Strategic account management (also known as key account management) is a process at the organizational level that goes beyond sales to encompass building strategic, mutually beneficial relationships between the company and its key customers. SAM builds trust between the two organizations by focusing on value and enabling alignment across the company.

The strategic account manager is a key role in a company that uses SAM. These managers are the contact people for the strategic accounts’ stakeholders and are responsible for developing and maintaining a long-term relationship with the customer.

Key Skills for Strategic Account Managers

Strategic account managers are consultants who are experts in their business and good at problem-solving. Their focus is on educating their customers rather than selling to them. Strategic account managers should also have strong leadership skills to lead their SAM teams successfully. They should have the business acumen to understand financial information as well as their company’s operations and strategy. They also have strong communication, interpersonal, influencing and planning skills.

The Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA) includes the following competencies in its Certified Strategic Account Manager program:

  • Understanding Organizational Priorities
  • Strategic Account and Opportunity Planning
  • Joint Solution Development, Co-Creation and Reaching Agreement
  • Multifunctional Account Team Leadership
  • Overall Relationship and Outcome Management

Based on its research on top-performing strategic account managers, the RAIN Group recommends these key competencies:

  • Technical Expert (highly knowledgeable about a company’s products and services and for which situations they should be recommended)
  • Relationship Lead (good at building and strengthening relationships)
  • Collaborator (has strong team-building skills and knows how to draw on internal resources for success)
  • Results Driver (focused on growing the account)
  • Innovator (able to synthesize information, identify opportunities and communicate to executives)
  • Project Manager (good at organizing the team and ensuring that work is completed)

Strategic Account Management Training: Best Practices

  • Coach SAM team members to meet individual, account and organizational goals.
  • Leverage technology for just-in-time sales training.
  • Provide training on influencing behavior, which is especially important for building and strengthening strategic relationships.
  • Provide training on business acumen: Help SAM team members understand not only core business principles but also how their business and their customer’s business operates.
  • Ensure that training meets strategic account goals by understanding the accounts’ needs and designing training accordingly.

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