Key Account Managers have the difficult responsibility of creating proactive relationships with multiple different key accounts. The best way to keep track of each separate account is to create and utilize an engagement plan. But, even this can go awry if you have a lackluster plan in place.
The Purpose of an Engagement Plan
A good engagement plan is much more than a simple reference document for your partnership with your key accounts. It should be a living and breathing document that directs the next steps in the partnership. This plan is your way to be proactive and efficient in your relationships with key account clients. It’s called an “engagement plan” because it is the mutually agreed-on plan for how your company and your key account will carry out your strategic partnership.
Key accounts are often considered “high-touch” customers. They need more specialized service and demand more attention than the average customer. By creating an effective engagement plan, you will develop a strategy to provide a higher level of service to your key accounts to help them grown and expand their business. As the partnership continues and you, both parties should be meeting mutually beneficial goals. An effective engagement plan lays the groundwork for key account success.
Tips for More Effective Engagement Plans
What makes an engagement plan effective versus average or mediocre? Here’s a few tips on how you can work to create an exceptional engagement plan:
- Don’t Re-Invent the Wheel
Every engagement plan needs to be unique to the key account, because of the nature of your strategic partnership. But, that doesn’t mean you have to create a new structure for each and every engagement plan. The basic elements of each plan remain the same, with only the details and data inside changing.
This is similar to a business plan. There are key elements that make a business plan useful, like the executive summary and the operational plan. While every business will have different values, data, and specifics to fill into these sections, the elements themselves don’t change. Engagement plans are the same. You can borrow the basic structure of any other successful engagement plan, as long as you’re filling in the details from your unique partnership with every separate key account.
- Make It a Work in Progress
You’re never really finished with an engagement plan. There should never be a point where you seal it close it off and stop editing. As things change and new information comes into play, the engagement plan should be changed to reflect the new developments. This document is meant to grow with you instead of losing touch with the realities of the partnership.
Unless the partnership itself ends, there should be consistent updates to the engagement plan. Put new SWOT analysis information inside, edit the progress towards each goal, and update the relevant data about each company.
- Balance the Focus for Mutual Benefit
It’s easy to focus too much on one side of the partnership or the other. But, this imbalance can cause an imbalance in the benefits as well. Your company needs to focus mainly on the key account’s needs and challenges. However, you can’t forget that the entire purpose of the partnership is for your company to also gain value through your key account’s success.
Keep your engagement plan balanced between the needs of both you and your key account. If you focus too much on one side and ignore the other, you or your key account will not be benefitting equally from the partnership.
- Get Buy-in on Both Sides
For an engagement plan to succeed, you need buy-in from top executives in your company. They need to know what the plan is with these key accounts and be involved in making it happen, when needed. It will give your key accounts more confidence in the partnership if they see high-level executives from your company participating in creating or approving the engagement plan.
You also need buy-in from the key account. If they aren’t convinced about the usefulness of your engagement plan, they won’t be dedicated to its success. This engagement plan represents the goals and action plan for your partnership, so you need to make sure your key account is also committed to making it successful.
- Understand Your Customer’s Needs Fully
If you try to create a plan without fully understanding what your key accounts need, it won’t be effective or useful. Before you begin to make your engagement plan, take time to fully understand the challenges your key account faces, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Look at their position in the industry, their business model, and their company goals.
You can still change a plan once it’s been made. If your original plan doesn’t reflect your new, deeper understanding of the key account, update it. Without truly understanding your key account, you may be blindsided by problems or decisions by your key account that you didn’t see coming.
- Communicate Clearly
Consistent, useful communication needs to be an essential part of your engagement plan. Keep in touch with your key account regularly about what’s going on in your partnership, progress towards milestones, etc. Don’t rely entirely on monthly meetings or quarterly business reports. If you want the partnership to be strong and the engagement plan to be a success, you need to be communicating clearly with your key accounts on a regular basis.
- Follow Up with Strategic Partners
After you’ve made the engagement plan, follow up with relevant contacts in your key account’s company to get feedback. When you update the plan, follow up to see if they approve of and support the changes. Both sides should be equally invested in the plan, which means you need to get specific feedback by following up with the other side when anything changes or needs to change.
All engagement plans are not equal for Key Account Management. But, if you follow these tips you’re more likely to create an maintain an engagement plan that helps you and your key account stay invested in the strategic partnership over the long-term.