<B>Forming a strategic account plan</B>

Antonio Díaz Morales. Professor. Instituto de Empresa

21 March 2006

Corporate account managers need new managerial tools to stay ahead. By providing an in-depth view of a client´s present and future performance, an account plan can help corporate account managers develop an adequate strategy for the future.

The Account Manager is entrusted with the job of developing new management tools for enhancing strategic client development.

One of these basic tools is the client fact book, a file with relevant information about the client as seen from the following points of view:

::Internal: the client’s history, objectives, values, share structure, organisational structure and economic results.
::External: press releases that provide information about the client’s relationship with stakeholders.
::Our company: an analysis of our past relations with the client and business executives, as wall as of the products and services contracted. It also looks at commercial agreements, contribution margins, etc.
::Our competitors: current and past relationships between our competitors and the client.

This client book is a type of ‘logbook’ for the key account and is of vital importance--along with the company's marketing plan--for mapping out a strategy for client development or an account plan.

As competition grows, and consolidation continues to change the face of many industries, companies with exhaustive information about their clients are better prepared to adapt their investment plans to shifting circumstances. Having an account plan enables companies to draw up an optimum development strategy for clients.

This plan should cover three client-relations areas:

::The business area: this makes it possible to establish business objectives when dealing with prices, margins, products and services, payment and order planning. This area should be in line with the marketing plan.
::Internal coordination: due to the fact that client relations evolve on various levels, this seeks to coordinate relations among all the internal areas in an effort to improve them.
::Client relations: managing client relations is of crucial importance to the key account. Because various people across the corporate spectrum are involved in commercial relations, the role played by each needs to be properly explained. The aim is to develop a more efficient contact network and safeguard commercial relations.

The client plan constitutes an in-depth analysis of the situation and enables the company to gain a broad view of its commercial relations, while identifying the strengths and weaknesses of its client. It also enables the company to gauge the potential opportunities and threats to the client that could result from growing competition or the market situation.

Account plans constitute a break from the traditional short-term sales strategies that focus exclusively on the client’s monthly performance. This new approach advocates the strategic development of business sales. This requires more demanding office work than the traditional vendor is accustomed to carrying out. In this sense, preparation becomes a critical part of commercial policy.

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