The single most important element of account management and one of the most critical sales skills is proactivity. This seems rather obvious. Yet, unfortunately, far too many farmers or account managers leave too much to reaction or reactivity.
The great advantage to account management is your access to data. You should know almost everything there is to know about the account, what the culture is, what’s been budgeted, who the decision makers are, who the competition is, what the pitfalls are, what the organizational strategy is, and more. At the very least, good account managers should know all the facts.
Unlike hunting, account managers start with a tremendous amount of data. They should have a solid understanding of where the account can go and what it’s going to take to get there. Therefore, the job of an account manager is to take all that data and information and establish a proactive cadence. Very little should be “reactive.”
Proactive means addressing these issues upfront:
Proactive account management starts with a revenue commitment from the customer. It’s not a binding commit, but rather an agreement on their expected spend with you for that year. By getting this early, you can influence the number ahead of time, rather than after the fact.
A proactive, mutually agreed upon cadence should be in place with all meetings scheduled and accepted by all parties. I’ve discussed the importance of an account cadence before, you can read about it here and download the cadence template. Having the cadence and the participants secured at the beginning of the year minimizes the difficulty of getting “in front of” key people when crisis arises or when access is necessary. A good cadence guarantees access.
New opportunities or new initiatives should be identified early. Gaining insight into the accounts upcoming strategic initiatives is critical. Ask the account to share their key initiatives for the year. Identify “special” projects. Determine if the account has changed key metrics. Are they measuring anything new? Has the definition of success changed? Get your customer to share with you upfront variances from the previous year, new commitments, new directions and new strategies, all of which can be new opportunities for you.
Feedback and Expectations:
Feedback, by definition, is reactive. But in this sense, combined with customer expectations, it can be very proactive. Before the year starts, ask the customer for feedback from the previous year and what they expect from you and your organization looking forward into the upcoming year. Have a clear understanding of what EXACTLY your customer wants from you. Take a, start doing, stop doing and keep doing approach. Be very clear in how you are going to be measured by the account. Know ahead of time what the success measures are going to be and how they are going to be evaluated. Don’t wait to find out how your customer is going to measure you. Know it up front.
Once you know how you are going to be measured by the customer. Once you know how the customer or account is going to evaluate you, create a dashboard or evaluation process. Establish an evaluation process that provides feedback against the success measurements bi-annually if not quarterly. Build the evaluation process into your cadence. Create a scoring system that allows you to be clearly evaluated and allows for course corrections quickly, if need be.
The key is to get ahead of your clients expectations. Managing proactively means being prescriptive in identifying the expectations of your account(s) as early as possible.
Being proactive is always a killer strategy. It puts you ahead in the game. Being proactive in account management however, is a necessity. Farmed accounts are meant to be managed proactively. Too much information is available at the outset NOT to manage them proactively. Get out in front of your existing accounts. Manage them proactively. It’s almost impossible to increase sales with out it.