If you follow baseball, October is when the season gets truly exciting. After nearly six months and 162 games, the season comes down to 10 teams and a month of playoffs. It’s also the time of year when significant speculation surrounds where the best players whose contracts are ending will land next season. At the top of the list is New York Yankee Robinson Cano. Why is he so sought after? He’s a five-time All Star, two-time Gold Glove winner and one of only 16 active players with a batting average of more than 0.300. Next season, he’s likely to be playing with a multiyear contract valued at $20-plus million dollars a year.
So what do baseball and the free agent market have to do with sales and strategic account management? They are both reminders that winning teams are based on talent, and recruiting and retaining talent are high priorities for sales leaders. In a recent report by the Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA) and ZS Associates, we found that the strategic account management (SAM) role has increased in importance for B2B sales forces in high tech, financial services and other industries. As a result, competition for talent has risen as well.
A ZS colleague, Mike Moorman, who has documented best practices in strategic account management for SAMA, says, "SAM is a business strategy, not just a sales force initiative." To execute SAM as a strategy requires top talent to engage customers in a strategic relationship and coordinate the resources of the selling organization to meet the requirements of the most important customers.
But similar to baseball, top talent is limited, and when in short supply, cost rises. The report points out that the cost of strategic account management is rising since strategic account managers are covering fewer accounts requiring more SAMs to cover a company’s top accounts. In addition, as companies look for new talent, they are looking outside their organizations and these new SAM’s are drawing higher pay than more tenured SAMs.
As you build your strategic account management program, it’s critical to have the right talent … without it, it’s unlikely your team will be playing for a championship.