How Professional Services Companies Win Big with Strategic Account Management
- Strategic Account Management is a systemic approach to increase revenues and customer share for key clients.
- These plans are the blueprints for client expansion and future sales.
- The CRM system has the data to feed the Strategic Account Management plan, make highly relevant and personalized recommendations for up-sell and cross-sale, and grow customer relationships and increase customer share.
How Services Firms Use Strategic Account Plans
For most services companies, a small number of key clients deliver most of the revenues and profits. These clients are the service providers strategic accounts. However, even these clients offer plenty of upside growth.
Strategic account management (SAM), sometimes called key account management, is a systemic approach to increase customer revenues from key clients. It also contributes to deeper customer relationships and increased customer retention.
However, to be effective, it's not an annual or infrequent exercise. It's a living plan that may get updated with every customer interaction. These updates may come from casual conversations, solution discussions, planning meetings or AI-driven Next Best Offer or Next Best Action recommendations. AI algorithms are particularly effective for identifying less popular or niche-based solutions or cross departmental sale opportunities that expand the customer relationship across lines of business.
The most effective strategic account plans are also designed from an outside-in perspective. That means starting with the client's objectives, understanding their vision, surfacing hidden opportunities and never losing sight of what's most important to them.
"You don't close a sale; you open a relationship and an opportunity to create mutual value." – Author unknown
The Strategic Account Plan
SAM generates a strategic account plan.
The Account Plan is a dynamic forecast that aligns the company's services and solutions with the client's near-term and long-term goals. The plan identifies potential upsell and cross-sell opportunities over an extended horizon that help clients achieve their evolving priorities.
It's like a long-term sale opportunity roadmap. Each pro forma sale opportunity should include supporting actions, such as the client pain to resolve, the service or solution, an offering, a client specific value proposition, resource assignments, next actions and metrics to show account plan progress.
CRM for SAM
SAM is a proactive selling approach based on a repeatable sales process and enabling technology.
Customer Relationship Management software is the service providers customer system of record. The best CRM software for professional services companies aids SAM with tools such as customer intelligence, relationship maps, whitespace analysis, competitor intelligence and target setting.
Customer growth plans embedded in this technology shift revenue planning from reactive or ad hoc to proactive and predicted. And unlike the initial sales plans to acquire new customers, strategic account plans designed to upsell, cross-sale and grow client share are based on data and knowledge that accumulate over the course of the relationship. That gives the partner or salesperson customer insights to tailor presentations and recommendations to customer needs. It also increases receptivity and sales conversion rates.
The Sales Excellence Report found that SAM is highly adopted among professional services Best-in-Class sellers. However, it's not as common in other industries. That's why most CRM systems do not support it.
Fortunately, a few customer relationship management systems that cater to the services industry support key account management directly or through integrated third-party apps. These systems provide account planning capabilities, such as:
- Pushing data from Account, Contact and Opportunity records into the Account Plan
- Account Plan integration with CRM activity management
- Integration to CRM dashboards for account plan events, scheduling, alerts and escalations
- Integration with Sales Playbooks to display Sales and Account Plan Best Practices
- Using AI with customer intelligence and sale opportunity data to deliver Next Best Offer (NBO) and Next Best Action (NBA) recommendations
Account plans are also useful to identify white space sale opportunities. This is another area of differentiation for CRM software designed for professional service companies.
White space is a metaphor that describes an upside growth opportunity. It's a place where a consulting or services firm may find unmet needs or a lack of solutions for individual client goals, or find market gaps or underserved target audiences. It's a place where the firm may find limited competition and new revenue streams.
White space discoveries are most often driven by customer intelligence, market analysis and product or service innovation. When found, they quite often create sole source sale opportunities. For many partners or salespeople, the revenue is in the whitespace.
The Point is This
Strategic account plans set progressive or cascading goals for future periods. Seasoned services executives, partners and salespeople know that customer goals shift and when sellers shift in parallel they becomes essential to their clients. Staying a step ahead of client needs positions the salesperson to achieve the oft quoted but seldom realized trusted business advisor.
CRM technology is the system that records new client interests, new sources of pain, changes to client goals and all sorts of minutes from client discussions. All this data and much more accumulate, and if properly structured, become valuable customer intelligence.
The application can monitor and harvest the data in real-time so that the partner or salesperson can recommend the right services or solutions at the right time. CRM and strategic account planning provide the information to help salespeople stay relevant and grow customer revenues.