I am from from Indianapolis, the Racing Capital of the World. It is the month of May when the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, is held. Fast cars are on my mind. And we tend to use some racing analogies once and awhile in this city. Here’s a couple that apply to managing key accounts.
There are no pit stops in account management. When something is wrong with an Indy car, the driver pulls it into the pits, stops and lets the crew make the appropriate changes. Sort of like a time out except that the rest of the cars are still making lots of left turns at 200 mph.
When we are managing key accounts, we don’t have the luxury of stopping to make the appropriate changes. We have to make them on the fly, sort of like changing the engine while the car is still flying around the track. Without the ability to make a pit stop, your changes need to be well orchestrated and executed. And they had better be consistent with the needs of your customers. The more responsive you can be to the needs of your customers, the more likely you will be to execute a significant change without pulling into the pits.
Strategy follows measurement. Indy-car racing has become so scientific and fact-based that the racing teams have a terrific amount of capital invested in information systems that are linked to the performance of the cars. The computers feed all kinds of performance information to the crew chief who sets strategies based on the measurement. The teams that win, measure the right characteristics in a sophisticated way and set strategies that are responsive to the measurements. The race is run for 500 miles at speeds in excess of 200 mph and sometimes the winner is separated from second place by less than the length of a car!
Our businesses operate the same way. Understand your customers by listening to them in a sophisticated, validated way (no serious racing team EVER tries to take a simpler approach that gives them less information). Then, use what you have learned in your strategic and account planning processes.
Just like in racing, the difference between growing our market share and losing can be created by a very slight performance difference. Assuming you know enough about your customers will ensure your competitor takes the checkered flag.