This week we are discussing the Preference phase in Key Account Development.  The Preference phase is where the client fully understands the ramifications to selecting an alternative solution to the one you currently provide for them.


Be flawless in your approach by presenting all options which the client should consider for solving the problem. This includes competitor options. I know, “you’re suggesting I bring up my competitor in the discussion?” Yes!


It is better to bring them up now when you have some control rather than have them go off on their own. Remember you are a problem solver who is developing a long term relationship. Be flawless.


We continue to refer to the 4 phases within Key Account Development in order to up-sell and cross-sell within a key account.


Key Account Development


There are 5 key strategic activities required in Preference:


  1. Present options to consider for solving the need
  2. Explain how the options integrate into the current project
  3. Show how improvement will be measured
  4. Show how victims benefit
  5. Develop a communication strategy


In order to exit this phase in Key Account Development, the following 3 criteria must be met:


  1. Customer understands how each solution connects to the problem
  2. Customer understands the upstream and downstream affect of each solution
  3. Customer selects metrics to measure improvements


The tools commonly utilized to present the options to be considered and how those options best integrate into to the current project is the Affinity Diagram and the Solution Development Tool.


The Affinity Diagram example below was developed utilizing 8 different forms of discovery. The result provides those key findings within each discovery activity and the alignment of those findings with the solution options.


Key Account Development Affinity Diagram


The partial Example of a Solution Development Tool below is utilized to help the customer prioritize the need, determine the impact, define the solution options, highlight the benefit and connect the options to the current project.


Key Account Development Tool


The desired result, of the previously mentioned Key Account Development job aids, is to help the client reach the exit criteria.


The tendency for most key account managers is a desire to move quickly through each phase of key account development.  Avoid the desire to move quickly.


Remember you are educating and being a flawless problem solver. Your goal is to avoid getting to the end of this process and having the client say “I just don’t get it”. 


This typically occurs when an attempt to accelerate the process lacks evidence, measurement metrics, or skips a step in the process.


My next post will explore the Intent phase within Key Account Develop where we will help our clients understand the value of the solution and the evaluation criteria to be utilized.


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John Staples

Leads teams of highly qualified experts, all relentless in their pursuit of helping you make your number.

John is the global leader of SBI’s account management business unit. As such, he and his team help clients across 19 verticals drive top line growth and operational efficiency in sales and marketing.


John’s marketing, sales and product expertise span a multichannel strategic approach. He has an unyielding focus on strategic and key account development, which enables strategic alignment between all functional team members in order to reduce acquisition cost and increase lifetime value.


His broad experience in sales, marketing, product and engineering allows him to bring a unique problem solving approach to his team and clients. As he has discovered through decades of experience, clients are often distracted by the symptoms of a larger problem and overlook the root cause of it.


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