Account management is key to success, especially for SaaS vendors. But what is it? And how can you ensure your Account Managers are enabling your business to succeed?
What is strategic account management?
Account management refers to the strategic approach businesses take to managing and nurturing relationships with key business clients.
This involves identifying key players and communicating regularly to build up loyalty, developing customized solutions and identifying customers' particular needs. Strategic account management aims to maximize value for both the business and the customer.
For the former, this could look like increased revenue growth or successfully upselling on a renewal, while for the latter, it could mean the release of a feature that they’ve anticipated. Either way, strong account management should lead to the desired outcome being reached for both parties.
Account Manager vs Customer Success Manager
There is some confusion as to where the role of the Account Manager should sit. The truth is that it depends on the structure of your business and how you choose to define the role.
Broadly speaking, the Customer Success Manager role and Account Manager (AM) role are very similar. Both focus on building a long-term relationship and ensuring customers renew their contracts for another year.
That said, in account management, there is far greater emphasis on generating revenue and maximising account growth. This is the strategic element of the role - creating and developing account plans that can achieve this goal.
Account Manager vs Account Executive
Although these two roles have similar names, they are not the same. Account Executives (AE) are primarily responsible for working with prospective buyers and helping them through the sales cycle to closing the deal.
In contrast, Account Managers are responsible for maintaining and building on this relationship once the deal is closed. The sales element of this role comes in upselling and cross-selling to existing accounts.
Best practices for account management
According to Kapta, 40 per cent of B2B customers who are very satisfied with their AM are fully engaged with your service or platform, but this drops to 13 per cent if they’re not. So, account management is essential for any business that is scaling at speed or already has several high-revenue accounts.
The best account managers manage customer relationships, provide outstanding customer experience, increase customer lifetime value and reduce churn. But what are the best practices for account management and how can you enable your Account Managers to flourish?
1. Create separation for Account Managers
The first step is to create a structured separation for AMs by separating their processes from the sales cycle. This means that managers don’t have to split their focus or priorities between executing sales and developing strategic accounts,
Allowing an Account Manager to focus on their dedicated account and start to build a strategy is essential. For instance, strategic management requires AMs to be analytical, personable and expert on that exact account - not just that general persona.
This means they need time and space to build rapport with customers, think strategically about the partnership between the business and the customer, and to communicate with various stakeholders and decision-makers. In account management, this is often with a cross-functional set of stakeholders.
Giving AMs the space to think strategically and focus will typically lead to greater success, so it’s important not to overburden AMs with too many accounts.
2. Develop criteria to select key accounts
Every account is valuable to your business, but that doesn’t mean every account requires the same level of attention. For your account management to be successful, you need to be selective, because by definition not every account is a key account.
Strategic accounts should be the ones that align most with your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and help your business grow, but this isn’t the only factor you need to consider.
You need to develop a short list of criteria that focuses on the alignment between your organizations. For example, this could include:
- Revenue potential
- Cultural fit
- Existing relationships
- Product fit
- Potential partnership
This is a decision that should be made by strategic leaders such as the C-suite, rather than sales leaders. These criteria should follow the company's overall strategic vision and goals, and those decisions sit most comfortably at the executive level.
3. Create a structured handover from Sales
How well your business handles the transition from sales to account management is a key building block of your relationship with your customers.
The best way to manage this process is to ensure a formal process is in place. This could mean using scripts to maintain consistency. Each customer should be tracked in your customer relationship management system (CRM) so that no important documentation, such as contracts, gets lost.
Your handover should include clear communication with the customer, so they understand who exactly their key points of contact are and what they can expect next. For example, how often do you plan on catching up with them? And who do they contact if they have technical questions about the product?
At Juro, we have a help centre which contains advice and answers from the customer success team. This means users can self-serve and have a stronger grasp of the issue they are having when coming to support.
Setting clear expectations will increase their trust in you and enable you to deliver exactly what they expect from you.
4. Get to know your stakeholders
As an Account Manager, you’ll likely be working with some key stakeholders across various levels in your customer's business.
In order to manage the expectations of all these stakeholders, you need to have visibility into their relationship with the product or customers.
On the customer side, you should be keeping track of who your champions, promoters and detractors are, as well as the key decision-makers. It’s important to understand who these individuals are. You could think about:
- What makes them tick?
- What is their business all about?
- What’s the current status of their industry?
- How can your product or service help them to achieve their goals?
The more you know about them, the better you can advise them on how to use the product, and on upcoming product updates, and engage in conversations around renewals when the time comes around.
5. Set a cadence for contacts, meetings, and follow-ups
According to New Voice Media, feeling unappreciated is the number one reason customers switch products and services. This may seem simple but when managing multiple accounts it can be difficult to keep in touch with all your key contacts.
Due to this, it’s best practice to create a schedule for each touchpoint, meeting, and follow-up to ensure your customer is kept in the loop.
Focus on ensuring they have the opportunity to give feedback, communicate changes and ask you questions in these meetings. On your end, keep them updated with relevant product updates, renewal dates and events your company is running.
Having a schedule will help you stay up to date with what your customers need, how they use your product and how you can help them with any issues they may be experiencing. Clear communication can help you identify customers at risk of churning early and help you mitigate some of this risk.
6. Build dependency
This relates directly to the above, but ideally, you want your customers to be dependent on your product. This can be built in many ways, for example, from operational dependence through partnerships, technological dependence through integrations or even contractual dependence through multi-year contracts or automatical renewals.
Account Managers can nurture this dependence by:
- Ensuring customers are aware of all integrations relevant to them
- Upselling into longer contracts
- Building channel partnerships
As an AM you can also build a level of dependence on yourself as a reliable partner for a business. It’s also worth bearing in mind the cost of moving platforms for customers, from onboarding to time lost looking for another vendor, as this could be a lever to increase dependency on you.
7. Track your performance
This may seem like an obvious point, but knowing what is going well and what could be going better is essential in account management. You should be continuously monitoring your progress and performance on each account.
This will not only help you to monitor personal performance but it will also track how well the key account you’re managing is fulfilling its obligations to you. While, of course, driving value for the client is key, the overall goal is to ensure both parties get what they want.
Tracking and managing data closely may reveal that the relationship no longer has the same strategic value for your business. It’s better to know this sooner, rather than later, so you can reallocate these resources.
How Juro can help with your account management strategy
Account management is complex and has many moving parts, including contracts.
Tracking customer data and insights consistently means your contract management could fall through the cracks. This is where a Contract Lifecycle Management tool like Juro comes in handy.
Juro helps businesses to manage their contracts seamlessly. From keeping track of renewals to managing essential contract data from within your CRM whether it’s Salesforce, HubSpot or Pipedrive, Juro enables you to keep on top of contracts.
Using a CRM integration means legal won’t be a blocker to sales.
By integrating contracts with CRM, each team can stay in the system they love, working faster towards your revenue targets. This includes building your strongest relationships, so keep contracts in mind when building your strategic account management process to reap the benefits of longer-term partnerships.