Your team just won a new logo! Congratulations! This one has buzz. It’s modest to start, but there’s potential to sell into multiple buying centers, across geographies, and the new product your company is launching will help the customer simplify their processes, increase efficiencies, and reduce strain on their supply chain. But that’s all in the hands of the key account team now. What is key account management (KAM)? Key account management is a systematic approach to managing and growing a named set of an account manager’s most important customers to maximize mutual value and achieve mutually beneficial goals. The good news is that new business from key accounts is 60% to 70% more likely to close compared to the 5% to 20% likelihood of closing a deal with a new client.
Client loyalty can make or break a company. Loyalty is tied to buyer satisfaction and their experience buying from you—but it’s tough to earn. Fred Reichheld, author of The Loyalty Effect and creator of the Net Promoter System, found that most corporations lose 50% of their customers every 5 years, 50% of employees in 4 years, and 50% of investors in less than one year.
Solution engineers, technical consultants, solutions consultants—whatever you choose to call the technical expert on your sales team—they play a significant role in the sales and account-development process. In our research, Top Performance in Strategic Account Management, we analyzed data from 397 executives, strategic account managers, and sales professionals to learn what sets the companies that are best at growing their strategic accounts—Top Performers—apart from The Rest. Overall, we assessed 32 skills comprising six roles strategic account managers play: Results Driver, Project Manager, Technical Expert, Innovator, Collaborator, and Relationship Lead.
Why are some companies able to consistently grow their strategic accounts and maximize value while others struggle? This is a question that confounds many a sales leader. Some think it is largely related to the strength of product and service offerings. The companies that grow their accounts the most must have superior offerings that keep customers coming back for more, right?
Ask leaders at companies how much more they believe they could be selling to their strategic accounts and you don't hear 5%, 10%, or 20%. It's usually more like, "We should be selling 2 times…3 times…even more." Ask what's in their way and you'll often get this answer, "Our strategic account managers just aren't doing what they need to do to penetrate the account, cross-sell, and keep the competition out so we can truly grow our accounts to their potential."
Ask most people about the strength of their core client relationships and they'll say, "Great. Rock solid." Yet these comments usually refer to how much rapport or trust sellers feel they have with the client. They don't answer the question through the lens of business value the client receives from them.
One of the biggest untapped opportunities to increasing sales and profit is growing your existing accounts. Consider: Retaining current customers is 6 to 7 times less costly than acquiring new ones (Source: Bain & Company) Repeat customers, on average, spend 67% more (Source: Bain & Company) 60% of companies believe they should be generating 25% or more revenue from strategic accounts (Source: RAIN Group Center for Sales Research)
In The Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management, we analyzed data from over 370 companies that engage in formal strategic account management. We asked about the top challenges that limit account growth and found the number one difference between high performers and the rest is: having an effective strategic account planning tool. Only 19% of high performers reported having an effective account planning tool as challenging compared to 53% of everyone else (see graph below). The challenge of having an effective tool does not, however, exist in a vacuum.
Bringing in new customers is expensive. According to research by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company, it costs 6 to 7x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer. In our own work, we regularly find companies have significant, untapped opportunities for growing existing accounts. Yet cross-selling, up-selling, and growing accounts is a major challenge for many companies.
Ask the question, “What needs to happen at your company to maximize your success with your strategic accounts?” and you’re likely to get answers like this: Account managers need to know about the value we can bring them besides what we’re doing for them right now. We need to penetrate different divisions of the accounts. Our relationships need to be deeper if we want to keep competitors out. We need to work directly with decision makers at the enterprise level. Nice list, but not unique to account management.