Making the best first impression is everything in a relationship. You only have one chance, so you need to make sure that you’re kicking the relationship off to a good start.
The same is true for your strategic accounts. If you want to have a long, mutually successful relationship with your strategic accounts, you should do everything that you can to start off on the right foot.
As the new year quickly approaches, your organization might be expecting a new influx of clients so now is the best time to recap the principles that will help make sure that you’re moving into the new year with a solid foundation to build upon. Here are our four fundamental basics of starting off on the right foot with your new strategic accounts.
1) Be Up Front With Them
Every strong relationship is built on open communication and trust. You shouldn’t wait to establish this open communication with your strategic accounts and instead, from day one, you should show them that you’re willing to always tell them the truth and are all ears whenever they have a question or issue.
A crucial part of kicking off the account on the right foot is to discuss the goals on the project openly. Talk to the client not only about their long-term goals but also their short-term objectives as well. By getting clear, direct information about their expectations and what they expect you to do for them, you can create a more accurate account plan and will know where this account will go in the future.
You should also discuss the risks of their project as well. Some people might be tempted to sweep some things under the rug or leave risks unacknowledged, but this won’t help in the end. Tell them to reveal all of their dirty account-related secrets, so you know what to expect and can start planning around them.
2) Establish the Process
Everyone works differently, and if your client is coming from a different vendor, you need to take the time to establish the way that you’ll do things along with reasons why.
This can take some time, and some account managers would instead brush over this step, but we’ve found in our experience that is a crucial component to starting the strategic account off right.
Tell your contact how you like to work with accounts such as when you communicate with them, the information that you’ll need from them, etc.
You should also ask about any areas they have struggled in the past. Specifically, ask about their past dealings with other vendors and what they wish the account manager would have done differently to help them reach their goals sooner. It’s all about learning their expectations and finding ways to exceed them throughout the life of the project consistently.
3) Anticipate the Unexpected
With all of this talk about building a positive relationship with your strategic account, it can be easy to expect that everything will move along smoothly throughout the project. The thing is, things happen.
One of the leading reasons that SAMs can struggle is because they fail to look at the bigger picture. Sure, you’re a friendly person, and your contact likes you, but that won’t change the fact that your product or service can have a bad rep in the marketplace.
Don’t worry – you can fix this. You just need to plan ahead and anticipate anything that could cause your clients to see your company, products, or services in a negative light. You might have had to deal with this in the past, so you’re ahead of the curve, but if not, it’s time to hit the books.
Research your company online and read what other people are saying. Take these negative thoughts into consideration and anticipate how your customer might view your products with these ideas and thoughts in mind. Once you’ve found areas that your customer might have a problem, you need a contingency plan to overcome their objections.
If you have a solid plan and have thought ahead, if the customer ends up bringing these concerns to you later down the line, you won’t need to think quick and hatch a half-baked solution.
Instead, you can point to your account plan for that strategic account and show them how you have already thought ahead. This will show that you not only care about providing the best products and services to the client, but you’re also proactive, a core component of being a successful strategic account manager.
4) Be Transparent in Success and Failure
When we do something right, we’re excited to share the news with anyone and everyone willing to hear it. While you should share with your client when you reach a new milestone, you should also be transparent in other areas as well.
As an addition to the first point, you must be as transparent as possible in the relationship not only when trying to establish trust with the strategic account, but also throughout the duration of the project.
So, don’t try and hide your mistakes or tell the client that everything is okay when you know it isn’t. Be as upfront with them about everything, and it will not only make you look better but will also improve the relationship and make it stronger than ever.
How Kapta Can Help
Throughout the life of the relationship, you’ll find that balancing the technical aspects of the project with the personal communication and relationship-building process can be a challenge. This is mostly because too many organizations rely on CRM technology from the 90’s.
Kapta is the natural evolution of your prehistoric CRM. It’s a platform made by Strategic Account Managers for Strategic Account Managers and features powerful account planning tools and relationship health scores to help you not only start off on the right foot but keep your clients consistently impressed with your work.
If you want to see how Kapta can take your SAM program to the next level, request your free demo today.