Account management is the process of nurturing existing customers and providing them with a continually high level of service.
Not only does successful account management help you retain customers better, it should also result in new sales opportunities.
Here are the ins and outs of account management, along with ten unstoppable strategies you can use to serve your customers better while increasing your revenue at the same time.
What is Account Management?
Account management is the practice of ensuring that customers are satisfied and successfully achieving their goals using your product or service.
From a personal standpoint, it’s simply about strengthening relationships.
From a technical perspective, it can involve troubleshooting, product feedback, and optimizing the use of your product or service.
“Account management starts after the sales transaction is complete,” explains Josh Bean. “It’s the daily management of customer accounts to make customers want to continue the relationship with your company.”
Account management is all about building deeper trust and rapport with your customers to provide them with the best experience possible, while promptly addressing their concerns, anticipating future needs and offering timely suggestions for additional products they could potentially benefit from.
Account management serves three main purposes:
- Increase customer retention
- Reduce churn
- Uncover opportunities with existing customers
That last point — opportunities — is an important one.
Account management provides three specific ways to increase revenue for your business:
- Upsells – Increasing the value and cost of an existing service, typically within the same department
- Cross-sell – selling a similar product, often to a different department
- Renewal – Ensuring that clients renew their contracts
This is why account management is so essential. It’s a driver of revenue.
Research from Gartner even found that nearly nine out of 10 account managers (88%) say that servicing accounts beyond customer expectations is a formula for growth.
How Does Account Management Differ From Sales?
With sales, the goal is to convert leads and land customers, a practice that focuses on a short-term and one-time commitment from a customer.
With account management, the goal is to build solid relationships with customers and serve as a trusted consultant/advisor.
This focuses on the long-term where you’re seeking to keep customers around for as long as possible and provide them with high-level service.
Or as Lucidchart puts it, “sales is transactional and account management is relational.”
Neither is more important than the other. Both are equally valid, essential, and valuable for the customer.
Given the stiff competition that many of today’s businesses face, however, account management is more important than ever and something that account executives need to master.
HubSpot unearthed some specific data that illustrates how crucial it is to keep customers happy and retain them.
Not only is account management integral for sustaining long-term growth, it can have some major revenue-driven benefits as well.
10 Account Management Strategies
Now that we know what account management is and the role it plays in the sales ecosystem, let’s dive into ten specific strategies you can use to create more trust and loyalty with your existing customers and set the stage for upselling, cross-selling and renewal.
Determine Customer Criteria for Your Account Management
Let me start by saying that in an ideal world, you would be able to devote a ton of time to each and every customer.
For every single account, you’d have a dedicated account manager on standby who’s available around the clock to answer questions and offer guidance.
But in reality, this isn’t always possible, and you likely have a finite amount of manpower for account management.
Therefore, you need to be selective about which customers qualify for account management — something that can be done by defining who your customer accounts are.
Lucidchart recommends focusing on three to eight objective criteria to identify how important a customer is to your company, which can include the following:
- Product fit
- Revenue potential
- Growth potential
- Cultural fit
- Geographic alignment
- Existing relationships
- Potential channel partnership
Then, use that criteria to objectively decide which customers to provide account management for.
2. Ensure a Smooth Handoff From Sales Reps to Account Managers
Another key part of setting your team up for success is developing a streamlined handoff process.
In other words, there should be zero friction as customer interactions move from being with a sales rep to an account manager.
Not only does friction disrupt and jeopardize customer relationships, but it also frustrates the account rep team and contributes to loss of revenue.
This can be done by first collecting key information throughout the customer journey.
For example, whenever a prospect asks for a demo from Chili Piper, we ask for the CRM they’re using, their company size and country/region.
That’s a good starting point.
Chili Piper customers, by way of example, are almost exclusively Salesforce CRM users. Chili Piper’s Salesforce integration is nearly native in its seamlessness, and customers have proven success in using it with Chili Piper.
Besides that, it’s important to have your sales reps supply account managers with some other vital information, which could include:
- Which specific product the customer is currently using
- How long they’ve been a customer
- Where they’re located
- The customer’s preferred means of communication (phone, email, messenger, etc.)
- What the customer’s primary pain points are
- Any specific problems they’ve encountered
- Other potential products/upgrades they may be interested in
3. Tap into Your CRM
In addition to providing a framework for organizing and storing customer information, your CRM can also facilitate a smoother handoff.
For instance, your account manager could use it to reference conversations customers have had with sales reps and identify any issues that have sprung up in the past.
In turn, they can use this information to understand the full context when having their own conversations with customers and use it to guide future interactions.
It’s important to ensure that you’re using a robust CRM and taking thorough notes on each interaction. In addition, the more automation that’s built into your CRM, the better.
Salesforce is the CRM of choice for most businesses, especially those that have a dedicated sales team. Most enterprise businesses also use Salesforce.
4. Maintain Close and Regular Communication with Customers
The quality of the interactions between an account manager and customer directly impact the outcome of your campaign.
You’ll want to reach out to them regularly, quickly addressing any issues or concerns that may arise.
There are two main ways to go about that, described in the following two strategies.
5. Be Available for Phone Conversations
Research from Statista found that the majority of customers still consider the phone to be the best communication channel for resolving issues.
And this makes sense.
Digital mediums like online chat and text are great, but sometimes it’s just easier to communicate when speaking directly with an account manager.
So I highly recommend ensuring that a customer is able to get a hold of an account manager via telephone, at least during regular business hours.
6. Stay in Touch With Email
When it comes to general communication, such as keeping customers updated on news, offers, discounts, etc., more than 7 in 10 prefer to communicate via email.
That’s something that extends beyond all age groups and genders.
Because of this clear preference, I suggest making email an integral part of your account management process.
It’s not just preference or suggestion anyway. It’s about necessity.
For most businesses communication with existing customers takes place on email.
Staying in touch with customers through this channel should set the stage for building stronger rapport and loyalty.
Regular communication is a matter of providing legitimate value and finding the right frequency.
According to marketing automation platform Keap, “A good approach could be to send emails twice a month and then up it to weekly. If you’ve got great content, or ever-changing offers, or regular promotions, then consider sending emails two to three times a week.”
Then, based on the results, modify your frequency until you find the sweet spot.
Essentially, the medium and frequency of communication is up to your customer. They want email? Send them an email. They like phone calls? Send them a phone call. Ask them what they want.
If you’re still unsure about frequency and medium, err on the side of overcommunication and, from time to time, hop on a Zoom call or pick up the phone.
7. Anticipate Customer Needs
By using the information passed off from sales reps and CRM software along with your account manager’s own personal interactions, do your best to continually anticipate the needs of your customer.
It’s like playing chess where you’re thinking several moves ahead.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your customer, and based on market conditions, figure out how you can best serve them and what specific products you can offer that will make their life easier.
This brings me to my next point.
8. Suggest Upgrades
As I mentioned before, selling to existing customers is much easier than selling to new ones.
To put things into perspective, your odds of selling to an existing customer is around 60 to 70%, while your odds of getting a new prospect to buy is only 5 to 20%.
That’s why it’s so important to make upselling and cross-selling a focal point of your account management process.
Not only does it help you increase overall revenue from each customer, it also provides them with more value.
One of the best ways to go about upselling is to suggest upgrades.
Let me give you an example.
With Chili Piper, customers can build their own plan for meetings and events to fit their exact needs.
How much they pay each month is calculated by how many team members they have and the specific features they want.
This provides a lot of flexibility and can be easily customized without any hassle.
Let’s say that a customer has 10 team members and currently uses Chili Piper’s Routing feature to automatically route leads and meetings based on customizable rules and round robin assignments.
That would cost them $250 per month.
But let’s say that they’re not currently using the Chili Piper Concierge feature, which offers self-serve scheduling and live calls on their website, app or marketing emails.
However, the interactions between your sales rep and the customer indicate that this is a feature they could greatly benefit from.
In this scenario, an account manager could suggest using Concierge, thoroughly explaining how it works, its features, benefits and how it can be useful based on the specific needs of the customer.
More importantly, the account executive should walk them through specific use cases relevant to their business and show them how much money they could expect to make or save as a result of implementing the feature.
And of course, an account manager would want to outline how much adding Concierge would cost.
If it was scheduling only, it would be $450 per month.
If it was scheduling plus live calls, it would be $600 per month.
By upgrading, the customer would get a ton of more value, and your company would pull in significantly more revenue for a win-win.
9. Recommend Other Relevant Products
As for cross-selling, you’ll want to point out additional products that could benefit your customer.
Unlike upselling where you suggest upgrades or a more robust package, cross-selling involves selling a different product to an existing customer to provide them with even more value.
With Chili Piper, this might mean recommending using Events to a customer who is currently only using Meetings.
This is a separate platform that allows teams to coordinate event meetings more efficiently and easily manage group events.
That way they can fully capitalize on their leads and strike while the iron is hot.
The purpose here is to make customers aware of additional products they might not know about, addressing their needs without requiring them to manually perform their own research.
Instead, an account manager can succinctly outline the offer and provide an existing customer with the information they need to make an educated decision.
10. Make Renewal a Breeze
But often you can lower that rate by streamlining the renewal process and making it as simple as possible.
You could set a schedule to get visibility on upcoming renewals and inform customers before their contract will end or renew.
Ideally, you’ll send them alerts at various intervals, such as two months prior, one month prior, two weeks prior, and so on, so they’ll be aware of it.
Email tends to usually be the best channel for this, but some other options are text and online messaging platforms, especially if you’re integrated with your customers’ Slack channels.
You could also offer customers the option to automatically renew their contracts without having to do anything manually.
Instead, they can simply give you the greenlight to renew by leaving their payment information on file.
For more information on optimizing the renewal process and reducing churn, I recommend watching this video from CSM Practice.
Experience-Backed Tips for Account Management
Chili Piper’s team consists of high-caliber sales professionals and account executives who have pooled their top tips for account management — strategies that virtually guarantee more upsells and cross-sells.
Engage, Schedule, Improve
Nicolas Vandenberghe, serial entrepreneur and Chili Piper’s CEO, wields more than three decades of high-ticket sales experience.
His advice involves three simple that any account executive can understand and implement:
- Engagement is essential. Always stay engaged with your client.
- Schedule regular touchpoints and meetings. Ensure that these are schedules, not one-offs that require you to put out fires or fix an issue.
- Convey interest in helping them improve. Your customers need to trust you, and that involves knowing that you are interested in one thing — helping to improve their business.
Hyper-Personalize and Get Context
CeCe Renick is a Chili Piper account manager who offers this gem — really get to know the customer and their context.
Much of the task of account executives is understanding what context the customer is in and shaping a conversation around that context.
This is where automation comes into play. By getting your CRM to talk with your communication tools, you can gain insight into what’s going on, who talked with whom, and the outcome of the most recent conversation.
Chili Piper’s Inbox, an upcoming product, is one of the few tools available that provides such insight.
Getting up-to-date account intelligence keeps you from looking uninformed, and allows you to deliver truly helpful conversations to your clients.
Straight-up ask for referrals.
This tip comes from Ryan Caven, whose account expertise is proven by a track record of all-smiles clients.
Often, within organizations, there are different people in siloed departments who make independent decisions from your contact.
The problem? You have a cross-sell that the distant person in that department would need to make a decision on.
You see an opportunity for an amazing upsell, but you don’t have a connection with the right person.
Ryan says, just ask. A simple email or Slack message is all it takes.
Hey, Sophia, I saw that you have a demo form that’s not connected with Chili Piper. Who’s the best person to talk with about adding us in there?
Two sentences. One ask. Simple answer.
Hey, thanks Ryan. That’s Jill, head of marketing. firstname.lastname@example.org I told her to expect an email from you.
Upselling over email? No problem.
What medium is best for making an upsell or cross-sell?
Answer: Whatever gets the job done.
Cece, for example, has fielded dozens of inbound upsells over email. More often than not, that’s the best medium for an upsell due to the fact that the knowledge of the product and its advantage is held.
Cross-sells, however, seem to start with a phone call. There may be slight differences in product or an introduction to a new department that require some context and discussion.
Get help from senior members of your team.
Sales is a profession in which constant learning is essential to success.
Even though Ryan, for example, is a seasoned member of the team, he continually asks for help from those whose expertise in a specific area differ from his own.
When you’re having a challenging email correspondence with a client, it’s easy to get collaborative feedback from your team members on the email interaction itself using Chili Piper’s Inbox product.
Team members are invited to comment on the email, make suggestions, demonstrate improvements, and make the conversation more effective.
Account Management FAQs
What is account management?
It’s a strategy that happens post-sale where you focus on nurturing customer relationships.
What’s the purpose of account management?
The primary goal is to retain a larger percentage of customers and identify growth opportunities (i.e. offering them an upgrade or an additional product).
How is account management different than sales?
Sales is concerned with converting leads and landing new customers.
Account management is about enhancing relationships with existing customers and providing them with the optimal level of service.
Why is account management important?
It allows you to boost customer retention, reduce churn and increase revenue with existing customers.
It also tends to be cost effective because you don’t have to spend as much on lead generation.
In spite of global events, there has been little reduction in the intensity of business competition. Constantly generating new leads can be costly and time-consuming.
As a result, it’s often more efficient to strengthen relationships with customers you already have, thereby increasing your odds of A) retaining them for longer and B) getting them to buy more from you.
Account management is hands down one of the best ways to go about this and can turn customers from being run-of-the-mill into loyal brand advocates who stick with you for the long run.