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14 Tips for Managing Your Key Accounts
Whether you are trying to get more out of existing key account relationships, or wondering where to start in terms of finding and winning new key account customers, the platinum phrase on the journey to becoming a trusted advisor/partner is “quality communication”, writes Syl Cotter from The Sales Institute.
From our experience, communication with clients – and for that matter – everyone else inside and outside your firm, is average and subjective or, more bluntly, dependent on the communication style of the partner involved. It tends not to stimulate desire on the part of the client/sales target, to compel them to want more input from you or to ask for your help in solving one of their problems. When firms are still at the “courtship phase” of the potential key account relationship, a lack of polished quality communication will make it almost impossible to set your firm apart from other/previous suppliers chasing the business. If you fail to put the effort into quality communications, your key accounts/targets cannot help but fail to put the effort into quality responses.
Here are some tips to get your account management process moving:
- Agree a firm-wide protocol for categorising accounts. Typically, these might be:
- Key Accounts
- Key Development Accounts
- Maintenance Accounts
- Cash Cow Type Accounts.
Make sure you have measurable criteria behind each category.
- Agree a firm-wide internal communications protocol to ensure cross functional input/updates on progress within accounts.
- Put measures in place to monitor and measure compliance within your account management process.
- Have a single person responsible for developing and updating your firm’s account management database (you should audit it regularly for quality).
- Get an organisation chart for each of your large accounts.
- Complete a SWOT analysis for key / key development accounts.
- Identify the key influencers on decisions within the account.
- Get a clear picture of the reporting structure and decision-making chain in the account.
- Keep an up-to-date file on the latest press releases. The more you know, the more likely you are to successfully keep the account and turn it into a true partnership.
- Create opportunities such as invitations to social events and conferences.
- Help out key members of the account behind the scenes.
- Ask management from your organisation to develop relationships at various levels and in various departments of the client company.
- Develop detailed forecasts and have monthly key account executive review meetings with your partners.
- Remember, account management is crucial and should be a primary focus of senior management in the firm, not just with the partner who is the primary “owner” of the account.
Written by: Syl Cotter, The Sales Institute – promoting excellence and high performance among sales professionals throughout Irish business
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