How do you manage organisational change with Strategic Account Management (SAM)?
Introducing a Strategic Account Management (SAM) program into your organisation must be treated as a major change initiative. Treating the project as purely a sales project is setting yourselves up for failure.
A SAM program takes time to get results and is an initiative to change organisational culture, so small steps and building momentum is critical to its success. The simple acts of involving other departments, increasing internal collaboration, asking the customer more strategic questions and taking time out from daily operations to discuss your key account are significant steps. You can build on these steps and refine them as your SAM program becomes established and part of the ‘rhythm of your business’.
There are five risks to manage the change of implementing SAM:
- Lacking CEO and senior executive sponsorship
- Resisting change
- Letting bad news derail your SAM program
- Too much, too soon
- Not taking action
Our earlier blog Too good to change? (At least this year!) explores further risks to change initiatives.
1. Lacking CEO and senior executive sponsorship
The entire business must own major accounts. There must be genuine commitment and active involvement from the CEO and other senior executives. In difficult times, SAM is often one of the first programs to be cut, if the CEO doesn’t understand the strategic value, revenue and profit drivers of SAM.
2. Resisting change
Any significant change program faces resistance. In SAM programs this resistance typically arises in two areas.
- The account manager can be threatened by the introduction of more people into the account and may perceive this as indirect criticism of how they currently do their job.
- Non-sales staff often resist this change as they see SAM as a sales-only initiative. Other departments can be reluctant to share people and resources.
3. Letting bad news derail your SAM program
Even with CEO and executive support and an education program across the business, losing a strategic account to a competitor early in the process can cause disruption. This presents both a risk and an opportunity.
It is a risk, as some will see this as a failure of the SAM program.
It is an opportunity, to reinforce that SAM could have prevented this if you were further along the SAM journey.
4. Too much, too soon
When implementing SAM it is better to take a few small steps and build momentum and confidence. Sometimes in the excitement to make rapid progress, companies simply take on too much too soon.
In SAM, each account needs quarterly internal account reviews, operational meetings with the account, the CEO’s will meet twice a year, and twice a year you will hold strategy and innovation forums with the account to communicate industry trends and other key developments. When an organisation is new to SAM this will simply overwhelm people. Then, they don’t attend meetings and you don’t achieve your objectives for your strategic accounts.
5. Not taking action
Actions from your account plan will deliver better outcomes for your account and your company, but only if you execute these actions. If you repeatedly attend review meetings and take no action, the relationship will quickly become operational as your account loses confidence. Do what you say you will do!