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National Accounts -- How Do You Create a Program That Really Works
While it is not intended to definitively answer every question regarding national accounts, it serves as a set of guiding principles for those in the company who are responsible for the success of the program. It is written for salespeople, branch managers and national account representatives, not the company's executive management team. However, keep in mind that executive management needs to be committed to the program and would benefit by understanding the process and concepts.
Regain Power by Offering Competitive Advantage
National accounts, by definition, have significant size and buying power which provide leverage in demanding lower prices. In addition, because of their complexity and demographics, they are often more difficult and expensive to service. Consequently, most national accounts are the least profitable.
In response, you need to make a concentrated effort to effectively rebalance the shift of power by offering significant competitive advantages that make your products and services more critical to your national accounts. Without creating competitive advantage, you will be tied to the downward price spiral that eats margin and effectively negates any understanding by your customers that "price is not the same as cost." A structured national accounts program with definitive guidelines is the first step toward gaining competitive advantage.
There are four basic broad categories of added value that create competitive advantage:
1. Processes that streamline your customers' productivity, improve quality, take transaction costs out of the supply chain and provide measurable savings (unrelated to price).
2. Administrative and technical support that can reduce your customers' internal costs enough to affect bottom line operating costs.
3. Sales and marketing support that can increase your customers' top line.
4. Technology that is core to your customers' business results, yet is beyond their internal capabilities.
Your national accounts program should refocus your efforts on all of these issues.
The ultimate success of a national accounts program depends on the hard work and team participation of all company employees involved in the process.
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