By Marty D. Blake, Chief Operating Officer, Optimé International Inc.
Based on our work with clients in numerous industries, we have had the opportunity to learn with the best in the world when it comes to collaborating with complex customers.
WHAT’S THE DEFINITION OF STRATEGIC CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT?
Good question. Below is the definition we point to when asked that question:
“Strategic Customer Management (SCM) is a company-wide initiative, focusing on building strong and mutually beneficial relationships with a company’s most important customers and partners. Effective SCM programs create loyalty, stimulate growth, enhance profitability, and lead to innovative solutions. A successful program requires a commitment from senior management to ensure the necessary corporate and organizational shift has time to establish itself.”
FOUR REQUIRED ENABLERS TO STRATEGIC CUSTOMER MANAGEMENT:
To bring this approach to life in any organization, we have identified a series of four required enablers. The absence of these can make the journey to full activation difficult:
Vision and direction must be understood by all parties involved.
• Organizational goals and desired outcomes must be well articulated.
• You must understand your customers’ goals and desired outcomes, and they too must be well well-defined.
• To gain this understanding – you must “Play Catch™”, essentially having strategic two-way effective dialogue with the key people in your customers’ organizations, to create alignment.
• Both of these plans must be shared within your organization and each ‘contributor’ must have a clear role in achieving them.
Leadership is a key enabler.
• A motivating C-level story or narrative must be developed that engages the organization in the approach.
• Senior leaders from both companies must be fully enrolled and engaged in the development of this working relationship.
• Alignment from senior leadership (CEO. COO, CFO, etc.) must be visible.
• Concepts must be cascaded down through the organization to the next levels of management (executive VP’s, Directors, Managers, etc.) along with clear strategies, tactics and timing for this approach.
A multi-functional approach looks like this:
• The Sales team’s role is to orchestrate the experts in their organization to work effectively with the customers.
• Sales team members must work internally to map out a multi-functional approach, so that all key functions are aligned (likely entails having a “charm campaign” with all multi-functional stakeholders).
Be deliberate…”Win with the Winners”.
• First, decide who the focal customers are… and determine what the criteria is to qualify as a “Winner”.
• Then, develop an action plan for the top customers which considers: who they are, who’s growing/declining over next 3 years, etc. Also needed will be a plan detailing how your remaining customers (15-20% of business) will be managed.
• Staffing- once you have designed what the roles or “boxes” in the org chart should look like, it is time to put the best people into the right boxes.
• Having a top-to-top meeting with each of the top “Winner” customers (i.e. CEO to CEO) allows everyone to gain alignment to the concept(s) and appropriate metrics.
• Once you have your “internals aligned”, you then proceed to developing a more micro-level plan, i.e., a tailored SCM (strategic customer management) roadmap for each of the “Winner” customers.
FROM OK TO OUTSTANDING, START WITH INSIGHT
To lead and engage your organization into more strategically aligned relationships with customers, first assess how you stack up in these four areas. Then, establish a plan that gets you from “OK” to “outstanding” in each of them. These are practical areas which are key to embracing a more strategic approach with customers. It’s going to be hard work but know that the effort is worth it once you build it into your culture.
Good Luck and Good Selling