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Tips for Getting Off to a Good Start with Your New Strategic Accounts

For better or worse accounts get shaken up at the beginning of the new year. You might be left to build new relationships at important companies that you don’t have a relationship with or even worse, customers that didn’t have a strong relationship with their previous account manager. How can you get off on the right foot with your POC and build engagement with your new accounts?

Meeting Existing Customers for the First Time

Many key account managers will jump on the phone for the first time with a new account and put the ownness on their customers to update them on the account status and history. While open-ended questions are an important part of the sales process, doing this with a transitioning contact or account can make you look unprepared and unknowledgeable. Not a great place to start. In a perfect world, the previous account manager would have left detailed notes in salesforce, formally transitioned the account to you, and been on great terms with the customer. However, as any account manager knows – this isn’t always the case.

Whether your account is disengaged, unhappy, or excited to meet you, properly preparing for your first meeting with thoughtful questions can make all the difference in starting out on the right foot or even be the first step to turning around an account headed towards churn.

When the Account Notes are Bare Bones…

Meeting an account for the first time without solid account notes is a difficult situation to be in. Unfortunately, most account managers will find themselves here on more than one occasion. That doesn’t mean that your first meeting can’t be productive or thoughtful. Account managers in this predicament should do their homework to show their customers they are committed to their success.

 

Suggestions for Research

Talk Track with Customers

  • Go to the original win/loss opportunity. Why did they buy from you in the first place?
  • I see your company originally purchased X product from us 5 years ago to accomplish Y. How has that going in your mind? Are we meeting those goals or have the goals changed? How do you see that goal changing next year?
  • Check Sales Navigator, LinkedIn, or the company website to notice any org changes. Your new contact may not be as informed about your solution or the goals set out by the original POC.
  • I noticed that Sam and Gil are new to the team or I noticed you are new to the team, how can I be a resource to help you understand the goals and the solution in place?
  • Does this org change affect your business unit?
  • Read the annual report
  • I read that X is an area your company is going into, do you see that affecting our work together?
  • I read that X is an area your company is going into, is our project a part of accomplishing that goal?
  • Read the original contract and research the original executive sponsor or champion
  • Reach out to the original executive and request a meeting to discuss any questions or concerns they have about the current solution.

 

Start, Stop, Continue

Have a frank start, stop, continue conversation with your customer. This is a quick, sometimes delicate, 15-minute conversation – no need to belabor anything or talk bad about a past account manager who worked with your account last year. These conversations can be great discovery calls that can drive engagement and help you figure out where things might be falling off track, or where conversations should pivot down the road.

Start: 

What topics were missing from meetings that the customer wants to include? What actions were missing that they want you to do for them? This conversation should have a value-driven lens and can help you understand where the customer’s priorities are and how they like to work with their account manager.

Stop:

What did they dislike about the partnership that they wanted to stop? Make sure to ask discovery questions to get to the real root of the problem with these. For instance, let’s say your customer tells you they want to stop having weekly check-in calls and only meet once a month because they are busy, and the calls aren’t helpful. Dig into that further! Are the topics covered not relevant? What would make those calls more valuable to them?

Continue:

What did they like about working with their last account manager that they would like you to continue to do? You can dig into these suggestions further by asking goal-oriented questions. For example, if a customer said that quarterly product roadmap meetings are something, they want to continue you can ask them how roadmap meetings help them accomplish their goal of X?

These questions are a great way to spark account management discovery and give you some thoughtful fodder to drive account plans and your communication strategy.

Conclusion:

Customers are easier to lose and harder to engage than ever. Starting off on the right foot with your accounts and demonstrating you are a thoughtful, trusted advisor can make all the difference in keeping your customers happy and successful.

Want to learn more account management best practices? Take our online account management training course.

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