For those of you who have read Animal Farm, you will be familiar with George Orwell’s famous line:
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.
Orwell wrote this in 1945, referring to the hypocrisy of governments that proclaim equality of citizens, but give power and privileges to the elite few. Before you stop reading, I have no intention of getting into government hypocrisy in this article! I am merely drawing the analogy from Orwell’s work to the situation that we see in many instances when it comes to account segmentation or prioritisation.
It is something we all deal with on a daily basis in our lives. Prioritising activities, people and tasks is essential to get through our day.
It is no surprise that we have to apply principles of prioritisation in the context of key account management (KAM).
The big question is, how do we do this effectively?
Many organisations have the benefit of a Sales Force Excellence team (SFE) to support with market level segmentation as a start point. Generally this activity is carried out in conjunction with the brand planning process and is based on robust market research and insight. There will be certain account or customer archetypes that have been identified as being more appropriate to work with in the context of the brand strategy. Those customers who are more likely, for a wide variety of reasons, to support the goals for that specific brand.
This process is often detached from those who carry out customer facing roles.
Generally, those dealing with accounts on a regular basis are given their ‘target’ accounts and sent off with their sales and marketing tools, budget impact models and a raft of product information, based on the assumption that their accounts should all be managed in the same way.
The reality of working at an account level, however, is very different. As with most situations, there will be low hanging fruit and accounts which present considerable challenge. Of course, each account will need some activity and attention, but there should be a variation in your approach.
What can you do at an account level to prioritise your accounts?
The account team should select a series of criteria to help them understand how they can prioritise their efforts, and which resources they should allocate to each account in support of the account objective.
Naturally, human beings have a tendency to start with the easiest task. It is much better to work with something that is familiar, gives no trouble and feels comfortable. How often have you fallen into the trap of working with the easiest account? The customers are lovely, they use lots of your product, they are loyal, they will see you when you have a field visit, they are reliable.
I often hear account teams refer to challenging accounts, how they are ‘heart sink’ accounts, because they can never make progress. Challenging, frustrating and difficult accounts often require a different approach. Sometimes you need to look at your accounts from a new perspective. Treating each account in the same way will never unlock opportunities.
Some of the criteria that I have observed pharmaceutical and medical device account teams using to support local prioritisation are:
- Potential numbers of patients
- Ease of access
- Sphere of influence e.g. is this a tertiary centre? Do the clinicians working here sit on Guideline committees?
- Competitor penetration
- Strength of existing relationships
- Current product portfolio
- Research centre
Best practice suggests that you have a mix of qualitative and quantitative factors when considering account prioritisation. Of course, in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, there is a tendency to focus on the short term, as metrics are reviewed annually. However, in an ideal world, you should also consider some factors which are longer term to ensure that you have a sustainable strategic approach over the next 3-5 years.
Using these, or other criteria in a matrix scoring system, can help the cross functional account team identify which strategies to employ to unlock the account objective. Some accounts may, for example, require a longer term strategic approach from departments like Government Affairs or Market Access, whilst others might require input from Medical Affairs or Research and Development.
Taking time to reflect on your local accounts to differentiate your approach will ensure that you, as a cross functional account team are working as efficiently as possible. It will also maximise the experience your external stakeholders receive from you, further enhancing loyalty and retention.
If you would like to know more about how you can prioritise your local accounts, then get in touch.