Strategic Accounts, your largest most loyal customers, are key to the success for all companies as they usually provide the majority of the profits. Making sure the right people are in place to develop and support those important loyal customers requires special attention and a thoughtful approach. In this series, we’ll talk about why and how.
It is a well-known “fact” that loyal (repeat) clients make up the bulk of a company’s profits. A study by the American Banking Association pointed out this important fact following the banking crisis that continues to haunt us. But the findings also apply to companies in the enterprise risk management, marketing services and decision analytics sector: gaining and retaining loyal clients is critical to long-term success.
It's common that when top sales executives leave or are recruited away, they can-through various means, regardless of non-compete agreements, take your best clients with them. Indeed, this is one of the main reasons top Strategic Account Sales Executives are targeted for recruitment. They are considered top in their field because of the clients they can procure, maintain and grow. But, top Sales Managers and Strategic Account Sales Executives are human and have other agendas in their lives that may have them looking and going to “greener pastures.” Every company faces the problem of losing key sales staff and needs to recognize when their loyal clients have placed their loyalty with the sales relationship and not the company.
A Strategic Account is Not Just Any Account
There is a big difference in recruiting and hiring a Strategic Account Sales Executive or Major Account Sales Professional. While many of the hiring steps are similar for junior and senior level sales executives, recruiting and hiring for strategic accounts requires a bit more than the basics.
Best recruiting and hiring practices usually follow a specific program internal for each company. The company, its products, corporate culture and philosophy, however, lurk between the lines of the hiring policies. Some companies are transaction-based while others depend heavily on building long-term relationships with their customers. For example, technology companies understand that users become accustomed to specific processes and idiosyncrasies and become reluctant to change brands or suppliers due to the learning curve implied in making changes. As a result, technology vendors are especially keen to establish a tight and loyal relationship with their clients. Transaction-based companies need to maintain loyal customers with each experience and their operations are focused on every touch point in the transaction. Relationship building depends on the entire corporate culture. For some reason, many vendors with repetitive sales to the same clients forget that building loyalty must be based on an excellent and consistent level of service throughout the organization. Some companies, however, depend heavily on the sales and support departments to build that consistency and excellence. One false step or two, and the years of relationship and trust building can be trashed and a valuable client lost.
If you are a part of an organization that depends heavily on the Sales and support department to build the relationship (implying that the product or service is at or above industry standards), then a well-defined recruiting, screening, hiring, onboarding and training of staff who interface with strategic accounts are vital to not only a successful hire but also the acquisition and retention of loyal clients.
While it’s intuitive to first look within the organization to fill a strategic account position, it may not always be the best solution. In fact, if there is to be a replacement to be made in that important relationship with a key customer, there is not only existing expectations to overcome but the need to rapidly demonstrate that the relationship with the company is all about the company and not the existing sales manager or salesperson.
The purpose of this three-part series is to not only focus on the importance of the acquisition and retention of strategic accounts but also how to adapt normal hiring practices to this special requirement.
In the next part of this series, we will discuss the best hiring practices for a Strategic Account Sales Executive and what makes it a bit different from the normal process. In the third part of the series, we will drill down into the types of questions that should be explored in the interview for a shortlisted candidate.
Nation's Executive Search Group is sought out by leaders in Enterprise Risk Management, Marketing Services and Decision Analytics for mission critical sales and marketing leadership talent.
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