Strategic account managers are often defined as “the guardians” of the strategic customer relationship. This guardianship is particularly poignant today, when winning new business is a challenge and the focus is on nurturing existing relationships and stewarding them towards a bright future.
In North America, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. As mother to three boys, this day is close to my heart. As a SAM, this day has me thinking about the overlap between the roles of a ‘good’ mother and a ‘good’ SAM: Guardian. Nurturer. Steward. Think about it.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead, once named by Time as ‘Mother of the World,’ laid out the five most valuable capacities for a mother to have. These same five apply equally well to SAMs:
1. Recognize Uniqueness. Each customer, like each child, has their own strengths, priorities, and focus. Don’t force them all into the same mold.
2. Listen. Set aside ‘quality time’ when both of you focus solely on the customer’s needs – think regular calls and quarterly face-to-face meetings where distractions are at a minimum.
3. Support Independence. Show interest in what interests your customer: focus on their business issues. Help them find ways to address these issues, and support them as they do.
4. Show Disapproval. It’s ok. In fact, it’s necessary. Being a trusted advisor means sometimes having to tell your customer they are making a poor choice. Remember, be a guide first, a friend second.
5. Earn Respect. Be a role model. Show them how to stand up for their core business beliefs and values. You’ll earn their respect and help them earn more respect within their organizations.
There is one more thing we can learn from mothers. As every parent and child knows, hugs make things better. In his book, Hug Your Customers, Jack Mitchell details his ‘hugging philosophy’ and demonstrates how having a culture of caring about the customer drives growth and long-term revenues. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Looking for growth? Apply the skills of the best mothers: nurture your customers. Maybe even start by giving them a hug. Then share it with the rest of us by posting your story here.
VP, Strategic Accounts