Often when I speak about the power of growth through a company’s major accounts, managers ask what is the secret or short cut to success? My answer disappoints, there is no short cut.
I have recently returned from Byron Bay in NSW where I attended a Moroccan Cooking Course with https://opentable.net.au/, which was fantastic. When people asked the Master Chef Ronit how to cook these slow-cooked dishes quicker; her steely look was priceless. Thankfully, at the end of the class we could enjoy a Moroccan Banquet without taking any shortcuts.
As I reflected on the food and slow preparation, I considered how often in business we try to rush growth or quickly get new products or services to market, to keep revenue growing. Exquisite food needs thorough preparation and planning, so does growth in your major accounts.
To be successful the leadership team must drive growth through their major accounts, with a solid strategy and clear executive sponsorship. Some people look bewildered at the prospect of getting every part of the executive team working on a better outcome for the top accounts. Without effective executive sponsorship, businesses will perish.
Klaus Schwab, wrote, ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’, and alongside digital disruption and AI, he made this powerful observation.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution has four main effects on businesses across many industries:
Customer expectations are shifting
Products are being enhanced by data, which improves asset productivity
New partnerships are being formed as companies learn the importance of new forms of collaboration, and
Operating models are being transformed into new digital models.
As an executive, the key question is: how can you use all four effects across your business to gain a competitive edge?
You need a clear strategy around how your business manages your top accounts and how you manage it across the whole organisation. The best strategy across global accounts is where the executive team create an executive sponsorship initiative to make results happen and fast.
Let me unpack some of the elements from our most successful B2B customers in diverse industries from, pharmaceutical, human and animal, banking, healthcare and advanced manufacturing:
Total engagement of the executive team across all BUs.
Executives need to work out how to reward their team for the success of the total business and not just their BUs results - silo busting. If you don’t sort this at the start, the initiative will fail. We have stopped working with customers who do not have executive support/sponsorship in place because it will fail. These customers view major accounts tactically as a way to increase revenue per quarter and not to strategically grow value.
Select executives and allocate strategic accounts.
Allocate specific accounts for each executive to own; they become responsible for the account and accountable for results. Some senior executives think this is a great idea, but most say they are too busy to spend time in the field, that job is for the account managers. However, these strategic accounts are selected for the executives to develop deep and meaningful relationships with the executives in the top accounts.
Create a disciplined and measurable framework.
A framework will drive growth with the selected accounts. 3M used to review top accounts every three months, ensuring proposed activities for creating value were executed and the results were measured.
The major benefits for this approach are that the executive team discovers through deep engagement what their top account’s value and why. It creates relevance for you as a strategic supplier to this account, positioning you as a supplier who cares, which allows you to create and differentiate on value and not on price.
You cannot do this unless you engage deeply across the organisation, executing the global best practice of joint account planning with your top accounts. Imagine the impact on your top account’s business when you both talk about the next three years and not what didn’t happen last month.
If you want growth, real growth with your top accounts, then the executive team must own the growth initiative and must drive it.