Many don’t realize this, but key account managers are the often-unsung heroes in today’s business landscape. While they don’t always get the credit the sales team gets for winning new accounts, they are responsible for maintaining the customer relationships that are crucial to the long-term success of a business
Here are five ways account managers can ensure success in today’s increasingly-competitive sales arena.
Solution No. 1 – Focus
“If you do not know where you are going, you will probably end up there!” (David Binks, 1998)
The most important strategy for any successful key account manager is to stay focused!
What this means is that he or she should be disciplined in eliminating any unnecessary “digital disruptive noise” and focus on the sale growth objectives of the account and diligently follow through on the tactical actions required to achieve these.
There are many positively-intentioned people out there that are more than ready to have a jolly good old chat about the this and the that – all this time can corrupt the professional account managers’ train of thought and upset the rhythm of his or her strategic and tactical actions.
These are like evil spirits in disguise eager to distract the ‘weak-willed account manager from his or her work. They need purging daily to stay focused on the job at hand. This means spending some dedicated time each week on staying on course thinking about where to deploy the most appropriate company resources – people and others, and when that will contribute towards the delivery of the strategic goals of the account.
Solution No. 2 – Work the Right Relationships First
Now I’m sure this wouldn’t happen in your business, but there are some people out there – in your key account, who often ‘pretend’ that they are the ones that you need to work with to help you achieve your sales order growth goals but are often just human vacuum cleaners – continually sucking you for valuable information.
They will have you willingly running around investing your precious selling time in doing little errands for them such as gathering information, report writing or even asking you to construct and present complicated and time – consuming quotes and proposals only to ‘shop’ all your good ideas and prices to the incumbent competitor supplier
So, it is absolutely essential that you identify them early and navigate your way around these people to the right ‘players. KONA knows how to do this and can help you accelerate your way through your key account organisation chart to find the right players and position yourself effectively to win!
Solution No. 3 – Validate Your Data!
You cannot build a substantial house on shifting sand.
You cannot develop a sound key account growth strategy on fiction.
“Garbage in, garbage out.” Everyone has heard this phrase before yet how many account managers are strong enough to build his or her account growth strategy and plans to validate data?
Why we say ‘strong’ here is because too often when coaching key account managers’ on their account plans we hear wishy-washy responses like:
“I think he is the key player; they really like our company.”
“…they said that they might trial our product soon.”
“I was told by one of their reps that we look like we’re in the box seat for their new product line.”
“I’m pretty sure that the guy who is going to make the decision for this multimillion-dollar project is the Purchasing Officer.”
We’ve been around too long to accept these statements as fact, for example, you cannot tell me that the purchasing manager knows about the technical merits of the account managers’ offer or the full risk profile.
At best they are just for negotiation purposes or price honesty and are not responsible for ensuring the company’s project is delivered in full and on time. However, these are the type of phrases that persist from the mouths of these very expensive key account managers, when coaching them on how to penetrate, grow or win large orders from their accounts.
So, to keep them honest when these sort of phrases come out of the account managers mouths to validate the information, we tack on some of these key coaching questions:
“How do you know this…?”
“Who said this? or, what were the words the customer actually said?”
“What evidence do you have that this is a fact?”
…and so on.
Get the picture? Well, you will when you keep your account managers honest.
Solution No. 4 – Recruit Correctly and Up Skill Your Account Managers
Too often we see some nice guys struggling to make any headway in their key accounts. Either they struggle to navigate their way through the customer organisation to find the key players, or if they do, they aren’t persuasive enough to move them forward in favour of their organisation. The cost of this is static or weak account growth.
The solution to ensuring that your key account manager accelerates and leverage sales growth in their accounts is to make sure they have the necessary skills to effectively:
– Build and maintain relationships – across buyer and seller
On top of that, they must have the right DISC behavioural profile to cover all the usual challenges a key account manager must master to be effective.