Many strategic account plans include a copy of the client’s organisation chart. In my experience most people have a look at these charts, remark “that’s interesting”, and then move on.
I recently observed a brilliant analysis of a client’s organisation chart that went to the next level. This analysis included these five elements around each person on the chart:
- Mover or Shaker – their level of influence and importance in making current and future buying decisions.
- Friend or Foe – their affinity for the firm, in absolute terms and relative to key competitors.
- Value Drivers and Destroyers – the specific things that created valued or destroyed value in the eyes of the individual buyer.
- KPIs – the Key Performance Indicators the individual was accountable for.
- Capex and Opex – the capital and operating expenditure budgets the person had responsibility for.
While there is frequent reference in account plans to items 1 and 2, I seldom see 3, 4 or 5.
#1 Mover or Shaker
Rather than rating the level of importance, some firms prefer to use a categorisation model that reflects the individual’s buying role eg. Miller Heiman’s Economic Buyer, User Buyer, Technical Buyer and Coach.
#2 Friend or Foe
Some firms extend this categorisation to that of Allies, Friends, Enemies and Protestors.
Value Drivers and Destroyers are sometimes coined the client’s “hot buttons”. I prefer the language around value in that it forces one to define what strategic value truly means from the individual client’s perspective, not just pet loves and hates. Obviously the challenge is then to deliver on these value expectations. It’s interesting to observe that client’s value drivers often include some reference to the way a firm’s advice is packaged/ documented/ communicated. It’s not about the advice per se, which is just assumed to be technically correct, but how easily it can be interpreted, translated and used.
#4 Client KPIs
If one of your jobs is to make your client look good, surely you should know how they’re going to be measured and get ahead in the eyes of their peers and superiors? Identifying their KPIs is a relatively simple and easy way to do this.
A large Australian law firm recently went through an exercise in trying to identify its key clients’ KPIs. In one client it made the presumption that the General Counsel’s (GC’s) KPIs were around long-term legal spend trend, performance against current year budget, engagement of legal team staff and internal client satisfaction. To their surprise they found out “number of negative press mentions” was also one of the GC’s KPIs. The GC’s role included elements of risk management – and reputation risk was seen as part of his accountabilities. With this knowledge the firm started engaging the GC on a range of risk management and brand protection issues.
#5 Capex and Opex
Gathering intelligence around Capex and Opex (Item 5) is also useful as it is often a lead indicator of future work and investment. It can also point to the relative importance and power base of different members of the client’s executive team. While exact figures on Capex, Opex and/or delegated budget authority can be hard to extract, making a guestimate is better than just ignoring the issue altogether.
Call to action
How well do you know your key clients? If you can accurately address Items 1 to 5 for each key decision-maker and influencer then I think you’ve passed the test. If not, get cracking…