Account management is much like being in a relationship: it’s all about communication, trust, reading signals and knowing how to keep the other party interested (from my experience, this is easier said than done).
Continue reading for 6 do’s and don’ts which you can apply to account management, as well as to the relationships in your life.
1. Do: Build up a relationship
A pretty obvious one to start with but it’s the golden rule of account management.
You know their name, their job title, what they have responsibility for, great but what else do you know? When is their birthday? What activities do they like? What’s their shoe size?
Well ok, maybe you don’t need to know that last one unless you want to buy them a pair of pretty mean clogs, but you get my point.
Being an account manager is all about relationship building. Do it well enough and they’ll trust you enough to recommend products and services.
Remember that people buy from people! The more they trust you the more likely they are to do business with you.
You wouldn’t marry that drunken person who just proposed to you whilst you were walking down the street.
Likewise, you wouldn’t go into business with that ‘Nigerian prince’ based on the email he sent you about his multimillion dollar investment venture.
Building up a good relationship based on trust is vital.
Don’t: Give them what you want to give them
If I gave my wife a PlayStation 4 for her birthday, I’d be very happy, but I would also be kicked out of the house.
You wouldn’t give your partner something they don’t want, so don’t sell something to your client that isn’t going to benefit them.
Again it is all about trust, even if you have targets to hit – don’t give them something they don’t need.
2. Do: Set the boundaries between you
Are they the needy type? The type that needs to be left alone and will only contact you when they need something?
Or are they the type that wants a weekly call with you for a progress update?
It’s important to understand what type of account they are and then treat them accordingly.
If they want a call every Tuesday at 9am, why not schedule it in to your calendar so that you never forget?
Just like partners, not all are the same. Some stick around longer than others because they’re getting what they want from the relationship. Work out what your customers want (and don’t want) and you’ll keep more customers on side than I’ve kept girlfriends (which, in all honesty, won’t be that difficult).
Don’t: Turn them off!
I have personally sat in meetings where customers have been physically yawning and looking at their watches while their account manager goes through their ‘standard spiel’ about the organization.
If they aren’t a talker, you have to realize that they don’t want you to turn up at their office and talk for hours about what they should be doing.
Look for the signals that they’re giving you; if they’re not engaging, you’re probably turning them off, so you need to adapt to the situation.
3. Do: Remember Mistaeks happpen
You may be the best account manager in the world, whether it’s a customer getting invoiced incorrectly or not being able to hit a deadline that your client has requested, mistakes are going to happen, some of which probably aren’t even your fault.
But if you’ve built up a good relationship with a client, they’re more likely to forgive any mistake you or your colleagues make and allow you to move on from it.
Remember: you’re more likely to accept a mistake from a friend or a loved one rather than give a stranger a second chance if they have done something wrong.
Don’t: Bulls… Lie to them
Just like being in a relationship, honesty is the best policy as it builds up trust. Who knows when that little white lie may catch you out?
4. Do: Take on board what they say
The customer is always right, right?
Sometimes they really are and, as an account manager, you’re in the ideal position to share views from your account on your organization and how they’re being treated by it.
Is Barry in accounts not the fastest at processing payments? Is the support team about as helpful as a chocolate tea pot?
Take on board everything your customer shares with you and pass it on to the CEO. Who knows what other accounts feel the same about your company? You’re in an ideal position to share ways for continuous improvement in your company.
Don’t: Share all your secrets with them
Working within account management, remember which company pays your bills. Have you had a bad day at the office? Has Doris the receptionist upset you? Don’t like the company’s new font?
Keep it internal, no matter how well you know your accounts, always be professional and don’t give internal secrets away.
5. Do: Remember communication is key
An account manager spends a lot of time talking; email, phone, skype, face-to-face and events can all play a heavy part in the role.
Therefore there’s a need to be clear and precise in what you say and be aware of the tone and message you’re giving out.
Got an important message to say? Write it out and go over it aloud before you do; sometimes things don’t sound as good out loud as they did in your head (again, this one’s from experience).
Don’t: Forget you have only 1 mouth but 2 ears
Listen! A good listener will pick up on opportunities to cross-sell or see any issues arising from their client before they become a bigger problem.
Everything someone says is a clue to something. In a relationship, it’s rare that communication isn’t a representation of what’s going on in the other person’s head. Use these clues to your advantage.
6. Do: Remember time is precious
There was a time not so long ago when there was no such thing as a mobile phone, no Tinder, no Facebook.
Back then, if you met someone who took your fancy in the ‘discotheque’, you probably wrote down their number with a ‘pen’ on the back of your hand.
Later you’d call them on their ‘landline’ at a pre-arranged time, agree to meet up and hoped they turned up (no texting to check they are still coming).
More importantly, you’d hope they still looked the same at 7pm on a Tuesday as they did at 12pm on a Saturday night in that dark nightclub after your sixth pint of mild/glass of Babycham. And trust me, they were worrying about the same thing!
Anyway… in this modern age, everyone has less time to engage with each other and there are so many more distractions to contend with.
Make sure your top prospects, the ones you really want on board, who really get your heart racing when you think about meeting up with again, get good amounts of your time.
Don’t: Miss a sales opportunity
You may not have even looked at Dave in sales last year but he has been to the gym three times a week, had a wash and cut his hair: he’s worth looking at now.
Dave is just like that small account that has grown from a market stall to become one of the biggest supermarkets in the world. Even Walmart had to start somewhere.
What I’m saying is, current non-fit accounts could become a fit in the near future.
Remember at school, there were always a few people you weren’t attracted to that went on to be 10/10s in the following years?
Think the same way about the companies you’re working with.
Don’t burn any bridges and you may well get to cross them in the future.
Thanks for reading. Please let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments below.