Most companies are looking for ways to more effectively and efficiently manage their most important business relationships. It is not easy to do, and it is not always enjoyable, but when a key account works well, it is extremely satisfying.
Major Account management is a broad subject and this series of articles is designed to help make the management of key accounts:
- More Effective
- More Enjoyable
There are many definitions of Major Account Management but my favorite, and one I have used throughout my work, is from the Financial Times:
“The art of developing long-term relationships with selected customers”
It is simple, clear and it shows us what is important.
This summary looks at each part of this definition:
- Major Account Management is an art, not a formula
- It is a process of development, not a single action
- It is a long-term process - it takes time
- It involves relationships, not just a mechanical approach
- It can only be done with selected customers
Major Account Management Is an Art, Not a Formula
One can often see two ways of managing Major Accounts that are certain to fail. The first is management by chance - there is no control, there is no plan. No one can explain why we are winning the business or forecast how long our success will last. We do not learn from our mistakes or from our successes. This is at one extreme.
At the other extreme is management by formula - here everything is documented, controlled and decided. I have seen one account planning process which demands that for every account, the team must hold a one-day orientation meeting, then gather information for twenty-one working days, culminating with a two-day planning session.
With this option, the timescale cannot be changed. The people who must be present can never change. The documents that must be prepared must be described in detail. The process is a good one, but it leaves no room for flexibility, common sense or the differences that exist both between accounts and departments.
The bottom line is that, however you decide to manage Major Accounts, you must choose a plan that is effective, consistent and flexible. It must provide a way of working that is simple but strong, incorporating discipline and creativity.
So, how is Major Account management like an art?
Artists need discipline. Think of the discipline of a dancer or a singer - they know that they work best if they create disciplines inside of their art. Likewise, a poet follows certain rules of rhyme and structure, and a painter adheres to the disciplines of color and line.
Every artist expects to practice. The painter sketches, trying different compositions; actors rehearse until the scripted words flow without hesitation. The dancer works at the barre to keep fit and to perfect every movement; and musicians play the piece over and over again. The performances may often look easy, but we know that each required a great amount of dedication and discipline.
Discipline and practice alone will not make an outstanding artist. There needs to be a spark - something special that allows the artist to see what many others miss, and to also powerfully and clearly communicate their understanding. The artist allows us to see and hear things differently.
Managing a Major Account requires all three parts - Discipline helps us follow the plan, to be self-controlled. Practice means that we do not expect to be perfect overnight, we think and plan and prepare for every important “performance.” Creativity allows us to change the past, to find new ways to solve problems and to win opportunities.
If we think of Major Account management as an art, then we will avoid the two dangers of working randomly and working rigidly.
Copyright © 2020 by Jonathan Farrington All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission of the author.