2017 is here and there is no time like the present to start your account planning on the right foot. The start of a new year is the perfect time for key account managers to organize their account planning strategies for the next twelve months. Through strategic planning and a proactive approach, you can make 2017 your most fruitful year ever as an account manager.
To make things even easier for you, we’ve compiled your complete month-by-month guide to successful account planning in 2017.
January: Jumpstart the year by developing a plan to be more proactive.
At the start of every new year, countless key account managers resolve to be more proactive in the months ahead. Unfortunately, many account managers fall back into the same reactive habits that ruled their lives in the past because they failed to develop a specific plan.
Below are three ways to make this goal a reality in 2017:
- Create a plan that outlines the exact steps that you will take to be more proactive in 2017.
- Post this list of steps on your desktop or in another highly visible location.
- Start your list with a proactive phone call to your key accounts. Begin making calls the day you return to work.
February: Find out if your key accounts have any current needs or pain points.
Just because you have managed a key account for years does not mean that their specific needs will remain the same with every passing year. Set aside some time in early February to reach out to your best customers and ask them some questions so you can better understand their needs. You should do this even if you think you know your key accounts like the back of your hand.
March: Make sure you are your customers’ most trusted resource.
Never assume that your key accounts will be with you until you retire. As a key account manager, you should always be prepared for the opposite. You should know your industry and always strive to maintain an edge over industry competitors.
Here are three tips to help you become a more valuable resource to your customers:
- Stay on top of current trends by participating in industry trade shows and continuing education activities.
- Be armed with at least one solution when you are forced to relay a problem or bad news to a customer.
- Make a point of learning about your key accounts’ goals, successes, and business operations.
April: Appoint a team to help you provide speed, quality, and support to your customers.
Your key accounts deserve to receive the highest level of product and service, as quickly as possible. This can sometimes become a challenge, especially if you manage multiple key accounts. Strive to ensure that your customers can always reach you or a member of your team during business hours. If you have an assistant or colleague who can provide assistance in your absence, make sure that your customers have their contact information.
May: Measure YTD progress and map out a plan for the second half of the year.
May marks the end of the school year and the month before summer vacations begin for many families. Proactively reach out to your key accounts in May, before the vacation season kicks off, to briefly discuss year-to-date progress. Most importantly, review your customers’ wish lists for the remainder of the year.
June: Juggle your key account responsibilities with grace.
As a key account manager, you are often faced with competing responsibilities. It may seem like there is no time to proactively reach out to your customers because you are troubleshooting problems, training new staff, or preparing for a company audit.
As you strive to balance your responsibilities, make sure to follow the tips below to ensure that your customers continue to view you as the graceful and competent professional that you are:
- Refrain from complaining about work to customers, as this can cause them to feel guilty or awkward.
- Strive to return calls and messages promptly, even if your initial response is “I’ll get back to you soon.”
- If you are pressed for time, convey this appropriately. Let customers know when they can expect to receive a response.
July: Juice up your quarterly business reviews (QBRs).
July marks the beginning of Q3 and the start of the second half of the year. As you review the second quarter of the year and plan for the remainder of 2017, strive to make your QBRs as useful and engaging as possible.
Below are some suggestions to help you prepare top-notch QBRs for your key accounts:
- Maintain a consistent format with each meeting.
- Keep your customers engaged by using a multi-media format.
- If possible, try to limit your QBRs to one or two hours.
August: Do more outreach.
Your plan to be more proactive should include specific outreach efforts geared to benefit your customers. In addition to phone calls and emails, you can implement some of the following outreach strategies:
- Design a quarterly newsletter that highlights key activities that pertain to your customers.
- Surprise your customer with a complimentary demo of your most recent product.
- Reach out to your customers on birthdays and their company anniversaries.
- Call to congratulate your customers when they are featured in industry news stories.
September: Survey your key accounts to identify opportunities for improvement.
One of the best things that you can do to illustrate your commitment to your key accounts is to request their feedback. This strategy shows your customers that their needs and opinions are important. Additionally, your customers’ suggestions will help you improve your operations and customer service. Regardless of whether your company administers a formal survey or whether you choose to simply ask your customers about their likes and dislikes, client feedback is invaluable to your continuous improvement as a key account manager.
October: Organize a face-to-face meeting.
Global studies indicate that more than three out four businesspeople agree that face-to-face meetings foster breakthrough thinking and bring out the best in people. And while the convenience of Skype, teleconferencing, and virtual meetings is undeniable, there is no substitute for meeting with your customers face to face.
The best strategy is to complement your teleconferences and virtual meetings with at least one face-to-face business review (QBR) meeting annually. October is a great month because you can review the first three quarters of the year and strategize for the year’s end and the upcoming calendar year.
November: Notify your key accounts of special holiday hours of operation.
With the end of the year around the corner, you should make sure that your customers have plenty of advance notice about office closures. In particular, let your key accounts know if you will not be accessible by phone or email during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day.
Here are some ways that you can make sure your customers are aware of your holiday schedule:
- On November 1st, begin including your holiday schedule as a part of your e-mail signature.
- Turn on your out-of-office assistant before leaving the office for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
- Contact your key accounts by phone at the beginning of November to let them know about your schedule.
December: Delight your key accounts with year-end specials.
If you plan properly, December can become the most productive month of the year for both you and your customers. At the same time that you and your colleagues are finalizing last minute orders, your customers are often winding down their fiscal years.
Here are three great reasons why December is the best month of the year to offer special incentives to your key accounts:
- You can secure orders from customers who have funds remaining in their “use-it-or-lose-it” budgets.
- Year-end promotions will help your company move overstock items to make room for new inventory.
- Special year-end offers are a great way to express appreciation to your loyal clients.
Ideally, key account managers will employ elements of all of these account planning strategies throughout the 2017 year. Your continued efforts to improve relationships with your key accounts will help increase customer satisfaction and expand your base of loyal clients. These two results could make 2017 your best year ever as a key account manager!
Curious to see how you can take your Key Account Management skills to the next level? Download this helpful ebook on how to create powerful engagement plans for your key accounts or sign up for a demo of Kapta.