Managing your most strategic customers requires faster and smarter decisions
You live in changing times, and your decisions with your strategic accounts need to be faster, smarter and relevant to key decision makers.
Currently, too many people are still focused on cost-cutting and not enough on winning market opportunities. Firms measure on short-term gains without examining their long-term plans. Focusing on growth through mergers and acquisitions and not by building a more profitable and sustainable business with the existing portfolio of B2B or B2C customers.
Global business is changing, and changing fast. Your major accounts or top customers want to work with you differently, with a clear focus on better results. In the era of big data the whole organisation needs to focus on the top 10 – 20 accounts in your B2B world that often bring in 90% of your revenue and the lion’s share of profits.
The difficulty with big data and multiple touch points with top accounts is the first casualty is faster and smarter decisions. What usually wins is a turf war over the ownership of the account and ultimately who has responsibility for the success of the account. Stop fighting over the account and as a business imperative manage your top B2B accounts, your best customers strategically. Don’t lose them, help them grow, and create joint value, so price becomes part of the mix, not the only discussion.
On any new consulting assignment, the first meeting with a new account is a discovery meeting with the CEO to get an understanding of how the organisation manages its top 10 to 20 accounts. It is a conversation and ends by asking the CEO to pick out one of their top accounts, one of the best. Next meeting is the meet the executive sponsor for that account and the account manager that has responsibility for that account and the current account plan.
If you don’t use account plans, look at the blog: What should you include in your account plan and why?
The purpose of this meeting is to get a top-down view of the processes in place within the organisation. How well they manage strategic accounts and a feeling for how fast and smart the decisions are in the process of bringing value to their top accounts.
In essence, how well is the business using artificial intelligence (Ai) and human intelligence (Hi) in making faster and smarter decisions? Using Ai and Hi for Augmented Decisions® for your strategic accounts is the key to long-term sustainable results.
The Augmented Decisions® framework for your top accounts means leveraging the power that Ai brings to discussions on what value you currently deliver to your top accounts and being able to prove it. Hi allows you to make faster and smarter decisions about future value before competitors make offers based on price.
Have a five-year strategic plan for your business, but every three months examine, top account by top account and ask the tough question are you making Augmented Decisions® based on Ai and Hi or are you allowing the status quo to win? As a leadership team, if you are not reviewing your top accounts through this lens, you are not serious about sustainable growth.
At this point in the history of your company, you must look at the digital journey rapidly leaving you behind. Augmented Decisions® is a transformative change in how you manage your top accounts. Augmented Decisions® for and within your top accounts is about allowing your best human talent to leverage the best technology can provide, resulting in faster and smarter decisions.
Dynamic strategic account planning means that every three months the business is making decisions that impact how you bring value to your top 10 – 20 accounts. It is not about documenting stuff to do with the operational processes for these accounts; it is what you need to do to make faster and smarter decisions using all available data and human interactions.
In the meetings that occur every three months, the account manager needs to share how she has worked across all divisional boundaries to bring the ‘voice’ of the account into your organisation., Drawing ideas and developing actions from multiple teams across different business groups allows the account team to develop better solutions. If the C-Suite does not have quarterly meetings to discuss the top 10 – 20 accounts, then the engagement of cross-functional teams to create unique and measurable value propositions will not take place.
The human stuff (Hi) is what builds relationships at a senior level with the C-Suite in your top 10 -20 accounts. It is how you make decisions as humans that bring relevance to your top customer’s business. The HBR article, A Brief History of Decision Making, by Buchanan and O’Connell, will challenge you to use all tools available to you to manage risk, make better decisions and do so combining logic (Ai) and instinct (Hi).
Your competitors can and often will fight for market share based on price. However, if every three months you are making smarter and faster decisions for your top accounts based on a deep knowledge of their business, executive connection and a strong evolving value proposition, then let them fight on price.
With competitors fighting on price and new and different competitors continuing to emerge, for many companies, this means less revenue, margin and profit. Every day through the digital disruption there are new and nimble competitors both in the B2B and B2C world. The good thing is that they do not want to take all of your business away from you, just cherry pick, and often it is your best and most profitable clients.
I recently organised a meeting with one of my top accounts to have one of their best rural clients attend an in-house meeting to share with the C-Suite and their senior account managers what value looked like to him.
The meeting was fantastic; he spared no punches. In summary, he said five years ago I deeply understood what value you delivered, today you look, sound and behave the same as your competitors. All of your internal restructurings were about saving you costs, reducing your headcount and streamlining your services. They took away your value proposition – your competitive edge. I will now be forced to make decisions based on price.
Best-in-class companies that manage their accounts strategically know how their most important accounts perceive them. Once you have that knowledge, you can look at how well you manage Ai and Hi in the way you make Augmented Decisions® for your top account. How do you stay relevant and continuously stay there?
Your success last year or for the past 30 years is no longer a guarantee that you will be in business next year or in 3 years’ time. The power of the Augmented Decisions® process in your major accounts is not to replace people in your business, it allows the account teams to harness the power of Ai in doing a lot of the boring, manual and mundane activities and leverage their Hi to bring faster and smarter decisions to key decision makers in this account. It is about making you relevant to your top customers.
Account management, like Ai, is no longer a nice thing to do; it is a business imperative for a competitive edge in your marketplace. Big data on your top accounts is meaningless unless you have the Hi grunt in your business to make Augmented Decisions® that are valued and relevant to key decision makers in your top account’s business.