If a strategic account management program is going to be successful, the firm, ideally before program launch, must systematically identify and work with departments on whom they and the customers will rely. One successful means of doing so is to create a cross-functional executive group that can deal with any pre-and post-launch issues. Crossfunctional executive leadership helps create and communicate the urgency that ensures organizational commitment.
Cross-functional executive leadership helps create and communicate the urgency that ensures organizational commitment.
In many cases, these executives make the financial case for serving strategic accounts differently and then, working with the other functional executives, create clear account management goals and objectives. These cross-functional meetings help sales and other departments arrive at shared priorities, delivery schedules, and service levels. Some suppliers even adjust their recognition and reward programs to recognize departments outside sales for participating in account management. The cross-functional executive team may reward manufacturing, for example, for balancing line utilization with one-off responsiveness to strategic accounts. The key is to keep the departments whole, at the very least, when they make special contributions to strategic account management.
When this internal alignment is driven by cross-functional executives before program launch, the firm can minimize the amount of internal selling account managers will do after program rollout. Alignment also means that multiple departments working together can deliver solutions much more quickly. In successful programs, we have often seen the initial cross-functional executive group continue to meet regularly as a steering committee for the strategic account program. The cross-functional executives can deal with a problem before it becomes a crisis. This executive steering committee can, in other words, ensure that sales' best deal is no longer manufacturing's worst nightmare.
If you already have strategic account management and wish to overcome some of the internal resistance you may be experiencing, consider backtracking by creating a cross-functional executive team to help you optimize your program.