Client Account Management

by Rus Slater

Developing a client account plan

Business, more than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight.

Henry R Luce

When you set out to develop a client account plan, there are fundamentally two options, each of which has certain benefits and certain difficulties. Which you choose to follow will depend on many factors and you must be the ultimate arbiter; you may, of course, choose to mix and match your approach.

The loneliness-of-command method

As the name suggests, this is the method whereby you, as the account manager, closet yourself away and develop the entire plan alone.

Pros

  • You retain control.
  • It is often quicker.
  • There appears to be less conflict.
  • You get all the credit/kudos.

Cons

  • It only contains your opinions.
  • Other people have no ownership.
  • If it fails, you get the blame.
  • There is no teamwork involved.

The team approach

Alternatively, you can go for the team approach, and in this instance you might want to take a pretty loose definition of the word team.

It may well be that in the normal organisational hierarchy you don’t manage a team and this account may not actually have a formal team allocated to it. However, it is a fair bet that you aren’t the only person who has any connection with the client; for example...

Case study

If we look at the account management of a client in the manufacturing business, serviced by a high street recruitment agency on a PSL, we might find that there is a team that looks something like this:

Tom (allocated Account Manager) – works on Management Vacancies (last placed someone there in the middle of last year)

Dick – provides Drivers (last time was five months ago)

Jane – provides Admin staff (has three vacancies on the books at present)

Chris – provides Machine Operators (one starting next week)

Vinod (in Accounts) – sends out invoices (each month, if the agency has made a placement)

Claire (in Accounts) – does credit control if/when needed (invoices are normally paid on time, but there have been late/lost invoices a couple of times in the past 12 months)

Henry (the Sales Manager) – introduced the client two years ago after he met their previous HR manager at a Chamber of Commerce event.

Note that the Accounts function is mentioned; it doesn’t matter how good your relationship is with your client if you don’t get paid... on time... accurately.

By getting the team involved in the planning of the account management, you can get a wider view of what is working, what is not working and what can be expanded.

Pros

  • You get a wider view.
  • You gain ownerhship.
  • It’s more holistic.
  • It makes people feel involved

Cons

  • It takes a bit longer.
  • You may lose control.
  • It can look as though you are ‘empire building’

The magic formula that successful businesses have discovered is to treat customers like guests and employees like people.

Tom Peters

What goes into a client account plan

A typical client account plan will have the following:

To understand how this all fits together, see A summary of the metrics.