In recent years, the globalisation of markets, greater buyer access to information and the polarisation of buying decisions between strategic investments and commodity purchases have played a significant role in making the competitive landscape much more difficult for sales organisations to win new business.
These dynamics have also made it much more difficult to manage, develop and grow existing relationships with clients. Higher competition and greater scrutiny over spending has meant that, as soon as a deal is signed, you will already have started to lose that business if you aren’t actively defending and growing it. This means that you need to continuously and systematically campaign to broaden and develop the value of the relationships you have with major clients.
However, in many sales teams across companies of all sizes, either no structured approach to relationship development planning and execution takes place at all, or it is not done in any systematic way. Wherever this is the case, crucial information is either not captured or is not shared and acted on across the sales team. Consequently, there is no joined up approach across the sales and service functions to identifying, evaluating and responding to the threats and opportunities that relationship faces; so the relationship ultimately fails.
Conversely, many larger organisations invest heavily in a relationship development planning methodology and make its use compulsory across their sales and service teams. However, the investment is often wasted because the impact is measured in terms of the quantity of account development plans rather than their quality. Their people are told to complete plans for all of their accounts within, say, a three month period. But this has the negative impact of the initiative becoming viewed as an additional overhead on already overstretched account teams. As a result, individuals simply cut and paste information from the client’s website or even use existing information from plans for similar clients. This means that they miss the value of gathering information that is specific to individual accounts, as well as the sector that they operate in, while they spend too much time trying to hit quantitative targets, to the extent that the exercise becomes counterproductive. The precious time that could have been used moving the relationship forward is instead spent entering data into a system to tick the box that says ‘plans completed’.
Without a systematic, structured and joined-up approach that encompasses the ongoing cycle of planning, execution and review, any investment in account planning can become a very expensive overhead that does not have the desired impact. Companies that don’t do relationship development planning well end up, at best, relying on the relationships and energy of one key account relationship manager who has to orchestrate and oversee every action, every service implementation and every transaction. At worst, they end up dissatisfying their customers, their business is taken away from them by competitors and they earn a bad reputation across the industry and, ultimately, with investors.
However, when it’s done properly, the planning process can become a critical enabler for ensuring that the potential of client relationships is maximised. Those companies that manage the cycle (of planning, execution and review) well with people who have the right skills, attitude and commitment reap huge rewards. We’ve seen problematic, declining multi-million euro B2B relationships turned around and grown by over 500% in two years with a good plan and a good relationship manager leading the implementation of that plan with the backing of both the client and the supplier company stakeholders.
Key account relationship development planning, execution and review is a constant cycle and that cycle should be part of your company’s lifeblood, with a commitment to quality rather than quantity from the top down.
For a free consultation on transforming your key, major or global account management performance, call us on 0845 371 3099 or fill out the form below and one of our senior practitioners will be in touch.