The three major components of account management are:
- The creation of a plan
- The tools to support the plan
In my previous post, I addressed developing a sales account management plan; now I’ll focus on sales account management tools.
Sales Account Management Tools
A major element of account management is focusing on relationships — building them, maintaining them, and growing them.
Are you contacting the right people?
Do you know all the stakeholders in the buying process?
How would you know?
This is where relationship maps become useful tools.
Much like an organizational chart, a relationship map provides a visual reference of the people within the customer organization and who reports to whom. The more detail you add, the more helpful the map. Some people color-code names on their maps, identifying decision makers, influencers, and gatekeepers. Others also identify allies, coaches, detractors, supporters of competitors, and even neutral stakeholders.
The value of a relationship map is that it shows you where you are potentially vulnerable in a customer’s organization. Consider this point of view: “My contacts are mostly at the director level, and maybe I get to see a vice president now and then. There are a lot of other influencers I should probably get to know so that I don’t lose this business for some unknown reason that I had nothing to do with.” The point is to look at the power structure and identify people you need to know or need to know more about in order to manage the relationship.
Too often, sales professionals will blame lost accounts on product failures or internal screw-ups. But if you have good relationships with your customers — and I mean good, solid ones — you can survive mistakes or below-standard service. You can still retain the business, and even grow it, if you handle the situation right, based on the goodwill you have already established. A strong relationship can preclude account loss because you have credibility and can be relied on to resolve the problem. As we all know, problems are inevitable in business; they happen. It’s what you do before and after that matters.
CRM and Online Account Management Tools
Beyond relationship tools, there are any number of sales account management tools available, many of which integrate into your CRM. Online tools make it easier to access and manage different aspects of the account, helping you to follow your plan. They automate tasks, make it easier to store and find information, allow you to view reports, and enable you to track progress. Dashboards and mobile access put all these features at your fingertips.
Social Networking Account Management Tools
According to the Richardson 2016 Selling Challenges Report, sales professionals identified several areas as “most difficult to deal with in terms of managing an account.”
- Finding ways to add relevant value for various stakeholders
- Balancing sales and relationship management
- Addressing problems and complaints
Among Richardson’s recommendations was for sales professionals to become savvy in leveraging social selling tools, like LinkedIn and Twitter, to not only connect, but to watch and listen to what potential prospects are saying and learn what is important to them. This also applies to existing customers. Social selling tools can help you identify changes underway with customers, new competitive threats, and relationships among customer contacts.
Whichever account management tools you use, the point is to help you better understand your customers and support your strategic account management plans.