever they like. Account Managers can simply go to the web and view the appropriate content. Rather than being pulled back to base for time-consuming refresher courses, they can get what they need on the job, which is‘just in time, just enough, just for me.’ THE GLOBAL ACCOUNT Nowhere is the idea of team execution more crucial than in the global account. Global accounts can be fraught with problems, with geographically dispersed teams, language and cultural differences, and different divisions or departments overlapping and trying to sell different solutions or sometimes the same solutions into the same account. Communication and awareness of what the other team members are doing can be a nightmare. You’ll know what we mean if you’ve been in a meeting with the global account and the customer is telling you things about another part of your company that you didn’t know about and which affects your customer in some way. What kind of a signal does that send out to your customer about your ability to coordinate your account management and to execute properly? Global accounts are generally very large, and commercial activity, merger, takeover or sell-off activity is happening somewhere in an account like this all the time. But when a company is properly aligned around the account’s Business and Service Units, has a deep understanding of the customer, and all the regions are interacting properly, helping each other out where necessary, then great things can happen and the bond between global team and global account is almost impregnable.
  8. 8. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 7 GREAT ACCOUNT MANAGEMENT BEHAVIORS AND BENEFITS So what does first class account management look like? It is about a collection of certain kinds of behaviors. It’s about sound planning, thoughtful opportunity creation and intelligent strategy selection. It’s about good team interaction and great team execution. And it’s about committed information sharing and communication. When this set of behaviors is consistently replicated in account management, the right results emerge. These results can be grouped into 3 headings: revenue and profit growth; customer satisfaction and retention; and internal alignment and velocity. In terms of revenue and profit growth, this is the creation new opportunities. Organizations are also penetrating more of the account and selling more of their products or solutions. All these good things come from adherence to account management best practices. In terms of customer satisfaction and retention, organizations develop a greater understanding of their customer’s business. They also garner a deeper two-way relationship with their customer. Their solutions are aligned to their customer’s needs, solving their problems, doing what’s important and valuable to them and hitting their critical success factors. All this comes as a result of doing the research and earning the right to collaborate with their customer on mutual business value. Internal alignment and velocity refers to both the account team and other areas outside it. This generally relies on good technology as the foundation, walls and roof. With it, account teams can update and disseminate account plans quickly and easily. There is real-time information sharing. Finally, teamwork is accelerated because of the productivity gains of being hooked in to a CRM-type system, your account management system, and your opportunity management system. HOWTO APPLY GREAT ACCOUNT MANAGEMENTTOYOUR OWN ROLE Applying this to your own account management role is worth exploring, because the best practices in the world don’t work, if they don’t work for you. This Paper has covered account management in general terms, with a slight bias towards larger account management, and not all readers do‘general’ account management. It is a complex, challenging but rewarding profession, and some readers will be working at a global level, some at a national level and some at a regional or territory level. Some will be performing hybrid roles. Terminology abounds in the Account Management business, and some will also refer to their accounts as ABC accounts, or perhapsTier 1,Tier 2 andTier 3 accounts. Whatever the terminology,TheTAS Group likes to take a role-based approach to thinking about account management, because a‘one size fits all’approach will not always work. At the top of the pyramid shown there is the global account, and the role would be as one of a large global team supporting the account, as represented by the n:1. At an enterprise level, there might be one dedicated account manager per account, but although that person’s role is 1:1, it would still be to treat their account as a marketplace and penetrate business and service units. With a portfolio of smaller accounts, portfolio account managers would clearly perform a 1:several or 1:n role and work even harder to leverage partner and marketing organizations to work on B and C accounts. Then there are hybrid roles, usually territory managers, who would manage both a region from a direct perspective and a range of partners. With such a range of account management roles,TheTAS Group strongly recommends readers think about where they are in the pyramid and establish their best practice accordingly. n:1 1:1 1: n
  9. 9. Share this White Paper! Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved. 8 SUMMARY ThisWhite Paper addressed what account management is, the results it is looking to achieve and what the issues are that prevent organizations from achieving this. Having covered the what, the Paper then covered how great management should look. The five stages of the account management approach are to profile the market and customer, segment the account, create new opportunities which reflect the customer’s perspective on business, analyze and select the strategy best able to achieve the goals for the account, and finally plan and execute on that strategy. Teamwork and team execution is of paramount importance. Technology can help here, and the leveraging and reinforcing power of technology can keep an account team informed, committed and coordinated, no matter how globally dispersed they might be. Finally, the Paper outlined the behaviors synonymous with great account management and detailed the results in terms of revenue and profit growth, customer satisfaction and retention, and internal alignment and velocity, with the proviso that readers adapt best practice to their own account management role. TheTAS Group hopes that thisWhite Paper has given readers an insight into howTheTAS Group and our customers believe that great account management is within your reach. If you wish to find out more, please contact us at
  10. 10. ABOUTTHETAS GROUP TheTAS Group helps progressive sales organizations increase their sales velocity resulting in higher win rates, bigger deals, shorter sales cycles, and more qualified deals in the pipeline. Our unique value is deep methodology embedded within intelligent Dealmaker software, 100% native in Salesforce. Smart coaching, delivered just-in-time, improves sales performance and accelerates sales results.We have changed the paradigm of improving sales effectiveness from traditional sales training to delivering sales methodology and insights when and where the sales person is working a sales opportunity. For more information visit Copyright ©TheTAS Group. All rights reserved.This briefing is for customer use only and no usage rights are conveyed. Nothing herein may be reproduced in any form without written permission ofTheTAS Group.