Strategic accounts are the lifeblood of many businesses. In some cases, the sales revenue from a handful of the most important key accounts can represent the vast majority of a team or company's revenue (75% or above). In order to be successful with new strategic accounts, it is absolutely crucial that the extended sales team really understands the business intimately, and this is where an investment in Strategic Account Research is so important.
What is Strategic Account Research?
Strategic Account Research, or Key Account Research, is exactly what it says on the tin. It is research conducted into the most important client accounts. Research that enables the sales and marketing teams to address the company and individuals within that company, with some level of knowledge and intimacy.
What research should be covered?
The aim of the exercise is to understand the strategic account well enough that the sales and marketing teams can demonstrate a level of understanding of the customer's issues, and sufficiently to design a communication plan. As such, here are a few of the key aspects that any account research should be concerned with:
What is the company strategy? What are they looking to achieve and what issues are they facing?
How does their financial position look?
What are they telling the press and shareholders?
What terminology do they use?
Are there any major projects that you should really know about?
Have they been featured in the press?
Is there any ongoing M&A (mergers and acquisitions) that you should know about?
Who should you be targeting?
What does the organization chart look like?
Where do your products and services fit with the likely needs of the client?
Are there obvious areas that should be mentioned in any communications?
These are just a few of the key elements that you should be aware of. If this might be of interest to learn more about, further details can be found in our Whitepaper - Strategic Account Research, What Should Be Covered.
How long does the research take to construct?
Unfortunately, conducting account research does take time, and quite frankly it can be quite dull. However, it's important to keep in mind how useful this exercise is to the whole virtual team that interacts with your strategic account. For an experienced person, the research should take between 2 and 3 days to complete. Considering the importance of the job - it's a great investment to make.
In terms of who should do the research - our viewpoint is that you really need to have someone with excellent commercial awareness and an understanding of business and selling. Ideally, the work should be carried out by the Strategic Account Manager as they bring both the expertise and knowledge of selling and have the greatest benefit from the finished article.
Although the account research should be an investment that is easy to justify, it is often hard to get people (particularly if they are busy with client issues) to devote the time to the exercise. Viewpoint Analysis conducts the research on behalf of a number of well-known businesses because it is easier for our team to find the time than it is for the account team themselves.
Who is the account research for?
This is an extremely important question and the answer is - EVERYBODY that has any contact with the strategic account.
All too often we hear that the account manager has all the information in their head, but fails to share it. The account needs to feel that your team and your company know who they are and what they are experiencing. So this means that EVERY touchpoint is important. Marketing needs to understand the customer - this is clear. Sales Development (inside sales) needs to know the customer. Also, think about the services team, your executive team (e.g. executive sponsor), and your important partners.
What do you do with the research once completed?
Our experience of conducting the research suggests that once completed it is important to note the following:
The strategic account research is only 'fresh' for a number of days and weeks. With each passing week and month, the research becomes less useful as the target company invariably changes over time. It is therefore very important that the team act on the intelligence quickly.
Because the research changes, the team should store the report in a central drive and all members should be able to make changes as they discover or hear of anything that should be captured in the document.
The researcher should present the account intelligence / account research to the virtual account team as soon as the research is completed. If the information is only sent by email and in the research document, there is a good chance that it is not read by everyone or that it is not digested properly.
Want to see an example report?
Before you invest the time to write the report, it's always useful to see one that has been completed previously. If you would like a copy of a piece of research that we have written for a client recently, please just send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a suitable example, no strings attached.
Strategic Account Research is vital if you really want to differentiate your business in those crucial major accounts. Put the time in (or the investment if you don't have the time) and it will pay dividends year after year.
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