How to be a better key account manager
Do you want some quick wins to improve your key account management performance? Here are five quick tips that won't suck up a lot of time and will really help you understand where to add value. That's what key account management is about after all.
Block a couple of hours in your diary for some thinking time and let's do this.
- Schedule your QBR's: Get your review meetings in the diary for the year. If you have a deadline, you’ll get it done.
- Create a contact plan: Create a plan to engage with ALL your clients, not just your favourites or those that make the most noise.
- Create a capture plan: Which clients' contracts expire in the next 12 months and how will you get them to renew?
- Focus on the big picture: Don’t do other people’s work for them. Stay focused on creating and delivering value. As Paul Sloane said “Only do what only you can do.”
- Review your key account plans quarterly: what went well, what didn't go so well and why. If you don't do account plans, start.
Key account management tips for success
1. Schedule your quarterly business reviews
Most key account managers schedule their quarterly business reviews (QBRs) only weeks (or days) before they are due. Don't be most account managers.
Invite your client to recurring meetings for your business reviews for the required frequency (usually 3 months). Don't worry about it's so far in advance. You can always add guests and change the date, time or duration later.
The point is if it is in the diary, it gets done. Working to a deadline ensures you deliver on your commitments, advances your accounts plans and earns you trust and credibility with your clients.
Your review meeting is also less likely to get moved or cancelled to. That's because you're first in the diary. Possibly even the only one in the diary. So when others invite your client to a meeting, they'll work around the meetings they've already accepted (yours!)
Now don't get me wrong, long deadlines probably won't make you more organised. In a recent study by the Journal of Customer Research, they concluded that we procrastinate when we think the task is more difficult. Which is why we spend all day in our inbox instead of tackling bigger projects.
But still, sooner or later, as the deadline looms, you'll get it together. You always do!
2. Create a contact plan
Do you love all your clients the same or have you got favourites?
You totally have favourites, right? I know, I sure do!
Between the clients we like, and the clients who make the most noise (they're not always the same) - it can be easy to overlook some. Don't fall into the trap of thinking "no news is good news", so, , create a contact plan to help you engage more regularly with all your clients.
Run a report in your CRM or export your calendar from Outlook and compare that to your client contacts. How many where you in touch with and how often? What kind of conversations were they? Strategic, tactical, issue resolution?
Ask yourself who's missing and who did I neglect.
How can I distribute my time more fairly so I give attention to all my clients, even those that don't ask for it.
3. Create a capture plan
You don't want to be the last to know when a client's contract is up for renewal, trust me. Like when an RFP lands on your desk. By that stage they've already talking to other vendors and thinking about their future.
A future without you in it.
Your goal is bid avoidance. Secure your clients on new contracts before they go to market. Before they wonder if there's something bigger and better out there.
Find out which of your clients contracts are up for renewal in the next 12 months. Then read the terms and conditions of their contracts. Look for items related to the contract termination, like:
- Early termination fees
- Is the contract fixed term or does it auto-renew
- Are there options to extend the agreement?
- Termination notice period
Next, look for other commitments, like service levels and key performance indicators. How are you doing? Are you smashing them, on track or failing?
If performance has slipped, put a plan in place to fix things. Be sure you deliver on your commitments long before you begin a conversation about contracts.
Finally, take a look at their pricing structure. Are they paying too much, not enough or the right amount for your services? Things change and clients on long-term contracts are frequently on old pricing that's no longer competitive.
Once you understand the commercial situation, you can get deeper into designing the strategy to win, creating the capture plan, and engaging with your client on what it would take to renew their business.
But for now a simple activity like this will give you a massive head start in anticipating risk and managing your client relationships.
4. Focus on the big picture
This account management tip is perhaps the most important. Because if you're like every account manager I've ever met, you've been doing other people's work for them.
Departments love to hide behind their account managers. You have the responsibility of managing the client relationship but that doesn't mean you own every moving part.
If you took on extra work out of guilt, or because you couldn't say no to your client or because it was easy, so why not, then please STOP.
If you took on extra work because you were forced to or were put into a compromising position where you had no choice but to say yes, then please STOP.
These situations will come up time and time again. Blink, and you'll find yourself so deep in the reeds, so deep in the trenches, that you never surface.
So start as you mean to continue this year. When you're asked to do something you know is not your responsibility, then if you can say no, say it.
If you can't say no, charge for it or find a solution so that the right person does it next time.
Respect your time, respect the value that you bring and make sure you're focused very strategically on your clients. Account managers should create and deliver value.
Stay focused on the big picture because that's what your clients' expect from account management.
5. Review your account plans
Review your strategic account plans every quarter. Get them all out on the table, see how well you did, where you are, what you accomplished, and where you failed.
If you don't have account plans, make a commitment to create them for your clients. Start small with this one-page account plan template, or go big with this ultimate guide to strategic account planning.
It's important to be realistic about why you didn't get to where you needed to be:
- Was it too complex?
- Did you have the right support (from the client or within your organisation).
- Did you underestimate the resources involved?
- Were the goals quantified or vague?
- Was the objective meaningful enough to justify the time and energy?
- Where your deadlines realistic?
It's equally important to celebrate success. If you've met (or even exceeded) your plans then make absolutely sure your client knows about it.
Create a one page slide or an email calling out your achievements. Remind them of the objective and the impact it's made and give credit where it's due (people love recognition).
Make it a habit share good news.
If you invest just a little time now with these five key account management tips you will get a big head start on your goals, understand what you need to achieve and make an impact.