Picture this: It’s the Monday morning Account Planning meeting, and you have just found out that one of your key accounts has decided to take their business elsewhere; that account you thought was running smoothly is suddenly closing.
What will you say to your team? How will you explain why you didn’t see this coming or do anything to stop it? …Did you?
One of the biggest mistakes key account managers make is taking a reactive approach to account management. They handle problems as they arise, and though that’s important, it can often be too little too late.
Become a Proactive Key Account Manager
Being proactive in key account management requires seeing potential problems, before they’re problems at all, and taking the smartest action to avoid or minimize them. Successful key accounts are born from healthy relationships, and healthy relationships come from the proactive and strategic habits of key accounts managers. It means doing more than sitting around watching analytics on a screen and hoping that nothing forces you to react.
Stephen Covey defined being proactive in his celebrated book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, as the attitude of taking action, of understanding the needs of the moment and finding solutions, of listening. Covey put the principle of the proactive response at the front, listing “be proactive” as the very first of The Seven Habits.
In KAM, the dynamic key account manager builds relationships proactively. When relationships are strong, you maintain them. When accounts are at risk, you take action; if it’s not too late, you might even be able to save the relationship with the customer.
If you’re ready to take a more proactive approach to your key account planning practices, start by implementing these four strategies to make immediate improvements to the health of your accounts.
1) Learn to Recognize Weak Areas.
The first step toward more proactive account planning is simply learning to recognize problem areas. Whether that problem is an unhappy customer on the brink of leaving, a foreseeable problem that will affect one of your accounts down the road, or a shortcoming in the service you’re providing your key customers, learn to see the signs and react before that problem turns into lost business.
Has it been two months since you last heard from a customer? Has it been two months since a customer has heard from you? Has a customer recently scaled back their usual order? Is there an upcoming change in service or personnel that will impact an account? These are the types of signs to look out for.
2) Rebuild Shaky Relationships.
Once you’ve figured out which accounts may be on the rocks, take immediate action to repair the relationship. Connect with the client in person, if possible, or over the phone or a video chat, if not. Ask them targeted questions about how they’re feeling about your relationship and the service you’re providing, and listen carefully to their feedback Then, take the opportunity to come up with a proactive strategy to get that key account back on track, so you can better meet their needs.
3) Reinforce Healthy Relationships.
Next, take a look at your stronger relationships and reconnect with them, as well. Even if an account seems secure on paper, it never hurts to step in and test the waters with a phone call or casual meeting. They may tell you everything is great, and that’s wonderful! However, you may also uncover a problem or concern that wasn’t even on your radar. With a simple conversation, you can pinpoint and address any issues with an account, before it begins to affect your relationship.
4) Establish Proactive Strategies for New Accounts From the Very Beginning.
Onboarding a new key account is the perfect time to discuss a proactive strategy for achieving their goals. Start by asking them about their objectives for using your product or service, their long-term goals for their business, and the expectations they have of yours. Use this information to create a plan for how to effectively and strategically manage an account, and then revisit that plan regularly. Your strategies will need to evolve with your relationship. By establishing a good flow of communication early on, you’ll be able to maintain strong relationships with your key customers.
Making Mondays Mornings Positive Again
The creeping feeling of dread that haunts the insecure key account manager is common but preventable. Don’t let yourself be taken surprise by a cancelled account. Tackle those insecurities with a proactive approach that demonstrates your value as a key account manager.
Ready to learn more and take your QBRs to the next level? Download our QBR ebook for more practical tips!