Comment: an account manager isn't just for April

The busiest time of year is behind account managers, but don't rest on your laurels

As we take down the Union Jack bunting and finish the last bottle of bubbly, one hopes that even after the Royal couple eventually have their honeymoon their relationship will continue to be special.

And so it is with client relationships. April is still the most common month for renewals and sales of financial and insurance services so I suspect that many account managers are breathing a sigh of relief as the busiest part of the year is behind them. But whether you represent a provider or intermediary, now is not the time to rest on your laurels.

As you will have experienced, buyers and decision makers of health insurance and related services are, in general, an educated and informed group. In most cases it is a constant challenge for account managers to add value. As with any relationship, complacency can be the start of a slippery slope towards a messy break up.

How easy it is to sit back, glory in the new business or tricky renewal confirmed, and feel relieved that you won’t have to jump through any more hoops till the nine months claims figures are available. But I believe that the first few months of the scheme year are vital in maintaining or building strong working relationships and customer loyalty.

Promising the earth is easy when you are trying to get the client to sign on the bottom line, but they will soon start to notice if you don’t deliver.

Gratitude – but not pathetic, needy gratefulness – is a powerful tool in building relationships. Whether the scheme is a multi-million pound account or an SME with 10 members, it is a good idea to thank the client for their repeated business. It is good manners, in fact. And how about thanking the service team(s) supporting you? If you make the renewal/new business negotiations a team sport, then victory will be all the sweeter. It is well known to be significantly more expensive to win new business than retain current clients so the effort in cementing professional and mutually beneficial relationships is time well spent.

Remember – the absolute basics for good client relationships:

1. Be consistent in your approach - all year round

2. Take time to understand your client’s motivation and the company culture

3. Help your client to look good – put your ego to one side

4. Anticipate their needs – why did they choose your organisation?

5. Keep channels of communication open and be available

6. Provide tangible proof of your worth – as an individual and the organisation you represent

7. Take responsibility to trouble shoot – “in a timely manner

8. Pay attention to detail – all communication should be accurate and well presented

9. Shut up and listen!

The perfect recipe for a happy marriage in fact…

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