Since it’s much more profitable and efficient to sell to existing customers than to find new ones, it’s critical for you to prioritize account management. Whether your organization has a dedicated account management team or your salespeople are in charge of managing their own accounts, the goal is the same.
Luckily, effective account management doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Just follow these six simple steps to get the most out of your account managers.
Step 1: Hire the Right People for the Position
Every position has a unique set of requirements for success. An account management role takes a high level of organization, strong communication skills, and the ability to collaborate and influence – among other qualities.
The person you bring onto your team to manage accounts will need to have a natural behavior and communication style that matches what your role requires day in and day out. You’ll also want to be sure a candidate is motivated by what the account manager job rewards.
Use tools such as behavior-style interviewing or hiring assessments to be sure you choose the candidate who is the best match for the position, and the most likely to succeed long-term in your organization.
Step 2: Prioritize Accounts
Some accounts provide more opportunity than others.
For your account managers or sales professionals to be efficient and effective, they should identify where to focus their time and attention based on factors such as company size, industry, fit, and strength of relationship.
Accounts that are open to new ideas – and that welcome a more strategic relationship – are usually better targets for growth. Likewise, when a company is growing aggressively, it may be more likely to provide growth opportunities for your company as well.
Have each of your account managers or sales reps maintain a target list of priority accounts, and spend time every week developing them.
Step 3: Deeply Understand Your Client’s Business
In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s not enough to just know about your client’s business and their goals. Your account managers or sales reps must also understand
Having a thorough and holistic understanding of a client’s business will allow account managers and sales reps to speak with authority and earn the trust and confidence of the client.
With that trust and confidence, recommendations are taken far more seriously.
Step 4: Lead with Consulting, Not Selling
If your team members are unable to convince your buyers they have their best interest in mind, they’ll never gain the trust needed to successfully manage the account.
Coach your account managers and sales reps to avoid starting off too strongly or too often with a sales pitch. Doing so can make the prospect or customer wary of connecting, and can degrade trust rather than build it. Be sure every touchpoint your team member has with a buyer has some added value, and have them always keep a buyer-focused approach.
An account manager who builds strong, genuine relationships with people from the beginning will be the most effective in the long run.
Step 5: Collaborate with Other Departments to Benefit the Client
Account management requires excellent communication skills – not only in communicating with the client, but also with the other departments in your organization.
An effective account manager will be able to identify exactly what a client needs, and then make it happen by collaborating with other team members and departments.
For example, could your marketing department help the client with a project they’re not fully equipped to handle? Are there special instructions the client has requested or will appreciate in relation to delivery?
Coach your account managers or sales reps to find out what’s going to delight the customer, and then pull from any and all internal resources to make it happen.
Step 6: Maintain the Long-term Relationship
As with any relationship in life, your account managers and sales reps must work consistently to build and maintain the strategic relationship with a client.
That means reaching out regularly – even if there’s not an obvious opportunity to make a sale – just to check in and make sure everything is going well.
If your team members aren’t consistently keeping up with your accounts and providing value, you run the risk of your competitors encroaching.
In today’s crowded marketplace, customer experience can go a long way in differentiating your company from the competition. In addition, leaving untapped business opportunities behind simply isn’t an option.
Unfortunately, very few people come into an account management role with all the skills necessary for success, which makes training and coaching key.
Coach your reps to follow these six steps and they’ll be well on their way to building strategic relationships and maximizing the revenue potential of your most profitable accounts.
Anita Greenland, Vice President of Sales for The Brooks Group, is responsible for leading and executing The Brooks Group’s sales growth strategy.