Crafting the right sales message for every customer-supplier situation

By Nicolas Zimmerman, Editor-in-Chief, SAMA

To challenge or not to challenge? That is the question.

Ever since CEB published its seminal book “The Challenger Sale,” the challenger paradigm has reigned supreme. It has been taken as gospel that the best way to win more deals is to disrupt the status quo by taking control of customer conversations and introducing new, provocative ideas. (On the other hand, SAMA has always considered the idea of “taking control” of your customer to be misguided at best, disastrous at worst.)

Corporate Visions has been at the vanguard of partnering with academics on research designed to test whether challenging actually does what it’s supposed to — and if so, under what conditions. In other words, challenging may work when you’re trying to convince a prospect to move business to you. But does it also work when you’re trying to convince existing customers to:

  • Stay with you?
  • Pay more for your products/services?
  • Do more business with you?
  • Forgive you for a lapse in service?

(Sneak preview: The answer is NO.)

If you missed the SAMA/CVI next-practice symposium Feb. 12 in Chicago, first of all: Shame on you. But second of all: You’re in luck, because I’m going to lay out many of the key takeaways here. Read on…

Continue reading “Crafting the right sales message for every customer-supplier situation”

You *MIGHT* be a SAM/KAM….

By Harvey Dunham, Managing Director of Strategy, SAMA

With more than 30 years working with strategic accounts at Schneider Electric, I know first-hand that few jobs in the world are as misunderstood as that of a strategic or key account manager. People think of you as the ones who “make the big bucks” without the stress of making quotas, the ones who put their customers’ needs above their own company’s.

They also assume you were born clairvoyant, omniscient and all-powerful. No pressure, right?

Even though Schneider is one of the longest-running members of the SAMA community, I was 20 years into my career before I attended my first SAMA event.

My first reaction was: “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

I remember having conversations on the sidelines with complete strangers (many of whom I now consider close friends and even colleagues) that yielded nuggets I immediately put to use with my own customers. It’s a powerful experience.

But what I remember most vividly is how soothing it was to finally – at last! – be surrounded by hundreds of people who “get it.” Working as a strategic or key account manager can be lonely — and that’s what makes being a part of the SAMA community such a powerful experience.

In honor of that feeling of community, and in anticipation of our upcoming Annual Conference and Pan-European Conference, I present to you my own personal top-10, “You MIGHT be a SAM…”

If you have a company car, but you only use it for driving to the airport….

If you have far more people working for your customer initiatives than your boss has direct reports – even though you have no official direct reports…

If your best years involve an audit from Finance “just to make sure” you’re not fluffing your results…

If your magic power is being yelled at by your customer’s CEO and your own CEO at the same time

If you spend dull meetings mentally calculating how many weeks it’s going to take you to recover from jet lag…

If your own spouse and kids are on a first-name basis with your main customer contacts…

If you’ve got more swag with your customer’s logo on it than your own company’s…

If your meetings bring together more of your customer’s big players than their own meetings do…

If you catch yourself calculating bar tabs in your customer’s home currency…

Then you might…just possibly…be a strategic/key/global account manager.

Yearly rewind (and a look ahead) from the desk of SAMA’s CEO

By Denise Freier, President & CEO, SAMA

It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are nearly here. I always find it useful to look back at the year that’s passed and — more importantly — what’s ahead in the year to follow. It’s easy to forget the past year’s accomplishments amid the excitement of what’s to come, and I want to be sure SAMA is providing the insights and knowledge you need. With that in mind, I’m pleased to have a chance to do a little bit of both in this space…a quick look backward and forward.

A look back

#1. We put into words what we believe is SAMA’s entire reason for being: To equip our customers (i.e., you) with the tools, insights and knowledge you need to become indispensable to your customers. I’ve found these words incredibly helpful for clarifying our mission and ensuring our offerings meet this expectation. If we can help you become indispensable to your customers, then the business results will follow.

#2: We added 23 member companies 96 individual members to the SAMA community. This is extremely important to the insights and value we offer you.  Our community comprises, without exaggeration, the smartest, most forward-thinking B2B companies in the world, and we leverage their knowledge and expertise to synthesize and disseminate best and next practices in strategic customer management. Our strength is truly in our members, and every new company we add brings fresh potential for ideas.

#3: In 2019 SAMA minted 65 new Certified Strategic Account Managers. Not only have these exceptional SAMs invested in themselves by becoming certified, but they have transformed themselves into role models within their organizations and evangelists for the SAM approach to customer management.

#4: We developed partnerships with like-minded providers in France, Germany and Brazil. Why is this important to you? Because this will allow us to expand our ability to deliver training and thought leadership in these critical regions, further spreading the cause of strategic account management.

#5: We launched The Facilitator, a tool enabled by a process that we developed to help our customers make better strategic account selection decisions. We have had 11 engagements to date, and the results so far have been tremendous. (More on this in 2020!)

A look ahead

So what larger trends and challenges is SAMA looking at for 2020 and beyond? Keep in mind, it’s still 2019 — so this agenda can and will change. But here are five topics SAMA is looking at for the year ahead, and we think you should be too.

#1: Bulletproofing the SAM program against cost cutting. With talk of recession (shhh!  Don’t say that too often), SAM programs need to do all they can NOW to prove their value. Once you’re under pressure — whether from activist investors, a hyperactive CFO or just your Board — it’s already too late. You need to trumpet your success stories internally, continue to build the SAM brand within your organization and use the voice of the customer to demonstrate the value of the SAM approach.

#2: Customer success management is all the rage. What does it mean for strategic account managers? We believe it simply reinforces the fundamental wisdom and necessity of the SAM approach, which revolves around understanding customer pain points and value drivers, connecting them with their own internal capabilities, organizing and aligning an ecosystem capable of solving customer challenges, and then quantifying the co-created value in terms of the customer’s own metrics. It is a trend we are actively monitoring.

#3: Countering the “what now?” phenomenon. In other words, once you’ve set up your program, begun working differently with your most strategic customers and institutionalized the SAM approach across the organization, where do you go from there? Uncovering ways to unlock additional innovation and efficiency for mature SAM programs will feature prominently on the SAMA 2020 agenda.

#4: Understanding and optimizing the entire ecosystem of support around the strategic account manager. Today’s SAM is blessed with a myriad of tools in her arsenal, from digital marketing and customer success to inside sales and advanced analytics. We will be looking to make headway into understanding (a) what’s the optimal team construction and (b) how to upskill the SAM to ensure he’s able to properly leverage all these complementary skills.

#5: Technology supporting the SAM. As I mentioned earlier, we rolled out a new process-enabled tool to help customers make better, more objective decisions around whom to partner with. We also published a special issue of Velocity dedicated specifically to highlighting tools designed to enable the customer value co-creation process. We surveyed many of you earlier in the year, and one big takeaway is that our customers are looking to us to bring to the table tools that support both the SAM and the SAM organization. So this will undoubtedly be a prime focus for us in the year ahead.

Enjoy the holiday season!  Take stock in your accomplishments, and let’s all anticipate greatness in the new year.

A personal note from SAMA’s new CEO

By Denise Freier

President and CEO

SAMA

After being at SAMA for a few months as the new CEO, I wanted to reach out and share some early observations and appreciation for your support during my transition. I believe that it is vital for SAMA to continue to find more channels of engagement so that we can make SAMA more essential to you, our SAMA community.

First, I need to share that I am very thankful for my predecessor, Bernard Quancard, and the SAMA staff for where we are today. I’ve also had the pleasure of engaging with many of you, either by phone or in person at a SAMA event. These last few months have been equal parts humbling, challenging and energizing — humbling because our community is made up of so many smart, driven and passionate individuals…challenging because the business world is changing so rapidly, and SAMA has to evolve to keep pace…and energizing because I believe more strongly than ever in SAMA’s potential to positively impact the present AND future of our members.

In all, I’ve had conversations with roughly 75 SAMA stakeholders, including customers, SAMA board members and training partners. Here are a few early observations that I want to share:

  • Many of you consider SAMA a “best-kept secret.” We need to continually evolve our offerings to remain your key business partner, further develop our value proposition, and do a better job of communicating to our members.
  • We want to nurture a wider and richer community to accelerate the discovery of changing trends and proven best practices.
  • We will continue to build our library of original research and thought leadership to make sure you have the latest insights and information you need in order to become (and remain) essential to your strategic customers.
  • We need to stay laser-focused on our on-time execution. That means producing “turnkey” insights, resources and training that you can put to immediate use with your customers.
  • We intend to do more to foster peer-to-peer exchanges with ideas such as micro-communities within the larger SAMA community for more targeted connections. SAMA will work to make it easier for you to connect with peers.

As we move into the next few months, where would YOU like to see us focus our attention? Please feel free to respond to this email, pick up the phone or bend my ear at the next SAMA event.

Thank you again for your commitment to joining our efforts to elevate our unique practice of strategic account management around the world.

397d7d3f-857f-4137-b5b7-8c85615155a5

Denise Freier joined SAMA in 2018 after more than 40 years of executive and sales leadership at IBM.

In the Press
Velocity profile
Crain’s announcement
Forum Magazine

Digitalization and You: The Future of Work

By Nicolas Zimmerman

SAMA Editor-in-Chief

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs 2018 report estimates the proportion of total work hours performed by humans will drop by almost 20 percent by 2025, from 71% to 58%. Machines and algorithms, the authors say, will increase their contribution to specific job tasks by an average of 57%.

This will have huge implications for you, your company and the very meaning of work. Below are just a few findings from the report, the rest of which you can (and should) download here.

If you work in strategic accounts, you should actually feel pretty secure about your continued indispensability in a more digital, computer-driven world. In Table 4 below, which highlights the skills that are likely to become more and less relevant by 2022, the “in demand” skills (e.g., analytical thinking, complex problem solving, leadership and social influence) include many of the character traits found most often in top-performing SAMs.

For a deeper look at how the forces of digitalization will reshape the SAM job, see this excellent post from University of Auckland professor Kaj Storbacka and SAMA’s former senior knowledge content developer Elisabeth Cornell.