I’ve worked with a large number of account managers over the years, both as a client, and as a manager leading various account management teams across different organisations and countries. During this time I’ve seen a lot of different account management styles, some good, some not so. However by far the account managers who’ve stood out as not just good, but great, all have one specific skill that sets them apart.
They’re really good at listening.
And I mean really actively listening.
What do I mean by active listening? We’ve all done the opposite; we’re listening to someone but we’re not really because we’re thinking about the next thing we want to say, or when the other person will stop long enough so we can talk about what was on our agenda.
And that’s fine to a point, we all have something to say, however when you’re with a client, and they’re talking, they’re very likely going to tell you something really interesting about their business that you might not have known before. They may tell you what’s going well, what’s not and where they need help. What direction the company is taking, or changes they’re making. The more you know and understand about your client’s business and goals, the more chance you’ll see an opportunity to assist; a product or service that you have that will fix their issue, or help them achieve their goals.
A truly great account manager knows their client, and their client’s business, as if they worked there too. And the client knows they know!
At the end of the day, great account managers deliver – they deliver solutions to their clients because they know what solutions to deliver. Of course all account managers have KPIs to meet; customer retention, revenue, profitability etc, and this all ties in beautifully when the account manager is actively looking at how their organisation can help their clients.
Happy customers = customer retention.
Products or services that meet the client’s needs = revenue and profitability.
A strong account management relationship is built on trust. The account manager listens and learns about the client’s business and delivers products and services that fit those needs. Try selling your latest product that has an English to French translator, when your client is targeting a new market in Japan, and you’re highlighting you don’t understand them. Tell them that you’ve launched a product that now handles double-byte characters, and you’re more likely to get their attention.
The more the client can see you truly understand them, the more they will share about their business and the stronger the relationship. It has to be a genuine interest though. This will only be a successful, long term business relationship if integrity and honesty are paramount. Sell them a dud, something that you don’t truly believe will help them, and you’ve killed the relationship for good.
Let the customer do most of the talking, they’re the ones paying the money, and they’re the ones with the problem that needs solving that you need to understand so that your company can fix it. Ask questions to delve deeper into what they need, and really listen to the answers they give before moving to the next topic.
An account manager is the advocate for the client back into their own organisation, putting forward their client’s needs to the teams that can build the solution.
A great account manager is good for business every way you look at it.
Over to you: what other traits have you observed in great account managers?