Strategic account management doesn’t happen by accident – it’s made up of formalized, repeatable, and measurable processes. Luckily, like other good habits, these processes can be learned, and in time, become engrained in your company culture.
Here are our seven habits for highly effective strategic account managers:
Execute a smooth handoff from sales to account management. Create and refine a scripted, orderly handoff from sales to your account management team. Make sure that every new customer belongs to someone in your company and that your new customer is (at minimum) being tracked in a methodical way and, optimally, being proactively and strategically advised and engaged.
Conduct research. 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. Your goal is to figure out how you can help your customer meet their goals and solve their problems. Begin by reading your customer’s annual report and industry research about the health of their industry. Is their company growing? Why? If it’s public, what is it telling the street? What are management’s key initiatives? Pore over their website. Read what analysts have to say about their company and industry. Identify and understand stakeholder roles, responsibilities, and constraints.
Conduct a needs assessment. With all this research in hand, now you can go figure out what you can do for your customer—beyond selling the product or service it just purchased. Maybe your fresh eyeballs see a potential problem looming. Maybe you have a fresh take on an old problem the company has been banging away at for a long time. Uncover all the opportunities you can to help this customer be more successful—and enrich your relationship. Your ultimate goal is to grow with the customer, not away.
Create a rock-solid account plan. Write down all those great ideas in a strategic plan that your account management team hammers over and polishes to a sheen. Figure out what your customer really needs and which of these needs you’re able to fill. Make recommendations about how other companies can help or augment your plan to include complementary service offerings. We understand that you’re not doing charity work here, but putting your customer’s welfare above your own profits will generate returns to you in the long run.
Convert that plan into a strategic proposal. Surprise your customer by showing that you’ve done your homework, gone above and beyond the call of duty, really taken its business problems to heart, and put your best people on those problems to come up with ideas for solving them and being more successful. Demonstrate that you’re in it for the long haul, that you value this business, and that you want the company to succeed—not only with your product but as a company. Refresh the strategic proposal at key junctures—annual planning, quarterly business review, when the competition starts to nip at the customer’s heels.
Establish a cadence for meeting and reporting. Decide how often you will communicate with your customer, for what purpose, and using what venues. Be proactive. Never let your customer be left wondering when or how they will hear from you.
Keep the relationship crackling. Keep the partnership going by continuing to stay up on that customer’s issues, understanding how the company is using your product, resolving problems along the way, deepening the relationship, bringing fresh ideas to the table, never letting the relationship go stale. Remember, competitors are wolves. They’re constantly coming on to your customers (just as you are to theirs). Don’t let a relationship grow stale and create an opening where a competitor can woo your customer away.
This is an excerpt from The Modern Guide to B2B Marketing. Download it now to get our recommendations for how to measure the effectiveness of your marketing programs at every point along the customer life cycle.
Image credit: Niklas Morberg