In a cross-functional team, Key Account Managers are the voice of the client in the room. While everyone on the team—and in fact, everyone throughout the company—should be focused on delivering for the customer, KAMs are responsible for making sure it’s happening. They do that by owning and developing the client relationship, knowing the client better than anyone in their organization—and sometimes even better than the client knows themselves.
KAMs use their client knowledge to develop and oversee action plans designed to meet the customer’s goals. The time they spend with clients becomes a key asset to the team, allowing KAMs to anticipate client feedback before the client even sees the product or deliverable. The team can proactively adjust, or at least prepare a response. Either way, through the KAM’s insight and involvement, every customer interaction can be more productive.
There are several tasks and responsibilities that go into making this happen (it is, after all, a full-time job); however, today we’re going to talk about personality traits that make a great account manager. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it highlights some things we’ve noticed in highly effective account managers across many industries. Great account managers are:
We’ll take a closer look at each of these traits in the post below. Read on to see if you—or your team—fits the profile of a great KAM.
1) Great Account Managers are Dedicated
Account managers are tireless advocates for their clients. They put their customers’ needs ahead of their own, always working to help their clients succeed and grow.
At a minimum, this takes time. It’s why we always say Key Account Managers are those with 5 or fewer clients on their roster. Any more than that, and it’s hard to put in the hours it takes to maintain clear, consistent, proactive communication.
Every good client call requires preparation, note-taking, a post-call contact report, follow-up with the internal team to share feedback or action items, and some kind of action or deliverable to close the loop. And that’s just the day-to-day stuff—good account managers are also initiating contact anytime they sense an opportunity or a challenge for their customer. Regulatory changes, competitive threats, market fluctuations—anything that could disrupt their customer’s business merits a proactive point of view and proposed plan of action.
Putting customers first also means great account managers are willing to set aside their own agenda in order to truly listen to customers. Rather than obsess over their own quotas, they listen carefully to what their clients are trying to achieve, and work to make that happen first. Rather than react defensively to client feedback, they make space to hear what clients have to say, and they think carefully before responding. Often, this is as simple as saying, “I hear your concern. I’ll take this back to the team and we’ll figure out a solution. We will follow up shortly. Thank you again for sharing your feedback.”
And finally, dedication means the obvious: Account managers are going to help their clients succeed even when it’s hard. They’re not fair weather partners who only work with their customers when the requests are easy or expected; they roll with the punches and work with their team to find creative solutions in the face of market, regulatory, design, timeline, and other challenges.
2) Great Account Managers are Detail-Oriented
In a perfect world, Account Managers are part of a cross-functional team in which everyone is detail-oriented. They have project managers keeping a careful eye on timelines and budgets and everyone is reading emails carefully and attentively.
But we don’t live in a perfect world. Account managers are the gatekeepers to the client relationship—they’re often the ones who send a deliverable to the client, and they’re also often the ones receiving feedback first hand. It’s imperative they keep careful records and double check frequently to make sure the customer is getting what they expected. Remember: Account managers are the voice of the client in the room. It takes attention to detail to make sure they’re an accurate voice.
3) Great Account Managers are Diplomatic
This is a big one. At the end of the day, account management is relationship management. And that means navigating the complicated waters of interpersonal dynamics, made even more challenging by the pervasive knowledge that customers can always choose to leave.
One thing that makes communication difficult is a mistake on the part of you or your team. We’ve posted here before about communicating when things go wrong, and we’ll summarize here:
- Use a “yes, AND” approach
- Listen with the intent to serve
- Take accountability
- Walk away with documented action items and deadlines for all parties
Diplomatic people—especially those with lots of client experience—know instinctively when to accept full responsibility, and when to share accountability with the client. They know when to listen and when to push back. More importantly, they know how to push back while still moving the relationship forward.
Another instance of difficult communication that requires diplomacy is when your team disagrees with the client on the best path forward. The solution isn’t to just always, immediately, do it the customer’s way—after all, they hired you because presumably they need your expertise. Real client advocacy requires continuous, strategic thought about what’s actually going to get your clients where they want to go, even if that means pushing back. The key is to do so while still respecting the customer’s vision, ideas, and knowledge, so that even as they take your recommendation, they feel ownership and control over the process.
4) Great Account Management Teams are Diverse
There’s no one kind of client, and there’s no one kind of client manager. Leadership teams should seek a truly diverse group of account managers, where every person brings different background, insights, and outlook to the group. You’re more likely to find the right fit between clients (especially challenging ones) and the KAMs on your team if your KAMs aren’t carbon copies of each other.
Focus on finding people who are dedicated, detail-oriented, and diplomatic, with the experience you need for the title you’re hiring for. You’ll find there’s an incredibly diverse pool of talent that fits the bill—make sure your team reflects that.
Every account manager wants to be more than a vendor—they want to be a Trusted Advisor. To be a Trusted Advisor, you have to earn trust. That means you demonstrate time and time again that you are acting with your client’s best interest at heart. When your customer knows you are dedicated, detail-oriented, and diplomatic, they’ll be more likely to listen to your recommendations—and you’ll create a more strategic, more mutually rewarding partnership.
Kapta understands what it takes to be a great account manager, and supports KAMs along the way. Our Voice of Customer tools help reveal and record insights into what clients are trying to achieve, so KAMs can keep those goals top-of-mind as they develop action plans.
Kapta also helps KAMs keep track of the details that matter, with a single source of truth for contact reports, notes, commitments, deliverables, and more. Rather than tracking email, Slack, attachments, meeting notes, and more, KAMs have one place to go to confirm they’ve done everything they said they would do.
To see how Kapta supports great account managers, schedule a personal demo today.