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Why CRM is the wrong tool for account managers

1st Nov 2017
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By now, CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems have been implemented in a lot of businesses. They’re a fantastic tool to help you get more from point-of-sale customers, and to help you retain a larger portion of your customer base. But, CRM is not the right tool for Account Managers who are serious about building strategic partnerships with their company’s key accounts.
 
The True Focus of CRM Systems

The truth is that CRM systems are not made to distinguish between different types of accounts. They are ideal for understanding more about your customers and learning how to fill their needs better. But, they lack the tools needed to create win-win situations that will strengthen your position as a partner and solidify your commitment together with your key accounts.

There are a lot of things that CRM systems are good at. Here are a few things that the right CRM system will do to benefit a business:

  • Manage Sales Team Activities. The term Customer Relationship Management is a little misleading, since the software used to accomplish this goal has more to do with your own staff than your actual customers. These software options help you keep track of what each part of your sales staff should be doing to interact with customers. They help you arrange a good plan that fully utilizes all your available staff in the most efficient way possible.
  • Retain More Customer Accounts. Because you’ll have a better understanding of your customers, you can keep more on board than you would if you didn’t have any data on them. CRM systems give you the right tools to cater to your customers’ need more fully.
  • Provide Useful Service to Customers. By learning more about your customers, you will create more opportunities to adjust your services to fit customer need more fully. This data is vital to your company if you want to stay competitive.
  • Create Relevant Reports from Stored Data. Just because you have a lot of data does not mean you can understand it all. Proper CRM systems will allow you to create reports based on your data stored on their system, so you can understand and share what you know about your customers.

CRM is focused on retaining customers by helping them feel valued and showing that your company knows enough about the customer to take care of them well. Basic customer retention is mainly the sales department’s concern, making them the prime candidates for a good CRM system. In practice, great CRM systems can help your business retain customers and allow you to market more directly to new customers. But, Account Managers need more than this.
 
Why Account Managers Need an Upgrade from CRM

To get the most out of your customers, you need to understand which accounts are most vital to your business and place a higher priority on them over the others. This doesn’t mean ignoring your other customers, but simply focusing more energy on the most important customer accounts. This is where Account Managers come in, because it’s their job to find those vital clients and provide a higher level of service.

We call these vital accounts the key accounts. They are not just customers who buy from your company occasionally. Key accounts are those that are currently strategic partners of your company, or who have the potential to become strategic partners in the future. Regular CRM software does not give the kind of accountability that Key Account Managers need to maintain strategic partnerships.

To stay ahead of the game and keep your important customers invested into your business, your Account Managers need access to greater resources. These resources should allow them to forecast potential problems for key accounts, record large amounts of data from multiple sources, create responsive engagement plans, and receive alerts when action is necessary for a specific account.
 
The Downfalls of CRM for Key Account Management

CRM systems don’t give Account Managers the right level of touch for key accounts. These are not touch-and-go type accounts that only need sporadic involvement and can thrive with occasional contact from your business. The biggest problem with CRM systems is the lack of resources for proactive account management. Many CRM systems provide information that can be reacted to, rather than forecasts and goals for proactive management.

Instead of focusing on simply retaining key accounts, the tools used by Account Managers need to allow them to deeply understand what those customers need and how to potentially expand the accounts in the future. This is slow and steady work that requires a lot of effort from all different departments of your company, not just the sales department. It’s a multi-level process that can cost a lot of time, effort, and money in the beginning, but the payoffs of a strong strategic partnership with a key account are immense and long-lasting.
 
What Account Managers Should Be Using

If CRM systems aren’t the right answer for Account Managers, then what is? The upgrade Account Managers need is a key account management software. These types of software are more focused on what’s necessary to keep your key accounts happy and engaged with your business. The right tools are provided to help your business stay proactive instead of getting stuck in a reactive relationship.

Key Account Management is more than just a technology. It’s a mindset that needs to be bred into your organization if you want to truly benefit from it. But, the right technology can facilitate good Key Account Management practices by giving every department the tools needed to fulfill their end of the bargain. This includes giving your key accounts access to the same system you’re using, so they can keep track of shared goals and information as well.

Successful Key Account Management is not all about the technology you’re using. But, the right software can be one of your greatest assets for maintaining and expanding key accounts.
 

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