Major Account Management Is a Long Term Process - It Takes Time:
We must recognise that we are in Major Account Management for the long term. It takes time to manage a major account and we will only receive a payback on our investment in time if we can have a long term result. In some of the organisations we have worked with this produces a tension because the whole culture is about creating a short term sales result in which product and profit are the main drivers and measures of success. We should not underestimate what a challenge Major Account Management can be to the corporate culture. It emphasises relationship more than product, profit more than volume, and team more than individual, long term more than short term. At the same time the practical short term realities of business life need to be recognised.
One of the best ways of managing this tension is to have someone who acts as a mentor, conscience or guide to the account manager and account team. They are not involved in the day to day management of the account but are invited in to look at and comment on major proposals and presentations. Their main role is to be involved in reviewing the long term plan every few months to ensure that the relationship is as productive as possible and is reflecting the values of the organisation as a whole.
The role of the major account manager is to be responsible for the overall relationship. They influence all those involved in the account to ensure a co-ordinated, synchronised approach. The major account manager is responsible for drafting the account plan, gaining the agreement and commitment of the team and then monitoring implementation
Major Account Management Involves Relationships Not Just a Mechanical Approach:
Under this heading we should discuss three main aspects of major account management.
o The importance of relationships in Major Account Management.
o The complexity of relationships in Major Account Management.
o Mapping relationships in Major Account Management.
In Major Account Management it is essential that we manage people as well as processes. Of course we must get the product pricing right. We need to be excellent at administration. Our customer service and product range need to be strong. But "people buy from people" and "we are in a people business". To manage the complex range of relationships within a major account is difficult and demanding but our ability to manage relationships will define whether or not we sustain success.
In a reactive sale there is only one relationship - that between the seller and the buyer. In major accounts the situation is much more complex. There are often contacts going on at many levels and many locations. In one major account, we have identified 1000 relationships between the account team of ten people and individuals representing the client. But it is not just a problem of numbers, it is often a problem of politics. Some contacts do not want us to talk to people in other departments or at different levels. It can also be that the complexity is caused by product range. The users of one product rarely speak to the specifies for another product. In any complex relationship some people will like us more than others. This is to say nothing of inter-departmental tensions. All these things make major account relationships complex and we need to recognise their complexity.
If relationships are important and if relationships are complex then it is essential that we find a way of mapping, analysing, planning and monitoring those relationships. Over recent years we have found that an approach based on the game of chess allows a very practical way of identifying the key issues.
If we can answer these questions confidently and communicate our thinking across the account team simply and clearly then we will be half-way to success. This approach has given people across a broad spectrum of organisations a common language and way of working
It Can Only Be Done With Selected Customers:
The final word from this definition is selected. Choosing the right key accounts is of critical importance for three main reasons:
o We do not have the resources to treat every customer as a key account.
o Not every customer wants to be treated as a key account.
o Selection allows us to prioritise our activities in line with our overall business objectives.