Customer Insights – The Fertilizer You Need to Grow Strategic Accounts

Fotolia_52142332_XSOn January 22nd Michael Good, Sean Clayton and Diane Skirvin of Walker Insights took time to speak about methods for increasing the size and scope of strategic accounts using customer insights. The intersection of strategic selling and customer-focused research is a trending topic that those involved in sales and customer research should pay close attention to.

Strategic account management is the process of identifying and deepening the relationship with customers that are vital to the organization. Perhaps they are the 20% that generate 80% of sales or profits. It is a long-term strategy which focuses on providing the company and the client a relationship that maximizes mutual value. To accomplish this effectively the account management team needs insight so that it can align itself with the needs of the customer.

Strategic accounts grow faster than other accounts. According to the Strategic Accounts Management Association (SAMA) these clients are twice as likely as other clients to grow at rates exceeding 11%. A company’s growth potential is correlated with its ability to grow these strategic accounts.

Research comes into play in measuring the perceived capabilities of the strategic account management team, identifying their strengths, areas for improvement, and shining light on internal and external challenges. This internal work must be matched with the client’s assessment of the SAM team. Both viewpoints, combined, can help strategic account managers effectively guide the relationship to a place where it is mutually beneficial.

In a B2B setting the relationship between the customer and strategic account managers can form the bulk of the customer experience. CX researchers can support SAM teams four ways:

  1. Providing credibility – researchers can provide their account teams with benchmarking data that can be used in conversations around likely scenarios.
  2. Focus on timely insights – CX researchers can set up procedures to capture customer issue and opportunity alerts. Pre and post-milestone assessments are also useful at driving near real-time change. These insights can be leveraged to form success case-studies and reference pools.
  3. Deliver relevant content – Case studies and success stories that are relevant to the customer (or prospect) can be used by SAM teams to educate and lower potential barriers to the sale. Regular updates to both the account managers and clients serve as future talking points.
  4. Build subject matter expertise – researchers can serve as an outside consultant for the client company and provide data through post-engagement surveys and competitive benchmarking. This serves to identify future opportunities and challenges which the SAM team can use to develop a business case for deepening the relationship between.

Researchers in the B2B space should not be afraid to engage the client or prospect. Nor should we be afraid to deepen our internal relationships with strategic account teams. This process can be taken further via customer journey mapping for individual strategic accounts.

Greg Timpany directs the research efforts for Global Knowledge in Cary, North Carolina, and runs Anova Market Research. You can follow him on Twitter @DataDudeGreg.

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