Client Account Management

by Rus Slater

Why plan and manage a client account?

A good customer should not change his shop, nor a good shop change its customers.

Chinese proverb

If you are, formally or informally, responsible for a client account, the first thing you need to do is to make a plan; without a plan, you may achieve success, but if so it will probably be more by luck than judgement. If you make a plan, you then have a better chance (assuming that you stick to it, rather than putting it in the bottom drawer of your desk and forgetting about it!) of reaping the benefits.

Once you have a plan, you need to review it and manage the plan, team and account actively.

Benefits

There are several benefits – both for you and your client – to be derived from actively planning and managing a client account.

  • The most obvious benefit, whether you are in a framework agreement, on a PSL, or simply a major supplier, is the opportunity to maximise the business you do with that particular client.
  • It may well be the case that by actively managing the account, you will identify opportunities for up-selling or cross-selling other services that your organisation already offers.
  • By developing a wider relationship base within the client, you will have a greater awareness of their future plans. This will allow you the opportunity to develop revenue earning services and products that are then available to the client as soon as they need them, saving them the effort of looking for a supplier and allowing you the opportunity to be the sole option, without a search or tendering process.

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Active management of a client account starts with the identification of your business objective in relation to this client. By clearly identifying the objective, you generate your subsidiary and individual targets and action plans. This feeds into your general business planning and your performance management processes; it also provides you with benchmarks for budgeting, prioritising and staff development.

If you don’t plan and manage...

It is important to build relationships with as many influencers as possible within the client organisation in order to protect your interests from the fickle hand of fate. If your organisation only does business through one particular individual at the client, then anything that affects that person affects you:

  • If they leave, you have lost your contact
  • If they get a new boss, who has his or her preferred supplier, you may lose out
  • If they are promoted or re-assigned to another division/country/role, you may not have the same beneficial relationship with their successor
  • If, heaven forefend, they are disciplined for some sort of wrongdoing, you may be tainted by association.

In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running; if you stand still, they will swallow you.

Victor Kiam

Similarly, you will need to keep a close eye on your competitors to ensure that they don’t catch you napping, either in terms of developing a relationship with your client or developing a product or service that leaves you behind.

So, whether you are on a PSL, framework agreement or outsourcing contract, or you just have a large client, there are benefits to actually planning your approach to managing their account.