How do you take care of your most important customers? Join us and hear how Richard Santucci and David Hughes leveraged their combined 50 years of experience in B2B sales and sales leadership to build and lead a very successful, global Strategic Account Management program from scratch, then wrote a great book about it. If you are new to strategic account management, you will quickly realize that the principles and experiences Richard and David share in the podcast and their book apply to any company and newly appointed SAM Program Leader.
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The Secrets Of Successful Strategic Account Management With Richard Santucci And David Hughes
Today, I would be honored to introduce you to two experienced SAM leaders, Richard Santucci and David Hughes. They worked together professionally for many years and collaborated to create and improve several SAM programs, starting with a management mandate and a clean sheet of paper. They have kindly agreed to join me today on this podcast and share what they’ve learned along the way. I can assure you all who listen to this that you’re in for a treat. Gentlemen, welcome. Thank you very much for your time.
Thanks for having us, Harvey.
It’s a pleasure. Let’s start right in. David, you were the one that was first approached by your company to create a SAM program. How did that all get started?
DH: That’s correct, Harvey. We started our program in 2010. Richard and I were both working for Tyco Valves & Controls. We went through one of our many reorganizations. We were going from a regionally based organized company into industry verticals, so oil and gas, mining, power and process. The gentleman who was going to lead the oil and gas vertical, at least temporarily until we brought in a new president — he was a bit of a visionary. He was running our sales organization in Europe. He already had a SAM calling on Shell and was doing very well in that regard. He convinced the president of Tyco Valves & Controls to start a SAM program within the oil and gas vertical, focusing on customers like Shell and ExxonMobil.
The roles that Richard and I had were going to change somehow someway because of the reorganization. He approached me and said, “You might be one of the people who could do a good job starting a strategic account program. Would you be interested in doing that?” I thought about it and said, “Yeah.” My first question was, “What is the strategic account program?” I knew a little bit about it, but after thinking about it, I said, “Yes, that would be interesting.” I jumped in with both feet. That’s how we got started in 2010.
Richard, you got drafted. That’s my word, but I’m not sure if that’s the right word.
RS: It is accurate. Prior to the reorganization, Dave was running the North American region and I was running the Latin American region. Actually, the Interim President of the Valves & Controls organization for the oil and gas industry vertical was running Europe. We were all colleagues. When the decision was made to reorganize, Frido approached me as well and asked me, “Your role is going to change. Would you work with David on putting together this strategic account program for the oil and gas industry vertical?”
At first, I was a little hesitant. I asked a few questions but then I thought, “Other than the fact that we need to concentrate on accounts, they don’t know how to do this.” I had a conversation with David and we thought this might be a pretty exciting thing for us to embark on. We went ahead and decided to move forward. I reported to Dave throughout our ten-year stint at this. We worked closely together and were able to, I think, put together a program that we later on decided to put on paper by means of a handbook that we wrote.
DH: I really relied on Richard and his input. Frido, the gentleman running the oil and gas vertical at that time, hand-selected at least three of us. We had one person in North America, Richard in Latin America, a gentleman in Europe, and then a person in Asia. He handpicked us because he knew us quite well since we had similar jobs that he had. It was a big change because, at the time, I was running an organization of 500 people. Richard, you were running a big organization.Competence is a skill set that is absolutely necessary for a SAM program to progress. Click To Tweet
I remember talking to the gentleman in Europe who we brought on board. He was actually the Shell SAM. He was running all of Benelux — Belgium, and the Netherlands. I said, “Hans, how do you feel going from a gentleman running a P&L with 50 people reporting to him and then going down to being the individual contributor?” He said, “How do you feel having run an organization of 500 people going down to running an organization of four?” He put it right back at me. The whole ten years for me and I think with Richard were enjoyable with all three companies, Tyco, Pentair, and then finally Emerson.
RS: One of the things I have to say is that Frido was pretty visionary in selecting the people, not because he selected us, but because he was looking for businessmen. Obviously, having been responsible for P&Ls, both Dave and I, we fit the skillset that he was looking for as opposed to just salespeople. Frankly, we believe that is a competence that is absolutely necessary for a SAM program to progress.
It makes me wonder, “What business problem was Frido trying to solve?” Maybe it wasn’t a problem. Maybe it was an opportunity. In business, it’s either problems or opportunities. It depends on whether you’re winning or losing.
DH: I think it was an opportunity. It was pretty well-known that Frido, having a SAM on Shell, was very successful. We were doing significant business with Shell. That particular SAM who became part of our team called on their corporate engineering and procurement and was helping write their valve standards. He was very close to the account. It was pretty easy for Frido to convince the president at that time, Patrick Decker, to start this program because it was widely accepted that Shell was a success. Are you in agreement Richard?
RS: Yes. In addition to the Shell example, the rest of the regions did not really have any type of Strategic Account Management program. It created some issues because obviously the responsibility fell on the sales organization. The sales organization was incentivized to sell and to book orders. Therefore, the care, the relationship building at the central locations at the corporate level, and the visits to the C-level folks were not happening.
That created, I believe, a big problem being able to climb up the relationship ladder because we weren’t building relationships at that level. We were just calling on the locations and trying to pedal our widgets and close deals, today, because we needed to hit the month. We needed to hit the quarter. But we were not thinking about building long-term relationships with organizations so that we could attain a greater share of wallet and position ourselves to become trusted advisors with them. In that respect, I think Frido was quite visionary and pushed hard for a Strategic Account Management program within Tyco at the time.
It just occurred to me. I’m not sure this is true, but certainly, the customers that you’re talking about like Shell, Exxon, and these kinds of companies are global by any definition.
RS: And they wanted to be treated as a global organization too.
They wanted to be recognized by their supplier.
DH: That was one of the criteria, Harvey, that we had for selecting accounts. The account had to have locations in multiple regions. If not, if it was headquartered and mainly had locations in one region, it was a regional account. Our program was a global strategic account program focused on large global companies.
Back to when you first got started, were you given any guidelines? Usually, with these gifts from the CEO, there are some expectations that come along with it.
RS: Expectations were there, but there was no guidance. Perhaps David could elaborate a little bit on that.
DH: One of the guidelines that Frido established, which I don’t think turned out to be the best, was focusing it regionally. Me in North America, Richard in Latin America, we had a person in Asia and the person in Europe. We ended up changing to or moving towards was really focusing on the accounts and having the SAMS where they needed to be from an account standpoint, not from a “We’re going to have somebody in each region.” We didn’t really have, at that time, any Asian-based global accounts at that time, but we had a SAM in Asia. Outside of that guideline, they were really a blank sheet of paper, Harvey. It was like, “You guys go create the program.”
I remember talking to our VP or Director of Marketing at the time. She said, “You guys should get involved in this organization called SAMA. We said, “What is SAMA?” This happened at the beginning of the year. It was January and February when we kicked off the new company. And then we found out there was a SAMA conference in May. We asked the President, “Could we attend that?” That was our first SAMA conference in May of 2010. Thankfully, we went to that conference. We got a lot of information from that.
RS: It spearheaded the process that we created.
DH: To answer your question, outside of the initial structure with the four people, we really didn’t have a whole lot of guidelines. There was really no cookbook for Strategic Account Management as far as we knew. We found out about this organization, and we said, “We got to go see what goes on there.”
RS: There were some books that we read, but what helped us were the training seminars that we attended that May of 2010.
Interesting. One of the gentlemen in the community often says that SAMS, SAM leaders, and adults learn best from stories and peers. It seems like that was true for you guys.
DH: No question about it. The one thing that I was amazed at is that meeting was in Chicago. I couldn’t believe how many people were there. I said, “How can there be this many people involved in this thing called Strategic Account Management?” We were real novices but we jumped in and did our best to create our program.Think about building long-term relationships with organizations to position yourself as a trusted advisor to them. Click To Tweet
Wow, that’s amazing. Looking back, before we go forward here, I’m curious about this. If someone who had just inherited a SAM program called you guys up today and said, “What advice can you give me? What kind of questions should I ask? How should I get started?” What advice would you give them?
DH: We have a book that you can buy. I shouldn’t toot our horn but we do. That’s why we wrote the book. Because we struggled to really try to understand what we were supposed to do and how we were supposed to structure this thing that we were calling a program. It needed to be a program. That’s really why we put the book together. We wanted to give people a handbook on how you can think about creating the program and the different elements of that program. Outside of SAMA, I would say buy the book called The Secrets of Successful Strategic Account Management. It will help you with the different processes that are involved.
RS: If we were to dive a little deeper, clearly, becoming a member of SAMA, getting the organization to become a member of SAMA, I believe would be a first step, but then getting a good understanding as to what leadership wants, and making certain that leadership is committed to the program is also crucial. Ithink that, in our case, Dave, one of the things that allowed us to get the process going and get the process to grow the business was the fact that we did, at least at the beginning — the first year — we had a full commitment from the top, from Patrick Decker down to Frido, and then Sherry.
It was an enterprise-wide program, and it was very visible to the whole organization. The fact that we were leaders in the former structure helped because we were well-respected within the organization. It gave us the ability to maneuver and lead without authority across the regions, considering the fact that we were dealing with global accounts.
One of the concerns that we had was being able to show ourselves as a united front in front of these customers. That’s one of the things that they were clamoring about. I think that by making certain that there is a commitment from the leadership team within the organization to invest in this program and to support the program is crucial. In addition to buying our book of course, which will tell you how to do it — this is a crucial point — is to elicit and attain commitment from the top.
Is the top the CEO, or is the top the CEO and C-Suite? Just to push a little further in here and say, where do you need that commitment from?
RS: I guess, in our case, it was the president of the company. It was from the top.
DH: You’re right. I think it was the person who was running the P&L because we were people who had been with the company for many years. Our salaries were not low at all. They were making it a pretty big commitment by taking us from these general management positions and putting us into these strategic account roles. In our case, it was the P&L leader. In that particular business, Harvey, we reported to a president of oil and gas who reported to a president of Tyco Valves & Controls.
Even though the teams were smaller, each vertical had some kind of a SAM program like process and mining. If the president of Tyco Valves & Controls had not approved of that program, he could have done away with that in each of the verticals. We needed to make sure that the president of the overall organization, Tyco Valves & Controls, was supportive of that program. That person at the time had come from Emerson, who had a pretty strong program. He was supportive.
RS: The other thing that I think newcomers to Strategic Account Management program need to look at is account selection. In our case, it was relatively easy because we were talking about oil and gas and we just selected the oil and gas majors. The other that I believe needs to happen based on the resources that are going to be given to the program director, he needs to make certain that he does not grab more than he can chew. It needs to be a small program at first with few accounts.
Make certain that the program is successful before they can think about growing it and expanding it into other accounts. That would be another [piece of] advice that I would give somebody who’s starting the program. Commitment from the top, make certain that you are resourced correctly, and don’t try to bite more than you can chew.
DH: The last thing I’ll add if I can is that I think people should keep an open mind about SAM. Because, in our case, you approach somebody like Richard or me who has been a General Manager and a P&L Leader for a number of years and you say, “Hey, I would like you to think about becoming a SAM or running a SAM program.” People could look back at that as a step-down. People should really keep an open mind, because I’ll tell ya, those years were one of the best ten years of my career, creating the program, running it, and building a team. In the end, we had a team of 13 to 15 managers and program managers. And it was a blast. It really was. And, because of the nature of the program, we traveled around the world — we had to — and that was a great experience.
RS: Being able to deliver results is also important.
DH: Well, yes, of course. Well, that was table stakes, right Richard?
RS: Well, ya know, I like my bonuses at the end of the year.
DH: Well, for sure.
When we were talking, I got the sense that you ended up helping more than one program. As you were going through this process, you got the opportunity to help some of the other divisions and help get some other programs started. Could you talk a little bit about that?
DH: I’m not trying to pat ourselves on the back, but I think Richard and I had a good reputation in the company, Harvey. When we would travel to other regions, we were greeted and they wanted us there because we understood strategic sales, we understood account management, and account planning. When we went into a region, we did a lot of training of the salespeople that were in those regions. So, I think we really helped the sales organization in many cases.
We also got involved in a lot of marketing efforts related to the different industries. They would tap Richard for information on oil and gas, or they would tap Colin, our mining guy on mining expertise. We had a lot of experience and we had a fairly good reputation in the company. We had a good reputation in the company. We got involved in a lot of different aspects of the company and I think, hopefully, made it better in that regard.Don’t try to bite more than you can chew. Make sure the program is successful before you consider growing it and expanding it into other accounts. Click To Tweet
RS: As we traveled, as Dave indicated, we were embraced by the regions and by the sales organizations that were responsible for covering specific territories. They wanted us to go and make sales calls with them. We did. Since we were Strategic Account Managers that had relationships at the corporate level, we would normally be able to find key people at high levels within the sites that would be very difficult for the sales organization locally to reach.
Those doors would be open right away through our relationship from the corporate office or from the central location where they would send an email and alert them of our visit. They would actually set up appointments for us to meet with the plant managers and high-level individuals at the sites. This was extremely valued by the sales organization because they would accompany us to those meetings and initiate a direct relationship with those folks, which was crucial to the latter growth of our business in those particular locations. So yeah, they loved us.
DH: Because we had exposure to so many different parts of the organization and so many different people, particularly in the sales organization, I remember getting asked about people who they were thinking about promoting, and whether that was a good selection in my opinion. We got involved in HR to that extent because of the relationship that we had with the various people in the regions. That was kind of neat.
This is one of the concepts that we hear. We hear this a lot in life sciences, in particular, because every country has a different life science setup. As opposed to having a central SAM program where everybody is executing one play. You really have to have 200. There are 200 countries in the world. There are 200 variations going on out there. The SAM program becomes more of a center of excellence where you say, “These are best practices.” You’re a little bit of both. You’re a global strategic accounts program, but you’re also providing local guidance and support to help them elevate their game, create relationships, and reach people. It wasn’t just, “This is what you should do. Go do it.”
DH: We were looked at as mentors.
It’s like, “Let us help you. Let us get to the right people so you can start to develop the relationship you needed.”
RS: In some territories, some folks would embrace the process and they would apply it to their regional accounts.
You got to a point in time when you’d had enough fun and decided that it was time to be your own bosses. You retired and decided to write this book. When you were writing it, how did you decide to organize it to help people that had never been through the process before? How did you think about that?
DH: From my perspective, we wrote the book like we built the program, Harvey. The first thing we needed to do was we decided for us that we were going to create a program. We had a burning platform in that regard. We do write about a burning platform in the book. The first thing we thought we needed to do was decide what accounts were going to be part of the program. When we started in the oil and gas business, that was probably relatively easy.
Soon after that, the company reorganized again and all the processes and verticals were under our scope. It became much more difficult to select accounts. That’s when we put together the account selection process. We thought, “How are we going to find these people? Let’s put together a process related to finding an account manager.” We wrote the book based on sequentially the processes that we put together. Is that fair, Richard?
RS: That is fair. That is exactly how it happened. Once we selected the account managers, whether they were internal candidates or external candidates, because it was a global program, we had to identify those critical sites and identify who was going to cover them. Most critical sites contributed to the revenue base and the growth that was expected of us because one of the mandates that we applied to ourselves, frankly, was that whatever the growth of the business was, our accounts were going to grow twice as much.
That was our goal. We were going to grow twice as much as the average rate of growth of the overall business. We accomplished that every single year. But, we needed to identify and make sure that we had those critical sites identified, and then we could start with the planning. Now that we had all of the people in place and we knew who the accounts were, we could start with the planning process. We wrote it as we built it.
DH: We accomplished that goal every year we could get financial data. That was always a struggle.
RS: If we didn’t have the data, we had to assume that we made it.
DH: Yes, that’s correct. That was a challenge, being a global company with many ERP systems. When we got support from finance, it was great. But, we had numerous changes in upper management when we were going through this during the ten years. We had seven different leadership teams that changed. That means change every year and a half depending on who was in charge and the support we got from a finance standpoint.
RS: It was a burden for them. We recognized that because at one point there were 32 ERP systems to be able to gather all the data from that. Thankfully, that got reduced quite a bit. So, it became a little easier for the finance folks to do it. If we didn’t have a commitment from the top and with some leadership, it was not as strong of a commitment as with other leadership teams that we dealt with. As a matter of fact, one of the things that Dave did was to make certain we had a good elevator speech so that we could immediately attack the new leadership team to make certain that they understood what we were doing and the value that we were bringing to the organization.
DH: We did that aggressively. We wouldn’t wait until a new leadership team would say, “What are these people doing flying around the world?” We went after them and prepared an elevator speech. What is Strategic Account Management? Why is it important for this business to have this program? We also felt that communication was very important, not just the elevator speech, but communicating what we were doing to the organization. We obviously communicated with our strategic accounts, but we really needed to communicate what difference we were making on a regular basis.
So, we had a quarterly newsletter that was fairly professional. It was done in conjunction with our marketing communications department. [The newsletter] would talk about new contracts with customers, project wins, and new people coming on the team. Every month, the account leaders prepared a monthly report that we sent out to all the leadership in the organization, talking about what changes were happening and what progress we were making at the account. We thought that was important, especially when we had times when we weren’t able to get concrete financial information. We needed to make sure that people knew why we were there and what we were doing.Communication is very important, not just the elevator speech. Communicate what you are doing to the organization. Click To Tweet
RS: Coincidentally, when we didn’t get the financial information as readily as we needed it, normally it also matched the lower level of commitment that management had. That’s the reason why we didn’t get the numbers. It became paramount upon the program for the program’s health to make certain that the value that we were bringing was communicated appropriately and readily, to make certain that people recognized what the program was doing, and that the investment being made was paying off.
It was clear that you had good acceptance by sales and sales leadership. Generally, I realize the world is a big place. The reason we all have jobs is because there are always problems but they were solvable. The internal organization is another aspect altogether, the business units, finance, and everybody that’s involved in operations, services, and the whole group. It was important. What you’re saying is whether you’ve got the numbers or not, you better be communicating your value to those people at the leadership level and regional levels.
RS: Across the enterprise.
Was that part of the SAM’s responsibility then if I’m a Strategic Account Manager for global oil company X?
RS: Because I was one of the contributors, I handled ExxonMobil and British Petroleum, BP. It was my obligation and my duty to provide articles for the newsletter, for example, to make certain that what was happening at BP and what was happening ExxonMobil was communicated appropriately. Co-creation activities — things that are not necessarily measurable by the numbers, but that would create long-term value and increase revenue to the company like big project wins would be reported.
We didn’t only report the wins. We reported activity that was quite diverse. I mentioned co-creation activities, relationship-building activities, the share-of-wallet information, new product development, the growth of a new product that had been introduced into the market within the account, normally, the growth that would exceed the growth of the new product growth overall. Such would be reported in these newsletters. The newsletter made it to the C-level all the way down to the janitor.
Did I get you right, it was quarterly?
DH: The newsletter was quarterly, but the monthly reports of course were monthly. The newsletter was a production. In the monthly reports, we had a template. They were fairly simple, but they were as important. Getting back to what Richard was talking about earlier…we were looking for people who were business people for these roles. We had some SAMs that were great elephant hunters, but when it came to reporting, they were not very good. That was a problem for us because we needed it to be timely and we needed to be consistent.
If we had ten SAMs, we had to have ten monthly reports that I could send out every month at the same time. It became a problem if somebody was great at selling but couldn’t handle the administrative aspects of their job. So, yes, it was a requirement and that was part of their job description to contribute to the communication program that we had within the SAM program.
RS: Just to make certain, the monthly reports were sent to the leadership team. It was not something that would go to Dave and Dave would read and file them. These made it all the way up to the top.
DH: I did a spell check on them. We changed them, Harvey, depending on how we were organized. When we reorganized by business unit, we would ask the SAMs to report their activity by business unit. When we sent them out, if I was in business unit A, I only needed to read this stuff in business unit A that happened if I didn’t want to go through the entire report. We tried to make it easy for the business leaders, however we were organized, to get the information that they needed.
Oh nice, thanks for sharing that. I remember an old saying about salespeople, “You should always be selling.” The point being: not just with customers but internally too.
DH: You know, it’s a shame to say that but you have to do that. We had to do that. Sometimes you think, “They should look at what I’m doing and see the merits of me.” No, you have to sell internally.
As I was looking over your book, there was one thing that you pointed out in the book that you talk about. Which is, “What are some of the common mistakes that cut into profits?” Two things captured my attention because a lot of times, salespeople were worried about revenue. Profit is kind of somebody else’s problem. Clearly, it wasn’t from your perspective. It’s not something that comes up. We all know it when we feel it. But usually, we start worrying about that after it happens. Something happens to the profits, people start screaming, and then you have to reactively go in. I’m just curious, what kinds of common mistakes are preventable if you take the right corrective action?
DH: I think there are a couple. To me, it has to do with not spending the money wisely. We had these positions called program managers. A lot of times, many these folks came from our project management organization. Richard can go into more detail about how much help they provided to the Strategic Account Manager. My point is that these people allowed us to make significant progress at these accounts. But, depending on who was in power and who we had to convince that we needed these positions would depend on how many of those positions we had.
We made much more progress and did much better with our strategic accounts when we had those positions. If the organization was looking at cutting costs, maybe they wouldn’t allow us to have more than 1 or 2 program managers. It hindered our ability to make money. Therefore, it cut into our profits. The other thing that I would say in that same regard is that we had some people suggesting that we have Strategic Account Managers that did two jobs. They were a regional salesperson, but then a Strategic Account Manager. We actually did that in a couple of cases. It never worked because that person would always lean towards that job of month-to-month sales and put little effort into the strategic account piece of it.
We had to have dedicated SAMs. That costs money, but in the long run, it improved profit because we were closer to the accounts. We knew them better. We did more business there. We were able to sell more profitable products. It’s the way it worked out. From my perspective, that’s how you can cut into profits — by not investing the way you should in the program.
RS: Prior to the program being put in place, we had issues. Every company has issues with deliveries and every company has issues with product defects. We had those, thankfully, not very often, but we had those. Those can be killers as far as profitability and growth are concerned. Once the Strategic Account Management program was in place and running, it became a whole lot more visible. We became aware of these issues at the central location faster.If you’re traveling around the globe and representing the strategic account organization, you must ensure that you do that at the highest and most professional level possible. Click To Tweet
Our organization became more aware of the fact that if there were an issue with a strategic account, it needs to be brought to the SAM immediately. That allowed us to mitigate these risks of losing business. As a matter of fact, in most cases, they were turned into opportunities. As you address, swiftly, an issue with the customer and you resolve it, you gain a tremendous amount of credibility with him or her. This becomes personal, now, not organizational. This person will always be indebted to you.
That translates into more orders and elevates you to a higher status from a relationship standpoint, and basically, gets you closer to that trusted advisor level that you want to be because you’ve mitigated risk to them. It’s their risk, not so much our risk. There is a risk for your organization. You can lose their business, but you solve their problem that you initiated swiftly, mitigating any risk that they have in terms of production, safety, productivity yields, what have you. That is crucial.
DH: All of our SAMs, even if they were earlier in their career, had a good reputation within the company. If they were calling an operations leader for a problem, it got addressed more rapidly, frankly, than if a regional or a salesperson was calling somebody from operations. We could jump on those issues that Richard brings up and quickly take care of the problem for the customer. You’re right — that could cut into profits. You lose that business.
RS: Especially when the strategic account director — when Dave was reporting to the president, as opposed to reporting to the sales by VP — because, now, it actually elevated the status of the program and the whole function. It gave us a greater level of credibility internally as well with operations services or what have you.
I remember one of my favorite sayings was, “We don’t have problems. We have opportunities.” Every time a customer has a problem, it’s an opportunity to fail. It’s also an opportunity to succeed. It’s black or white. There’s no middle ground. You either win or lose, but it can be the thing that takes you to the next level if you handle it correctly. Could you summarize your top lessons learned in all of this?
DH: We do have some lessons learned. We do a chapter on lessons learned in the book. There are a couple that really stick out to me. We address this in the book. It is this logistical issue that I talked about earlier. We had a SAM in Singapore calling on a strategic account in France. That was dumb. We quickly learned that, we didn’t make any progress with that account. First of all, culturally, it didn’t fit. Logistically, it didn’t fit.
We really started to get smarter about hiring people in the right area and with the right culture. We tried to find them. We typically did find people internally. We promoted most of the people into the SAM program instead of going outside and hiring. But, we realized that Richard could be in California and fly to Houston, but you can’t handle an account in Europe from California. It’s just too far. I’m talking about the headquarters.
RS: It’s also the cultural issue, which is crucial.
DH: That’s a lesson that we learned early on. Maybe it was like, “Duh,” but we didn’t know when we started the program. The other thing, and Richard just alluded to this, was that our program was most successful, and we got the most support when we reported to the president of the organization rather than to the sales leader. It has nothing to do with people being good or bad.
It’s just that the sales leader, like the rest of the organization, was concerned about month-in, month-out numbers. We didn’t necessarily always get the support that we needed or wanted as opposed to when we reported to the president of the organization. When we started this program, we did report to the president of the oil and gas organization. It was, I think, very effective. Those are the two big lessons that come to my mind.
RS: We had a Strategic Account Manager who, actually you alluded to this Dave, was a great salesperson, and a great relationship manager as well, but terrible at communicating and relating internally. Terrible is perhaps a strong word.
DH: Struggled. He struggled.
Terrible is terrible.
RS: It was difficult because he was effective as a salesperson. Internally, he rubbed people the wrong way. That actually deterred from gaining or maintaining the level of commitment that we required internally. Dave had to maneuver that to a point where we maintained and got the results that the elephant hunter provided. At the same time, it shielded him from politics, if you will, that is required with the leadership team.
DH: That’s a good way of putting it, Richard. People are people. This person just didn’t like doing that stuff. We said, “OK, that’s fine. You’re great. You keep those relationships going. We’re going to put Mr. XYZ in charge of doing that kind of stuff for that account.” It worked out very well. It was the best for managing that account.
RS: It goes back to selecting the right SAM for each account. The criteria should not only be focused on the account management piece. It’s also managing the management team internally, as well. It requires some business savvy and political savvy for the position.
DH: That’s interesting because I was not a taskmaster by any stretch of the imagination as a director of our account program. What I did try to talk to the team about at times is we got to make sure we’re traveling around the globe and we’re representing the strategic account organization. We need to make sure that we do that at the highest and most professional level possible because we’re running into people at different levels all over the organization all over the world. Maybe a couple of times, I got reports that I didn’t like about somebody who traveled.
There were a few issues, but generally speaking, I got wonderful reports on our folks when they went into different regions. That was always gratifying to me. It was a tremendous group. I’m sure strategic account directors in many companies feel the same way. I was blessed to have to work with the talent that I worked with for ten years. They were all so different, but they were all so effective. Everybody got along and tried to help each other. It was a special situation and certainly a special part of my career.
RS: One of Dave’s competencies is team building. He created a tremendous team that was in sync and, as he said, very diverse for clear, obvious reasons. A global organization will by default be a very diverse organization but one that was incredibly effective and their camaraderie was just tremendous.
DH: They were not good at Topgolf, pretty bad.
RS: He’s talking about me. I’m not a good golfer.
DH: We didn’t have any good golfers on the team, Richard. I don’t think so. I chalk it up to that they were working too hard. They weren’t on the golf course, Harvey.
When you are traveling that much, it’s pretty hard to keep your handicap where you want it to be.
Gentlemen, I can’t thank you enough for sharing the wisdom that you’ve shared with us about this experience, and the fact that you’ve written a book about it is even better. When we send out the notification to our audience about this, we’ll make sure that people know where to find it if they’re interested. Thank you for your kind words for SAMA. We did our job. We exposed you to what best practice looks like. It’s pretty easy to tell somebody what they ought to do. The hard part is doing it, and you did it. So, congratulations.
DH: Thank you.
It has been so great to meet you both and follow you on your journey a little bit here. I hope that this isn’t the last time we talk. I hope it’s the first.
DH: Absolutely. Thanks, Harvey.
RS: Thank you so much.
Good luck and you’re welcome back anytime.
RS: Thank you again.
- Richard Santucci – LinkedIn
- David Hughes – LinkedIn
- The Secrets of Successful Strategic Account Management
About Richard Santucci
Author and experienced executive with a demonstrated history of working in the process control, mechanical and industrial engineering segments.. Skilled in Sales, Marketing, Negotiation, Petroleum, Gas, Process Control, and Operations Management. Strong business development professional with a BS focused in Chemistry from California State University-Los Angeles.
About David Hughes
Experienced, Results Oriented Sales Executive. Created global strategic account program for Tyco Flow Control and led strategic account team for ten years at Tyco, Pentair and finally Emerson Automation Solutions. Previously managed P&L for large (500 member) sales team.
Specialties: Building strong focused sales teams.