Key account management – not another round of golf!
Imagine losing 5% of your top clients. How would that impact your bottom line?
It takes six to seven times more dollars, time and resources to acquire new clients than to retain existing ones. Think about that for a moment. Often, as professionals, we spend so much time marketing to a broad base market that we forget that our greatest and untapped asset is our existing relationships with our top clients.
We understand that most professionals are time poor, focusing on doing the job rather than investing time in retaining clients for future fees.
Thought Leadership is a strategy for growth but it works most effectively with the backing of systems and processes. In the last two blogs we have explored client loyalty and the positive impacts on a firm. Today, we look at key account management (KAM); what it is, how to implement and how thought leadership can play a part.
Having worked with professional services firms; we have identified an inherent need for ‘processes and systems’ around client management. We also find it a more efficient and productive use of your time; if you work to a plan. After all, if you are charging by 6 minute increments, then you need to be spending predominantly more of those increments with clients that are spending more dollars with you.
So, let’s investigate ‘key account management’ (KAM) for your professional service firm…
Step 1: Identifying your top clients
As discussed in our last ‘Just a thought’; conducting the exercise of identifying your top 10 – 20% of clients, is the first step. Once you have prepared this list, you will probably find that the 80:20 rule applies; that your top 20% of clients equate to 80% of your fees.
This is an important part of the process; your top clients may be those that generate greatest fees, are great referrers or are strategic opportunities. These clients are those you may want to grow and definitely retain!
Step 2: Client assessment
Once you have identified your ‘top’ list; it is time for the assessment stage.
- Identify where your client is in the buying process. Are they clients to grow or retain?
- Do you understand your client. Discuss each client in depth with your client facing team. Who works at their business that you deal with? What goal are they trying to achieve in their role? How can you support them to achieve it? Do you seek their feedback and ideas? Understanding your client enables the determination of the key account team and planned approach. You need to know how you can make them, their role and business better and support them to achieve their goals.
- Identifying the right key account team. This may include the lead engagement partner, the client facing manager and perhaps your Managing Partner or service line leader.
Perhaps most critical to the process of KAM is getting the right engagement team; many a battle are won or lost with relationships.
Step 3: Developing your plan
KAM is not just another round of golf. It is a systematic approach to building and maintaining a relationship with your client; supporting them to achieve their goals by learning about them personally and professionally.
This plan will look different for each client; although you will see synergies between some of your top clients; particularly in similar industry or sectors. To build your plan, identify:
- The needs of the client and commit to meeting their expectations (requirements, timelines etc) and going beyond.
- Where relationships need to be built; from an account manager’s perspective, it is really important to build rapport with a number of the clients internal stakeholders (don’t put your eggs in one basket!).
- The frequency and form of contact/communication the client prefers.
KAM will include a calendar of touch points that are allocated to someone in the KAM team.
Perhaps it may include:
- A monthly call to your client to check in and ask ‘how it’s going’.
- A bi-annual visit to their place of business or after each engagement.
- Invitations to social and business events and seminars; perhaps review your firms marketing and BD plan to ascertain any fit during the next 12 months.
- Sending newsletters and updates; identifying those mailing lists that are of relevance including industry specific.
- Sending relevant thought leadership, whitepapers or case studies.
- A commitment to sending them cards, letters, emails, items of interest.
- Looking for opportunities to develop their networks; introducing them to your other clients.
- Seeking their feedback on each engagement and issues you need support in yourself (a two way relationship works best).
- Referring business to them.
In our experience the most successful firms use thought leadership as part of their KAM; delivering new ideas, relevant advice and innovation (looking beyond the engagement to identify future opportunities for them). The key is to provide true value to your key clients; with the right capabilities, resources and tools for them now and in the future.
Step 4: Managing the plan
A plan is meant to be implemented and evaluated, not just filed away. In order to manage and evaluate the plan:
- Conduct regular KAM meetings, holding each other accountable for set tasks – it may be a simple short focused monthly catch-up.
- Capture the data in your CRM or other tool. What you measure, you can manage.
- Amend to meet the changing expectations and requirements of your client.
- Hold client debriefs – understanding ‘how can we do better?’ This will show that you are dedicated to them.
Some thoughts for successful KAM
- Be involved with your client – emotionally. The more involved you are, the less likely they will want to leave.
- Always do what you say you are going to or better it. Exceeding expectations creates good will.
- Are you being inquisitive? If you are not getting the right outcome; ask better questions.
- Demonstrate you can solve key issues for the client; even outside of the scope. You can earn trust by giving advice freely, but be sure that while you are adding value you are not devaluing yourself by not charging.
- Make a conscious effort to develop thought leadership for your key clients. Provide them with new information, ideas and relevant solutions.
- Innovate: Are you looking at the future for your clients?
For those top 10-20%; they generally spend a considerable amount of dollars with you; it’s inevitable that you will need to invest a proportionate amount of time and effort on them in return. This will include being a thought leader; one that truly understands your clients and how to deliver value.
Developing and implementing KAM is testament to your commitment to your key clients; their commitment to you will result in a more profitable firm.