4 Essential Account Management Sales Strategies
Account Managers, who are sometimes also new business Account Executives and sometimes called Account Directors, have a tricky job.
Like Account Executives they need to prospect to uncover new opportunities and new people within an organization to sell to, but they need to be politically sensitive to their main day-to-day contacts who sometimes are so protective of their turf that they’ll potentially resist all efforts to sell around them. They also need to close big deals, as well as, upsell where possible.
However, unlike Account Executives, who always appear to be selling, the Account Manager needs to come across as more responsive to the client needs, sort of like a customer service representative.
How do Account Managers balance the need to be proactive while appearing to be reactive?
Follow these 4 essential account management sales strategies:
1. The Handoff
The goal is to create the right environment so that the customer views the Account Manager in the most favorable light. In that light, the customer is open to hearing big ideas from the Account Manager, specifically two big ideas: the idea of introducing this AM to others and the idea of listening to the AM’s suggestion for a renewal and an upsell.
If you think about a sale like show business, you realize that audiences begin neutral, and then are swayed tremendously by the way the act is introduced. If an MC comes out and describes how funny, great, and likeable the next act is, the audience is now looking for those qualities in the next performer. But if there is no MC and the act has to introduce itself, it’s harder to do it as impressively.
I need someone else to say good things about me so that I don’t have to try to say those same things about myself. If the MC exaggerates, I can always play a more humble role and therefore humanize my act.
Without the proper introduction, the audience will assign their own expectations based on what they’ve seen before. If what they have seen before is reactive/customer-service oriented AMs who never makes a proactive suggestion, then that is the lens through which they will view you.
It’s always a good idea to check the lens the other person is viewing you through.
Asking: “Have you ever had an AM before? How have you worked with them in the past?” (or words to that effect) helps you get the right idea.
But it’s even better to put the right idea in their head. So get the original AE who sold the account to properly introduce the AM—not simply the name, title, and contact details, but really sell the account on the unique value they will enjoy from having this talented AM working with them.
When the AM finally meets their day-to-day contact (in-person, phone, video chat, etc), make sure that first impression is positive by delivering a great introduction. Let’s call that intro “the AM elevator pitch.”
2. The Account Manager Elevator Pitch
As a trainer who works with many organizations, I get a chance to work closely with AMs from many industries, from teams employing various structures. In each case, I ask the AMs to role play how they deliver their Account Manager elevator pitch.
Most of them say something like this: “Hi. I am here to be your main contact. If you ever need anything, let me know. How would you like to get started?”
And that’s great, except that when it’s time to ask this person to introduce you to someone else in a neighboring department or seriously consider your offer to renew with an upsell.
Consider how this kind of elevator pitch minimizes the AM and will work against that person a year from now during renewal time. We need to deliver an AM elevator pitch that gets the customer to believe in you.
Rewrite your AM elevator pitch that effectively communicates something along these lines, “Hi! In one year I am going to be asking you for a renewal---and knowing me, with a big upsell. I am determined to get that renewal and know you will give it to me, if I hit a homerun! What do I have to do to hit a homerun? Along the way, I am going to be making suggestions; the more I know about your environment, the better I can help. So I will also be asking you to introduce me to everyone, all of your “internal customers” - all of the departments and divisions you/your team support.” Create a personalized, friendly version and keep optimizing it!
The more the Account Manager refers to an ongoing scorecard, based on metric benchmarks, the more impactful this elevator pitch meeting becomes.
3. Metric Benchmarks
From the customer’s point of view, they may not be thinking about a renewal until the last minute and at that time they’ll base their decision on anecdotal evidence like “everyone loves this” or “everyone hates it” or even worse: “I will have to look into how much everyone likes/loves/uses/needs this service.”
Only in a movie does that path lead to a happy ending. To ensure a happy ending, let’s begin the metric benchmark conversation during the first meeting.
Why not say something to the customer like, “Let’s set up some quarterly metric performance goals so that at least once a quarter –if not more frequently – we can come in with a score.” Now both parties know where you stand and the standard is one of your making, not some surprise criteria announced 61 or 91 days before renewal.
For those who need to train customers on a technology and who sometimes lose renewals based on low “usage,” but have to beg customers to let them conduct training: let’s suggest a training audit as a first step. During the audit, the AM will determine the recommended training needed and present findings to “the boss.” This way, it is the boss, not the AM, that is pushing the employee to get trained and ensure proper “usage” determinations.
4. Permission to Make the Big Suggestion
Socially we are open to getting suggestions from very few people. We tend to think of advice, even well-meaning advice, as unsolicited advice, which we tend to ignore. Account Managers need to consider this default attitude before they decide to offer any of their own.
To overcome this, we not only need to think about how we offer advice on the day that we do so, but how we negotiate our relationship so that the other party knows up front what to expect from us. We don’t want them surprised when we do the thing we’ve been trained to do: ask lots of questions, ask to meet lots of other people, share best practices, and offer advice.
Setting those expectations, supported by success stories about how you have helped other clients by using this approach, will give you the social permission you need to successful ask for and get the renewal and big upsell.
About Steve Bookbinder
Steve Bookbinder is the CEO and sales expert at DMTraining. He has delivered more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and has trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers. Steve continuously refreshes his training content to reflect his latest first-hand observations of salespeople across industries and regions. Through him, participants in his workshops and coaching sessions learn the best practices of today’s most successful sellers and managers across industries. Steve understands that sales is a competitive game. To outperform competitors and our own personal best results, we need to out-prospect, out-qualify, out-present and out-negotiate everyone else, not merely know how to sell. Through his specialty programs in Pipeline Management, Personal Marketing, Great First Meetings, 2nd-level Questioning, Sales Negotiating, and Sales Coaching, Steve trains sales teams to master the skills they need to overcome the challenges they face in today’s world… and keep improving results year over year.