Let’s face it – things don’t always go according to the account plan. Something can come up, unforeseen risks appear, and all of a sudden, the strategic account plan goes off course.
What are you supposed to do? Well, you can’t just give up on the account – they bring in a considerable portion of your company’s revenues and drive most of the results.
You can’t just continue doing the same thing that you’ve always done either as it’s clear it’s time for a new game plan. Luckily, account plans aren’t meant to remain stagnant, and nothing should be set in stone except for your commitment to your strategic accounts.
So, with your customer calling and the phone ringing off the hook, it’s time to think fast and come up with some creative solutions, a process we know as level-setting. Today, we want to cover a few tips to help you get the account back on track with minimal disruption while achieving even better results in the end.
Refresh Their Memory
While things might seem like they are way off track in the present, you should take time to discuss the original reason they chose to work with your company.
What problem were you helping them solve? What was the original goal of the account plan? What is the pain point that only you and you alone could help them with?
By reminding your strategic account about these points, it not only helps to put everything back in perspective for them, but it also shows your commitment to their success. You didn’t create the account plan for them out of thin air – you spent countless hours talking with them and working through their problems to create a plan you hoped would work.
Refresh their memory and explain how you plan to continue helping them solve these challenges moving forward. You just need to update the account plan.
Now that things have gone off course and you’re showing that you’re committed to their success, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Simply saying that you care about their success isn’t enough. That’s what you said last time, and now the account has gone off course.
Instead, you need to re-establish accountability points. Specifically, you want to put these accountability points in the areas that had the most trouble recently as they have the greatest potential of causing more problems down the line.
Being more accountable can be easier said than done in many cases, but we dedicated an entire article in the past to it. To learn more about being accountable as a strategic account manager, check out our blog post here.
Be Up Front with Them
An essential part of strategic account management is being responsible and honest with your strategic accounts. You can’t be their trusted advisor and partner in their success if you aren’t forthcoming with crucial information related to their account.
Although it can seem tempting to sweep some things under the rug as “non-issues,” these non-issues are likely the cause of the current account struggles. Although it might not be what your client wants to hear after the account plan has gone off-course, you should tell them everything that they need to know and then maybe a little bit more.
In most cases, we like to leave some things in the dark so we can easily exceed the client’s expectations, but in this case, you need to be as open and honest as possible in hopes to win them back on your side and earn their trust back if it has been lost.
Let your strategic account know about anything that might be slipping through the cracks along with the measures that you’ve put in place to be more accountable and ensure that the correct information goes to the right person the first time without any disruption to the account and the client’s ultimate goals.
Has anything changed?
In many cases, the root cause of an account plan going off the rails is because of changes. Objectives change, the people working on the account change, and other issues can mean you need to update the game plan.
Remember, your account plans should never be concrete and set in stone. Instead, you should be able to take a digital eraser to the plan and make adjustments as needed. You can’t be expected to know of these changes the second that they happen, so it’s up to you to have the client communicate these changes to you.
So, at the moment, you’ll need to ask the client about any changes you need to know about. No matter if the changes are big or small, just as it’s essential that you’re open and honest with your clients, it’s crucial that they are sharing valuable information with you as well.
Find out if these changes require an account plan update, and make sure that the changes are still leading to the ultimate goal you set at the start of the account, so you’re not going off course even more.
Get a New Plan
Now that you’ve set the levels for this account and have gone through every possible angle that caused the disruption, it’s time to get back in the game with a new plan to help overcome the current struggles of the account.
Now, you shouldn’t have to start entirely from scratch in most cases, but you want to update your account plan to reflect any and all changes that have occurred. Keep the ultimate goal the same (unless that changed also) and start from there. You don’t need to go back to square one, but you might need to go to square six or seven.
Don’t be discouraged and get to work! Make sure that you also set accountability measures for both sides of the relationship and put dates on specific milestones as well. From there, continue working diligently, as usual, to ensure both of your organizations reach the end goal.