Key account management requires handling the accounts of priority customers who are a long-term asset to your company. However, identifying, cultivating, and maintaining those long-term relationships requires specific skills and a thorough knowledge of the resources available throughout your organization.
Below, we’ve listed five of the skills that are necessary for successful key account management.
Have the ability to prioritize key accounts.
Take stock of all your accounts. Identify which ones are more strategically important than others. Sometimes it’s just a few, and not all of them merit equal attention. Once you’ve identified your key accounts, further prioritize those, so you know how to best delegate your time.
Demonstrate strong research skills.
Read and regularly update your files on all your key clients. Talk with them, and determine which ones require a personal visit. Keep detailed notes on what your key clients’ short-term and long-term expectations are, and respond accordingly when those expectations change.
Regulate the perception of your key customers within your company.
As a key account manager, you need to be a barometer that accurately measures how department heads and the C-suite view your key customers. Ensure that everyone throughout your company treats your key clients with the same high priority.
This task requires superb interpersonal skills and consistent, positive communication. Essentially, everybody involved in helping you deliver exceptional service—now and down the line—needs to be kept on the same page.
Be open to continued learning.
As a key account manager, you’ll need to be willing to learn how to work with certain key customers and better understand their needs. For example, in cases where key clients come from a completely different background or country, you may need cultural coaching. Or, perhaps, you’ll need to take steps to learn more about a specific key account’s industry. Be willing to go the extra mile to show you’re committed to the success of your key accounts.
Cultivate strong relationships with your team.
Being a successful key account manager doesn’t just require the ability to build strong relationships with your accounts; you also need to build strong relationships with members of other departments, suppliers, and vendors. By strengthening the relationships that ultimately impact the success of your key accounts, you will continue to satisfy and delight your customers.
- Suppliers and vendors: When one of your key clients needs an upgrade, a replacement, or a totally new product or service, you’ll have people you know you can count on to expedite the process.
- Sales: Members of the sales team can benefit from the knowledge you have on your clients, so that they can bring in future revenue. In return, for example, you may find that the client needs additional services, which means more sales. Communicate your key customer’s needs to the sales team. Work together to get the products or services that your strategic client requires—before the need becomes urgent.
- Customer success: Work with your customer success team throughout the lifecycle of any product or service that your key clients have already purchased. If customer success team members need to concentrate more on developing a product or service rather than dealing directly with the customer, your input may help them see that.
- Customer service: Likewise, keep in touch with customer service in case your key customer experiences a problem. The role of the customer success team is actually different from the role of customer service. Here’s a blog that discusses those differences.
- Your supervisor: You’ll need authorization from your supervisor for additional time, expenses, or other resources that some key accounts require.
- Heads of other departments: Get to know the heads of departments, as well as their employees, to ensure that resources are available when you need them. Always keep the communication lines open.
- The C-suite: Keep communications open with the C-suite. In some companies, the clients of key accounts receive visits from top-level executives at crucial times.
In short, handling key customer accounts means being proactive, having access to organizational resources, and above all, maintaining strategic professional relationships, both with your key clients and your organization. By honing these five important skills, you can provide better service to your key customers and solidify those relationships for years to come.
Ready to dive deeper into account management strategy? Try our new account management training course to watch in-depth instructional videos, and access downloadable exercises you can implement within your accounts.