Focusing more time on Key Clients makes sense because it allows you to move from being a pure supplier of services towards a working partnership. With that come increased revenues, lower price sensitivity and greater vision of future income. All important factors when times are good, truly essential when times are tough.
If you want to do this well within a Professional environment, there are some crucial things to get right. Seven of the most important are briefly examined below.
1. View from the top
For any programme to work, it needs a senior partner to throw their weight behind it. Professionals are expert at justifying their own inactivity and the only thing that will help them focus on future income – rather than today’s to-do’s is knowing that Mr or Mrs Big is watching, carrot in the left hand and stick in the right.
2. Measure the Treasure
What gets measured gets done. You need to agree Key Performance indicators. Most likely these will be revenue based – but possibly also softer measures such as meetings, event attendance, or propositions introduced.
Circulate the successes – and the inactivity – and you will see what a strong motivator the attention of colleagues can provide.
3. Don’t be listless
You need to agree who you are going to focus on and why. An immature firm will create a list of the companies that are spending most with them at the moment. That is easy for them and driven by a desire to maintain the status quo but is too subjective and ultimately the firm will miss opportunities.
Generally, firms will want to include companies because of one of the following factors, or a blend of all three:
A. Stature: Their reputation, turnover or growth is impressive.
B. Spend: Their current or potential spend is attractive and should be secured or grown.
C. Fit: They match your firm’s objectives, strengths or culture.
4. A little more bark, a little less bite
It’s too tempting for people to wallow in analysis when they are concerned about taking some form of risk such as introducing someone new to their contact or making a difficult phone call.
If you want a Key Account to rock, you need to know when to stop talking and start acting.
5. Easy Tiger
Like any social relationship, you are unlikely to leap from vague acquaintance to mutual adoration – and if you do, maybe stop and think – why is this so easy?
The truly attractive companies will be courted by a number of firms. They will only really open up to your idea of partnership over time and only if there are benefits for both sides. Some firms will not want to partner and there is nothing you can do to force them, so you should simply maintain the level of relationship they want, dust off your ego and focus attention on someone else.
6. Short, sharp and shockingly effective
Have a short account plan in writing which details:
- Objectives – Defence? Growth? Increased intelligence?
- Who’s on the Account team and how cosy are they with the key players at the target?
- What challenges the client has that you can help with
- A little history and a lot on future activity planned – with a date and owner for each action.
This allows you to share the headline facts quickly and easily within your firm – avoiding continual repetition and reassessment.
7. Choose a good driver
Every Key Account needs a named person to drive it. That can be a fee-earner or a marketing person – as long as they have the twin qualities of being tenacious and diplomatic. Too much of one without the other and feathers will be ruffled or the plan won’t fly.
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