Strategic account management (also known as key account management) is a process at the organizational level that goes beyond sales to encompass building strategic, mutually beneficial relationships between the company and its key customers.
A strategic account is one where the ongoing relationship is critical to success of your firm and (just as importantly) critical to the success of your customer’s firm. … A strategic account manager must value building long-term relationships in the firm belief that they will eventually generate revenue.
The primary responsibility of a strategic account manager is to establish and maintain product relationships with large clients, both new and old. These accounts are often assigned directly to the strategic account manager from upper management. Supporting large clients requires the involvement of many other personnel.
When building relationships with clients as a key account manager, you should take a holistic approach, working to understand the ways in which specific relationships, functions, and business needs work together to define the key account relationship as a whole. By having a clear view of the big picture, you can more confidently take action to serve the needs of a client.
As the key account manager, you are the primary point of contact between your clients and your business. Key account managers need to listen to their clients’ needs and communicate those needs to others in their company, so they can be addressed in a timely and efficient manner, no matter who the key account contact is dealing with. By acting as an effective liaison for your key accounts, you can ensure a smoother and more effective customer experience.
In addition to taking a holistic approach to key account management, it is important to truly understand who your customers are. What is their business all about? What is the current state of their industry? What are their goals, and how can your company help them achieve those goals? The more you know about your key customers, the better you can tailor your service to suit their needs.
Rather than waiting for your clients to bring up issues or ask about certain product or service options, be proactive. Regularly check in with your key accounts to ensure they are satisfied with your product and/or service. Keep them abreast of any changes or updates pertaining to your company and your offerings. By actively communicating with your key accounts you will earn their trust and have a better sense for the health of your accounts.
When you say you will do something, be sure you follow through and do it. This is another important part of building trust between you and your clients. In this same vein, don’t make promises you can’t keep. Maintain realistic goals for yourself that correspond to the goals of your key accounts.
This means clearly establishing, for yourself and those working for you, a step-by-step approach to achieving each of your key account customers’ goals. This is important because it keeps everyone in your organization functioning on the same page and provides your key accounts with an outlined plan for success.
Stay as far ahead of the game as possible, predicting your clients’ needs and preparing yourself and your assistants to deal with those needs in a timely manner. There are few things more impressive than being able to forecast the needs of your key accounts ahead of time and setting solutions in motion before problems even arise.
What works for one client may not work for another. Be sure you are creating a customized plan of action for each client, understanding each client’s individual needs and expectations and adapting your strategies accordingly. This will allow for a closer working relationship between you and your key accounts.
Your goal, as key account manager, is to establish yourself as a valuable partner to your clients, someone who will work with them to develop strategies for achieving their goals. Take a collaborative approach to your key account relationships by frequently discussing what specifically you are doing for them and carefully listening to their feedback and directions.
This means communicating when things go wrong, as well as when things go right. Keep the lines of communication open always so that everyone stays on the same page as you move toward established goals.
As a key account manager, you are tasked with supporting and maintaining your company’s most important business relationships, which is no easy feat. By following these helpful tips, you will position yourself as a valuable strategic partner to your key accounts and ensure their ongoing satisfaction and success.
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