To Grow Global Accounts, Be an Innovation Machine

One of the biggest benefits of a global accounts structure is how it can cement a supplier’s status as a trusted adviser.
Betsy Wiesendanger |  March 6, 2012
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This article is the last in a three-part series on managing and maximizing global accounts.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of implementing a global accounts structure is becoming truly enmeshed with your customer’s organization. It can take years to ascend to “trusted advisor” status, but once you’re there, benefits await: perks that feed directly into the bottom line. You can, for example, gain early access to new technology, participate in best-practice benchmarking, and get a jump on product development, to name a few.

CTC Analytics, a Swiss maker of equipment that tests chemical compounds, is a case in point. Once it solidified its global accounts structure, it let its customers know it was willing to collaborate on product development.

One customer, a distributor, wanted a machine that automated not only the testing of chemicals but the preparation of the samples. This preparation, which typically includes removal of unwanted byproducts and dilution to exact specifications, is expensive and labor intensive when done manually. CTC rose to the challenge by organizing a project team and pulling in software engineers, project managers, and top executives from both companies. As often happens with large-scale collaborations, the project was beset with delays. But the product, once finally launched, was a “bona fide innovation.” claims Thomas Laublï, CTC’s global head of sales and marketing. The distributor was initially given a nine-month contract to market the equipment exclusively, but now that the contract has expired, CTC will sell customized versions to other clients.

Laublï sums up the experience thusly: “Before we just took orders. Now we drive the car.”

Anticipating Problems, Providing Solutions

DHL has also capitalized on close relationships with global customers by creating a “Solutions and Innovations Department.”

The new department recently created an end-to-end service for manufacturers who need to quickly recall faulty products around the world, says Andreas Johansson, vice president for Ericsson Global at DHL Global Customer Solutions. The service picks up the product from the customer, delivers it to the manufacturer, tracks its status in the repair loop, and informs the customer when the original product — or a replacement — will be returned. DHL now markets the service, dubbed “Recall Action,” to other manufacturers.

Collaborations like this are crucial for a truly international sales strategy, say experts. “There is an urgent need to build capabilities to meet the challenges of today’s global business environment,” says Chrisoph Senn, co-director of the Global Account Manager Certification Program, offered jointly by Columbia Business School and the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. “Without enterprise-wide efforts, spearheaded by customer-centric leaders, companies risk falling behind and losing the race for worldwide customers.”

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