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Moving from Vendor to Strategic Partner: Success Starts with Your CRO Platform

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Sales organizations are perpetually searching for competitive differentiation. Companies must first generate compelling reasons for their customers to make an initial purchase. Then, they must quickly establish their status as a strategic partner so they are the first point-of-contact for any related products or services purchased in the future.

The goal is to interweave your organization in your clients’ circle of trust and be recognized as a “mission-critical” strategic partner. However, each customer relationship exists on a spectrum of organizational alignment, from the low value-add, low alignment relationships to high value-add, high alignment relationships that are interdependent.

A customer revenue optimization platform for key account management drives revenue growth by supporting inter-organizational alignment. By listening, by better understanding client needs, and by building products with these needs in mind, organizations can achieve interdependent alignment.

Move Toward Interconnected Alignment

Sales Mastery Inc. produced a five-stage organizational alignment hierarchy model for selling and buying. Their research suggests that selectively moving certain customers up the hierarchy can create a value-add advantage that competitors will find challenging to overcome. They outline the five levels of organizational engagement as follows:

1. Separate Organizational Alignment

Outside of direct sales efforts, there is little, if any, other interaction. Consequently, products or services are probably viewed as commodities, and the purchasing decisions are based on simple concerns like price or brand recognition.

2. Situational Organizational Alignment

There may be specific instances where sellers align with their customers more closely, like in conflict resolution. After the resolution, though, the organizations revert to the separate alignment.

3. Connected Organizational Alignment

Sellers make efforts to align to buyers. They share insights and ensure that what is sold exceeds customer expectations.

4. Interconnected Organizational Alignment

Interconnected client relationships take today and the future into account together. They consider customizing solutions to meet clients’ needs and we offer services that are not available to all clients.

5. Interdependent Organizations Alignment

In full bloom, organizational relationships can blur the distinction between seller and buyer, and both are willing to make long-term strategic commitments to one another. Information sharing and collaboration are routine. Customized solutions and joint ventures are possible. This framework lays a foundation for the importance of customer-centric account management as a primary means to grow and retain revenue.

According to CSO Insights, companies that achieve interdependence with clients have win rates nearly double that of companies without a formal process. And, the companies that use a solution designed specifically for account planning have an 11-point advantage over those using manual efforts (and a 9-point advantage over those using homegrown or CRM applications).

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How Can You Achieve Interdependent Alignment?

Traditionally speaking, to grow influence with clients, sales teams steadily assess the people they know and the products they sell to determine how to drive business. They haven’t developed a bigger-picture strategy around how to drive mutually-beneficial business value.

What successful companies understand is that interdependent alignment can be achieved through relationships, insights, and whitespace. Where most companies fall short, though, is in utilizing technology to integrate these key components of account management and operationalize an overarching framework.

A customer revenue optimization (CRO) platform for key account management that enables best practices and brings critical insights to the forefront is an essential foundational requirement. From there, you can align your organization and your products or services with the needs of your clients and move up the hierarchy outlined by Sales Mastery.

Read More: How Marketing Automation and AI Are Transforming Customer Journey Stages

Eight Components Of Sustainable Partnerships

The right enabling platform for customer revenue optimization in your key accounts should be purpose-built to transform your program from a tactical, internal, task-driven process into a customer-centric discipline focused on strategic alignment and revenue growth.

It should drive success in eight key areas:

1. Awareness:

Technology can leverage multiple data sources to provide visibility into key accounts. These business insights empower leaders to identify mutually beneficial opportunities.

2. Exploration:

A KAM platform should uncover key insights by triangulating your relationship intelligence with an understanding of your clients’ strategic priorities. Through this exploration process, you can more strategically identify the potential areas where your products and services can help your clients drive success.

3. Engagement:

Collaboration directly with clients not only ensures alignment around their goals but is also a trust-building exercise that deepens both parties’ investment in a successful partnership. The right CRO platform will support this collaborative process.

4. Purchase:

The right technology can reduce transactional friction. With cross-departmental transparency, it’s not just the Sales team that has access to client insights. A single source of truth that is maintained in real-time improves product quality, pricing accuracy, and overall customer experience.

5. Usage:

Understanding which products your clients use and which get less engagement can inform how to support success within an existing partnership. Improve time-to-value to ensure better adoption by targeting efforts where they’re most needed. Strategically up-sell and cross-sell more effectively by identifying improvements for a specific use case.

6. Loyalty:

Deliver insights that matter to your customers and earn their loyalty through proven success. By leveraging a repeatable and scalable framework for long-term key account management, strategic partnerships strengthen over time as you continue to grow in collaboration with your clients’ business goals.

7. Advocacy:

Building collaborative relationships with influencers and key stakeholders around their growth improves overall customer satisfaction and interdependent alignment. Your clients will become more vocal advocates because they are invested in mutual organizational success. The transparency that technology provides also means that the testimony of your biggest advocates can be supported with compelling empirical evidence and verifiable outcomes.

8. Renewal:

Interdependent partnerships increase renewal rates and act as a preventative measure against competitive creap. Be the first to identify cross-sell and up-sell opportunities based on existing client behavior and a broad network of client advocates. Manage and grow your expanding opportunities in a CRO platform that flexibly adapts to your growing business.

Leading sales and account management organizations are leveraging technology to execute a day-to-day approach to strategic partnership. Helping clients build awareness, engagement, usage and renewal within their programs and platforms, we become more important. With the right data, tools, and insights, you can help your clients drive their most successful outcomes.

As you consider the right business investment to drive revenue (uncovering and winning new business) and develop long-term strategic partnerships (creating value to help clients grow), it is crucial to put the right customer revenue optimization platform in place to reinforce and operationalize your KAM program.

A platform that brings critical KAM components together gives your key account teams the level of insight, collaboration, consistency and customer focus that your clients undoubtedly expect from their strategic partners. A single unifying platform that brings the core components together offers a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Read More: 5 Travel and Luxury Brands that Use Technology for Customer Experience

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