How to Improve Account Planning and Win the Loyalty of Your Key Accountsin Key Account Management /
Developing an effective strategy for a customer requires a key account manager to have a solid understanding of the characteristics that make that key account unique. The strategic plan that you design should reflect these unique characteristics and should involve proactive communication with key account personnel. Additionally, feedback should be solicited to ensure that the special needs of key accounts are being met.
Below is a short list of measures that should be taken by key account managers as they engage in strategic account planning with their customers.
Identify the Characteristics that Make a Key Account Unique
Designing a customized account planning solution requires a key account manager to keep track of the individual needs and patterns that distinguish a key account from other accounts. The following are examples of characteristics or patterns that make a key account unique:
- Seasonal variation in sales patterns
- A strong international presence
- Emergence into new markets
Familiarity with the characteristics that make a key account unique will enable a key account manager to forecast specific client needs and enhance account planning strategies.
Ensure that Strategic Planning Reflects the Uniqueness of a Key Account
As we’ve just noted, key accounts are not cut from the same cloth. They each have their own unique focus and patterns of activity.
A key account manager should design a strategic plan that addresses the unique features of an account. For instance, a key account that focuses on the distribution of high school textbooks should receive extra attention from a key account manager prior to the start of the school year, when the need for support is high. Likewise, a strategic plan for an artificial Christmas tree manufacturer should include a proactive spike in support during the months of August and October when manufacturing and preparation for the Christmas holiday peaks.
Track Key Account Successes and Opportunities for Improvement
It is critical that key account managers track the success stories and challenges that unfold with key accounts. For instance, fulfilling a large order, well before the promise date, is a success story that should be documented and referenced during the next client meeting. Likewise, product defects or failures to meet customer deadlines should also be discussed during meetings with key account personnel. This strategy is important because it illustrates to your key accounts that your organization has mechanisms in place to identify and address any deficiencies or problems that may arise.
Proactively Communicate with Key Account Personnel
By proactively communicating with your key accounts, the likelihood of losing them to a competitor diminishes. The chosen modes of communication should reflect the preferences of key account personnel and may include the following:
- Periodic face-to-face meetings
- Weekly or monthly telephone calls
- Skype sessions
Communication should be personalized and based upon the special needs of a key account. Reliance on generic form letters or email blasts is strongly discouraged, as they can give the impression that a key account is just one of many standard accounts that are all treated alike. Key account personnel deserve to be addressed by name during any meetings or correspondence.
Regularly Assess Key Account Satisfaction
A strategic plan for a key account should also include a system for gauging a client’s level of satisfaction with your service.
Interviews and surveys are both effective means of assessing a key account’s satisfaction with your goods or services. However, in order for feedback to be honest and meaningful, surveys and interviews should not be conducted by the key account manager, but rather by a third party, an online form, or by a team member who is not personally invested in the relationship.
Customers should be asked to rate their level of satisfaction with their key account manager. They should also be given the opportunity to respond to open-ended questions about how their needs can be better met. Finally, they should be asked to identify any areas in which the key account manager could demonstrate improvement.
Clearly, strategic account planning requires key account managers to have a firm grasp on the factors that make their key accounts unique. Key account managers should be proactive in their communications with key account personnel, and should strive to ensure that customers remain satisfied. By implementing these strategies, key account managers can better serve their most valuable accounts and win their long-lasting loyalty to your organization.
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.