The 7 Essentials of Keeping your Key Accounts

In a tough market your current key accounts are like gold dust… and never forget that your key accounts are your competitor’s key prospects!  So what’s important in looking after them?

1. Work like you were on their payroll not yours
If you are doing your job 100% then your customers should feel like you are representing their interests more than your own company’s (in reality you are representing both equally).

2. Know about your customers’ customers
How can you be a real business partner if you don’t know about the business they are in?  Learn about their competitors and other suppliers.  Read the press… Go to the websites… Study the blogs… Look at the annual accounts and directors’ reports… Become an expert in your customers’ business and you will often find you know more than most of their employees!

3. Innovate and be seen to contribute to competitive advantage
It is important to be seen as a business which moves ahead and makes progress – even if those innovations are not directly relevant to each customer.  If their strategy is low price/high volume then help them to save cost.  If they are a premium price supplier help them to justify that position by better quality.  If they are niche strategists help them to seem different.

4. The more business they give you the more you give them in return
The worst crime is to take them and their business for granted.  Give them more service, more value added and maybe even better prices – before they ask for them all.  Even loyal clients can be very fickle and emotionally swayed.  Make sure they not only feel good but also can justify continuing to give you their business – they may be challenged by procurement, top management or even by your competitors.

5. Maximum friends – minimum enemies!
Of course it’s a lot better if everyone likes you as well as knows you – and that means everyone you come in contact with regardless of their level or apparent importance.  Not everyone can love everyone else in any walk of life but always try to adapt your behaviour to the style of the person that you are dealing with – if they are fast paced and outgoing, reflect this – if they are steady paced and quieter, then reflect this.  It’s up to you to adapt!  Never allow any disagreement or conflict to remain open.  Do you know why you need everyone to feel positive about you?  Because you and your company are only human and therefore will make mistakes from time to time.  Friends help you solve problems.  Enemies love to spread the bad news around!

6. Keep in touch with organisational changes
People come and go and get reorganised.  Strategies and priorities change.  Change is a threat to you if you are a current supplier – so stay close to all your client contacts so that you learn about it fast.  Change is an opportunity for a new supplier – so make sure that you behave like a new supplier even if you are the old one!

7. Build your contact base
Your success will usually depend on a wide range of people – users, authorisers, influencers, budget holders, procurement agents, consultants etc.  How many of them do you know personally?  How many do you keep in regular touch with?  Every gap in your contact base is a threat to you and an opportunity for someone else.

Keep developing…

Key account management should really be called “key account development”.  You’re not aiming just to manage the business you’re aiming to build it.  The best way to be a top key account developer is to develop your business by helping your customers’ to develop theirs!