Building Global
Centers of Excellence

The center of
excellence has
emerged as a best
practice for stabilizing
organizations

Much has been said about the challenges and values of building global centers of excellence for key account management (KAM) and strategic account management (SAM) as a strategic operational group within organizations. Each year, the Strategic Account Management Association (“SAMA”) issues awards for SAM programs and mature programs. One thing every winning company has in common is they all had an established centralized programming office, or center of excellence (“COE”). An irrelevant coincidence? We think not. Establishing a COE is the key success factor for implementing an effective strategic selling and strategic account management approach. Despite this fact, only 10 percent of SAMA member companies have a COE, let alone an effective one. With such a clear business opportunity, it is time to take a closer look at COEs, i.e., their challenges, benefits and key characteristics for SAM impact and success. 

The COE has emerged as a best practice capable of stabilizing many organizations, independent of industry sector. These COEs can be the catalyst to create the right mindset, skillset and process for distinctive go-to- market and customer-centric engagement models, with direct mid- to long-term impact on bottomline results. Despite this fact, strategic account managers still report that their own internal  organizations’ navigation and alignment is one of the biggest barriers to their success.

Years of operational integrations and globalization of many organizations’ enabling functions have provided great pilot programs opportunities for organizations to try, fail and learn how to be successful in centralizing SAM centers of excellence and programming. There is a fine balance needed to centralize operations, process and governance while preserving and enabling customer proximity and localization. 

A better understanding of a COE’s primary benefits and characteristics is clearly needed to help companies overcome their internal barriers and failed initiatives. Effective COE operationalization requires a close attention to each of the following COE characteristics and values.

The Cultural Shift: Alignment
of Mindset

SAM is not only a business initiative, but a cultural shift and a journey. It requires passion, resilience and a strong understanding of SAMs ability to increase revenue generation. Effective SAM is at the core of how a company appears and stands out in front of its customer. If an organization wants its SAM initiatives to be successful, it must align both its SAM mindset and communication.

How is this done? By establishing an effective COE. By targeting integration and alignment of mindset and communication, COEs can drive cultural and engagement model continuity throughout the organization.

Implemented effectively, COEs can even avoid the creation of silos when SAM journeys are established outside of sales and commercial groups (as separate initiatives and engagement models).

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About the Author

Dominique Côté brings  30 years of experience leading commercial teams in global pharmaceutical and biotech organizations.  Her consultancy work is focused on Commercial Excellence, Executive coaching &  leadership, KAM/SAM roadmaps & journeys, as well as Account based Marketing.

She is an accomplished international business leader, recognized as a chief architect of global account program journeys, leading corporate changes and cultural shifts for customer-centric innovation and patient value.

Dominique is  a panelist and keynote speaker in Europe and the U.S. in the areas of commercial  Excellence and Customer centricity. She writes and is published in journals like Journal of Sales Transformation, Velocity, and others on these topics.

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