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Is Your Account Manager Up To The Job?

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Jamie Willgoose

The core role of an account manager is to build strong relationships with clients whilst identifying challenges or opportunities and finding ways to assist with these challenges and opportunities. In this blog Jamie Willgoose, a Business Consultant at Ascertus who has spent most of his career in product implementation and training identifies the key areas that account managers should focus on to help clients meet their business objectives.

So, what makes a great account manager?

  1. Understanding the customer. It sounds obvious but good account managers never make assumptions on these things. They do this by listening to the customer, clarifying and really understanding any challenges that they face. A great account manager will listen and observe. I worked as a project manager in the legal industry for 15 years prior to joining Ascertus and the most important thing I learned in that time is to never make assumptions about what a customer does. Using a legal industry example, you could have two firms next door to each other. Both do the same type of work; both have the same management structure and staff levels, both use the same systems. Neither firm will be using the system in the same way, neither firm will go through the same processes. It is so important that any account manager knows this. This applies to law firms and corporate organisations too.
  2. Not being afraid to ask what could seem like a stupid question. It goes back to the previous point about not making assumptions. Account managers need to build up their understanding of a customer, market and problem before they make any suggestions. If an account manager suggests a product or service before they understand the problem, you should question what their motivations are. An account manager needs to be able to have mature and focused conversations with the customer rather than simply saying “yes” to every challenge.
  3. Knowledge is king! Account Managers need to know the market, the products, and the customer. At Ascertus we employ Business Consultants whose job is to work alongside account managers to really understand a market and competitors. They deep dive into an industry to help educate the rest of the company on what the organisation does, how they do it and what other similar organisations do. Together they look out for what is happening to competitors, what other products can help, and lessons learnt from previous implementations. Account managers should be asking for feedback on products and services that clients are using so that they can report back to the software producer.
  4. A Focus on Customer Success. Whose success is your account manager more interested in? Their own or your organisation? Ascertus account managers will strive to bring their customers success, whether it is by suggesting new approaches, product recommendations, or simple guidance, our customers value the service we offer. With all new projects we agree a set of measurable metrics at the start, often during the account management phase. Customer Success is at the heart of all projects and should be instilled throughout the organisation.
  5. It sounds like a cliché, but respect must be earned. If a customer asks an account manager for their opinion, they need to know that the answer they get is without bias, all options have been considered and their specific situation has been thought through. Only then can the customer have confidence in the recommendation. Using an example; we have been asked for our opinion on products that we do not sell. The account managers go away and do their research, speak to other customers and investigate. Only once this is done do they give their opinions. This work is valued by our customers and builds trusting relationships.
  6. It is also critical that account managers are respected within the organisation that they are employed, as it will be the wider team who will implement any products that have been recommended. The consultants need to trust that the solutions they are delivering are suitable, compatible and will solve the issues they have been purchased for. Being part of a team. Ascertus staff work very closely with each other, not just on an individual basis but as a wider organisation constantly sharing knowledge gained. The same ethic applies in the account management team who meet regularly to discuss the status of projects and lessons learnt. This benefits our clients who receive the best advice, solutions and services.

What five things should your (DMS) account manager be asking you?

  1.  Can you explain your business to me? An account manager cannot suggest a solution without a full understanding of the business including the culture, the way it operates and the services it offers. This question ensures that the account manager understands which solutions or services will solve the organisations challenges. Right from the first introduction a Document Management System (DMS) account manager should ensure that they build up a bigger picture of the organisation they are working with. This not only helps the customer select the right product but also gives the account manager the right knowledge to ensure that the project runs smoothly.
  2. How will this project help to meet your business objectives? Account Managers need ask this question that they can guarantee their customers a return on investment and that their recommendations are correct. After the ‘go live’ of a project, and using the metrics gathered early on, the account manager should report back to the customer. Focusing on business and customer success will allow the account manager to understand what where the customer wants to take their business.
  3. Where are your users based? If the customer has selected a cloud product - can all users use it in the cloud? There are still some geographical and legal blockers to deployment in the cloud, but a good Account Manager will know these global users may also have different technical environments or processes that must be taken into consideration. An Account Manager should consider the whole picture and make the best recommendations. They must go into detail early on so that the products and services are right from the start of any project rather than an unpleasant discovery mid or post project.
  4. Can I talk to your users about their problems with documents and email? Understanding the wider user base will help the account manager build up a bigger picture. The engagement of user stakeholders is critical in the deployment of any product.
  5. How often would you like account review calls? I think we have all come across situations where a customer has purchased a product and then not heard from the account manager for a year after ‘go live’. An account manager should be in constant contact with the project team during implementation. They must know exactly what is going on at any given time and whilst they won’t be on every call, they should be in regular contact with you. Every project should be completed in tandem with the account manager as referred to in the article by Natalie Alesi, Global Senior Director of Customer Success at iManage Account managers should be working alongside the project team to help progress the implementations. After the project has gone live the account manager should be requesting feedback on the system and be available for help and advice.

The last year has been interesting, and I have been working more closely with account managers than ever before. I can clearly see why the Ascertus team are considered trusted advisors and are held in such high regard. Each account manager has a different approach but fundamentally, and this is something that is instilled from the top down, customer success is the key to great account management.

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