Companies of all sizes and shapes experience customer churn. Research by Statista confirms that one in four customers leave their product or service provider due to poor customer service.
No organization wants to leave money on the table. Adopting a strategic account management program can help companies battle average churn rates of 25% that plague companies across industries.
What is account management?
Account management is an organized process that engages and nurtures customer relationships to accomplish organizational and customer goals.
In strategic account management, companies focus on delivering consistent value to clients in innovative ways that build trust and grow business, such as:
- Offering continued product or service training
- Having on-demand question and answer sessions
- Delivering an exceptional level of customer service
- Creating consistent value-adds to the existing product or service to delight customers
What are the key responsibilities of strategic account managers?
Account managers use their consultative skills to answer client questions, solve their problems, and act as continued business partners.
Irrespective of the client industry, all account managers have certain common responsibilities:
- Engage and nurture long-term relationships with customers
- Review customer requirements and suggest appropriate improvements such as relevant products, services, and upgrades that can meet customers’ current or future needs
- Identify and promote cross-sell and upsell opportunities to achieve business goals
- Monitor customer demand, usage numbers, and overall account metrics
Additionally, account managers highlight their company’s value proposition to their clients to create and sustain continued business relationships.
How does managing accounts vary by industry?
Though the fundamentals of strategic account management remain the same across industries, their goals may vary.
Different factors have an impact on the account management process and goals, such as:
- The size and nature of client companies
- Market dynamics of the industry in which the client company operates
- Your company’s B2B sales process, competitive advantage, and selling approach
Let’s review this with an example.
SaaS companies: Many SaaS companies follow a business-to-business (B2B) sales model that supports client companies to continue and renew their subscriptions. Promoting software upgrades and offering better value in existing subscription plans are a few steps SaaS companies take to retain their customers in the long term.
Medical equipment companies: In medical equipment companies, the sale of medical devices is the first step to building a relationship with a client organization. Providing exceptional customer support, offering innovative services, and delivering value in annual maintenance contracts is crucial to cementing the relationship with their healthcare clients.
Common challenges in account management
Strategic account management is a delicate balancing act. Apart from keeping their C-suite happy, account managers must ensure that their clients are satisfied.
Even as they are busy building great customer relationships, they tend to face certain challenges:
- Being reactive: Account managers may get busy dealing with operational matters and miss talking strategy with their customers. If they behave in a reactive manner, they run the risk of missing value-adding opportunities.
- Not mitigating risks early: Unpredictable client surprises can spring up, leaving you to wonder what went wrong. Not addressing client feedback early can prove costly if the client ends the relationship.
- Relying too much on gut instinct: Yes, gut instincts work. However, key account management processes and consistent workflows are essential to scale and standardize your approach and get the desired results.
- Thinking like a vendor: Stop thinking like a vendor. Vendors can be easy to replace. Your client will find someone faster, cheaper, or better than your company. Instead, build real engagement with your clients and help them achieve their goals by being a strategic business partner.
Account management best practices
Elevate account management by using advanced customer improvement techniques to help you get repeat business, create deeper business relationships, and accomplish client goals.
Embrace clarity in roles
Demarcate lines between customer success, account management, and sales. Clarify what account managers need to do to reduce confusion, increase internal efficiencies, and lower churn rates.
Assess customers needs
Provide the account management software and tools that can help teams organize customer information and understand what they want.
Availability of sales information, customer contacts, and industry news can help account managers stay updated about their clients’ goals and pain points.
Recommend suitable upsell and cross-sell opportunities if it adds value to their client’s business. Knowing their needs and understanding their end goals can help account managers be their client’s strategic business partners.
Improve cross-functional collaboration
In many smaller companies, the same team often handles sales and account management responsibilities. However, mid-sized and large enterprises tend to have dedicated teams for account management.
Regular communication with the sales team can help you achieve your goals. Make sure to ask the right questions in your interactions with the sales team, such as:
- Was the customer interested in any specific product or service feature?
- What was the final product or service purchased by the customer?
- Were any particular requests made by the customer?
Focus on account metrics
Make decisions based on customer account information. Monitor client metrics to see their progress and use metrics to generate future forecasts and actionable insights.
Track account health using key performance indicators (KPIs) such as customer churn rate, customer satisfaction score, and retention rate.
Put customer relationship management (CRM) into action
Deploying the right account management tools can be a lifesaver. Integrate your account management tool with CRM to organize customer contacts, review deal values, and have real-time conversations with internal teams.
Make your CRM a centralized hub to store client industry information, track campaigns, and benchmark your competitor’s products and services. Adopting a longer-term mindset and having the customer’s best interests at heart will also help.
Top tips for strategic account management planning
Research from Gartner shows that 28% of account managers meet their account growth targets.
Designing and implementing an effective account management plan is essential to generate continued business from your most valuable customers. Consider these tips to get started:
- Keep your plan updated: Keep updating your plan to cater to evolving customer needs, market demands, business goals, and competitor products.
- Embed account planning in CRM: Integrating account management into your CRM makes client data accessible to the team, increases user adoption, and simplifies account management.
- Boost collaboration: To develop a robust account management strategy, collaborate with all the internal teams that interface with the clients. You can get valuable customer intelligence and commercial inputs from the sales, marketing, product, and research and development (R&D) teams.
- Connect plans to business goals: Encourage account teams to connect their long-term plans to business goals. Embed opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell into the account management plans to grow business revenues, retain customers, and strengthen relationships.
Recommended account management tools
When your team has the right account management tools to work with, they can focus on building and nurturing great customer relationships.
Many account management tools exist, but it’s important to find the one that perfectly fits your team and organization’s needs.
Good account management software should help you design and implement a successful account management strategy that:
- Retains existing customers and obtains continued business
- Nurtures and deepens customer relationships and increases brand loyalty
- Enables you to review customer needs and understand how to help them
- Makes the best use of internal resources to achieve mutually beneficial goals
- Provides strategic data that lets you make future sales forecasts and business decisions
Features to look for in account management software
Before zeroing in on your ideal account management software, make sure it has these key features:
- The ability to store, organize, sort, and filter customer information by deal size, due dates, account manager, priority, or scope of work
- A robust mobile application that supports account management teams on the go
- Gives your account management team complete visibility of customer projects by seamlessly integrating with an industry-leading CRM, such as Salesforce
- Increases real-time communication through easy integrations with chat and messaging apps such as Slack or Microsoft Teams
- A unified hub to store all client information, files, and related documents so that teams don’t waste time searching for the latest files
Why use Wrike for enterprise account management?
Strategic account management is all about improving the client experience. With many moving parts, key information and actionable insights risk slipping through the cracks. Using the best account management software can support you and keep both your CEO and customers happy.
Use Wrike to minimize routine activities and delight customers with customized reports and on-time service deliveries that keep them coming back. Grow your business with simple time tracking, shared team calendars, and personalized workflows that increase team efficiency.
Start a free Wrike trial to review product usage, build deeper client relationships, and successfully execute your account management strategies.