Monday, 30 December 2013

10 ideas to strengthen your strategic account management (SAM) approach using Salesforce.com CRM

Is your business driven by repeat orders? If so, is your sales team managing account relationship strategically / proactively to drive business efficiently? 


Is CRM helping you drive account plans or just record opportunities?


Today most of the technology businesses are focused on repeat orders as a key drivers of revenue. To sustain repeat orders, organizations are working on approaches which are strategic, proactive and Customer relationship driven. This blog shares some thoughts on how to structure and streamline strategic account management (SAM) strategy using CRM.



If your technology business model is centered on customer relationship then is your CRM designed to just record and manage your opportunity? 


Should your CRM be designed to strengthen and manage Customer relationship to generate opportunities and go much beyond recording the events?


I have been associated with the technology industry for over 15 years. Technology industry has evolved a lot from the Y2K era. Technology industry has seen a paradigm shift in the approach to Customer engagement. The proposition has transformed from pure manpower / cost centric T&M (staffing) model to a complete solution based model with considerable discussion on value to Customers’ business and revenue impact from technology. In this situation why is CRM still considered as an opportunity management / pipeline and forecasting tool? Is CRM a tool to drive strategy or just visibility / reporting?


In my view CRM should help companies generate opportunity and help in strengthening customer engagement and go much beyond just opportunity / transactional management system. 


Typical technology services firms’ business philosophy:
- Fewer customer deeper engagement
- Senior management connects
- Multiple team engagement
- Strategic account management strategies
- Global customers, global spread of the team

Majority of technology firms use CRM for:
- Opportunity recording  for reporting and MIS
- Tracking quota and forecasting
- Driving reviews
- Basic collaboration with backend solution and business units to respond to RFPs effectively

Users’ challenges:
- User are forced to use it and enter transactions
- Users find it as a tool for reporting and approvals
- Most CRMs are built around task automation, sales executive productivity but lacks customer relationship, customer knowledge and priorities

There is a wide gap between the business philosophy and the way CRM is designed and used

In our view CRM should help organizations and sales team in facilitating and generating opportunities. 


CRM should be more social, open and designed to aggregate / gather customer information from internet and social media to make intelligent, accurate and quicker decision making. 


10 ideas and functionalities which can help your CRM drive an effective account management strategy:

1. Account planning in CRM: 

Few of our customer’s is using CRM for defining their account plans. These account plans is entered in the CRM system which is helping our customer's account managers to be proactive in generating opportunity and analyzing the impact of the account strategy.

2. Account engagement plan: 

Majority of our customer use CRM to drive effective relationships by setting up customer interaction (account contact plan) targets in the system and setting up work flow / triggers as reminders along with minutes of meeting all within the system for improving relationship discussions and collaboration across all key stakeholders. Based on various interactions, they are able to generate interesting customer communication documents for improving customer experience.

3. Account based marketing campaigns: 

Our customers' today are using CRM to define, initiate and drive account based marketing plan. Such account based marketing plans within CRM helps them drive effective marketing campaigns within account which helps them gain better mind share across subsidiaries / divisions within larger accounts. The account based marketing is helping them improve cross and up-selling and also track efforts and improve collaboration between marketing, account managers and business units.


4. Account based competition mapping:

Working on fewer accounts means stiffer competition. Tracking competition details and, analyzing success and failure using data through CRM can add significant value to the SAM driven strategy.

5. Account issues and concerns: 

Success of account-based strategy lies in the ability to carefully listening to customers. There will be multiple stakeholders interacting with customer. A central repository of all issues and concerns can provide better response to customer and helps strengthen relationship significantly.

6. New Account Fitment Analysis: 

CRM should have the right structure to analyze a new account. One of the key pillar of any SAM strategy is to focus on the right accounts. CRM should act as a check point to assess and analyze accounts based on pre-defined logic.

7. Account risk analysis: 

Some of our customers are centralizing all customer strategic and transactional information into one single platform. This helps them get a complete 360 degree view of customers. This is not for status reporting but using such data our customers analyze the associated risks in the account

8. Centralize all customer strategic information on one platform:  

Integrate all customer information into one platform for effective review, provide clear visibility and manage relationship better. Share relevant information and report to customer as well as to improve customer confidence and transparency. Such initiatives can significantly differentiate yourself from competition.

9. Customer communication and reporting:

Transparent, frequent and adequate Communication is very vital for a successful Customer relationship. To sustain, standardize and keep the quality of communication is a challenge. Using CRM, we can centralize all customer communication using automated documents that are triggered to customer on pre-defined frequency. This will bring uniformity and continuity in communication efforts.

10. Customer portal for key accounts:  

Providing self service portal for key accounts (customer) to access into your CRM can be a killer market differentiator. This will allow customer to understand progress on projects, log cases, issues, access to knowledge bank and important documents,  information on team etc. Portals can immensely help customers in interacting with you and your firm more smartly and reduce dependency on fewer individuals.

In a nut-shell: 

- CRM is just a framework, it all depends on how customer and implementation partner eventually design and create a structure that is best aligned with the overall goals of the organization.

- If strategic account management (SAM) is your business driver then the CRM should go much beyond opportunity management, forecasting and reporting. CRM should be more strategic and aligned to your core business process and integrate social intelligence to improve quality of research and support account managers to strengthen their relationship.