• Christopher Ahearn

How can I qualify the right accounts for my large/strategic/global account segment?

Many companies face the challenge of understanding which customers and prospects should be part of the strategic, national or global account organization.  Determining how to choose and, or qualify the customers and prospects is important for a variety of reasons.  Strategic customers usually have lesser margins than other segments, typically receive a greater level of service, and some of the best talent in the organization will be dedicated to these customers.

Often times customers and, or prospects become part of the large accounts program simply because of the size of the organization, existing revenue, because there are multiple geographic locations needing representation, or for any number of reasons.  Because of the lack of discipline used to qualify these customers, many times the large account organization has too many customers which creates a number of issues for the organization.  The sales and support teams get stretched too thin and do not have the time to spend on the best customers and opportunities.  Constant battles erupt with the financial organization on the cost of sales to support seemingly price only customers.  And some of the customers do not recognize the underlying value proposition or the sales team is to busy to understand how to map the customer needs to the value proposition.  The very best customers may be vulnerable to the competition because the team doesn't have the time necessary to continue to evolve the relationship.

Because I've personally encountered this issue at a number of companies across industry sectors, I've created a simple tool to help companies define what a key account is and qualify existing and future accounts.  Simply put the tool is a large/strategic account qualifying filter (see example below).  To build a filter follow these steps. Create and prioritize a list of customer buying attributes.  Narrow the list to less than seven.Define each attribute.For each attribute, determine varying levels of alignment to your definition versus a scale of say 1 - 5.  Using centralized procurement as an example (1. there is no centralized buying and 5. all buying decisions are centralized).Provide an importance weighting for each attribute.

Once done, test a few existing customers (some of your best, worst, and mediocre) using a different number of attributes and different weighting until you believe you've landed on the correct filter.  If your so inclined you can Then, have a few other people use the filter and send you their results.  Tabulate the results, have a meeting with the pilot team and revise the filter.

Finally, determine the right policy and procedures (governance) of the tool and process.  Who owns the tool and process, what score is necessary to "pass", is there a process for exceptions, how often should the tool be updated and accounts re-scored, how should we train the organization, etc.).  And finally how do we transition existing accounts to a different service model to free up capacity for the most valued accounts?

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