In a romantic comedy, the story ends when the couple says “I do,” but for those of us who have been in committed relationships, we know that’s actually when the work begins. The same goes for business relationships. While sales teams get the glory for landing big accounts, the unsung heroes of the story are the key account managers. It’s up to them to maintain a healthy, mutually-beneficial relationship for years to come.
Here are 10 tips for successful key account management in today’s busy business world.
1) Build Relationships That Acknowledge the Whole
Those who seek an account manager career path should be ready to prioritize relationship-building. The best way to build a strong relationship is to have a clear sense of the big picture. When it comes down to it, what’s the one goal that’s central to this company’s mission? How do the different functions, relationships, and business needs of the company fit into that big picture? With this sort of high-level understanding, you can more confidently take action to meet the needs of the client.
2) Be an Effective Liaison
As the key account manager, you are the primary point of contact between your clients and your business. Key account managers need to listen closely, translate the client’s needs to the relevant people within their organization, and make sure the client’s requests are handled in an efficient and timely manner. The more you can say, “Yes, I know just who to talk to about accomplishing that,” the more faith your client will have in you. By acting as an effective liaison for your key accounts, you keep the customer satisfied.
3) Understand Who Your Clients Are
Each company has a culture, a personality, a set of objectives, and a “pie-in-the-sky” dream. It is important to truly understand who your customers are, what makes them tick, what they dream of accomplishing, and why. What is their business all about? What’s the current state of their industry? What are their goals, and how can your company help them achieve those goals? The more you know about your key customers, the better you can tailor your service to suit their needs.
4) Be Proactive
When dining in a restaurant, we love a waiter who offers a refill before our glass is empty. The same goes for taking care of key accounts. Rather than waiting for your clients to bring up issues or ask about certain product and service options, be proactive. Regularly check in with your key accounts to ensure they are satisfied. They probably don’t often research changes to your company, so keep them updated on your new, improved offerings. By actively communicating with your key accounts, you gain trust and insight into their health.
5) Be Reliable
When you say you will do something, be sure you follow through and do it. If a timeline changes, be transparent to create accurate expectations. Without reliability, there is no trust. With that in mind, don’t make promises you can’t keep. Maintain realistic goals for yourself that correspond with the goals of your key accounts.
6) Lay out Clear Plans of Action
This means clearly establishing, for yourself and those working for you, a step-by-step approach to achieving each of your key account customers’ goals. Skipping this step is like traveling without a map. A clear plan of action helps your whole team arrive at the same destination on time.
7) Look to the Future
Stay as far ahead of the game as possible; predict your clients’ needs and prepare your team to address them quickly. Ask yourself what similar clients have needed in the past, or how the current economic climate might affect this particular business. There are few things more impressive than being able to forecast the needs of your key accounts ahead of time.
8) Individualize Your Service
Keep in mind that what works for one client may not work for another. Building a close relationship with a few people at your client company can help give you an inside perspective on what particulars they are seeking. Then, match their unique set of needs. When a client can sense that you are going through the motions, you are far less likely to achieve a high rate of customer satisfaction. A closer working relationship between you and your key accounts can help you avoid this pitfall.
9) Be Collaborative
Your goal, as key account manager, is to establish yourself as a valuable partner to your clients. Rather than making a plan for managing this key account on your own, in the dark, work with them to develop strategies for achieving their goals. Take a collaborative approach to your key account relationships by frequently discussing what specific actions you can take for them and carefully listening to their feedback and directions.
10) Build Trust Through Communication
Communicate when things go wrong, as well as when things go right. Keep the lines of communication open always so that everyone stays on the same page as you move toward established goals.
As a key account manager, you are tasked with supporting and maintaining your company’s most important business relationships, which is no easy feat. These ten tips will help you position yourself as a valuable strategic partner to your key accounts and ensure their ongoing satisfaction and success.
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