Account Management Guide: Benefits and Best Practices

16 minute read

How can effective account management help you defend and grow revenue? 

As you’ll see, lone wolf selling is quickly losing efficacy in a B2B business world that puts a premium on relationships. But that doesn’t mean the wolves aren’t still at your door. There are plenty of sellers out there waiting for the slightest chance to jump in and take your hard-earned relationships away from you. You need a strategy to defend and grow revenue in not only key accounts, but in every account.  

Here’s where having a sales account management strategy becomes indispensable. Through account management, your team can seek to establish themselves as trusted advisors to customers. This is only possible through strong relationships and teamwork. 

In this guide, we’re going to take a look at real account management strategies and best practices that have helped sellers around the world succeed at landing and expanding revenue in accounts. We’re also going to take a look at the greater revenue team, and why it’s important to have an entire village behind you as you begin to take on those most valuable accounts. 

Sellers can take these lessons and use them to land new, key accounts, but also grow revenue in all accounts. Through a combination of best practices, relationship mapping, and account planning, sellers and account managers can retain their status as trusted advisors, and keep the howling, lone wolves at bay. 

First, a Quick Primer – What is Account Management? 

Traditionally, account management has often been seen as a post-sales role. In those days, selling was transactional, while account management was focused on the cross-sell and upsell opportunities in customer accounts. 

Today, you’ll find the distinction to be less black-and-white. Indeed, great sellers are relationship builders, and they take the account management mindset with them into their approach from the get-go. 

And while it’s never too late to start leveraging account management strategies, approaching your customer with a relationship first mentality certainly helps get you off on the right foot.  

Account Managers Put the Relationship First 

 Relationships are the foundation of effective selling. How do we know this? Well, here are a few reasons: 

  • Face-to-face selling is back on the rise: according to recent studies, buyers actually prefer to interface with sellers when it comes to complex, B2B sales. 
  • People buy from people – the transactional sale is not a reliable strategy in complex, B2B sales.  
  • The stakes are high – buying groups and longer buying cycles make it harder for lone wolf sellers to fake it until they make it.  

Account management, therefore, takes a more strategic and effective approach to sales by seeking to establish a long-term partnership with customers. We call this achieving trusted advisor status. It’s the highest level of trust any seller can attain. . 

By identifying the people, problems, and relationships in accounts, and focusing on the relationship ahead of all other aspects of the sale, sellers can maximize on delivering value to customers. 

Account Management Process – Steps to Success 

As sellers and account managers work through their accounts, they’ll find a systematic approach is often best to ensure they are covering their bases and delivering the most value in every interaction.  These steps include: 

1. Identifying Target Accounts

Account management starts with knowing which opportunities are going to be the most valuable for your team to pursue. In fact, many successful sales teams have a robust qualifying process to ensure they are going after the deals that matter. Your target account list will include those with the greatest potential value to your business. These include the largest, most profitable, or most strategic customers with room for the greatest growth. 

2. Segmenting Key Accounts

Once you have identified your target account list, you need to segment them into groups based on their size, industry, location, and additional factors like cultural fit and relationship status. This will help you to develop tailored account plans for each account. 

3. Developing Account Plans

Account plans should be based on the specific needs and goals of each account. They should outline your strategy for meeting those needs and achieving those goals. Account planning, however, is not a once-and-done activity. It requires constant iteration, coaching, evaluation, collaboration, and refinement to get right.  

4. Executing Account Plans

Account plans are only effective if they are put into practice. To make this easier, great sales teams set clear goals, KPIs, and adjust when needed to better fit their always-evolving account management strategy. 

5. Performing a Whitespace Analysis

The most valuable sale is one made to an existing customer. In fact, the majority of revenue for most businesses comes from their existing customer base. Targeting these opportunities and growing revenue in accounts is a fundamental aspect of good account management.  

6. Measuring Results From Account Management Strategies

Lastly, account managers need to measure their impact. It’s through measuring results, reviewing deals, and testing and improving account plans that account managers see the most growth, and businesses double down on bolstering revenue.

Account Management Benefits  

As you can see, it takes a lot of work, discipline, and rigor to get account management right. You might be wondering, “Is it really worth it, in the end?” Of course! There are many benefits to account management that make the significant investment in resources worth it. Here are a few: 

  • Increased revenue: Effective account management builds revenue and increases sales through the strength of relationships. By understanding the people and problems in accounts and the unique needs of each and every stakeholder, sellers and account managers can work to address and ultimately solve them. Demonstrating value like this has proven results in revenue – driving win rates up by as much as 300%! 
  • Improve customer satisfaction: By putting the relationship first and helping customers solve real problems, account managers increase customer satisfaction while simultaneously growing revenue from new opportunities transactional sellers miss. 
  • Reduced costs: Account managers can help to reduce costs by preventing customer churn and by upselling and cross-selling products and services. 

What About Account Management Best Practices? 

 Account managers who follow the steps to success and make ongoing growth, collaboration, and improvement a part of their day-to-day lives can expect to reap these many benefits. However, there are a few additional best practices that jive really well with the steps already mentioned. By making these best practices part of their daily activities, account managers can truly set themselves apart from the pack.  

They do this by: 

Setting Clear Goals and Objectives

While account managers work with the greater revenue team to build relationships in an account, it’s helpful to establish clear goals and objectives for each and every account. Setting specific metrics is one way we’ve seen sales teams really excel in this area.  

Building Relationships With the Right People 

The only thing worse than not building relationships is building relationships with the wrong people. This could mean building relationships with people who don’t have the decision-making powers to actually impact a purchase, or failing to understand how relevant your solution is to a given role. Account management takes a ton of time and resources to get right. Building relationships with the wrong people, therefore, is a huge drain on those resources. We’ll dive deeper into how you can make sure you’re interacting with the people that matter in your target accounts.  

Understanding Customers Pain Points

Understanding the customer’s strategy, and helping them solve their problems, is the right approach to account management – not putting your strategy for the account first.  

In order to properly serve your customers, you need to first understand them. How do they think? What do they think about you? What pain points are they trying to solve, and what are the relationships like within the account? Relationship sellers seek to understand these questions before they go for the sale.  

Building Relationships

Account management is all about relationships. Get to know your customers on a personal level. Build trust and rapport. The stronger your relationships, the more successful you will be. The best way to build relationships, however, is to deliver consistent and measurable value. This is the ideal way to cross the relationship gap.  

Taking a Multi-Armed Approach to Sales

In WWI, when Europe was locked in trench warfare and at a virtual standstill, America quickly overwhelmed the axis powers by taking a multi-armed approach to the battlefield While this won’t involve artillery in sales (or at least shouldn’t), there is something to be learned here.  

The seller that leverages a multi-armed approach to sales will outperform the lone wolf seller time and time again. In order to take advantage of this multi-pronged approach, however, you need a strong revenue team in place so that sellers have access to the senior stakeholders and resources necessary to tackle an account from all available angles.  

Communicating Regularly.  

Keep your customers informed about new products, services, and promotions. Respond to their questions and concerns promptly. The more you communicate, the more likely your customers are to stay with you. 

Going the Extra Mile.  

Do something unexpected to show your customers that you appreciate their business. This could be anything from sending them a thank-you note to giving them a free upgrade. 

How Sales and Insight Mapping Bolster Account Management Strategies

You have your target account list, and you’ve detailed your systematic approach to building relationships and making deals, but how do you actually build relationships with the right people? How do you know they are the right people in your accounts? How do you track and manage all the details to make sure you are solving the problems that matter to them? 

Here’s where sales maps can help you. Also called relationship maps and insight maps, account managers use these visual tools to build a winning strategy. This applies to prospects who have yet to sign on the dotted line, but are also invaluable in growing revenue in those all-important customer accounts. Here are a few reasons sellers should consider making sales relationship mapping a part of their standard approach to account management.  

Sales Maps are Visual 

There’s a lot of complexity involved in modern accounts. Multiple decision-makers in big buying groups add a lot of pressure on sellers. Sales mapping helps revenue teams, and sellers keep things straight, while also keeping data in place if a seller moves on.  

Collaborate on Mission Critical Info 

Sales and insight map tools help revenue teams share information. Unlike the antiquated world of B2B sales, where bagging the deal is a competition between sellers, account management is all about collaboration. Sellers, customer service professionals, and marketers, as well as senior leaders all work together to provide the most information about the contacts within accounts as possible. The sales map is the ideal place to collaborate on all of this together. 

Sales Mapping Puts the Data From Your CRM to Work 

Just as there are too many decision-makers involved in a deal to handle alone, there are far too many small but important details to keep top-of-mind when working through complex accounts. Sales mapping helps with this. When the sales mapping tool is native to Salesforce, it can actually pull that vital data that sellers include in their CRM every day and use it to inform the sales map and rep.

Sales Mapping Helps Sellers Close the Relationship Gap  

As sellers move through those initial steps to building an effective account management strategy, they will inevitably come face-to-face with the fact that they are not where they want to be from a relationship standpoint. The space between where they are and where they want to be is called the relationship gap. Sales mapping can help you close it.  

By mapping out the people that matter, the relationships, and the lines of influence within an account, sellers can plot the course with actionable steps to growing revenue. 

The Stages of Account Management  

With effective sales mapping techniques and technology in place, it’s possible to start actively crossing the relationship gap, and moving sellers through the four key stages of customer relationship management. 

After all, effective account management is not only about acquiring new customers. Indeed, one of the most impactful ways account managers can impact their business’s bottom line is through increasing customer retention. There are several studies that point to the impact that happy customers can have on revenue a few include: 

  • Acquiring a new customer is 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. (Source: Bain & Company) 
  • A 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25-95% increase in profits. (Source: Frederick Reichheld) 
  • Customers who have a positive experience with a company are 70% more likely to repurchase from that company. (Source: American Marketing Association) 
  • Customers who are retained for an additional year are worth up to 125% more than their acquisition cost. (Source: Econsultancy) 

Account Management – the Four Customer Stages 

These stages can also be called the stages of customer relationship management as they follow the same sort of principle. In fact, all studies and reporting on the phases of account management, relationship management, and account planning should center on these four stages. 


At this stage, the buyer is not a customer. Large amounts of resources must go into acquiring someone at this stage, and so too are the costs high in acquiring a new prospect. The up-side is that if good account management strategies are in place, someone who is a prospect acts as a large source of future revenue, as long as there is plenty of potential within that account. The most important aspects at this point of the journey are to make sure the prospect is the right decision-maker, and the business is within the ideal customer profile. 


Congrats! Pop the champagne. You’ve done it – you’ve landed that new, shiny deal and turned a prospect into a customer. Now the real fun begins. If you’ve leveraged the best practices of account management to land that new customer, then you are already at a good point to build and expand revenue while defending it against the wolves at your door. But your task is far from finished. 

Loyal Customer

It takes more than transactional selling to ensure that your customers go from being a regular run of the mill customer to a loyal customer. Once your customer is a loyal customer, however, you have enhanced opportunity to cross sell and upsell within that account. Furthermore, your customer will be less likely to turnover when a wolf comes knocking. 

Former Customer

This is the final evolution in the customer lifecycle. Unfortunately, if customers are not properly attended to, if they are not made to feel loved, it’s unlikely that you will retain them forever. The fundamental goal at the heart of building excellent relationships through effective account management is to reduce churn, and slow the speed of customers from loyal customers to former customers.  

Account Management – Key Accounts and Beyond  

Lastly, let’s talk about key accounts. Until now, we’ve mostly been discussing account management for all accounts. This is because all accounts on your targeted list are important. You’ve already done the research, you’ve established a fit and potential, and those accounts fit your ICP. But what level of importance are those accounts?  

The second initiative in our account management steps to success explains how businesses need to segment accounts. Too often, however, this means focusing only on key accounts at the expense of all other accounts. As you’ll see, taking this approach is a mistake, as there’s actually plenty of upside existing within accounts that don’t quite meet key account status.  

Key Account Management – the Characteristics of Key Accounts 

Sales organizations often use varying terms for what constitutes (to them) as being a “key” account. Generally speaking, however, their key accounts are their high rollers. They’re the people you roll out the red carpet for, and spare no expense on wooing.  

There’s a good reason for this: key accounts are typically the largest sources of revenue for businesses. 

For this reason, Key accounts almost always get the attention they need, and executive sponsorship programs often have several revenue team members supporting them. Account management for these accounts – and the corresponding sales maps – typically require a broad and intricate approach to get right.  

Having effective strategies in place for these accounts is a must, but let’s take a look at why you should also give proper attention to those accounts next in line on the hierarchy.  

Good Account Management Means Serving All Accounts

Next down on the account hierarchy list are enterprise accounts. Very similar to key accounts, the very top level of your enterprise accounts gets plenty of attention from sellers. That can’t be said, however, for the rest of your enterprise accounts, or even for the next level down – mid-market accounts.  

A good account management strategy, however, takes these accounts into consideration, and gives them all the attention, resources, and tools they need in order to succeed. This also means giving account managers proper resources to target the opportunity in these accounts.  

Often enough, it’s from these seemingly lower-level priority accounts where the highest growth opportunities exist. Those big, enterprise customers aren’t going to grow at a phenomenal rate, but those smaller accounts just might. Let’s dive into the upsides of targeting these accounts.  

Enterprise and Mid-Level Accounts Boast Significant Growth Opportunities 

While not the biggest spenders, enterprise and mid-market accounts offer unique opportunities to your revenue team that can be effectively leveraged with the right approach. These opportunities include:  

  • There is more potential for growth in these enterprise and mid-market accounts.  
  • These accounts often are ripe for seeing massive upsides from implementing the solution you’re selling.  
  • Once deployed, these stories can be more easily and effectively turned into stellar success stories and customer references.   
  • The step down from your key accounts is where most of your sales organization sits, therefore, these opportunities are ideal for training and grooming the next generation of sales leaders within your organization.   
  • Ideal opportunities for sellers to target “whitespace”.  

Account Managers – Go Forth and Grow! 

Account management is not for the faint of heart – it’s a demanding and rigorous approach to selling that takes the best of every team member to get right. Through a systematic approach to selling, putting account planning at the center of your strategy, and leveraging best practices paired with appropriate technology, however, you can ensure your sales team has everything it needs to not only defend accounts against competition, but to land new opportunities. Get this right, and you’ll soon establish yourself as a trusted advisors with the right people in each and every account.


Promotional banner with text

Reliable products. Real results.

Every day, thousands of companies rely on Upland to get their jobs done simply and effectively. See how brands are putting Upland to work.

View Success Stories