Two experts engineers in protective helmets and fluorescent vests showing the construction site and building activities after the successful project phase.

Working as a key client manager in a professional services firm is no easy task. Questas’s Annabel Miller looks at the variety of skills needed to succeed.

The most effective managers juggle a multitude of skills and wear a number of different hats, not least delivering work! Some client managers are highly analytical, others are charming extroverts.

Regardless of style, here are TEN skills that we believe every highly effective key client manager should have:

1. Understanding of your client’s business

Firstly, managers need to understand the client in terms of markets they operate in, competitors, objectives, challenges etc. They should be aware of the client’s Critical Success Factors including a knowledge of ‘horizon issues’ which allows them to be proactive.

2. Problem solving

An invaluable skill is having the ability to offer compelling solutions to client challenges. Managers should also understand their own firm’s wider offering so that they can tap into these for the benefit of the client.

3. Industry knowledge

The best managers have his or her ‘ear to the ground’ in terms of market intelligence, relevant industry news and gossip which he/she can pass on to the client. They should also have Trusted Advisor status with senior people at the client, allowing them to be in the best position to advise their client on how to progress successful in their field.

4. Innovative Thinking

This is the skill of bringing creative insight to client’s businesses, thereby helping them to deliver a competitive advantage and stay one step ahead of competitors.

5. Leadership skills

The person who builds and leads high-performing teams from cross-functional areas and isn’t driven by personal ego but by team success will be highly successful. Being a collaborative leader is vital as it encourages the team to create and deliver plans.

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6. Motivating others

The best managers recognise the importance of rewarding teams and celebrating success for achieving milestones. They can balance their own time between the requirements of the client, his/her firm and the team, and ensures that all members of the team are equipped with necessary skills.

7. A head for numbers

It’s essential to understand profit & loss and how to read financial reports. Successful managers also treat the account like his/her own business and is responsible for setting and achieving financial targets, taking responsibility for budget control and the allocation of resources.

8. Troubleshooting

The person who keeps an eye out for potential problems and manages potential concerns will become an invaluable asset, even more so by being brilliant at assessing risks and flagging them up to clients and their own management when relevant.

9. Relationship building

Great key account managers builds and manage relationships internally and externally with all relevant stakeholders. They also have the ability to relate to people at all levels, from CEO to ‘shop floor’, ensuring commitment and enthusiasm from all key people.

10. Managing relationships strategically

In our experience a key account manager who actively manages a ‘relationship mapping tool’ in order to ensure that appropriate ‘man-marking’ is taking place. He or she also encourages and develops the ‘Hidden Sales Force’, understanding their roles and developing relationships with them accordingly.

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