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Useful articles and case examples on Strategic Account Management (SAM)

Note: Strategic Account Management (SAM) is also known as Key, Global and Major Account Management. Many of these articles are based on the experience of Mosaic, our specialist SAM consultancy which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Market2Win Ltd.

Read some of our papers, articles and books

The Market2win team have been at the heart of strategic marketing and account management for many years. We have helped many people understand these concepts properly and many organizations implement good practices in these areas. Here is some of our writing on the subject.

Getting Started with SAM - Winning Hearts and Minds at Cushman & Wakefield Investors
Getting Started with SAM - Winning Hearts and Minds at Cushman & Wakefield Investors

In 2008 we started a SAM program at Cushman & Wakefield Investors. We applied change management thinking to ensure that the program got off to a solid start and would bring in a new enthusiasm across the company for customer relationship excellence. Why adopt a change management approach at CWI? Because we knew from experience that investment managers are not natural adopters of SAM but can benefit greatly from it. We knew if we went in with just a bunch of good SAM tools and ideas, we would not put fundamental change in place. The program has introduced ways of approaching client management that have proven to be very successful in helping the company stay focused during massive market turbulence. This case example will help all organizations attempting to start (or re-start) SAM in a challenging environment and pays particular attention to:

• Applying a change management approach to win hearts and minds

• The key steps to invest in during the first year

• The key tools needed to give your SAM program an early boost

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Compass Group: Revitalizing and re-launching a healthy SAM program in an unhealthy economy
Compass Group: Revitalizing and re-launching a healthy SAM program in an unhealthy economy

As we write this, sales and marketing budgets are being cut and business development projects canceled or moved backward in many industries. Surely then, now is the worst time to talk about launching a strategic account management program. We all know that SAM programs are a costly drain on profits in the short term but (so the argument goes) deliver more profits in the long term, right?
 
Wrong. As we show from Compass Group PLC’s experience, re-launching a healthy SAM program does not have to be an expensive exercise. Moreover, if you have a good program, not only will you benefit when you come out of recession, but you will benefit during the recession, as well.
 
However, it is no good going about it in an amateur way. The key to success is taking a pragmatic but professional change management approach and balancing sensible science with focused execution.

Published in Velocity by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 11, No. 1, 2009

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Starting GAM at Parker, Pioneering the change from Local Tactical Selling to Global Strategic Relationships
Starting GAM at Parker, Pioneering the change from Local Tactical Selling to Global Strategic Relationships

Often, Strategic or Global Account Management Programmes are owned, designed and implemented from a central programme office sitting close to the group sales & marketing function.  The programme is implemented top down across a broad front.  However, localized bottom-up programmes can be equally effective at getting SAM/GAM jump started in a company.  The key is to have a good GAM Pioneer at its heart.  This is the story of one such person at Parker Hannifin plc.

Published in Velocity by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 9, No. 1, 2007

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Parker (en francais)
Parker (en francais)

This is a French summary of the above Parker article

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How do you create a measurable value proposition for your client?
How do you create a measurable value proposition for your client?

It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for supposing it is true.” Bertrand Russell, British author, mathematician, & philosopher, 1928 Why should a client believe us just because we say our solution is great? Sometimes we get caught up in our own hype. What is the evidence?   There are three steps to follow to gather the evidence and create measurable value propositions that work.

Published in Focus Account Manager by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 4, No. 1, 2007

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Using GAM to Drive Organic Growth
Using GAM to Drive Organic Growth

Making the transition from national to international / global account management is a major step for companies.  While they may be meeting the needs of their customers in clearly defined geographical areas, the level of organizational complexity and cultural diversity imposed by the global context makes the coordinated delivery of a global value proposition extremely difficult.  At the SAMA European Conference in Paris in March 2005, two international companies that have spent 20 years between them developing their respective GAM programs shared their experiences in doing business with key customers around the world.  Their lessons on how to keep the GAM momentum going and continuously reinvent it in the face of major challenges contain wisdom for anyone working in the account management arena.  

Published in Velocity by the Strategic Account Management Association, Q2, 2005

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SAM in Europe – Lessons from the SAMA Pan European Conference
SAM in Europe – Lessons from the SAMA Pan European Conference

At the beginning of March 2004, SAMA held a Pan-European Conference in Nice, France under the theme the Art & Science of Strategic Customer Management. The event attracted a large number of delegates from over 50 organisations including Belgacom, Cisco, Hitachi, MasterCard, Motorola, Siemens, Vodafone and Xerox. For many participants this was the first SAMA event they had attended, underlying the continued success of SAMA in attracting new people. The two-and-a-half days were packed with informative sessions from practitioners and consultants. This article will highlight some of the common themes that kept the discussions going during the day…and into the wine-soaked evening

Published in Focus Europe by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 4, No. 1, 2004

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Winning Strategic Accounts at Brussels Airlines
Winning Strategic Accounts at Brussels Airlines

In many cases, organisations implementing strategic account management plan a long, methodical change programme. Occasionally, though, the business environment demands rapid change where time to experiment and prove the payoff is simply not available.  

This was true at SN Brussels Airlines at the start of 2003. Its CEO, Peter Davies, sought not only to introduce a radical new way of looking after its corporate travelers but also he wanted this implemented urgently. Within three months a new and separate corporate account unit was designed and launched.  

The new unit has proven to be very successful, resulting in significant increases in sales and the acquisition of several new accounts. This article outlines SN Brussels Airlines’ story—how this business, while operating in a harsh climate, used strategic account management to outperform the industry.

Published in Focus Europe by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 3, No. 4, 2003

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Successful Strategic Account Selection
Successful Strategic Account Selection

Choosing your strategic accounts is one of the most critical decisions in a strategic account management (SAM) programme. By definition, these are supposed to be the accounts that have the largest impact on the future profit stream of the business.   Good strategic account selection is a cornerstone to good strategic account management. Select the wrong accounts and all the downstream work will be affected. Getting this part right is also important because it is vital for the business to see it as an early win. Get it wrong and the rest of the SAM programme is threatened.

Published in Focus Europe by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 3, No. 1, 2003

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The End of the Account Planning Ritual
The End of the Account Planning Ritual

The Account Plan is an anathema to many organizations. The merry dance that is performed every year (called the Account Planning Process) is often seen as a ritualistic exercise that is performed to please the Gods (although no-one can remember why). This is not difficult to understand if the resulting Account Plan is seen as incomplete, rapidly out of date and disconnected to the daily tasks. Sadly, in many cases the only thing that the Strategic Account Plan changes is people’s attitude to Strategic Account Management! Often, the Plan is seen to be the goal rather than a means to an end, turning on its head the old adage that “The plan is nothing, planning is everything”. In the end, it is often the case that everyone remembers the budgeted sales figure and no one remembers the Plan. Companies need an approach that: - captures the key data for strategic analysis - helps to turn the data into a systematic account strategy - translates the strategy into the daily actions of the account team - allows continuous evaluation by the account team and account director of the effectiveness of the implementation - permits routine corrections to the strategy based on daily company/customer feedback.

Published in Focus Europe by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 2, No. 4, 2002

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Realising Relationship Potential at Henkel - Using Account Profitability to Upgrade Customer Relationships
Realising Relationship Potential at Henkel - Using Account Profitability to Upgrade Customer Relationships

The importance of knowing the profitability of your strategic accounts is well known to most businesses. Yet most businesses are also struggling to get a decent account profitability system in place. Few have formally linked their account profitability system to strategic account manager training programmes. How many then use this capability to drive out supply chain waste and upgrade customer relationships? This is the story of how one company has proved the payoff that hard work in getting such measurement in place pays off significant dividends not only for the supplier, but for the customer relationship as well.

Published in Velocity by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 1, No. 3, 2001

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Managing Property Clients Properly - The Journey to Client Excellence of Jones Lang LaSalle
Managing Property Clients Properly - The Journey to Client Excellence of Jones Lang LaSalle

Jones Lang LaSalle is one of the largest providers of commercial real estate and investment management services in the world. In 1997, the company realised that it needed to introduce a more structured client management approach, based on internal and external best practice, which harnessed, managed and measured the way it served its international clients across Europe. As a way of addressing this challenge it established the European Client Relationship Management (ECRM) programme. ECRM followed a deliberate path that carefully selected those clients suitable for pan-European management and developed specific client strategies for improving service delivery with them. It also drew together cross-functional and international thinking to ensure the full capabilities of the organization were harnessed. Along the way it has had to ride the turbulence created by a merger, changing from a partnership culture to a publicly quoted company, changes in key project personnel, and the on-going harmonisation between European and American businesses. It has left behind a practical set of tools and processes for on-going professional client management which have become a critical backbone to global integration and enhanced performance. This is a lesson in how a small team of dedicated professionals can ride the waves of change and deliver an outstanding, lasting solution.

Published in The Journal of Selling & Major Account Management, Volume 3, No. 3, Spring 2001

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Don’t Gamble with GAM - How BC Components reduced the risk of their GAM Programme
Don’t Gamble with GAM - How BC Components reduced the risk of their GAM Programme

Leif Schwan arrived at BC components in August 1999. “I had been bought in by the new management team to try and change our approach to our major customers” It had only been 8 months since BCc had become a stand-alone company and there was clear need for a change in the approach towards our major/global customers. Leif explains. “In some senses we were too close to Philips and there was a cosy belief that we would always be their preferred global supplier.” However, The customer base also includes companies like Nokia, Siemens and Alcatel. BCc found that the historic relationship with Philips had little significance to building future relationships with these global accounts – and that included Philips! “The management team was adamant that we needed to improve our Global Account Management (GAM) and could not rely on old cosy relationships to power our future growth” says Leif.   Unfortunately, there had already been earlier failed attempts to introduce effective GAM across BCc so the workforce was anything but receptive for another assault.

Published in Focus Europe by the Strategic Account Management Association, 2001

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The Building Blocks of SAM
The Building Blocks of SAM

There are many parts to effective Strategic Account Management. The challenge is not to focus on just one or two in isolation but to build a programme that has all the components aligned in the same direction at the right time.   The Strategic Account Management Association estimates that only 20% of SAM Programmes are fully functional and effective. Most SAM Programmes fail because they take a narrow view of where the work needs to be done. Some SAM Programmes focus on developing good strategic account managers, some on developing robust strategic account plans, some on understanding the customer and some on getting the measurement & reward system right. There are a number of building blocks to a SAM solution. The most successful programmes have understood this and have addressed all of them to create a complete and aligned approach to managing their most important customers. In this short article we will take an initial look at each of the blocks.

First published in Sales Director magazine, August 2001

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Beyond The Competent Key Account Manager - Building A Competency Based KAM Programme
Beyond The Competent Key Account Manager - Building A Competency Based KAM Programme

It is widely accepted that having “the right people” in your Key Account Management (KAM) program is a cornerstone of success.  This is especially true of the Account Manager who sits in the middle of an interlocking web of internal and external relationships.  It is also widely accepted that there is a shortage of outstanding Account Managers who can operate within this environment very successfully – especially at a global level.   However, time and again we see vague and unsupported definitions of what the role of the Account Manager is and the competencies inherent to fulfilling it. 
 
If organizations are to win the Account Manager Talent War they need to know what they are fighting for.  A large part of the solution rests with the company’s KAM Competency Framework.  This is the Bible of what the job is and the sort of person that needs to be developed to perform it. 
 
This article will outline the key elements in getting a sound KAM Competency Framework in place.

Published in Focus Europe by the Strategic Account Management Association, Volume 2, No. 4, 2000

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Riding the Key Account Revolution: How to develop your Key Account Managers into Leaders of Change (Part 2)
Riding the Key Account Revolution: How to develop your Key Account Managers into Leaders of Change (Part 2)

It is widely recognised that one of the single most important drivers of profitable and loyal customers is the Key Account Manager (KAM). A quick glance at the target revenues (and profits) that these KAMs are tasked with delivering makes them powerful determinants of the entire company’s performance. But KAMs often complain of feeling isolated and unsupported by their company. They are vague about their role and responsibilities and too often feel under-trained and unable to cope with the dynamics of the marketplace and the demands placed upon them.   In Part 1 we looked at how to properly define the job of a Key Account Manager and someone’s ability to do it well. In this article we will look at different ways of closing the skills gap. We will highlight good practice and identify the pitfalls that often cause KAMs to underperform and defect. We will continue to use the 10-Step Approach as our guide.

Published in The Journal of Selling and Major Account Management by the Sales Research Trust,
Volume 3, No. 1, 2000

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Riding the Key Account Revolution: How to develop your Key Account Managers into Leaders of Change (Part 1)
Riding the Key Account Revolution: How to develop your Key Account Managers into Leaders of Change (Part 1)

It is widely recognised that one of the single most important drivers of profitable and loyal customers is the Key Account Manager (KAM). A quick glance at the target revenues (and profits) that these KAMs are tasked with delivering makes them powerful determinants of the entire company’s performance. But KAMs often complain of feeling isolated and unsupported by their company. They are vague about their role and responsibilities and too often feel under-trained and unable to cope with the dynamics of the marketplace and the demands placed upon them.   In this, the first of two articles, we will look at how to properly define the job of a Key Account Manager and someone’s ability to do it. In the next article we will look at different ways of closing the skills gap. We will highlight good practice and identify the pitfalls that often cause KAMs to underperform and defect. A 10-Step Approach is used as a guide to the journey of which the first five steps are covered here.

Published in The Journal of Selling and Major Account Management by the Sales Research Trust,
                                                          Volume 2, No. 4, 2000

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Organising your Front Line around your Customers: Adopting Total Customer Management at an International Instruments Manufacturer
Organising your Front Line around your Customers: Adopting Total Customer Management at an International Instruments Manufacturer

In the February 1999 edition of this Journal, Edmund Bradford described the concept of Total Customer Management (TCM) and how it can lead to significant changes in profitability for key account relationships. It was also stated that a foundation for effective Key Account Management is an effective Channel Strategy. “Within a market segment, ownership of the relationship with each and every customer should be well understood. This means that everyone knows which customers are owned by telesales, which by the salesforce and which by the key account managers. Distributors, value-added resellers or dealers may be owned by any of the above or by a separate team. Interactions and conflicts between accounts are understood and mitigated in the channel strategy.”   This article explains the necessity of clearly establishing ownership of all the customer relationships and explains the implications for revolutionary front line change in many organisations. It is based on the experience of the author with an international instruments manufacturer.

Published in The Journal of Selling and Major Account Management by the Sales Research Trust,
Volume 2, No. 2, 2000

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“Applying Global Account Management at DHL How one leading organization has proved the payoff”
“Applying Global Account Management at DHL How one leading organization has proved the payoff”

There is now increasing evidence that good Global Account Management (GAM) can lead to significant improvements in profitability. In particular, excellent GAM companies have gone beyond developing a different operating model for their group of Global Accounts to establishing different models for each Global Account. In this article we consider the rich experience of DHL in applying GAM principles to its Global Accounts and describe the payoff that such an approach has delivered over time.

Published in The Journal of Selling and Major Account Management by the Sales Research Trust, Volume 2,
No. 1, 1999

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How to get your KAM Program Flying – Lessons from Aerospace
How to get your KAM Program Flying – Lessons from Aerospace

In 1993 the new MD of a global aerospace manufacturer formed a small task force to undertake a thorough marketing audit of the business and recommend a strategic agenda to improve its competitiveness. From this team of two salesmen, two engineers, a graduate and a consultant came the beginnings of a major change program to introduce global account management to the whole company. The Account Management program was to take five years and touch every member of staff around the world. It helped to bring about marked changes in revenue growth, turnarounds in customer satisfaction and a new global team-working culture. However, it was not without its problems and of course, mistakes were made along the way. With the benefit of hindsight these can be identified and the lessons of how to design, launch and fly a successful Key Account Management (KAM) program can now be told from an aerospace perspective.

Published in Velocity by the Strategic Account Management Association, 1999

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Six Steps to Total KAM
Six Steps to Total KAM

Increasingly, businesses are recognising that the demands being placed upon them from their Key Accounts are quite different from those of their other accounts. There is a growing recognition that new approaches are required to manage these accounts. The principles behind doing this effectively might appear quite simple but, in fact, require major changes across the organisation. Consequently, very few companies claim to be satisfied with how they measure and manage their key account relationships. This article draws upon the author’s experience in working with both manufacturing and service organizations in designing and implementing Key Account Management change programmes. It suggests that a holistic approach is required that covers all the domains of change rather than just one (e.g IT). It also recommends a structured approach that maintains commitment to the change and delivers maximum bottom-line impact.

Updated from an article first published in The Journal of Selling and Major Account Management by the Sales Research Trust, Volume 1, No. 3, 1999

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