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Lesley's Column

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25th April 2016

Account managers in focus

After the RFP process has been completed and the supplier’s successful sales team have sailed off to their next project, the role of client development falls to their account manager.

Irrespective of whether the RFP was for a preferred airline, corporate card, TMC or other programme, the role of the account manager is critical if the contract is to be successful.

That success is often dependent on how the supplier measures (and remunerates) their account manager. They are often seen as extensions of their sales teams and their success is therefore measured on their ability to increase revenue through additional product sales or encouraging the client to ‘trade up’.

This is especially true for TMCs where their revenue is often solely dependent on the client’s travel spend – greater expenditure equals greater TMC revenue. This is often at odds with a client who is trying to manage and reduce their spend.

Strong client development relies on the account manager’s understanding of the client’s strategic objectives, listening to stakeholders and then providing a business plan that will meet those objectives.

That is achieved by making sensible – and unbiased – recommendations and bringing parties together to ensure each agreed recommendation is successfully implemented.

It may mean introducing new products, but more often than not, it involves communicating different policies or processes, ensuring that the benefits are understood and ensuring that the contract reflects these improvements. It is a delicate process and requires trust.

At contract renewal time, the account manager can then demonstrate tangible improvements to the client’s travel programme rather than defend likely criticism of higher cost.

When choosing a TMC, ask how they remunerate and measure their account managers. If you’re not happy that they will work to your objectives, make sure that you only pay for the services you want and source account management on an ad hoc basis, either through the chosen TMC or elsewhere.