What Is an Account Management Plan?

An Account Management Plan focuses on building long-term mutually beneficial partnerships with key customers and clients. Through the in-depth research and assessment, strategic account managers find opportunities to drive value for their partners by identifying problems, offering creative solutions, and leveraging partnerships to move both organizations toward their strategic goals. A formal account management plan can:

Far apart from a sales program—which focuses on short-term selling cycles and customer acquisition—an account management plan goes a step further to improve and develop deeper relationships with a small number of core customers over time. In short, sales are all about the present. Strategic account management is about the future. While the gains may not be drastic, strategic accounts are an essential part of an organization’s long-term success and profitability.

What Is the Importance of Account Management Plan?

The account management plan is very important because it is the strategic approach of identifying and nurturing your accounts that make high-value repeat purchases to maintain mutually beneficial relationships. It often creates opportunities to explore and build unique partnerships with your clients while growing both of your businesses. Account management aims to retain existing business operations and expand on profitable opportunities. Industries that depend on supplying raw material to manufacturers and sellers, such as pharmaceutical, health care, advertisement, consulting and many other business-to-business (B2B) transaction-based organizations, may rely on key account management as a company strategy. With this, account management plan efforts can maximize the long-term benefits of strategic partnerships. Moreover, account management plans are important because they can maximize sales by volume and size while boosting client-business loyalty. Below are some advantages that directly result from strategic account management plans:

Increase Customer Loyalty

Loyal customers may be more likely to grow their business and profits alongside yours. If a client does business with you specifically over months or years, it may boost your market credibility and chances of future sales success. Giving individual attention to a customer or client may improve customer loyalty and retention. Key accounts may be some of your most important customers and with this, they often appreciate updates, discounts or knowledge of changes in your company on a priority basis.

Better Revenue

This is may help to improve the bottom line of your company by bringing in higher revenue. An increase in customer loyalty because of the emphasis on forming and maintaining positive relationships could result in better ratings in terms of customer or client satisfaction.

Competitive Advantage

This could provide firms or businesses with a sizable advantage in an increasingly competitive market. By establishing, nurturing and growing a long-term relationship with a key account, you can scale both your economic relationship and scope of work with them.

What Are the Best Practices of Account Management Plan?

An effective Account Management program is not something you stumble upon. The most successful organizations rely on formal, measurable, repeatable processes to develop and maintain their most valuable customer relationships. Whether you already have a process in place or plan to implement a new strategic account program, use these best practices to put your organization ahead of the curve.

Assign Dedicated Strategic Account Managers. The first step to a successful program is to assign dedicated account managers who are separate from sales. The best programs do not have managers that must split their priorities or switch focus between making sales and developing strategic accounts. Instead, build a team with dedicated accounts and team leads focused solely on strategic management. When filling these roles, keep in mind that sales and strategic management have different objectives and require a different skill set and approach to customer relationships. In addition, strategic account managers should be both analytical and personable. They need to build rapport with customers, think strategically about partnership opportunities and solutions, collaborate and communicate with high-level stakeholders and decision-makers, and lead a cross-functional team.Develop Selection Criteria for Key Accounts. While all customers are valuable, not all customers can be elevated to a key account. Be selective. Strategic accounts are reserved for customers whose partnerships can propel your organization toward its goals. How can you determine which accounts are worthy? You will need to improve or develop a shortlist of selection criteria that hone in on alignments between your two organizations. Focus on three to eight objective criteria, weighted in relative importance to your organization. These criteria could include product fit; revenue potential; solvency; growth potential; cultural fit; geographic alignment; existing relationships and; potential channel partnership. Senior management should take the lead on this stage rather than the sales managers. Selection criteria are based on the organization’s high-level strategic goals and vision, so senior managers are the best fit for this role. Similarly, trying to get a farmer to hunt is futile. Some people are cut out for new business development, and others are just not. But the opposite also holds true. You probably do not want an account manager whose strategy is so aggressive that he or she pesters the client or proposes new ideas that are not in the client’s best interest. The ideal plan should be a problem solver who will be sensitive to the client’s needs. He or she must be willing and able to become an expert in the strategic account’s business and make the connection between the client’s needs and your company’s ability to help. Educating the customer about insights relevant to their business is a major focus for account management plan. Furthermore, the strategic account manager also needs to have credibility and the ability to marshal internal resources when necessary. Extensive technical expertise is not necessary, but an aptitude to call in the right people at the right time is critical to an account manager’s success in seizing opportunities that can further the relationship with the strategic account. The most successful strategic account managers are also skilled at relating to the needs of a wide range of individuals in the account and building consensus among them. These behaviors are quite different from a hunter’s; hunters often have an “eat what you kill” mentality.Polish the Handoff from Sales. An oft-overlooked step in the account management plan process is the transition from sales to account management. How great you handle account transitions is a necessary part of building a trusted relationship with your customers or clients. For better results, explore and study a formal, scripted handoff from the sales team to the account management team. Each customer—whether they become a key account or not—should be methodically organized and tracked in your account system. Additionally, make sure to communicate clearly with the customers, so they can understand who their points of contact are and what to expect going forward. For instance, who can they reach out to if they have questions or concerns? How often will you connect with them via phone or email? Setting clear expectations will foster a trusting relationship with your customer or client.Create a Comprehensive Customer Profile. After doing the selection process in place and you have already identified and assigned your key accounts; you will need to develop and implement an in-depth customer portfolio. The strategic account manager has to know their customer inside and out. To do this, they need to conduct research on the client company to build out a comprehensive profile. Investigate and assess the company’s business and markets; goals and initiatives; stakeholder roles and responsibilities; key decision makers; analyst reports; and competition. The goal is to understand your customer’s pain points and goals in order to identify opportunities for added value and collaboration.Conduct a Needs Assessment. The next step is to conduct a needs assessment through your portfolio of customer research. Consider what the organization’s pain points are; where do your needs or goals overlap and how can you help each other progress or; are there any problems looming that you can anticipate and address for them? Assess opportunities for collaboration and partnership through the use of your data to find ways on how you can help them. Strategic accounts are long-term investments. Instead of a typical 3-to-12-month transactional lifecycle, you are creating a strategy for the next 1 to 3 years. Keep this in mind as you assess strategic needs and opportunities. Take note that the ultimate goal of strategic account management is to grow with your customer.Draft a Strategic Plan and Proposal. Based on your needs assessment, drill down to the best strategic opportunities and draft an account plan. This plan is your strategic roadmap for the next 1 to 3 years. Once you polish the plan, approach your customer with your proposal. This proposal should contain the following: strategic recommendations (such as potential partnerships with other companies, creative solutions, and many more.); specific long-term goals with short-term benchmarks and; resource requirements. This is your chance to demonstrate to the client that you have gone above and beyond to understand and address their needs and that your company is invested in their success.Set a Reminder for Contacts, Meetings, and Follow-ups. Once you have a strategic plan in place, set a regular reminder for ongoing communication with your key accounts. Outline a schedule for each touchpoint, meeting, and follow-up to make sure your customer is in the loop and has the opportunity to give feedback, communicate changes, or ask questions. Moreover, this schedule will help you stay updated on what your customer needs, how they are using your product or solution, and how you can help. Clear communication is vital to a strong working relationship with your customers.Monitor Performance. Continually monitor and measure your performance on each account. What progress have you made on your short-term and long-term goals? How do your results measure against your KPIs? Monitoring performance is not only important to ensure you deliver on your end but also to track how well the key account fulfills its obligations to you. While you want to drive value for the client, the goal is one of mutual long-term benefit. If the relationship no longer holds the same strategic value for your organization, it is better to identify that sooner rather than later. Thus, measure your account performance continually so you can keep the plans on track and pivot or reassess as needed.

How to Improve an Account Management Strategy?

Consider following these steps to develop and improve your strategy with key accounts:

Step 1: Identify Key Accounts

It is important to distinguish between your key accounts and your strategic accounts while trying to pinpoint your highest contributing clients. A key account refers to a relationship of mutual respect and long-term engagement, while a strategic account is a time-sensitive asset that may or may not grow to be a key account. Consider researching your client’s business plan, financial condition and willingness to grow alongside you in the future. If you feel that losing a client may generate an unmissable revenue gap, that account is likely to be a key account.

Step 2: Increase the Number of Point of Contacts

You may increase your point of contacts or POCs in your key accounts to gain an advantage and emphasize how much each of your alliances means to your company. Many influencers in your clients’ business ecosystem may have a considerable impact on important decisions. A well-built sales strategy could include activities like reaching out to every one of these key influencers and discussing your business propositions with them. Creating a map of these individuals within the company hierarchy may help you identify important decision-makers that could improve the overall business relationship.

Step 3: Add Value

Adding value to your client relationships may help you maintain key accounts. You can add value to your client relationships in various ways, such as contributing to the profitability of your accounts, reducing costs, identifying or reducing risk for your clients and maintaining a sustainable relationship with the influential individuals within your accounts. Insightful value addition can foster the goal of a key account management plan—long-term, mutually beneficial business growth.


What Makes a Good Account Management Plan?

Strategic account managers should be both analytical and personable. This means, they need to build a good rapport with customers, think strategically about partnership opportunities and solutions, collaborate and communicate with high-level stakeholders and decision-makers, and lead a cross-functional team.

What Is the Role of Account Planner?

The role of an Account Planner is to drive the general strategic direction of creative campaigns. They also make sure that the creative team’s work is focused strategically and is within brand guidelines as well.

What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of an Account Manager?

An Account Manager is in charge of ensuring or securing each department meets the needs of their clients and customers. They handle customer complaints, find solutions to their issues, and maintain a positive relationship between both parties for future business ventures.

Strategic account management plan is absolutely complex. With so many moving parts, it is easy for data, insights, or people to fall through the cracks. Hence, key accounts represent the most valuable customers, so you can’t afford to drop the ball. 

Generally, account planning and account-based marketing take time, but the rewards are undoubtedly massive. Putting in place an account planning process in your sales team will help you nurture your current partnerships, increase customer retention, and boost repeat sales, empowering your business to grow better and expand later.