Demanding client seeks supplier for delivery and continual improvement. Must have GSOH, be keen to impress, have all the vital stats in place and…and..
….Clients have every right to be demanding. They have either recently been wowed by the promises outlined throughout the pitch process or have your competitors knocking on their door promising to deliver even more wow than they are getting. Not to mention the amount of time and money they are investing into your business.
Creating a many-to-many relationship so that your businesses are fully intertwined is important but day to day the responsibility of ensuring the client is happy usually sits squarely with an Account Manager/Client Relationship Manager.
With such a vital part to play in retaining your hard fought clients what are the most important qualities of an Account Manager?
Having managed many over the last 15 years here are 7 key qualities I think are needed to make an outstanding Account Manager
- Accountability – they have to demonstrate ownership of the relationship and the budget. The greater the number of people involved on the supplier and client side the more important this is. Its great having Board Representatives, AD’s etc. to call on but as the constant in a complex relationship the Account Manager needs to be the conduit for all communication.
- Positive Communication – a good comms plan worked out with the client is a step towards making sure the client is receiving the contact that suits them and the needs of the service. Outside of these planned calls / meetings an Account Manager who can effectively communicate over email, and has the confidence and ability to pick up the phone and talk things through is worth their weight in gold.
- Internal Champion – The Account Manager is the client’s internal advocate. For everyone on the supplier side to be firing on all cylinders the Account Manager has to positively influence everyone internally so they understand and deliver the clients agenda.
- Personable – The relationship between a client and their Account Manager can be intense. It won’t all be plain sailing. You can tame arrogant Account Managers, give confidence to timid Account Managers and structure flighty Account Managers but you can’t inject personality. The more the relationship is based on trust the more the relationship will move to a personal one. You don’t have to have a team of windswept and interesting AM’s or need them to be best friends with their clients but social skills and empathy are critical.
- Organised – dull but true. A completer finisher means the client has confidence that processes (which they are on board with) are being followed. A clear audit trail of change control and a regularly maintained Work In Progress document pays dividends.
- Sales Skills – They don’t have to be able to sell sand to the Arabs but an Account Manager needs to understand the overall positioning of your company’s service offering. If they are immersed in the objectives of the client they will know when and how to marry your services with the client’s objectives and deliver organic growth.
- Strategic– Value+, Value+, Value+. The ability to take a step back from the day to day running of a service isn’t always easy. However, the AM who invests time to understand the challenges of the client and the client’s business will impress. The AM who structures this understanding into a clear strategic plan to support the client’s goals will see a clear return on the investment.
It’s a tough job with a lot of balls to juggle. If you do find an Account Manager with all these skills then be sure to make sure they know how valuable they are. They will be the difference between your business flourishing in the proactive or floundering in the reactive.