Eric Kuns talks with meeting attendees about strategic account management.
CINCINNATI - How often do you put yourselves in your customers' shoes? That's a question that Eric Kuns posed to attendees of his seminar on strategic account management (SAM) held at the recent Excellence Alliance Inc. (EAI) meeting. Kuns, a 14-year veteran of HVACR sales and marketing, said that seeing things from the perspective of the customer is a crucial part of account management.

He qualified his remarks by stating that a customer base is "the biggest asset you have. It is a service bank that keeps on giving and giving."

Kuns outlined the key components of strategic account management, defining it as follows:

  • It is the systematic management of concentrated resources.

  • It involves development of short-term and long-term strategic plans.

  • It gives companies a deeper appreciation of their clients' point of view.

  • It employs a set of principles and tools for use in account planning and management.

  • It keeps an eye on your key assets.

    Kuns said that part of the SAM strategy is to involve the customer. "Ask them why they do business with you," he urged.

    He noted that SAM targets the type of accounts that contractors should focus on: public/private corporations, institutional entities, and specific industry accounts. Kuns displayed a grid, which identified various customer types: "shining stars," "cash cows," "question marks" and "dogs."

    "This type of grid puts ac-counts into perspective" he said, allowing you to decide where you want to concentrate your efforts. For example, he said that "cash cows" might include a lot of maintenance accounts, which might not be a big growth area, but "they pay the bills."

    Kuns said the opportunity for growth is high for the "shining star" accounts and that efforts should be made to move some of the "question mark" accounts to "shining stars." Kuns said, "Focus your resources so you are not wasting your time."

    After identifying key accounts, the next step in the SAM process is to focus in on the clients. "If there is one thing you need to take away from this session, it is the client opportunity focus," Kuns said. He suggested keeping client information at a secured area of a company Web site so that information can be updated and viewed as a project progresses.

    "Keep a snapshot of the client. It can be a quick 10-second evaluation," he said. "Ask what you are doing to move the project forward and what commitments need to be made by your team and the client. Some of these are hard questions that have to be asked."

    At the end of the process, it is important to plan and take action, according to Kuns.

    "Always implement an action plan and get your people thinking about it. This is something so simple but we don't always do it - except in our head."

    Publication date: 01/19/2004