The Strategic Account Manager: a Role Definition

In this second blog from Ed Bradford, he builds on the Strategic Account Manager as single point of contact theme. Once again he uses ‘SAM’ as its anchor term, but GAMs, KAMs and account managers will all recognise their role in this discussion.

In my first of three blogs on the role of the strategic account manager, I proposed that a SAM can no longer be set-up as a single point of contact for the customer, and provided some metaphors for what I believe the role is really all about.

In this follow-up, I will hone the job down into a definition that sales and account management leaders can use.  If you are a SAM yourself, you can use this to help you understand what you should be doing.  If you want to know how to recruit and develop world-class SAMs, you can use this to help find and develop the right people.  Once you have the job defined right, a lot of things fall into place.  Conversely, a poor definition leads to role ambiguity, stress and poor performance both internally and externally.

The definition I would propose is this:

“The SAM is the main point-of-collaboration for adding value to the buyer-seller relationship. 

He/she is the primary person focused on developing the relationship strategy that will earn the best risk-adjusted returns for both the customer and the supplier.  

The SAM is seen as a key resource by both parties, empowered and able to perform this role and who will drive the expected value throughout implementation.” 

Expanding on the definition above, the SAM is the main point-of-collaboration (NOT a single point-of-contact) for adding value to the buyer-seller relationship (he/she looks for opportunities to add significant value to both parties in the relationship).

He/she is the primary person (but not the only person) focused on developing the relationship/account strategy that will earn the best risk-adjusted returns for both the customer and supplier (they will include all the key elements of commercial and commitment risk in their calculations of future profit streams).

The SAM will be seen as a key resource by both parties (they have high credibility) empowered (by the leadership team of the supplier) and able (they have the abilities or competencies i.e. sufficient knowledge, skills and behaviours) to perform this role.

He or she will drive the planned-for value throughout implementation (they will personally ‘own’ implementation even if they are not personally responsible for all elements of delivery. They will be relied upon not walk away from their leadership role and will not simply rely on others to get things done without their oversight.

The first sentence in the role definition (about the SAM being the main point of collaboration) is the most important as it needs to convey the purpose of a SAM succinctly both internally and externally. If you remember nothing else from this blog, remember that. All the details under that definition simply flow from it.

So the question for those in SAM leadership roles is how does this definition compare to the one that you, the supplier, are using or, your clients expect? 

The role of the SAM is critically important in growing and retaining revenue from strategic customer relationships.  The role definition a company uses can say a lot about how good their SAM Program really is.  In fact, I would go so far as to say you can judge how well a company understands strategic account management from the adequacy of the job definition they give to their SAMs.

In my third and final blog on the SAM role, I will discuss the implications that this has for the competencies required of a highly successful SAM, and this may have some BIG implications for the successful recruitment and ongoing development of your strategic account managers.

Stay tuned.

By Ed Bradford

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