As a distributor business owner, our most important job is to bring in the sales. Since this is an account based business model, taking good care of our clients will lead to increased business within their organizations, because of the potential added business from their referrals to other departments or branches. That’s why hiring an account manager, before hiring a salesperson, makes sense.
Maximizing your existing accounts is the fastest way to grow your business. It pays to have a systematic approach to showering your clients with attention so you provide added value to them as a trusted partner, therefore earning their loyalty.
Delegating these activities will free up your time to focus on getting new clients and business development projects. However, ensuring a smooth transition is key, so the client doesn’t feel pushed aside by you, the owner.
These are some steps to ensure a smooth transition:
Expect pushback from your client.
Understand that turning over the client to the account manager it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight. Chances are the client will continue to email you instead of your account manager with requests or questions. You definitely don’t want them to feel rejected, or less important. To me, is very much like weaning a baby.
From the start, let your clients know that you don’t work alone.
Let your clients know you work with a team that’s aligned with your values as a business. Keep in mind that even when you are working solo you have suppliers to ask questions and discuss projects with, you have digitizers who convert your logos, etc. So you really don’t work alone.
Create processes and systems
• Document your product research and quoting process, as well as the order fulfillment process, to ensure consistency and facilitate the training period.
• Make sure the account manager knows that you expect that it will take time for the client to get used to dealing with a new person. ave a series of initial activities he/she will perform, such as sending the client a new “ideas presentation”, your recent catalog along with a “sample package”, etc.
• Have a series of initial activities he/she will perform, such as sending the client a new “ideas presentation”, your recent catalog along with a “sample package”, etc. , so the client starts getting familiar with him/her.
• Create email templates for the common situations that will need to be handled, both for the account manager and you, to systematize the process and save time.
Handling your client emailing you directly
• Reply with a thank you, ask a few pertinent questions, and tell them something like:
“Mary, who’s been working behind the scenes on your projects, will be helping me with this, so you will be hearing from her”.
Next, they hear from Mary, and future correspondence tends to stay between them.
• If they email you again:
“Yes, we were talking about this earlier, Mary is putting together information on the ideas we found”.
• If the client emails you to check status on an order:
“I’ll check with Mary and let you know.”
“ We just finished our order review meeting, Mary will be sending you updates shortly”
Reassure the client you are overseeing the process
The idea is to reassure the client he/she is important and make them feel they’re getting better attention and are not being kicked to the curve
• When the order is placed, send a thank you email (another template). Again mention Mary and how she will be in charge of making sure the order stays on track.
• Scheduled meetings with your clients and bring your account manager so they meet in person.Prepare you manager ahead of time so he/she can take charge of the ideas presentation, to show expertise. Tell your client he/she’s been working behind the scenes and she knows all about their projects. Talk about “us” and “we” instead of “me” or “I”.
Provide training and support to your Account Manager
Be prepared to hold a new account’s manager hand throughout the process until he/she is ready to do it on her own. Hold a “flash meeting” every day to quickly go through the work each team member is working on, and answer any questions or make suggestions so nothing gets stuck. I found it very helpful for everyone to hear what the other is working on, even though they are very different functions and aspects, I don’t know why but I feel that this makes everyone more collaborative. I used to hold individual meetings by “department” once a week except for production, but this is a lot more effective, I think because everyone knows what’s going on in the business.
Make your clients feel they are No 1.
Some clients are more important than others, but they should all feel you value their business. As a business owner, I want all of my clients to feel that they are most important to me, because they are. I want them to know that I’m always overseeing everything and that my team and I are one.
One of the hardest things to do in delegating is overcoming the need to control everything. We business owners we are doers. I know I feel that nobody can do the job as good as I can, or that explaining it will take longer that doing it myself. But it really isn’t true that I can do everything and that nobody can do it as good as me, as I found out when I hired the right people.
In order to grow, I had to tame the control freak in me. Still working on it.