#4: Foregoing the Scheduled Maintenance

If you were born prior to 1990, you will immediately recall the product made famous by this commercial slogan: “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” The aim of the commercial was to convince car owners to change their oil filter by spending a small amount of money upfront to avoid major engine breakdown later or pay significantly more money to repair or replace the engine. Essentially, do a little preventive maintenance now so as to ensure the car runs well and lasts longer.

In terms of maintaining an automobile, a lack of regularly scheduled maintenance could compromise a car’s critical systems. For instance, not changing the oil after a certain amount of mileage could potentially result in unnecessary damage to the engine. Low or uneven tire pressure can damage tires and cause poor fuel economy. Not replacing worn belts and hoses can result in overheating, and, ultimately, engine failure. It is important to ensure scheduled maintenance on a car is completed in a timely manner to keep the car performing at its optimal level.

Similar to maintaining a classic American muscle car or a sexy European sports coupe, account managers must complete regular maintenance on their account plans and strategies. Without regular inspections and tune-ups, account plans could potentially cause relationship breakdowns, poor communications, misaligned expectations, and missed opportunities.

Typically account plans and business strategies are established at the beginning of a new calendar or fiscal year. The best account managers seek their customer’s input as they create a roadmap for the work they’ll do together during the year, collaborating with the customer to understand big picture goals, strategies, and key priorities in supporting departments across the customer’s organization. Ultimately, a number of aligned opportunities will become obvious and those opportunities will help establish the initial work plan.

As work is completed, the keenly astute account manager will refer back to the initial account plan to ensure alignment of activities and capture any new goals, customer changes, or re-prioritization of work. Updating the plans will ensure the account manager pursues the most appropriate opportunities, maintains current customer intelligence, and maximizes the time spent with the customer instead of having account plans that fail or break down midway through the year. Ignoring the scheduled maintenance plan of monthly reviews and quarterly updates is sure to cause breakdowns. Get ahead of them with scheduled planning updates.

If you are an account management leader reading this post, you might consider the following:

*Establishing a regular cadence of reviews with your account team members
* Incorporating a group walk-through of each team member’s plans on the latest customer insights, goals, strategies, and aligned opportunities being pursued
 *Asking a few key questions as you engage each account manager on their account plans, such as, “How do you know these are the customer’s goals?” “Who at the account have you met to help develop the plan?” “What are the top 2-3 aligned opportunities you plan to pursue?”

By doing so, you will create open dialogue and opportunities to coach your account management team toward strengthening their account planning skills. Moreover, these suggestions could help you and your team avoid the “Pay me now, or pay me later” trap where unwanted breakdowns lurk. Keep your finely tuned account plans running smoothly and at optimal levels of performance by employing these suggestions.

Photo credit: auto averido