Successful account planning requires a key account executive to possess a forward-thinking mindset and to be dedicated to proactively responding to the current and future needs of top accounts. Through strategic account planning, key account executives can reduce the possibility of losing their top accounts to competitors.
Below are seven planning strategies designed to help key account managers foster stronger relationships with key accounts.
1) Never put off relaying bad news to a customer.
One of the most unpleasant tasks a key account manager may face is giving a good customer bad news. Whether the news is regarding a price increase or the discontinuation of a service or product, key account executives should resist the urge to delay the arrival of bad news. By relaying bad news to a customer immediately, a key account manager gives the customer as much time as possible to address the situation. Ideally, the manager should be prepared ahead of time with possible alternative solutions to offer the customer.
2) Strive to know three fun facts about your primary key account contacts.
Establishing a strong rapport with key customer contacts is the cornerstone of a lasting relationship. Customers like to feel relevant and they often enjoy talking about their backgrounds or interests. For instance, many strong client relationships involve conversations about the customer’s hometown, favorite NFL team, or alma mater.
3) Offer key accounts a viable alternative for products or services that you do not carry.
Customers frequently inquire about the availability of services and products that you may not carry. In these cases, you should be armed with one or two alternative options for the customer to consider. Your suggested alternatives should meet the same minimum specifications as the item the customer originally inquired about.
4) Proactively reach out to your customer as soon as their order is complete.
Electronic notifications to customers have become commonplace in the age of ecommerce and online purchases. While it is always helpful to have this electronic information, key account executives should take this practice a step further and use news about completed projects or orders as an opportunity to verbally engage with their top customers. A short phone call conveying good news is always appreciated and helps bolster client satisfaction.
5) Personally reach out to key accounts about available demo opportunities.
Key account managers should personally notify top clients about the release of exciting new services and products—if possible, offering them a complimentary demonstration. This strategy helps reinforce feelings of importance and relevance among customers.
6) Periodically reiterate your desire to continue to be a trusted resource far into the future.
Key account planning should never be approached from a present-oriented perspective. Your top customers need to feel confident about your dedication to meeting their needs now and in the future. A long-winded speech or essay is not necessary; you can simply say, “Thank you for your support this past year—I look forward to being your trusted source in 2017!”
Strategic account planning is the best way for key account managers to remain connected with customers. Failure to engage with key accounts can diminish feelings of loyalty and can cause customers to stray to competitors. By striving to remain consistently engaged with customers, key account managers can boost customer satisfaction and long-term retention.