When a customer has been with you for a long time or has brought in a substantial amount of business, they need to be nurtured as much as possible. For some companies, this might mean offering that account special perks, such as tickets to a game or an evening out during an important event. For others, it might mean spending more time tending to that account’s needs, including more phone calls and face time. For yet others, it might mean tailoring services to suit the specific needs of the customer. It all depends on the business, the type of account it is, and the person who is representing it. If you’re not entirely sure how to incorporate a more nurturing and problem-solving approach to your key account management, here are a few tips:
Trust Your Instincts
Are you a key account manager? Do you get a nagging feeling that there might be something going wrong with one of your key accounts? On the surface, things might seem to be okay, but perhaps your instincts are telling you that they’re not. Maybe that company is growing in a different direction, which means that they might not need your services anymore. Or maybe you’re now dealing with a new contact within the company whose expectations are completely different.
Either way, if you get the feeling that something isn’t quite right, listen to your instincts! Stop and think about why you’re having those doubts and what you might be able do to get back on solid ground with your key account. Try and write down exactly what has been bothering you and the potential reasons why something might be wrong. By taking the time to really consider the service you’re providing to your key accounts, you might be able to deduce an answer pretty quickly and start problem solving right away.
Speak to the Client
If you’ve taken a hard look at your key account relationship and you’re still not seeing where it’s going wrong, the next step would be to speak to your client directly. You don’t need to preface the conversation in a problem-solving way. This would be assuming that there is a problem. Instead, just check in with the person you’re dealing with and make sure that everything is living up to their expectations. In truth, this is something you should be doing all the time, even when you’re sure your key accounts are in good standing. Keep the setting informal, but professional. This will encourage the customer to open up and tell you what’s on their mind.
It might turn out that you were overthinking the situation and that there’s really nothing wrong. Or maybe it’s something you hadn’t even anticipated to be bothering your client. Either way, your key customers will appreciate it that you’ve taken the time to ask them what’s on their minds and nurture their success. This will help strengthen your relationship, even if it turns out that there’s no issue with the services you’re providing them.
If it does turn out that the client is not entirely happy with your services, then it’s time to take action. Sit down with your key customer to discuss what may have gone wrong in the past and what you can improve moving forward. Come up with a new strategy that really focuses on their business goals, and develop an actionable plan that lays out the steps you will take to help them achieve the goals you’ve discussed. Then, most importantly, follow through on your word. Making a bunch of promises that you can’t fulfill will only further weaken your relationship with a key account.
If an account is really important and it looks like it’s slipping out of your hands, it may be a good idea to seek the advice of a supervisor or colleague. An outside perspective may be just what you need to see the situation more clearly. Whatever you do, don’t make the mistake of letting everyone think that things are going well if they aren’t. In that case, you’ll be held responsible when the shoe drops. Instead, let some key people know that there might be an issue and try and get their input on the possible solutions to the problem. This will show that you’re a team player and that you’re committed to nurturing long-lasting, successful relationships with your key accounts.