We embrace our strategic accounts—they are our most important customers. They may be our largest customers, perhaps they represent the thought leaders in the industry – helping us acquire more share within an industry.
We pay a lot of attention to our strategic account plans. We have our annual strategic account planning sessions. We look at what we are going to do with the account, how we are expanding our relationships, how we will grow the account, what resources we will commit, how we will develop new customer relationships.
In many organizations, our strategic accounts represent the majority of our revenue–they are the 20% that generate the 80%
Strategic accounts are important to us.
There’s one thing though, while the account may be strategic to us, are we a strategic supplier for our customer?
It seems we need to look at the other side of the coin—look at things from our customers’ perspectives. Are we strategic suppliers to our customers?
What do we know about our customers supply chain strategies? What do we know about what’s important to them — what they look for in a supplier, what they need in terms of long term and close relationships? Do they even need long term relationships? What important are we to the customer? What would be the cost of switching vendors? What would be the impact if we weren’t around? If the switching cost is low, if the impact is small, then as much as we want them as a strategic account, we are unlikely to be a strategic supplier.
We care about the account, but does the account really care about us?
For an account to be strategic, importance — interdependency should be aligned. We should be important to the customer and they should be important to us.
Are we also missing an opportunity? Are there customers for whom we are strategic–but we may not be treating as strategic? Are we selling to them, but missing the opportunity to ratchet up the relationship?
Strategic supplier relationships always trump strategic account relationships.
What do you know about your customers’ supplier management strategies?
How important are suppliers in their overall business strategies?
Who is important to them? Why?
How do you become important – strategic – to your customer?
Maybe it’s time to rethink your strategic accounts. Maybe it’s time to be focusing on being a strategic supplier?
(Thanks to Rick Pulito for the reminder on this concept.)