How to build a plan for strategically significant customers

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th November 2015

sherlock-holmes-147255_640SKAP, or Strategic Key Account Planning will enable general management, sales management and account executives to develop a comprehensive and measurable plan that will facilitate the development of relationships that identify, develop, win and keep business.


Clearly however, the first step is to identify just what characteristics are present in a “strategically important’ customer. Rarely will it be the top 10 customers, you need to look forward and determine who might be your strategically important customers in 3-5 years, and work on them.


There is a fundamental assumption made that has held true of the 20 years I have been working with businesses developing ‘SKAP’. There are only three ways you can effectively sell a product in B2B situations. You can work with your customer to:


  • Increase their sales
  • Reduce their costs
  • Increase their productivity.


In one way or another, every consideration I have ever come across falls into one of these three buckets.


To sell in the competitive and digitised markets we now compete in, you need to be delivering on at least two of these fronts to be able to win a competitive situation, and three is geometrically better than just two, and also way more challenging.


The size and nature of the business does not matter much, any B2B oriented business can benefit by an intelligent SKAP process. Of vital importance is to be able to see the customer’s problems and opportunities through their eyes. To do that you need detailed intelligence of the customers and their competitive environment.


There are a number of elements that build on each other, all contributing to the picture of the manner in which you can approach the delivery of your value proposition to a potential and ongoing customer.


It takes an upfront effort followed by an incremental building of intelligence as the relationship develops to build an effective SKAP. The more input the customer has to the process, the better. Developing a SKAP in collaboration with a customer is the ideal situation.


The information needs fall into a number of areas.


Corporate information.




Key personnel


Business processes  such as purchasing, capital allocation and budgeting


Organisation structure


Informal communication and power structures


Operating mechanisms, such as sites, internal communication systems.


Competitive information


Primary competitors and relative strengths


Key markets & profit pools




Relative strength of their value proposition


Trends and regulations impacting the business


Business model


Operational information


Mechanics of their business model


Personnel Capabilities in key areas


Operational capabilities & processes


Financial management


Product development capabilities and processes


Market operations


Sales and marketing processes


Key customers & suppliers


Share of wallet


Key competitors


Customer SWOT. (A  SWOT analysis is usually very useful way of identifying and prioritising opportunities and threats faced by the potential customer.  Looking at their market from their perspective is a vital ingredient in a successful sales effort).


Account plan


With all the above information in place, you can develop an account plan that details the activities


  • Objectives
  • Issues
  • Actions to be taken, by whom, by when
  • Expected outcomes of each action and follow up sequences


None of this is easy, or to be undertaken lightly, as there is an opportunity cost in the allocation of scarce resources. When you need a bit of help, call me.


Allen Roberts is a guest contributor to Australian Food News and writes another of his regular articles here. He is the Director of Strategy Audit and has worked in the food sector for more than 35 years. To read his full biography click HERE.