10 ways to get the most out of your relationships with your customers

Strategic Account Management

Key Account Management is a complex task.  Doing it right required commitment and above all preparation.  Here we outline ways to get the most out of relationships with your customers

  1. Identify your key accounts – Ask your employees who your 10 most important customers are and you can be sure to receive countless, often contrasting replies. One leading chemical Mercuri International works with received 56 different answers from 10 senior managers to that same question.
  2. Consider which of your customers you could not afford to lose and what makes them invaluable to your company.
  3. Effective key account management starts at senior management level so avoid leaving strategic decisions to operational sales people as those that manage such relationships are often too close to their customers to assess their value objectively.
  4. Initiate high-level agreement on your selection criteria and make sure everyone at your company knows who the key accounts are and why. Top performing organizations consistently recognize their key accounts.
  5. Once you have identified and nominated a select number of top customers, don’t forget you’ll also need to manage all those “non-key” accounts. The long tail of smaller companies you work with cannot be ignored.
  6. This may even require a complete review of your distribution strategy for services and products. A leading US technology corporation started its key account programme with 200 nominated global ac-counts. They soon realised they had far too many and cut that number down to a handful before building it back up again when they had the resources in place. Reviews were done regularly to make sure key accounts were properly identified and communicated properly throughout the company.
  7. Plan effectively – When you plan a key account management process, it is important you include information about the culture and aims of your top customers.
  8. The process should also contain specific sales and business objectives for the coming year together with stage goals against which the account manager can gauge progress.
  9. A key account management plan is typically written early in the year. The sales director then signs it off and it is shelved until appraisal time. A dynamic plan, however, is reviewed and examined on a regular basis.
  10. Mercuri International advocates a 90-30 plan. Plan your actions for the next 90 days and decide what point you want to reach in your relationships with key accounts.

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