Henry Weston-Davies – Gulland Padfield
In this article, Henry Weston-Davies explores a new predictive approach to account management and focuses on the foundation for this approach, a new type of insight ‘engine’ which supports an organisation’s rain-makers and business development team to be ‘Right place, Right Time’ when opportunities arise.
Account Management - critical to business development or tired concept in need of a refresh?
Account Management is the cornerstone of a successful client strategy for financial services, professional services and business services organisations. But many struggle to select and implement an effective approach to managing either individual or institutional clients. Why?
Based on our experience, there are perhaps three main challenges:
- Lack of the right insight to support account management – No account management approach can work if it does not have a forensic understanding of clients’ and prospects’ needs. But the majority of data on client needs collected is often focused on the past rather than looking forward, weighted towards purely financial metrics and is poorly synthesized. Client insight questions (where a program exists) are often weak and fail to get to the heart of what really drives clients and prospects to make decisions where they need the support of advisors.
- Poor engagement from within the business - Where a capable framework for account management does exist, engagement is often poor due to a series of factors including: lack of strong leadership; no clear connection to the business strategy and an individual’s book of business or practice; lack of time and resource; and fatigue over the concept of account management driven by previous failure.
- Misaligned marketing and business development function – Without a core resource to drive forward account management within organisations, the majority of programs are doomed to fail. Business development and marketing functions are often separate, siloed and still a little too ‘analogue’ for effective account management implementation.
Finally, there is often a lack of a clear understanding of what account management is in the first place.
So how can organisations re-fresh an existing account management progam or if embarking on a program for the first time, build one which works in the long-term to build loyalty and revenues for your organisation?
How can you design an approach which supports the organisation to be ‘Right place, Right time’ for the major opportunities, even when relationships are typically very transactional?
We suggest that developing and launching a ‘Predictive Account Management’ approach is the answer.
Moving towards Predictive Account Management
So how should organisations launch Predictive Account Management? A clear definition is often a good place to start:
The process by which an advisory organisation gathers and analyses information about the past, current and future needs of the client and uses this to plan and deliver activities that enable an organisation to build a mutually beneficial relationship with that client in the future
Beyond this, there are several areas where you can focus but we feel there are three priorities:
- Build a Predictive Account Management Insight engine
- Align your people and structure into a Client Strategy function.
- Implement with commitment.
In this article we are going to focus on how you can develop the right insight approach or ‘engine’ to support Predictive Account Management. This is the foundation which underpins an effective approach.
“The right insight engine will transform your account management from reactive and laborious to future-focused and automated. It will help your rain-makers to better predict client decisions before they make them. It will ensure you are making the right call at the right time, sending across the right piece of tailored content or proffering an invitation when it is needed. All before competitors have thought of it.” Henry Weston-Davies, Gulland Padfield
Financial and professional organisations are slowly increasing the quantity of client research and insights available to them. But many still struggle to access insights which really allow the organisation to understand when crucial decisions are to be made which drive the relationship.
But with the right framework or model (what we call our ‘engine’) fed with the right inputs, it is possible to do this far more effectively and often with a more automated and resource-efficient approach.
So how does our Predictive Account Management Insight Engine work?
At its core sits a framework of data and insight triggers or criteria. These are designed working closely with an organisation to fit with their clients and potential target clients. The triggers or criteria include at least the following three main areas:
- Who they are - The end client or prospect’s characteristics both as a segment and a persona or individual. This includes all needs ranging from financial ones through to softer more human elements. The framework must incorporate these both as an organisation but also as a series or network of individuals. Or even as one individual if a private wealth HNW or UHNW client.
- What they are focused on - A strong understanding of the typical client journey, including major events or phases which are likely to take place. This also links the overall Client or Customer Experience, if defined.
- How they make decisions - A deep understanding of the varying responsibilities for the decision to appoint or retain an advisor. It includes far stronger understanding of the decision making process for the client, especially the role of intermediaries and other key influencers.
What are the inputs into our Predictive Account Management Insight Engine which bring it alive?
For both the setup and ongoing predictive account management approach, we need to draw on a series of data inputs. They will both validate our framework and then start to deliver alerts on potential decision points for clients or prospective clients. These include:
- A future-focused client insight program – an approach to client insight which is weighted towards future strategies and decision making. Review your client insight approach and re-balance your conversations with clients to focus on building a much stronger understanding of the strategic needs of the client’s business but also their decision making approach as an individual or team of individuals.
- External third-party data – A series of sources can be harnessed to allow you to identify possible future client or prospect decisions. These can include a range of data base providers as well as press reports. For example, publically reported financial data on a company can allow you to identify future financial situations e.g. re-financing. Strategy statements can give a far stronger sense of an organisation’s attitude to growth. When aimed at a clear framework of analysis, these data sources can be used far more effectively.
- Internal know-how – The reservoir of client and prospect-focused intelligence at your organisation. As part of the Predictive Account Management approach setup, it is essential to mine the organisation’s knowledge on how clients have acted in the past across different types of client segments, service areas and geographies. Then once the progam is underway, you can launch a regular reporting process to extract ongoing intelligence from the organisation. Where a CRM system exists (and is used) this can be used to extract some of this data.
The combination of these sources into our engine gives us far greater foresight on when a client or prospect is likely to make a decision which could require advice. This ensures both far more efficient focus of scarce resources (whether your business development team or your hard-working rain makers) and that the organisation is far more likely to be in the right place at the right time.
The next steps are ensuring you have a function and structure which can act quickly on this intelligence and that the business has embraced the approach.
Are you a Head of Business Development, Head of Clients or Senior Management looking to kick your account management program up a gear?
Are you looking to design and launch a new account management program which delivers far stronger revenues and growth?
If so, start a conversation with Gulland Padfield - contact Henry Weston-Davies to find out more about the Predictive Account Management approach and to discuss how it can work for an organisation like yours - firstname.lastname@example.org or +44 (0) 203 051 2295