When we look at the qualities all the best key account managers have in common, one of the key ingredients is strategic planning. Positioning oneself as a strategic partner is what strengthens relationships and provides that extra layer of value that goes far beyond the actual product or service.
However, developing this type of proactive and strategic thinking can be a major obstacle for key account managers. Instead, many key account managers find themselves in a passive rut, chasing orders and simply reacting to problems as they arise.
But passive key account managers don’t succeed in the long run. Simply managing a customer’s day-to-day account activities, troubleshooting their problems, and processing orders as needed isn’t enough to build a relationship. And it definitely isn’t enough to instill a sense of loyalty in a customer. Eventually, those high-value customers will find a cheaper, faster, better solution, and without any strong ties to their current provider, they’ll go elsewhere.
By focusing on strategic account planning efforts, key account managers can become more active in the health of their accounts and get out of that passive rut that might be costing them customers.
Investing time and resources into strategic planning allows you to put all your focus on your clients’ business goals, providing real solutions and real results. Your clients will begin to trust you more and rely on your insight into their business. The more involved your are in your client’s business, the less likely they will be to find a competitor to replace you.
Consider these tips with your strategic planning to bring both your clients and your business to financial success:
- From the very first meeting with your client, have a plan outlined for how you will help them in the short-term and well into the future. This plan should be well thought out and thorough, but flexible enough to account for changes in goals and directions.
- Talk to your client to identify their key goals, so you know how to move forward and can anticipate potential problems that may arise.
- Become very familiar with each key client and their industry in order to uncover possible opportunities to grow your revenue and theirs.
- Once those opportunities are identified, determine the best strategies for discussing those opportunities with your client. It’s never wise to jeopardize a key account relationship just to make a sale, but often, customers just need the right push to expand their business with you.
- Similarly, be sure to understand how your customer sees the relationship between the two of you. You don’t want to be too forward if they aren’t ready or aren’t open to your suggestions. Likewise, you don’t want to be too timid if they’re looking for your help and guidance to push their business forward.
- Learn the best ways to avoid pricing sensitivity in your relationships with your clients. If a customer seems apprehensive or unhappy about a particular price point, don’t push it. Instead, table the conversation and suggest a more agreeable alternative. Or if possible, work with your sales team to offer a discounted price that demonstrates how much you value a customer.
- Don’t be surprised if you lose a key client—even if you do everything right. You win some, and you lose some. The important thing is to learn from the situation and become a better key account manager as a result. Be sure to follow up with the customer and ask why they left. It is also wise to follow up again after a few months. They may not be as happy with “plan b” as they expected, which could be a great opportunity for you to win them back.
- Stick to your plans and deliver on your promises, but don’t be afraid to branch off if an unexpected growth opportunity arises. Your key accounts will value and respect your accountability, but they also want to know that you’re agile and can change course when necessary.
Strategic planning is key when managing key accounts. Don’t lose out by being a passive player; be a proactive account manager and move your business forward!
Curious to see how you can take your Key Account Management skills to the next level? Download this helpful ebook on how to create proactive plans for your key accounts or sign up for a demo of Kapta.