From my point of view, people have been greatly misled by the SaaS industry throughout the years. It has prioritized lead and opportunity management over account management. This emphasis was echoed in nearly all CRM systems, and we at Pipeliner CRM fell into the same trap for a long time.

Businesses and organizations, following the industry as well as their own CRM systems, never really learned or understood account management. This might have been because account management is more complex—selling to customers can be more detailed—but on the other hand, it’s much more rewarding.

Creating value for customers is a vital key to strategic account management.. The RAIN group states this very well:

“Ask 100 different people at 100 different companies why their clients buy from them, and you’ll likely hear 100 different answers with the same underlying theme: the value we provide.”

—RAIN Group, White Paper Competencies of Strategic Account Managers

CRM Requirements for Creating Value

The RAIN Group also states, in their report 5 Keys to maximizing Sales with Existing Accounts, that one of the 5 key areas for strategic account management is “Establishing an effective account management process and planning tool.”

For providing customer value, what might be required of a CRM system? We at Pipeliner have now added robust account management features to our CRM—15 of them so far—so that you can add value for your customers

Hierarchical Relationships: The Org Chart

There are many visual features totally unique to Pipeliner today, that no other CRM in the world offers. One of these is our Org Chart, which visually displays the hierarchy within your customer’s organization—cards with specific contacts are placed in a hierarchical relationship to one another. We recently upgraded the Org Chart, and as part of the upgrade, you can import numerous different fields into the Card View for a contact, displaying a variety of details.

The strength of a relationship can now be shown within a contact. There is also the capability for displaying the relationship or relationships, along with positive or negative influence, that contact has with others in their organization. Comments can be added into the Card View about that contact.

The different feeds (texting and email) can be viewed by clicking on the contact. You can view all opportunities associated with that contact, and other details as well.

In your customer company, how does your contact represent your product or service? You can indicate that, marketing them as an influencer, a decision-maker, an amplifier, a champion, or even a detractor.

Graphing Relationships in the Client Company

Our Relationship Graph, similar to the org Chart, also makes use of the contact cards. The Relationship Graph doesn’t show the hierarchy, but indicates influence, even by those outside your customer’s organization such as partners and consultants.

In that the goal of your account managers is to expand accounts, they should be aware of these relationships. Account expansion cannot take place without details such as this.

Adding Value with Other Features

There are other features, mentioned in previous articles, that allow tremendous addition of value for accounts. These include the Account Matrix, our new White Space feature, and Forecasting Analytics.

It Takes a Team to Create Value

From their white paper Competencies of Strategic Account Managers, let’s once again quote the RAIN Group:

“If you’re going to drive value proactively, a variety of people will need to do a variety of things. People on your team need to create action plans detailing what everyone needs to do, hold people accountable, and manage the whole strategic account growth process.”

One single person cannot be responsible for creating value in account management—it requires a team. That team needs access to the data about an account and needs to save information about their own activities and tasks in relation to an account.

Different people view and work with accounts. For that reason, Pipeliner provides different views. Not only do people have different preferences in the way they view data, but different roles within a company have different requirements for viewing data as well.

Creating the Unique Value Proposition

A Unique Value Proposition (USP) needs to be provided to a customer in order to create real value. You must provide something that your client needs, and that they have seen that you can genuinely deliver. Through real action, you need to back up all the promises you’ve made in your marketing materials, your trial, your presentation, and the ongoing communication you’ve maintained with them.

Value can be offered in different ways. The most obvious reason you manage an account is so that you can expand that account—you can sell them more products or services. But it can happen that you can’t sell “more” to them, as they’ve already purchased as many licenses or other products or services that they possibly can, and won’t expand anymore in the foreseeable future. But there are other ways to create value. You can offer additional benefits, or assist them in optimizing their product for their organization.

We can offer a great optimization example from our own company, as Pipeliner has constantly improved its in-house processes. Over the years we’ve been in operation, we’ve sometimes made thousands of slight improvements per year. In the first quarter of this year, we improved some 1,000 issues within our business. I’m not speaking of our product—I’m talking about our business operation. In the last 2 – 3 years, we’ve made 6,000 such improvements.

The evolution of one of the finest auto engines in the world, the Porsche engine, can serve as an analogy. The company has constantly made improvements to it throughout the years. Mercedes has done the same thing. These companies are continually optimizing their engines.

In a similar way, you can optimize any of your client companies with your products and services. Find ways, even little ways, to help them improve with your products. Make them more efficient, and they become productive. They become more productive, and they become more profitable.

All of this sums up to adding value in account management!