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Executive Sponsors: Growth Contributors or Prohibitors?

A VP of Marketing who has launched a strategic account management initiative in his company in the past year made the comment to me this week that his account teams were skeptical of the impact executive sponsors could have in their accounts. 

Even though I know we strategic account managers like to be in control of everything going on in our accounts, this surprised me a bit. All evidence I’ve seen shows the positive impact gained by having top-to-top relationships between your company and your account.

Some examples of the evidence:

-The Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA, a great resource in this topic area) says right on their web site: “Executive sponsorship is considered a critical success factor for any organized strategic accounts effort.” (

-Grover Smith of Cisco presented his company’s executive sponsorship program at the recent SAMA annual conference. He shared that they expanded their program from 15 executives covering 30 customers in 2006, to 125 executives covering 194 customers today – and they did so because they see a positive impact on revenue, customer satisfaction (which we all know leads to growth), and keeping Cisco focused on the customer’s top priorities.

-In some best practice gathering interviews recently completed with the highest performing strategic account managers at a Fortune 500 company, each one of the 6 high performers interviewed cited (without prompting) the influence of their executive sponsor on their overall success (high customer loyalty and high revenue growth) with the customer.  

So, it seems like a good idea, right? If you’re starting to think so, try these tips to ensure your executive sponsor is a growth contributor:

-While your executive sponsor is your primary executive involved with your account, don’t hesitate to tap others (particularly subject matter experts) as needed. Many of the high performers we interviewed mentioned using their executive sponsor to help them secure these additional resources when necessary.

-Be sure to find the right executive that fits with your customer. Grover Smith of Cisco shared that their sponsors are selected via a six-step process with the last step being an expectation setting/match analysis meeting between the account team and the proposed sponsor.

-Keep your executive (and you and your entire team) focused on your customer’s priorities rather than your own.  

Remember, you all want the same thing – success for your customer (okay, so that will lead to your success too…nothing wrong with that). 

Sonya McAllister,

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