World Class Account Management
Despite the promises of automation and efficiencies, software purchases can often be labor intensive. The success of a software purchase hinges on The Account Management Team, a team that isn’t even introduced until after the contract is signed. The best product in the world cannot replace a qualified team that will ensure that the customer is fully educated and the product is properly installed and configured.
The Account Management Team
World Class Account Management starts with the belief that customers should be receiving excellent customer service even before the contract is signed. It is based on the idea that the treatment prospective customers receive during the sales cycle is an excellent indicator of how they will be treated once they sign a contract. The sales team should be listening, solving problems and adding value before any payments are made. This approach requires a specialized team to ensure that each phase of purchase and implementation is managed by a dedicated professional.
The Account Management Process
The moment the prospective customer makes contact with the vendor, the Account Management process begins. Most companies break the process down into three stages with three distinct points of contact.
1. The Business Development Representative
Everything starts with the Business Development Representative (BDR). The BDR determines if new prospects are qualified before passing the deal to an Account Executive. The BDR is responsible for making sure that the prospective customer is a good match in regards to company value and available functionality.
Questions Business Development Representatives are looking to answer:
- Does the prospect have a clear need?
- Does the prospect understand their need or do they need help flushing it out?
- Does the prospect understand the vendor’s products and services?
- Are the vendor’s products/services a good match for the prospect’s needs?
- Do they have the budget for the purchase or do they need help finding a more appropriate product (i.e. less expensive for smaller businesses, more enterprise functionality for larger)?
2. The Account Executive
If the BDR determines that the prospect is qualified, the BDR introduces the potential customer to an Account Executive. The Account Executive is responsible for working with the potential client to close the deal. The Account Executive does this by:
- Answering any questions the prospective client has
- Educating the prospective client on the vendor’s offering and industry best-practices
- Spending time analyzing and understanding the prospect’s operation, to be able to make educated recommendations for proper solutions
- Providing the prospect with information to allow the prospect’s decision making team and other internal stakeholders to make the most educated and informed decisions
- Properly determining and documenting the optimal solution
- Obtaining a contract that results in a mutually beneficial solution for both the vendor and the prospective customer
3. The Account Manager
When all buyer needs have been communicated and all sales promises have been completed, the Account Manager takes over. The Account Manager is the dedicated point of contact for the customer post sale. The Account Manager may bring in other specialists as needed, which may include:
- Quality Assurance
Standardized Account Management processes ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. This process begins with the Account Manager setting up a kick-off call. During this initial call, the client and the vendor will discuss:
- Target launch dates
- The implementation process
- Key milestones
- Immediate action items
- Any questions or concerns the client may have
Following the kick-off call, weekly calls will be scheduled for the remainder of the implementation period to ensure a steady flow of communication between the client and the Account Manager. The goal during this early account management period is to gather all necessary client documents and information, advise the client on the next steps to take, and make sure they understand what is happening at every step of the way.
It’s All Pro Services
Some companies charge additional fees for extras or so-called ‘pro’ services throughout the process. Customers should be aware of any additional implementation fees or extra charges for pro services before signing a contract. Companies with a more inclusive fee philosophy do not have a long list of add-ons and hidden fees; they look at their relationship with the client as an asset that should be provided for and maintained with everything they’ve got.
For these companies it’s all pro services, and there is rarely, if ever, any need to charge extra. On rare occasions, there may be services required that are unique to specific customers or require a major change to the company’s product roadmap, and in that case, charges may apply. However, it is important that these charges are disclosed upfront. Outside of these rare instances, all clients get the same comprehensive service.
An Ongoing Relationship
Account management and customer service continue long after implementation. The Account Manager should always be available to answer questions and troubleshoot issues that the client may have. They are responsible for the long-term success of the new customer on the vendor’s platform. They are the customer’s champion internally so it is important to keep them up-to-date on:
- Changing company initiatives
- Individual, department and company goals
- Experience, both positive and negative, using the product
- Any other issues that may impact their success
In world class operations, Account Management Teams work for the customer.