In smaller companies account management is critical not just to growing your business but also to sustaining it. Losing a few clients can have a dramatic impact, from staffing to operations. You can’t afford to shirk account management.
Yet many business owners focus more attention on getting new customers than keeping existing clients.
As I speak with executives, I don’t think they want to avoid account management. Business owners believe that if they provide outstanding service, those clients will be happy and want to continue working with them forever. They aren’t considering the possibility their clients need more than good service.
Is that how you think? If so, watch out.
The Value of Account Management to You
What you don’t realize is the decision-maker often is not the person who is using and monitoring your services on a day-to-day basis. If you don’t stay connected in some way, they lose sight of the value your company provides.
Good account management keeps you connected to the key contacts who influence, recommend and decide to continue using your solution. If you lose touch with those people, you are susceptible to a competitive takeover of your client – the same one you worked really, really hard to win in the first place.
The Account Management Goal
You absolutely want to deliver outstanding service – that’s your service delivery team’s or your consultants’ or your software developers’ goal. It’s not your account managers’ goal and, often, it’s why you miss the mark on account management. Got your attention?
Good account management has two goals.
- Client retention. You don’t want to give competitors any opportunity to get a foothold in your account. You want to be certain your client is satisfied, excited to continue working with you and fully aware of the value you’re providing.
- Account growth. Unless you sell only one solution – and we have some clients who do – there is additional opportunity in your customer base. Account management should be looking for those revenue uplift opportunities, expanding your footprint with each client.
The Account Management Grader
Use this 10-point checklist to grade how well your team is set up for account management. Count those activities you are already doing consistently for your clients.
- Each client has an assigned account manager who has business acumen and sales skills. If lacking technical acumen, there are resources to assist. The only exceptions are clients who are very small or who don’t purchase consistently from you.
- Each account manager is assigned a manageable number of accounts. They can’t carry so many they are unable to complete the activities that will retain, delight and grow their clients.
- Each account manager has revenue goals and performance expectations. These aren’t outstanding service goals but communication, revenue uplift and retention goals.
- All accounts are profiled. A simple A-B-C profiling is sufficient. Each tier should have different account management plans that align with the account managers’ performance expectations.
- There are defined relationship check-in times based on account A-B-C rating. These are different than business reviews in that they are focused on sustaining the relationship with the contact.
- There are scheduled business reviews. You may refer to them as a Periodic Business Review, Quarterly Review, or Executive Review where you present how well you are performing against your service agreement or statement of work.
- There is a Relationship Matrix for each account. You know the key players within the account at different management levels and across the company.
- There is a Technology Roadmap for each account. This defines the technology and services the account has in place, what they aren’t using that you could sell, what they could use and what they need to achieve their business vision. You aren’t trying to sell things they don’t need, but you do want to know where the opportunities are.
- You have documented each client’s 1-to-3-year business vision. For top accounts, you want to know their 5-year vision if they have one. Everything you do in the account should help them move toward their vision.
- You conduct an annual Net Promoter Score survey to get a quick pulse on how your key contacts feels your company is doing. You’ll also identify immediately which accounts believe there are issues to address before your competitors find them.
Score Your Account Management Grader
Let’s see how you did.
- If you counted 9 or more account-management activities, you are doing consistently well today. Congratulations! You’re doing the right things to avoid client churn and grow accounts.
- If you counted 7-8 activities, you have some areas to work on. Prioritize and begin quickly to avoid losing accounts and maximize account growth.
- If you counted less than 7 activities, it’s time to focus on account management. Your accounts are at risk for competitive takeover.
Use the Account Management Grader to guide the activities you should do to establish or strengthen your company’s account management right now.
Account management is the tool you use to ensure your clients recognize the value you provide, appreciate the relationship and want to continue working with you. Without it, even outstanding service won’t ensure you can retain and grow your client base.