Use Strategic Account Management to Grow Customer Share and Company Revenue


  • Strategic Account Management is a systemic approach to increase customer share and company profits.
  • Strategic account plans are the blueprints for prescriptive customer expansion and future sales.
  • The CRM system has the customer data to feed strategic account plans, make highly relevant and personalized recommendations for up-sell and cross-sale, and methodically increase customer relationships and customer share.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Sales of complex products to new customers incur long sales cycles and high cost per acquisition. Fortunately, duration and costs decline with subsequent sales to existing customers. That why strategic account selling is key to accelerating revenue and growing profits.

For most companies, a minority of key clients deliver most of their revenues and profits. These clients are the strategic accounts. And even with their larger spend, they offer plenty of upside growth.

Strategic Account Management (SAM), sometimes called key account management, is a customer-centric approach to increase revenues and customer share from key clients. It also contributes to deeper customer relationships and increased retention.

However, to be effective, it's not an annual or infrequent exercise. It's a dynamic plan that may get updated with every customer interaction. These updates may come from casual conversations, meetings, purchases, social profile updates, online digital footprints or AI-driven Next Best Offer or Next Best Action recommendations.

AI algorithms are particularly effective for identifying less popular or more specialized product recommendations. They can also surface cross departmental sale opportunities that expand the customer relationship across corporate boundaries.

The most effective account plans are also designed from an outside-in perspective. That means starting with the customer objectives, understanding their challenges, 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 long-term mutual value." – Author unknown

The Strategic Account Plan

SAM uses a strategic account plan to identify, sequence and forecast potential solutions.

The Account Plan is a living forecast that aligns products or services with the customer's vision and goals. It identifies potential upsell and cross-sell opportunities over an extended horizon that help customers achieve their evolving priorities.

Sales account plans often use white space mapping to identify future opportunities. White space is a metaphor that identifies unmet customer needs and the upside growth opportunity. For many sellers, the revenue is in the whitespace.

A Strategic Account Plan is like a long-term sale opportunity roadmap. And to be effective, each pro forma opportunity must include supporting information, such as the customer pain to resolve, the fit for a proposed product or solution, an offering, metrics to show account plan progress and scheduled next actions. Most account plans show how products previously purchased create a pathway and synergistic value to future products.

Strategic Account Planning

When correctly done, the salesperson is leading the customer in a journey of increasing value. The sales professional isn't waiting for the customer to inquire about a product or service. He or she is proactively recommending relevant products based on the customer's vision, goals, requirements and timing.

This changes the sale dynamics in several ways. From the relationship perspective, it helps the sales professional achieve the often quoted but seldom realized role of trusted business advisor. From a selling perspective, it eliminates or reduces competition and preserves margins.

CRM for Strategic Account Management

SAM is a proactive selling approach based on a repeatable sales process and enabling technology.

Customer Relationship Management software is the customer system of record. Several of the market leading CRM systems offer tools to aid and automate SAM. Things like whitespace mapping, target setting, org charts, relationship maps, sale strategies, competitor intelligence and sales win plans that integrate with sale methodologies.

Customer growth plans embedded in CRM software shift revenue generation from reactive or ad hoc to proactive and predicted. And unlike the initial sales plans to acquire new customers, account plans designed to upsell, cross-sale and grow customer share are based on data and knowledge that accumulate over the course of the relationship. That gives the salesperson customer insights to tailor discussions, presentations and recommendations to specific customer needs. It also increases receptivity and sales conversion rates.

Customer Insights Integration to CRM

The most successful SAM built on customer intelligence. However, many companies struggle with organizing customer data into customer intelligence. My experience has been they usually have the customer data, although many times don't know it because it resides in many places. That makes the data inaccessible and unused.

The solution is to consolidate and parse the data into customer segments, customer insights, an Ideal Customer Profile and a 360 degree customer view. This is an upfront investment that will accelerate and semi-automate SAM and deliver many other downstream business benefits.

Other CRM account planning capabilities may include the following:

  • Pulling data from Account, Contact and Opportunity records into the Account Plan
  • Account Plan integration with CRM activity management
  • Integration to structured sales processes for guided selling
  • Integration to CRM dashboards for account plan events, scheduling, alerts and escalations
  • Integration with CRM Playbooks to display Sales and Account Management Best Practices
  • AI for Next Best Offer (NBO) and Next Best Action (NBA) recommendations

The Point is This

Strategic account plans set goals for future periods. Seasoned sales professionals know that customer goals shift and when sellers shift in parallel they become essential to their customers.

CRM software is the system that records customer conversations, activities, interests, opportunities and much more. CRM software is the source and central repository for customer intelligence.

The technology tracks evolving customer needs, goals and priorities in near real-time so the seller can recommend or plan the right product or service at the right time. CRM provides the most valuable information to help salespeople stay relevant and grow customer share.