Statistics and surveys show that customer experience is the main source of competition among businesses these days and customers are more demanding than ever when it comes to their experience with a company. These demands often go beyond the offerings of just customer service and have asked more and more of account managers (AMs), the main lines of communication between a client and a business.
These demands often go beyond the offerings of just customer service and have asked more and more of account managers, are the front lines of communication between a client and a business.
A Crucial Area of your Business.
First and foremost, account managers work closely with clients to determine their needs and help their companies develop products and services to meet those needs. During this process, AMs facilitate the conversation, expressing clients' agendas to the company and the company's abilities and concerns in meeting those agendas in turn.
Since account management is more of a high-stakes role than ever, it's good to get advice from the top minds in the field, so here are six great account management tips from sales experts.
1. Listen to the Client
Because customer experience is such a huge point of emphasis, the old saying "the customer is always right" is truer than ever.
Account managers should be more interested in making the client's dreams come true via their business than vice versa. Experts from the world of digital design have some good insight on this issue. Add value where you can.
"An integrated customer experience process within a successful customer-focused organization should know when the customers are at an emotional high or low point (both could be substantial) and what behaviors they exhibit that betray a problem or a root cause." says UX designer Kaushik Gosh, writing for the Toptal Design Blog.
The "management" part of account management includes being attuned to your client's expectations and responses, both fiscally and emotionally. Managing emotions and responding to a client's needs and wishes is a huge part of account management, and it may even reward an account manager with long-term client loyalty.
2. Uncover What Your Buyers Truly Care About
"When the customer makes a buying decision, the risk shifts from the supplier to the customer and the impact on the customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on the salesperson of a lost sale," explains Donal Daly, CEO of Altify.
"The seller's ultimate objective is to maximize revenue in an account in a way that also maximizes mutual value. Once you understand the people and the problems and have developed a trusted relationship with your customer, you can identify areas of opportunity--the "white space" in the account--where solutions can add value to the customer's business."
His point being, a structured approach to account planning challenges seller's to uncover the goals, pressures and obstacles that the customer truly cares about, and the initiatives that the customer may be putting in place to relieve these pressures. Mutual value can only be achieved with this understanding, and any other approach isn't putting the focus on the customer.
3. Research, Research, Research
Erica Hansen of Yesler, an elite B2B marketing agency, says,
"Sift through all the intelligence marketing and sales gathered during the lead nurturing and sales process and then augment that with more research--about your customer's business, its markets, challenges, goals, and competitors."
To understand the needs of clients, an AM must research in great depth, utilizing info from within the company and without, such as customer feedback and data, notes, and research from projects for similar clients.
A good account manager will have knowledge not only of the client's background but also of the current climate in the client's industry. Clients want to know they're in expert hands, and having a depth of knowledge about the clients, and their industry will go a long way to reassuring them of that.
4. Collaboration Means Execution
According to Lou Shachter and Rich Cheatham of BTS, a global professional services firm who has worked with companies like AT&T and Chevron, collaboration means "leveraging internal resources on behalf of the customers" as a means of execution and "ensuring successful achievement of each element of the account plan." Given the AM's movement between sales and customer service, and the need to follow through on an account, it is important that the AM and different branches of the company, from advertising to delivery services, are ready and willing to collaborate.
For example, a hard-working AM may see a client in the product development stage and have the marketing team begin drawing up release materials for when the product is ready. An AM must be proactive and network extensively throughout their own organization's functions to ensure that every possible opportunity to achieve the goals of the account plan is taken.
5. Identify Key Accounts
Not all accounts are created equal. When considering who to invest your time and energy into, be sure to consider factors beyond revenue alone, such as your strategic fit with the company and the company's willingness to develop your partnership. Identifying "key accounts," or the top, flagship performers among your client portfolio, will be important in setting the tone for attracting future clients with similar goals. "Selecting the wrong key accounts will cost you millions, and that doesn't include the lost opportunity impact," says John Staples o fSales Benchmark Index.
According to Staples, there are two critical steps to identifying and then expanding upon your key accounts. First, analyze your current accounts about your company's overall strategy, and highlight the ones you identify as being key earners. Once you've chosen those few key accounts, start small with a pilot program of account management, focusing on developing management frameworks with which to handle future accounts. Then, expand from there, attracting new clients through your current accounts' successes.
6. Hire the Right People and Train Them Well
In the same way, that good account management is about collaboration, a sign of really good account management is an effective delegation of tasks. Ideally, your business is doing so well that you need to hire more account managers. In that case, "You need to think about what the role requires (a broad range of skills, including financial, consultative, planning, interpersonal and influencing skills) and then pick the right person for the role. Don't forget to train them: Very few people come into [an AM] role with all the skills they need," explains Lynette Ryals of the Harvard Business Review.If a top performer excels in sales, you might assume that you can transition them into account management easily, but this isn't always the case.
Given the complexity and depth of the duties of an AM, as well as their close dealings with clients, it is essential that AMs are trained according to best practices in account management. Dynamic business acumen is among the most important skills, given the AM's handling of numerous clients, which necessitates an understanding of how the company makes money and how to best drive growth.
Take this advice from experts who have shown they know how to succeed in account management, and take your own business to the next level. Do you have any other ideas? Add them in the comment section below!