I’ve just returned from the annual SAMA (Strategic Account Management Association) event in Dallas. It’s always a fantastic event and I always learn loads. Every year (mostly) large companies, discuss strategic initiatives, about long-term Strategic Account Management issues, generally involving large amounts of cash. For the most part, the companies are big, the issues are big, the teams are big, the target customers are big, and everything is … well, just BIG!
But when you break it down, a big issue can normally be consumed better in bite-size chunks. According to a study conducted by SAMA, one of the biggest challenges these Strategic Account Managers have, is that they are put under too much pressure to focus on short term returns. How do you manage bring in short-term revenue when you’re faced with all these big issues? Is that just too much mustard to swallow? How do you put food on the table today and still sow seeds for next year’s tomato crop?
Some (though I’m not sure who they are) would say it’s as challenging as trying to pick the right sauce from more than thirty-six varieties of Ragú spaghetti sauce – perhaps more Old World, a little less Chunky Garden, with just enough Robusto to achieve the right level of piquancy! It’s not easy to always get the ingredients right – or choose the right blend of short term results and long term gains, work an active opportunity, and still dig deep to uncover yet undiscovered strategic business alignment potential, while still keeping the mix stirred to keep everything on the boil. (Enough of the food metaphors – I’m getting hungry.)
The choice however is clear and it’s Hobson’s – there’s only one way you can go, and that’s find a way to do both. Sales 2.0 tools can help get the blend right.
Much has been said about the amount of non-selling time spent by sales professionals. Whatever the actual percentage is – it’s just way too much. This problem is truly exacerbated in strategic account management. As a SAM, your job is to generate revenue for your company by adding value to your customer’s business – now, and in the future. Anything else is a waste of time. There is tremendous value in applying the collective cerebral power of an account team in creating Account Plans – but that value if often quickly eroded by their constant need for maintenance, updates, and general account management admin overhead. It’s like reheating your gourmet spaghetti over and over again; after a while it just doesn’t quite work anymore.
Good Sales 2.0 Account Management tools are like your ready-made sauce, ready to serve, but capable of being modified to your taste. You spend less time creating your plan, and almost zero time maintaining it – leaving you more time to work on both short and long term activities – and that can taste very sweet.
We’ve seen well implemented Sales 2.0 tools help account teams get the balance right between pursuing of current opportunities and strategizing to meet longer terms objectives. Now we’re in this business, so there’s probably some built-in bias here, but for a long time I’ve struggled with understanding why very little technology has been available to SAMs to reduce the non-productive time spent on this very important activity. CRM solutions – even those that are optimally implemented – don’t make the grade. They lack any encapsulated methodology, and don’t model how the SAMs need to work, in teams, in realtime and with complete up to date account information – both qualitative as well as quantitative.
Organizational bureaucracy oft times limits innovation, agility and success, but as companies themselves become more networked, SAMs should benefit from the velocity that can ensue. Most large organizations today are geographically dispersed and that makes the job of the SAM team almost impossible if technology is not used to span geographies and time-zones. Otherwise, too much time is spent on maintaining ad sharing information – and not enough time using it.
Adopting a sales 2.0 system to encourage common language, consistently and in context, based on every changing and up to date information is one way to accelerate short-term results and leave time for cooking up (sorry) strategic plans to gain the best blend of short and long term revenue.
If you say to-may-to and I say to-mah-to, it’s unlikely that together we’ll cook the right sauce – and that can leave a bad taste.