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Account Management It is the job of account managers therefore to know, understand, and to be able to use all available information to plan their account management activities. Planning is the first step to satisfy the needs of both parties. Planning then translates into defining account management goals and strategies. Again there are two sets of requirements of the account manager when it comes to approaching the task of achieving the goals and strategy in the best way. The requirements involve a complete understanding of the buying cycle-as seen by the customer and as seen by the supplier. Managing the Buying Cycle Approaching the task of managing accounts involves seeing the buying cycle from two perspectives – the customer and the supplier’s. Both perspectives are similar, but are subtly different and it’s important for account managers to understand the differences if they are to play their dual role. When it comes to the buying cycle from the customer’s perspective it follows a six-step process. The process exists whether the customer is an existing account or a prospective account. 1. Need/problem Identified At this step the customer recognizes that it has a need or a problem which it has to address. Having ascertained that it cannot supply the solution itself it embarks upon a search to identify the best provider of the solution. To do this it may contact one or a number of potential suppliers and briefs them on its need or problem. The intention is to find the best solution. 2. Exploration of Options The next step in the buying cycle involves the exploration of options with various external suppliers. The customer will make comparisons, weigh up the pros and cons of different approaches put forward, and will make both objective and subjective judgements as to who comes closest to its buying criteria. Those suppliers who come the closest are normally invited to present their solutions more formally. 3. Presentation of Different Solutions By the time different potential suppliers are asked to present their solutions, the customer will have prioritized the requirements in their buying criteria and will have agreed the roles of different individuals in the buying decision. At this stage the customer is looking for shortlisted suppliers to show a complete understanding of its needs and priorities, and is looking for a convincing presentation of the best solution. 4. Decision to Buy The decision to buy is largely dependent on the quality of the presentation of solutions and results from a number of factors. Ultimately they can be summarized by the ‘SPACER’ mnemonic as follows: Security Is the organisation/product/service a safe bet and risk free? Performance Will the solution proposed perform as promised? Appearance Will those involved in the buying decision look good as a result; will the customer look good? Convenience Will the solution be easy to implement? Economic Does the solution provide a financial benefit? Relationship Is there a relationship which can be developed into the future? If, for the costs involved, all or many of the above benefits are supplied then the customer is likely to buy. If, on the other hand, the costs do not provide the benefits, and in addition involve risks, then the customer is unlikely to buy. 5. Implementation Having decided to buy what is perceived to be the best option, the customer implements the solution and experiences the reality of its purchase. At this step the customer is usually anxious in the early stages and seeks all the support and reassurance the supplier can give. Throughout the use of the product, process, or application it is the visibility and frequency of contact between supplier and customer that is all important to ensure total satisfaction with the solution bought. 6. Progress and Evaluation The customer’s future depends on its abilities to profitably satisfy the needs of its own customers, and its customers’ needs will certainly change in the light of market conditions. These days it is not long before progress and change are followed by evaluation and new needs or problems are identified of concern to the customer which impact the supplier’s product. At this point the buying cycle starts again and is repeated. Seen from the supplier’s viewpoint the buying cycle is slightly different. 1. Need/problem Identified Either by proactively seeking out the business, simply working closely with the customer, or responding to an enquiry, the sales person identifies the customer’s needs or problems. 2. Investigation Depending on the complexity of the need, the sales person, alone or with others, carries out a thorough investigation of the needs or problems, and prepares a formal proposal, or simply presents solutions (if the customer is well known and a good relationship exists). 3. Presentation of Solution The sales person presents his/her product/service/technology as a solution to the need or problem and answers questions/objections relating to the solution. Other suppliers may be asked to do this as well if they have been involved at steps 1 and 2. 4. Buying of Solution The customer buys the solution, with or without a negotiation, and formalizes the agreement to buy in a contract or agreed terms of trading. 5. Implementation of Solution The solution is implemented and the customer has the ultimate ‘show proof’ in the product/service/technology provided by the supplier. After sales, support is the key requirement of the sales person at this step. 6. Progress and Evaluation As the customer’s business moves on the requirements change, they grow, they differ, they evolve. And, as a result of the customer’s demands and market-place trends, needs are re-assessed, problems identified and the opportunity for selling arises again for the supplier, and the process is repeated. While the buying cycle is always obvious at the time of securing a new customer, it is very often neglected when it comes to account management. And yet it is this process that is constantly going on and which produces the opportunities to protect and grow 8 Submit your Articles sales and service excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 10.2014


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