As a key account manager, it’s important to always keep this question in the front of your mind: How secure are your key accounts?
The truth is that you have an incredibly important job in your B2B organization. If you are a key account manager, you are responsible for maintaining ongoing relationships with your company’s most valuable customers. Each day, you must man the front line of your company and ensure that your key customers are satisfied and supported.
It doesn’t matter what you sell, your company is more profitable when you can establish and maintain positive, long-term relationships with your clients. Once the sales team closes the deal, the key customer comes to you, and now, you must ensure that they receives the kind of value of service that makes them want to continue in the business relationship for years to come.
Nurturing Your Key Accounts
There is a lot of pressure on you, as an account manager, to nurture your key accounts. That is, after all, the key to building healthy and happy customer relationships.
These are your company’s most valuable and important clients in your hands. Depending on your market, they are the most recognizable brand names or the ones with the highest volume of customers. It’s crucial to have a sense for how secure your relationships are with each of your key accounts. Some issues that endanger the security of your relationships with key accounts are competitor threats and problems that customers fail to mention. Here are several issues to monitor.
Your key accounts are exploring other options.
Often, key customers research the prices that your competitors charge. This is to be expected. They want to verify that they’re getting both quantity and quality from your company. If a competitor offers a lower price and the customer feels the quality of the product or service is equivalent, then he or she could easily jump ship.
Keep research on hand to show how your pricing structure stacks up against your competitors. If your key customer brings you a competitor’s quote, try to match it or be prepared to explain to them how they’re getting more value for their money with you.
Competitors are trying to seduce your key accounts.
Sales representatives from competitors may aggressively contact your customers and offer them special perquisites to earn their business. This might include taking representatives from customer firms out to lunch or on trips and offering temporarily lower rates for switching providers. Your company must offer a higher quality of service, so customer account contacts are not tempted by these competitor tricks.
Key customers aren’t telling you when they are displeased with your service.
Commonly, disgruntled customers will not come right out and tell you that they are not happy with the service they are receiving. There are many potential sources of a customer’s unhappiness. You could have a weak link on the account management team, a person who offers a lower level of service than a long-term customer has typically received. Or, a customer does not know how to correctly use your product or service and is afraid to ask for help.
Conduct random and frequent phone calls to your key accounts to see how they are feeling about their relationship with your company. Is there anything they need from you that they’re not getting? Do they feel that they are receiving the level of service that was promised to them?
Account managers aren’t following up regularly with key customers.
As an account manager, it is your job to maintain regular contact with your key accounts. This ties right in with the previous point. When you make a concerted effort to stay in touch with your key accounts and encourage a positive, mutually beneficial relationship, you are more likely to have an understanding of where your relationship stands.
It is not enough to only call once every couple months, when it’s time to make a sale. You need to position yourself as a resource and a partner in the success of your key customer’s business. Contact your key accounts regularly to inquire how they feel about your product or service. Take the time to get to know your key accounts and what they need from you to reach their business goals. If you aren’t talking to your key accounts, you’ll likely be surprised when they decide to leave.
Your key accounts require continuous service. Personalized contact through phone calls, emails, letters, and site visits can satisfy your most valuable customers’ needs. When these strategies aren’t possible, generate emails and mailings to keep customers informed. Give them updates about your products or services. Send them special offers that encourage them to scale up or scale down based on their changing needs. Thank them personally when they refer new customer accounts to your business.
In the long run, you’ll feel more secure about the relationships with your key customers when you are doing everything in your power to ensure their overall success.