So, how awful would it be if a strategic account ‘went silent’ and you later found out that a competitor displaced you?
How Effective Account Managers Develop and Elevate Their Relationship Levels in Accounts
Protect Your Assets
Strategic accounts are among your organization’s most valuable assets. Protecting them against competitors and growing business by creating and winning new opportunities, depend heavily on the breadth and quality of relationships in those accounts. Strategic accounts will always be at risk if your sales team is not aligned with the right people – the ones with the influence or authority to launch or sustain business initiatives.
Assess Organizational Power and Politics
It is common for account managers to get comfortable with a solitary relationship in an account, and often with a contact at an operational level. This is risky because buyers in accounts can leave and get replaced by others with different loyalties. To guard against this eventuality, your account managers must:
- Identify all of the key stakeholders in the account
- Assess each stakeholder’s power and influence
- Determine political standing with each
Your account managers must look beyond formal titles and report relationships, and also examine each contact’s informal authority and power to get things done. Good account managers generally have an intuitive understanding of an organization’s political landscape, but it’s best to not leave this to intuition alone. By establishing objective criteria to evaluate stakeholders, account managers will have a more accurate understanding of the people with whom they must align.
Gain Access to New Stakeholders
Once an account manager identifies a stakeholder with whom they want to build a relationship, the easiest way to gain access is to suggest ways to solve a problem with significant organizational impact. If they believe that seller will bring value, current contacts in an account are much more likely to introduce sellers to other stakeholders. By identifying the specific business issues or potential missed opportunities of different stakeholders, account managers can suggest potential solutions, leverage existing relationships, and gain access to new stakeholders more easily.
Nurture Existing Relationships
While approaching new stakeholders in an account, either directly or through an existing relationship, account managers must be sensitive to how that will be perceived. They must be careful to not risk alienating current contacts. Savvy account managers work to nurture existing contact relationships by collaborating actively with them, keeping them informed, and showing how they can bring value to other parts of the organization and thereby reflect well on existing contacts’ reputations.
Get Credit for Value
Nothing elevates an account relationship more than getting credit for value delivered. This means not only regularly measuring and reporting the business impact of solutions, but also in bringing new insight and business savvy to every conversation in the account. Account manager conversations must show an understanding of stakeholder challenges. They need to demonstrate situational fluency. Good account managers also research and calculate the cost of the status quo, as well as the value of potential benefits. Each conversation in an account needs to be value-based.
In modern account management, the best defense is a good offense. By using these proactive methods to develop and elevate the level of relationships, account managers will be much better able to protect strategic accounts against competitive encroachment.