From my observation, the SaaS industry has greatly misled people over the years. It has prioritized lead and opportunity management over account management. This emphasis was echoed in nearly all CRM systems, and we at Pipeliner CRM fell into the same trap for a long time.
Guided by both the industry and the CRM solutions they were using, businesses and organizations never really dug into real account management. This might have been because account management is more complex—selling to customers can be more detailed—but on the other hand, it’s much more rewarding.
A vital key to strategic account management is creating value for the customer. This is best stated by the RAIN group:
“Ask 100 different people at 100 different companies why their clients buy from them, and you’ll likely hear 100 different answers with the same underlying theme: the value we provide.”
—RAIN Group, White Paper Competencies of Strategic Account Managers
Need from CRM
In their report 5 Keys to maximizing Sales with Existing Accounts, the RAIN Group also states that one of the 5 key areas for strategic account management is “Establishing an effective account management process and planning tool.”
What is needed in a CRM for providing value? We at Pipeliner have now added robust account management features to our CRM—15 of them so far—so that you can add value for your customers
Our Org Chart is one of many features totally unique to Pipeliner, that no other CRM in the world offers today. The Org Chart visually shows the hierarchy within your customer’s organization—cards with specific contacts are placed in a hierarchical relationship to one another. We recently upgraded the Org Chart, and as part of the upgrade you can import numerous different fields into the Card View for a contact, displaying a variety of details.
You can now indicate the strength of a relationship you have with a contact. There is also the capability for displaying the relationship or relationships, along with positive or negative influence, that contact has with others in their organization. Comments can be added into the Card View about that contact.
Clicking on the contact, you can see the different feeds (email and texting). You can view all opportunities associated with that contact, and other details as well.
How does this person act within their company regarding your product or service? You can indicate that, marketing them as an influencer, a decision-maker, an amplifier, a champion, or even a detractor.
The Relationship Graph
Similar to the Org Chart is the Relationship Graph, which utilizes the same kind of cards. The Relationship Graph doesn’t show the hierarchy, but indicates influence, even by those outside your customer’s organization such as partners and consultants.
Your account managers should be aware of these relationships, as their goal is to expand accounts, which cannot take place without details such as this.
Other features mentioned in previous articles—the Account Matrix, our new White Space feature, and Forecasting Analytics—also provide functions that allow you to add tremendous value for accounts.
Creating Value Requires a Team
Once again we’ll quote the RAIN group, from their white paper Competencies of Strategic Account Managers:
“If you’re going to drive value proactively, a variety of people will need to do a variety of things. People on your team need to create action plans detailing what everyone needs to do, hold people accountable, and manage the whole strategic account growth process.”
The creation of value in account management cannot be done by one person—it requires a team. That team needs access to the data about an account and needs to save information about their own activities and tasks in relation to an account.
Because different people are viewing and working with an account, Pipeliner provides different views. Not only do people have different preferences in the way they view data, but different roles within a company have different requirements for viewing data as well.
The Unique Value Proposition
If you’re going to make real value for your customer, you need to provide a Unique Value Proposition (USP). You must provide something that your client needs, and that they have seen that you can genuinely deliver. Through real action, you need to back up all the promises you’ve made in your marketing materials, your trial, your presentation, and the ongoing communication you’ve maintained with them.
The value you offer can take different forms. The most obvious reason you manage an account is so that you can expand that account—you can sell them more products or services. But it can happen that you can’t sell “more” to them, as they’ve already purchased as many licenses or other products or services that they possibly can, and won’t expand anymore in the foreseeable future. But there are other ways to create value. You can offer additional benefits, or assist them in optimizing their product for their organization.
A great example of optimization is the way that our company, Pipeliner, has constantly improved our own in-house processes. Over the years we’ve been in operation, we’ve sometimes made thousands of slight improvements per year. In the first quarter of this year, we improved some 1,000 issues within our business. I’m not speaking of our product—I’m talking about our business operation. In the last 2 – 3 years, we’ve made 6,000 such improvements.
We can make an analogy for such improvements with one of the finest engines in the world, the Porsche engine. The company has constantly made improvements to it throughout the years. Mercedes has done the same thing. These companies are continually optimizing their engines.
You can optimize any company using your products or services in the same way. Find ways, even little ways, to help them improve with your products. Make them more efficient, and they become productive. They become more productive, and they become more profitable.
And that is the adding of value for account management!