Sarah Taylor at Rubica Change & Analytics makes the case for a reasoned approach to key account excellence.
Top 5 Takeaways
- Key account excellence involves getting closer to the needs and ambitions of key healthcare professionals.
- Prioritisation of accounts is the first principle to employ.
- You need a clear rationale for prioritising certain accounts.
- Key account excellence requires behaviour change which can encounter resistance.
- Remaining flexible is important in maintaining key account excellence.
The current health provider landscape offers huge opportunities for pharmaceutical companies that are willing to adapt and evolve. Key account excellence, with its focus on the customer and their priorities, has long been seen as the way to make the most of those opportunities. However, many companies have found it challenging to implement this way of doing business.
We have five practical and proven principles for achieving key account excellence. The first of these is the prioritisation of accounts – an analytical process that enables teams to identify accounts that are ripe for a much closer, mutually-beneficial relationship. It can also pinpoint areas in which you can work with them more productively, where, for example, there’s a match between your products and their patients’ needs. The choice of a key account should always be one that benefits your company, your customer and their patients.
Of course, you shouldn’t look to change the way you work with every customer, even if you could. You may have active and valuable accounts that can be maintained and improved without radical changes. At least, for the moment.
“Key account excellence requires a change in behaviour and change can encounter resistance”
The missing piece
Despite its importance, our research has identified a key challenge when it comes to the prioritisation of accounts: establishing a clear understanding of why an account has been prioritised, ie a clear rationale.
- 36% of the companies surveyed were not agreed on the key factors that indicate a customer’s readiness for a changed relationship.
- 33% were not confident that their account teams were focused on the right accounts.
- 15% of individuals felt a clear rationale would improve the way they prioritised their time and effort in key accounts.
Source: Rubica Change & Analytics
The value of a clear rationale
A clear rationale is imperative for three main reasons:
- Changing customer relationships involves a serious investment of time, energy and resources. You can’t afford to do it for every account, so you need to be sure of focusing on the accounts that present the greatest opportunities.
- Key account excellence demands cross-functional team support. Engagement and commitment at every level are essential and a convincingly argued case will help you to persuade everyone to play their part.The breaking down of silos matters. For example, we recently worked with a customer facing team where an internal medical professional was better placed to develop the relationship. They were able to correct a misunderstanding of the clinical data which was concerning the customer. Someone in a more commercial role could not have had that conversation.
- A clear rationale will support practical decisions about a key account – identifying needs and opportunities that are currently unmet and setting a direction for future activity.Recently, one customer facing team, after reviewing their business plan, recognised the need to scale down their ambitions for a key account and settle on a more achievable goal. A solid rationale enabled them to assign the required team roles and responsibilities and set clear action points. With everyone clear about what was required of them, they could move the account in the right direction.
Winning hearts and minds
This way of working focuses on getting closer to the needs and ambitions of key healthcare professionals. But what about your internal stakeholders? They are the people who are going to make it happen and it’s vital that you do everything necessary to gain their enthusiastic support.
Key account excellence requires a change in behaviour and change can encounter resistance. Historically, those who work directly with customers have been given the marketing strategy, segments and accounts and told where to concentrate their efforts. Now they need to adopt a whole new mindset and way of working.
In implementing a major change like key account excellence, it can be tempting to adopt a top-down directive and simply impose the new way of working. The response, however, is likely to be half-hearted at best, when you really need engagement and commitment.
Inspire confidence and change behavior
To win everyone’s confidence and support, you have to convince them of the necessity for change and get them involved, exploring, clarifying and passing comment.
Be precise. A generalised commercial ambition is not good enough. “We want more doctors to trial our products!” Yes, but why these accounts and why change the way you service them?
Paint a picture of key accounts that’s information-rich and grounded in reality, not assumptions. Explain the outcomes you expect from evolving relationships.
Articulating and sharing your rationale will prepare people to change their ways of working. It will help them to move away from a reliance on traditional success metrics and tactics and focus on different outcomes.
It can also fundamentally shape beliefs and self-belief. And that matters. They need to see the potential for real change and feel they can make a difference, even if they have worked on the same account for years.
Make it a conversation. Encourage a wider and deeper engagement with the proposed changes. Make it clear that you value honest opinions and listen to what they say. Open dialogue is part of the change process, not just a briefing.
Local workshops are a good platform for exploring intended changes. Critical thinking exercises allow people to interrogate the proposals. Include a semi-formal mechanism to gather feedback, positive or negative, from the cross-functional or local team. Also signpost it clearly, so that they know where to leave comments.
Your team’s investment of time and energy in the changes will encourage a more positive and engaged way of working. Greater understanding will help them to notice when things are going well and, if they are not, to raise concerns or suggest changes. Finally, remaining flexible is a key element of maintaining key account excellence.
Sarah Taylor is Commercial Capability Lead at Rubica Change & Analytics.
Go to www.rubica.co.uk