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Effective Strategic Account Managers and the Other 30%

Strategic Account Managers, SAMs, in general are unique individuals that are able to succeed in many settings. They have to succeed because your company probably depends on their success. SAMs are responsible for managing our most important customers, the loss of any one of which could be devastating. (I use the term SAM interchangeably with terms like GAM, NAM, RAM, etc., meaning those who manage your most important relationships.)

What are the traits that make a good SAM? Based on Walker’s experience and a study we performed for the Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA),  we have developed a list of the traits displayed by successful SAMs.

But before I get into the list, I want to refer to a “rule” developed by a friend of mine. He says that in any list (say a list of the SAMs at your company or the winners of some awards show) 30% of those on the list don’t really belong. They aren’t qualified or they don’t perform to the appropriate level. And unless you can identify the 30% that don’t belong, you are probably one of them. By the way, my experience supports this rule. With that cheery thought, here are the traits that we identified.

Business Acumen—this trait includes the ability to think strategically, to be intuitive and to be a visionary. Bring results to your customer. How can you help them succeed?

Leadership—successful SAMs display terrific leadership skills and are driven to succeed. They are described as persistent, self-motivated and tenacious. They are the clear leaders of all those supporting your customers.

People Skills—the skills that allow SAMs to build and defend these important relationships include listening, communication, networking and the ability to catalyze and drive collaboration.

Integrity—the best SAMs are very good at treating others the way we all want to be treated, with honesty, sincerity and reliability. They do what they say they are going to do.

You might look at this list and say something like, “What else is there? That looks like a complete list for any job.” And you would be right. That simply reaffirms the importance of the SAM role.

You might also say something like, “That’s motherhood and apple pie. There is nothing to learn from there.” Maybe, but before you throw this list away and fail to challenge yourself to improve in these areas, ask yourself one question. Who are the 30% that don’t belong on our team?

Better hope you can come up with a good list.

About the Author

Phil Bounsall

Phil Bounsall

As president at Walker, Bounsall is focused on the development and execution of strategies and operating plans designed to enhance Walker’s position as a global leader in customer intelligence. Bounsall also works with Walker’s client service teams to help meet the needs of Walker’s clients.

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