How to create an effective account management strategy

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 13 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Learning the techniques for professional customer relationship management is important for every business. Your ability to develop workable strategies to manage your clients and support their interests can increase their long-term commitment to the business. If you want to build a successful career, especially in a client-facing business, understanding good practices in strategic account management (SAM) can be very useful. In this article, we explain what an account management strategy is, how to create one, the importance of having an effective one and the skills required for account management.

What is an account management strategy?

An account management strategy is an intentional process for building valuable, long-term relationships with clients. This means that a business identifies the requirements of its clients using in-depth research and interviews and offers valuable services or products to attend to these clients' requirements. These strategies are most effective when clients receive personal recommendations or personalised messages directly from the account manager. An effective strategy focused on growth, trust, valuable services and profitability can naturally improve client retention and increase the company's sales.

Read more: What is key account management? (Definition, benefits and tips)

How to implement strategic account management

Below are some steps you can take to help you develop a successful account management strategy:

1. Select a team of account managers

The first step for strategic account management is to select a team of professional salespeople as account managers. The aim is to build professional yet simple relationships with clients. The idea is to sell the vision to them, determine feasible strategies and work towards implementing them. Remembering that a variety of different roles and strategies could contribute to the goal's success, it's important for account managers to possess various skills and abilities including communication, analytical thinking, attention to detail, approachability, patience, intuition and negotiation.

2. Research and identify key accounts

Giving every client an account manager may be challenging, especially when the account management team is quite small. This means it's invaluable to research and identify key accounts that can serve as examples to test your management strategy. When selecting accounts, you can decide on a set of criteria that can propel your goals within the business.

These criteria could include a channel for partnership with the prospective client and their geographical location, product requirement, existing relationship, business culture, revenue potential, solvency and client requirements. The company's board members or senior management team may be the best people to take part in the selection process because of their in-depth knowledge of their company's long-term visions, goals and objectives.

3. Research and learn about your clients

After successfully identifying key accounts, getting familiar with each client's portfolio or organisation's values is important for providing better services. Researching and learning who your clients are can improve the way you connect with them. For example, studying their company mission can help you suggest ideas, identify strategies and offer solutions to meet these goals. Learning about their products and services can also help you establish a line of communication. This helps you to sustain knowledgeable conversations and deliver personalised recommendations or solutions to clients.

Understanding your client's target market can also be an excellent way to learn about their interests and areas of specialisation. You can leverage opportunities to present better ideas and helpful ways to reach the target audience. Significantly, you can leverage the value of the company you work within to propose beneficial connections between a client company and management to take the relationship further. It's advantageous to become familiar with the competitors, market trends and dynamics of the industry that affect your client. This can build a high level of trust and honesty between you and your client.

Related: What is account management and how to be successful at it

4. Narrow down personalised recommendations

By leveraging information about your client's company, you can narrow down your recommendations and personal plans to fit your client's requirements. You can start by focusing on a few target areas you wish to address or propose to your client. This way, you can avoid overwhelming them with too much information. You can help your client set realistic long-term goals. Your active involvement in their long-term goals spells commitment, which can promote loyalty.

Recommend strategic partnerships to your client that can help them increase their network, reach a wider customer base and improve the general sales profit of their company. Respond to your client's proposals as soon as possible, communicating in alternative ways and providing explanations when you cannot meet in person. By thinking creatively and analysing current trends you can recommend your company's products or services to fit requirements when they arise. This can help both parties benefit from the management strategy.

Related: 11 ways to increase organic growth in business (with tips)

5. Discuss and agree on a communication schedule

Communication is key to the implementation of the management strategy. Once you've completed all the research and assessment, establish communication with your key clients. You can ask them when it would be convenient to communicate with them and their preferred mode of contact, whether by email, phone calls, virtual appointments or physical meetings.

You may communicate verbally or in writing, but be sure to address the clients' problems and offer solutions. You can share your personal contact details if necessary. This means you can have an open line for communication so that it's always easy for them to reach you. You can also schedule appointments or meetings to keep clients updated on recent events. This allows them to make informed decisions, take advantage of opportunities, ask questions and find out if any changes are required.

6. Keep track of progress

Keeping track of your management strategy can help you identify areas of strength and weakness. You can assess how close you are to meeting your long-term goals and how well you're executing your short-term goals. This monitors your performance, but it also monitors your key clients' accounts and highlights whether they were beneficial to the growth of the company. You can also determine client retention on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. In addition, this makes tracking sales, client referrals and targets easy, potentially making it a win for both the company and the client.

Related: Account management vs. sales (their roles and differences)

Importance of account management strategies

Here are some benefits of implementing a management strategy:

  • Creates referral opportunities: The role of account management strategies may not be directly to seek new clients, but they can create leverage for the company to gain new clients. Satisfied clients may recommend the company to other prospective clients because of its trusted services.

  • Generates opportunities for growth: Strategies for account management aim to develop the long-term nature of relationships as this helps to strengthen the relationship between clients and the company. As a result, larger clients can trust the company to handle their accounts, and this can generate constant revenue.

  • Guarantees customer satisfaction: Following in-depth research and assessment of your clients, you can adapt your services and products to meet their requirements. For instance, you can deliver promptly, offer solutions and improve customer experience, thereby increasing the trust, loyalty and satisfaction of clients.

  • Improve sales resources: Strategic account management concentrates on key accounts, meaning you can allocate sales to these accounts to generate increased profits or revenue. This strategy allows a company to channel its resources and focus on clients that match the company's goals.

Related: Account manager job profile: necessary skills and education

Skills required for account management

Here are some skills that account managers require to execute their strategy:

Organisation and task-management

The primary duties of an account manager are to manage clients' accounts, organise meetings and schedule appointments when necessary. Excellent organisational skills are key for an account manager as they can help you take responsibility. They also help you discover which areas to improve and where to channel resources to strengthen weaker areas.

Related: What is strategy execution? (With steps, tips and benefits)

Interpersonal skills

Account managers often interact with clients and other employees. For effective management strategies, it's helpful for you to possess interpersonal skills, such as active listening, empathy and emotional intelligence. Using these skills, you can effectively provide services to clients, make yourself trustworthy and help clients overcome any concerns.

Negotiation

While working with clients, there may be divergent opinions concerning specific tasks. Negotiation skills help you to convince your clients of the best service to choose. The aim is to use negotiation skills to make profitable sales for both parties.

Read more: 10 key account manager skills for CVs (with job definition)

Leadership

A leader is accountable, knows how to manage resources and takes responsibility for every action. Therefore, an account manager provides clear direction to any department involved in effecting management strategy. They also take responsibility for any challenge that may arise and are confident about making decisions.

Communication

Account managers communicate with clients, both verbally and in writing. Their goal is to establish productive relationships with clients. This requires an account manager to understand and respond to clients in a timely, effective manner.

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