As much as you may proclaim that this is your year, it’s impossible to make the progress you want without having the right goals ahead of you and a plan to reach them. That’s where New Year’s resolutions come in. Resolutions aren’t a binding contract, but they do give you a goal to look back on at the end of the year to check your progress.
Why You Should Set Professional Resolutions
Personal improvement is usually the focus of New Year’s resolutions, but professional improvement also deserves to be considered when it’s time to make big changes in your life. Setting New Year’s resolutions for your professional life will drive you to advance in your workplace goals alongside your own personal goals every year. If you don’t take the time to dictate the focus of your professional growth this year, you may find that by next year you haven’t made the progress you wanted.
Set your professional New Year’s resolutions separately from your personal resolutions so you can make sure you’re seeing positive change in every important area of your life and career!
For account managers, professional New Year’s resolutions may vary. But, a few specific resolutions may be some of your best options. I want to discuss the top 6 New Year’s resolutions you can make to improve yourself as an account manager. You don’t have to choose to take on all six at once, but selecting your resolutions from this list may set you on a great path for professional improvement.
Resolution #1: Be More Proactive
Proactivity helps you become a strategic partner to your top clients instead of remaining as a basic vendor. If you want to differentiate yourself from your competition, you need to be working proactively with your clients to provide them the best value possible. Reactive account management may turn you into a replaceable vendor when a better offer presents itself.
Making yourself difficult to replace helps you retain and grow the customer account. By working proactively with your customers, you’ll discover their real goals and will gain a more accurate perspective on what they need in order to meet those goals. When you provide value to help customers meet their goals, not just to solve the problems the tell you about, you become a more valuable partner.
Working proactively doesn’t necessarily involve devoting larger chunks of resources to your accounts. Instead, it means taking the time to get more involved in your customer’s business without being prompted by them. You shouldn’t wait until your customers contact you. Being proactive means you’ll be in touch frequently so you can address any potential complications before they get too big.
Resolution #2: Focus on Strategy
Strategy must be on your mind from day one. This year, you need to focus on the end goals right from the start. Keep looking ahead and observing around you for opportunities to further your accounts. Most larger customer accounts have some sort of white space that you can utilize to increase the account and upsell. If you’re not carefully observing your customers, the industry around them, and the market in general, you may miss fantastic strategic opportunities.
It’s not enough to think and plan strategically in the beginning of the year. You need to be looking for strategic options continuously and making strategic thinking a regular part of your routine. Conditions are not likely to remain exactly the same throughout an entire year, so the plan you put together in January may not be as relevant or useful by August.
Strategy is not only important when you’re thinking about how to provide the best value to your customers. You should also think strategically about acquiring new customer accounts, retaining your current customers, and account growth. Thinking specifically about individual accounts can make a big difference for those accounts, but thinking about your business practices and accounts overall will help you become a better account manager.
You can start thinking and acting more strategically by taking a few steps to make strategy an important part of your routine. Strategic thinking doesn’t just happen. By starting a new set of habits this year, you can learn how to think more strategically.
First, you need to set aside time to allow yourself to think. This should be a scheduled time daily or weekly. You should be spending your scheduled time with only your own thoughts, intentionally allowing yourself to go over things more thoroughly in your own mind to make connections, come up with new ideas, and observe situations from all perspectives.
This scheduled time should be in a calm or slow environment where you are by yourself. You may find that it’s easier to think while you’re walking or exercising, driving, or otherwise. Whatever works best to help you get deep into your thoughts is a good solution for you, as long as you can keep it up regularly.
Next, it’s a good practice to keep expanding what you know in any way you can. Reading is a fantastic way to gain new information that may aid you in your strategic thinking. When you’re reading, you don’t have to stick with industry-related materials all the time, and it may benefit you more to also read pieces that are not directly related to your work or to study opinions that are opposite of your own. You can also branch out and increase your knowledge by experiencing new things whenever possible.
Lastly, you need to share your ideas with others and discuss. While something might sound great and make sense in your own head, it can be hugely beneficial to discuss it with someone else. They may give you another perspective on your thoughts, critique an idea, or bring up a solution you didn’t think about before. Discussion is best done with those who may not necessarily agree with you or match your personality type. Conflicting opinions can sometimes lead to fantastic decisions with multiple sides considered, whereas decisions made by a group that all think similarly may not be well considered.
Resolution #3: Foster More Collaboration
Internal and external collaboration are both exceedingly important for account managers. Without both, you’ll have trouble giving more than basic services. You’ll also be unable to delve deeper into your customer’s needs, because you may not have the right connections to get the best information.
Internal collaboration ensures you can get what your customers need when they need it. When you’re creating strategic partnerships and trying to provide the best value to your customers, you need to be able to communicate well with other members of your own organization. By collaborating with other departments, you’ll be able to provide more services and get more targeted results for your customers.
Resolution #4: Pick Up the Phone
Modern communication technologies are fantastic, but they are limited in some ways. Not all explanations over email, texting, or otherwise will be thorough enough. If you’re not clear on something your customer wants or anything else related to your partnership, pick up the phone and give one of your customer contacts a call.
Phone calls are still a highly appreciated and effective way to get things done. Your customers will be happy to see you putting in the personal effort to get things right, and you will get the information you need quickly in a way that’s easier to understand. A phone call to your customer contact is the next best thing after a personal meeting for gaining a thorough understanding of your customer’s needs while demonstrating your commitment to getting it done right.
Calling is also useful when you’re working to acquire new accounts or to grow existing accounts. As noted above, calls are more personal and will put your voice behind your words. In return, you’ll also be able to get a better feel for your customers. Emails and other electronic communications are very impersonal and may not be as well received when you’re trying to convince an existing customer to grow their account with you or when you’re wooing a new customer account away from your competitor.
Resolution #5: Build Account Plans
If you don’t already have account plans, especially for your largest customer accounts, you need to make it a priority this year to build plans. Account plans are the guiding framework for your interactions with your customers. As an account manager, it’s essential for you to have a solid plan that dictates specific goals, priorities, and success metrics for each customer account.
Goals should be specific, but not simple. These are long-term, large goals for each customer account. Ideally, your goals should be strategic and would represent an advance in your company position. But, account plans cannot only be a pathway to your success without remembering your customers. It’s essential that you also record your customer’s goals, so you can work together with them to reach their goals more easily through your products or services. When they grow, your account may grow as well.
Besides goals, proper account plans need to dictate the priorities of both you and your customers. Having this type of information laid out in writing makes it easier for you and your team to keep things in the right perspective when making decisions. It also helps you not to mix up what’s important to your customer. Your plan should also contain a map of your connections with the customer in order to keep a record of who to communicate with for each specific task or goal.
Measurable success metrics are the final important piece of the account planning puzzle. Goals don’t matter if you don’t have a defined, measurable path to meet them. Creating metrics to measure your success will make the plan actionable and help you keep your team on the right track throughout the year. This way, you’ll also be able to demonstrate the progress to your customers.
Resolution #6: Start Practicing Continuous Relationship Management
Continuous Relationship Management (the “other” CRM) is a bit of a newer concept in the account management world, but it’s something you should really start looking into this year. Actually, CRM encompasses many of the resolutions listed above. CRM is the process of actively managing your customer accounts to keep them heavily engaged with your business.
Your customers are likely being called on by your competitors regularly as they try to steal the business from you. But, if you’re managing actively it means you will be communicating well with your customers frequently and giving them the highest value they can get from your business. Being a reliable, active partner to your customers is very attractive and will help you to retain customers, as the switching costs for them include giving up a proactive vendor partnership.
It’s not all about the communication and proactive actions. CRM also addresses your goals and how you approach strategy. This process requires you to gather as much information as you can about your customers and your own business so that you’ll be well prepared to offer the right level of service to bring about the results your customers are looking for.
An account manager practicing CRM must recognize that customers will not always tell you their end goals right away. Many will instead show you the problem they want your product or service to solve for them. However, simply solving their problems won’t make you a strategic partner. You’ll need to delve deeper to understand the base goals of your customers, so you can work towards not just solving their visible problems, but helping them reach their actual goals.
Utilizing CRM is a good way to keep on top of your customer churn while also working towards account growth and strengthened partnerships. However, it will take effort and persistence on your part to implement it well if you want all the best benefits.
While the new year doesn’t change anything physically except the date on the calendar, it’s an excellent time to look ahead and set goals for yourself both personally and professionally. Setting the right resolutions is important. As an account manager, these six resolutions may set you up for a very successful year with your team and your customers.