In studying, researching, and practicing in the field of strategic account management, we've found 6 areas can almost universally be improved.
Be proactive. If you want to become essential to your clients (and you do), you have to be proactive. Surprise and delight the buyer. Take the initiative to enhance the value you bring to them. This may mean getting the buyer a resource before they ask for it or before they even know they need it. It may mean developing something custom for them. It may mean facilitating introductions and hosting high-level retreats among executives in complementary industries.
Be prepared. Do your homework. Research which ideas and insights might be relevant for them. Follow the company’s internal and external news. Track stakeholders. Keep up with changes in the industry and the competitive environment.
Then, attend to point #1. Bring these insights to clients proactively. An email or call as simple as, “How are you addressing the new regulations around ABC? I have a few ideas for you as you develop your strategy. Can we meet to discuss?” can go a long way.
Consider their whole team. How do the stakeholders on their team view the relationship? Maybe a few people perceive it to be essential, but maybe others do not even know you. If they’re important, that’s a vulnerability you need to address.
Make sure what you are selling is adopted and used as much as possible. If clients use your products and services, they’ll value them. They’ll neither want nor need to switch. If someone suggested switching, they might say, “Everyone uses this. It would be a colossal challenge to change.” People don’t like change. The more your product or service is embedded in their culture and behavior, the less likely they’ll change.
If adoption and use is low, do something about it.
Embed your company. Can you negotiate for long-term, sole source contracts? Offer clients an attractive long-term license for your technology or intellectual capital? Structure contracts so the more they use your services or products, the more advantages they get (such as pricing, preferred treatment, and added value)?
Embedding yourself in the organization inspires the client to use you more, and use competitors less.
Build trust. When buyers trust you they depend on you, listen to you, give you access, and spend time with you. In our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we found that building trust is one of 6 key drivers* of client loyalty.
*Statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.
Schultz, Mike, and John Doerr. "What Sales Winners Do Differently." http://info.rainsalestraining.com/free-report-what-sales-winners-do-differently.