Critical Success Factors: Piloting the Annual Customer Review Program

The execution of pilots is a critical success factor when launching any program, allowing you to effectively measure the usefulness of the tools and processes being created.  The accounts selected as pilots for the Annual Customer Review program will provide vital feedback on the processes and tools, as well as the impacts the program has made on customers.  When determining which pilots to select for the program you will need to determine what the attributes of a pilot account are for your company, the skill set required of an account manager and the number of pilots to select.
Pilot Selection CriteriaKey

When selecting accounts for pilot there are three (3) key areas to consider:

1. Strategic Account – potential for your company’s solutions and opportunities has been identified; a customer that wants to further their relationship with your company
2. Financially Stable – the account is not under any contract negotiations or requests for proposal (RFP)
3. Existing Customer  - account is more than one year old and a level of success has been demonstrated

Account Manager Characteristics

You can select the best pilot accounts in the world, but if the account manager doesn’t have what it takes to execute, your pilot can be a total failure.  The account managers included in the pilot process must be able to demonstrate the following:

1. Ability to effectively perform account planning
2. Willingness to contribute program feedback on processes and customer impacts
3. Exemplifies what a good sales person looks like for your company

Number of Pilots

Now that you are thinking about which accounts and account managers will make up your list of ideal pilots, you will need to land on the number of pilots required to thoroughly test each aspect of your program.  Here are a few questions you will need to answer:

1. Will the processes and tools created differ by business unit?  If the answer is yes, you will need a pilot for each business unit.
2. Will the program include countries other than the United States?  If so, you may need representation in the pilot group from each theater/region (EMEA, APAC, etc.).
3. Based on the size of the Program Office staff managing the pilot process, how many accounts can be effectively managed?

The pilot phase of the Annual Customer Review program is a critical step to a successful program launch.  You will need to consider your pilot selection criteria, account manager characteristics and the number of pilots before you are able to take the larger step of rolling out the program to the entire sales force. In my next blog I will review another critical success factor in launching an Annual Customer Review program: engaging Product Management and Marketing.

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