We’re in day 2 of the conundrums series and this question was from Lissana in Romania
I have too many accounts to manage and not enough time.
This is a very controversial subject faced by a number of account managers and key account managers. Based on recent surveys of account management and key account management one of the biggest reason for poor results is lack of focus on the right accounts. I’m not going to jump into that debate today. Instead I want to focus on the reality for most account managers. You’re having to deal with more relationships than is perhaps sensible for you to manage.
Managing multiple accounts can create the feeling of needing to work on them all, even when you know the returns aren't great. Not all clients are created equal. The quicker you can evaluate the potential of each account the more effective you can be at managing your time.
The challenge many account managers have to deal with is the feeling of missed opportunity. Haven’t we all felt that way in our career in sales at some point? We’re trying to juggle every account, without really considering if the fit, opportunity and relationship is really there for you and the clients you manage.
Admittedly, I didn’t get the chance to dig deeper into the question of 'too many accounts' with Lissana. There were three things I shared with her that you may take something from. There were three things I shared with her that you may take something from. Some may be quite controversial.
There are never too many accounts just divided priorities
This may sound controversial. Just because those accounts are there it doesn’t mean you have to pour all your time into them. In fact over time you’ll notice you’ll spend more time with those clients that yield greater results for you. That makes perfect sense. The key thought here is not to find ways to ignore or get rid of accounts but reframe your thinking. Reframe your thinking to include three statements evaluating
- Who could you help most today?
- Who is actually ready for help today?
- Who might be open for help today?
If you keep an honest pipeline you’ll have some clarity on who those potential clients might be and why. Once you do, simple focus intentional effort on moving those clients that you could help most today and are ready for help. You may already know who those clients are. Create a list today of the accounts you know might fall into those three categories. Those you’re unsure of. Take time out and review their buying history, the relationships present and add a forth category ‘Who do I need to get to know today?’ The only thing left to do is take action, deepen those relationships and maximise the mutual benefit of working with them.
Be prepared to stand your ground and justify your choices
In an internal sales meeting, at a board or executive meeting you’ll have to stand and present on what’s working, what isn’t, and why particular accounts aren’t buying. Your managers, directors will respect you more if you have a thought out plan for 5 accounts than not much of a plan for 10 accounts. If you really want to best manage and serve the clients you’re working with. Put in the time to create a clear proposal for growth on those identified clients that will buy vs those you have not fully understood yet.
As someone managing accounts focus is critical. Let’s not kid ourselves. At times you will get distracted by the shadow of opportunity with an account rather than the picture of what it really is. Key action to begin with is to apply a simply set of questions for all account opportunities.
- What emotional commitments do you have from your client to buy? (Have they agreed it’s the right solution and have demonstrated a committed and proactive desire to take action?)
- What practical commitments do I have from them? (Do they have the processes in place, people or purchase orders if needed etc…)
- How many steps or commitments are needed to get to an agreed deal?
- Within these steps or commitments how much work and influence am I asking from my client?
- Where can I or my company share the risk or load of action to move things forward?
You may not have asked these questions before. The key here is the evaluation of commitments and risk. If you’re asking for more than 5-6 things from your client before closing an opportunity you’re likely to see big delays. This process will show you whether or not a client is actually ready to move. Knowing this upfront. You can chunk connecting commitments together to get smaller commitments done faster and improve your pipeline accuracy.
Look for creative ways to manage low level relationships
Before you take point two and run with it I have to ask the question: What else have you considered to best manage the accounts you have? This is where a great CRM can be a real asset. You can set automated email to add value to your client, book appointments or service with you. If that isn’t the reality for you here is just one approach I've used successfully to nurture low level relationships without huge demands on my time.
In point one you should now have a clearer view of the accounts with a simplistic view of where you can help them today and who is willing to receive help. Based on those categories work with your marketing team or sales manager to create specific value messages for each.
For those relationships that may not have high opportunity but you still want to maintain a relationship with. Set aside every two weeks to send something of value. Message one should be something actionable they can use around maximising your service or product. Message two should be about them and arrange a specific call to get to know them.
Having an appointment booing app will make this easier. You may need to leave time for changing customer behaviour if you haven’t used one before. But scheduling in a 30 min call a month is the least you should be doing.
Note: When you send your message be open and transparent and say you would like to work more with them but would like to get to know them and their business better. I’ve seen this work powerfully for others. Be persistent and commit to doing it for at least 6 months. Overtime you’ll know if they’re really not interested or you’ll discover where you can actually help to move them to an account you’d want to invest time with. This also ensures you don’t make prejudgements of an account too early.
Each of these steps is there to give you clarity. This is arguably the most powerful lever to success in successfully managing accounts. There is no tactic, strategy or level of action you can take that will give you recurring acts of success without clarity. Remember every time you’re in front of customer you’re in the greatest competitive advantage to deepen trust, grow your influence, protect your relationship and uncover future ways to maximise future value together.
If you’d like to connect with me Join over 100 account management and key account management professionals get connected at www.jermaineedwards.com.
Jermaine Edwards - your customer growth guide