Many companies have implemented targeted Strategic Account Management (SAM) programs for their most-valued customers and prospects, but the level of investment in such programs is often up for debate. The key question becomes: How can we measure the effectiveness and profit contribution of Strategic Account Management?
What value will be realized through measuring SAM?
Measuring and communicating value increases the likelihood of the SAM training and methodology sticking. Morale and momentum increase when management inspects what they expect. It’s difficult to carve out time to plan, so asking people about their account plans and coaching them is a very effective way to encourage them and keep them on task, and ultimately, to drive the targeted long-relationships, partnerships and business results.
What are the foundational principles of measuring SAM?
Efficiency and Simplicity. Make sure you can efficiently measure the outcomes you expect and keep the measuring process as simple as possible. Between three and six key metrics is optimal—anything more often results in diminishing returns.
Consider these questions as you select your metrics:
Which metrics can be sourced from standard reporting systems?
Which require development of a unique report?
Which metrics are qualitative and require subjective input?
With what frequency should you measure–monthly, quarterly, semi-annually?
It’s very important to make sure everyone is on board with compiling the metrics.
Account-Specific Metrics. In order to achieve the greatest accountability, SAM metrics should be account-specific. Some of these metrics will be qualitative and some quantitative. When we evaluate things like strategies, relationships, and plans, some subjectivity is necessary. However, if our definition of success doesn’t involve some numbers, the goal quickly becomes too subjective and fuzzy. Numbers bring clarity.
The ultimate answer to “what should be measured” depends on what your company expects from your SAM program. We offer the following questions to help guide your discussions.
What outcomes / behaviors do you want from your SAM program–what improvements are you expecting?
Why are you investing in this program?
How will you define success?
Can we measure what we expect and how?
Strategic accounts tend to be more complex and as such the sales cycles are often longer and the stakes are much higher. It’s important to measure success at more than one point along the sales process, using both lagging and leading indicators.
Leading indicators provide visibility into the likelihood of success. They help us define how we are doing and what we may need to do differently in order to improve the ultimate outcome.
Lagging indicators surface at the end of a cycle or phase. They are important in defining whether or not we achieved our goal. Combining both leading and lagging indicators enables us to not only improve our ability to forecast success, but to do something about it before it’s
Communications. These metrics need to be visible up and down the management chain so that they are actionable. The principles and metrics described in this article can be incorporated within a scorecard for rapid, visual, high-impact communications. In the example below, the revenue, pipeline, and customer satisfaction results are tracked by account through the standard reporting systems. The Call Plan utilization, Executive Relationship calls, and Account Reviews are tracked during regularly scheduled conversations between the
account manager and sales manager.
To ensure that the strategic account investment is tended to with the focus it deserves, a regularly reviewed measurement system works well to track and communicate our ability to
fulfill the needs of our most important customers. Our clients invest heavily in programs that give them a competitive advantage with their most important customers—this investment must be measured and nurtured.