Global and large organizations are often mischaracterized as faceless monoliths exclusively operating with rigid adherence to optimized standards and processes throughout the company. But this isn’t really the case. Every role in these organizations—regardless of where it falls in the hierarchy—is still filled by a person.
So regardless of a company’s size or reach, managing its account still requires a humanized and empathetic touch.
The reality is that managing global and other large accounts still necessitates collaboration with a (large) team of individuals—people who have their own perspectives, backgrounds, skill sets and goals. And that means success—both day-to-day and long-term—depends on meeting these individuals where they are with empathy and as people.
The empathetic approach
Empathetic account management requires a dedicated effort to understand the client’s brand, values, goals and the latest developments relevant to them. And account managers need to be invested in both the client’s and their team’s success to achieve that (while maintaining boundaries and balanced personal lives, of course).
That investment starts with understanding the client on a deeper level, one that goes beyond metrics, products and press releases. In particular, it means understanding the brand’s values and how its employees live and espouse them every day—and that understanding of what’s important to the brand is what account managers need to adopt in the way they approach working with them.
On a personal and individual level, it also means caring about the people you collaborate with—how’d they do in that marathon they’ve been training for? Did one of their kids just graduate? Did they catch last night’s episode as well? Those individual’s personal goals, achievements and ways they fill their life outside of work matter too.
Otherwise, account managers never fully become an extension of their client’s teams; there remains a barrier between them and a transactional nature to exchanges instead of a symbiotic relationship.
Returning to basics—the five Ws
An empathetic approach to client relationships revolves around preemptive action—anticipating a brand’s needs across myriad circumstances and providing them with solutions accordingly. Doing so enables account managers to demonstrate their understanding of the brand, their investment in it and their role as an extension of the client’s own team by:
- Proactively providing and explaining opportunities likely to benefit the brand
- (Crucially) letting the client make decisions they feel are best for them
- Facilitating their progress along that path
The best method for introducing these opportunities is the classic format of the five Ws—who, what, where, when and why. Regardless of the way any organization or its individual employees work, the success of initiatives brought by the account manager depends on all relevant stakeholders and decision-makers firmly understanding those five elements.
And of the five, the why is always the most important—especially for global and large clients. Given the resources, approvals, timelines and other factors involved, there’s no traction or momentum to be gained if the relevant parties don’t understand why a given initiative is important or beneficial to the company and its brand.
Still, initiatives must be framed in different ways to accommodate stakeholders’ individual ways of working and thought processes—which may require creating five different presentations for five individuals.
Adjusting for complexity in global and large accounts
The foundations for successful account management outlined above—meeting people where they are and with empathy—are the same everywhere. But what sets global and large accounts apart is the complexity introduced by the multiplication of stakeholders and decision-makers.
And yet this is precisely why global and large accounts require that same human touch.
All those individuals must contend with their own circumstances: managers, teams, responsibilities, deliverables, advancement opportunities and more. So one of the most important considerations for account managers to remember is the individuals they’re collaborating with need to demonstrate the value of their contributions internally, and it’s the account manager’s job to equip them to do so.
Investing in the individuals at the organization means investing in their success. And that success becomes shared by all parties involved.
Respecting and refreshing legacy knowledge
Some of the individuals you’re collaborating with at global enterprises have been employed by the company for long periods. They might even have one-company careers characterized by progression through the client’s ranks and across its different business units.
This makes them experts with company-specific legacy knowledge that simply can’t be replicated any other way. That insight and innate understanding of the brand is invaluable.
But it also means that their demanding roles may not enable them to keep current on the latest news, innovations or industry and adjacent developments. So, again, it becomes the account manager’s duty to preemptively provide that information in a manner that they can easily digest.
Because no one knows all the things they don’t know, account managers need to act as another set of eyes and ears for clients.
Human and empathetic relationships are a necessity
Initiatives for global and large accounts generally follow lengthy timelines; those approved and started today may not launch for two or three years. Accordingly, account managers and their teams need to adopt long-term perspectives when working toward client successes—for both projects and relationships with the client’s team.
Throughout those multi-year timelines with steady progress, account managers and the clients’ stakeholders will collaborate through:
- Understanding needs
- Determining solutions
- Creating the solution
- Checking all brand, strategy, legal, translation and other boxes
- Activating the solution
Even though account managers and their teams might send deliverables daily and meet with clients’ stakeholders and decision-makers weekly, purely transactional relationships don’t work under these circumstances. Professional and personal developments happen in between, and partners invested in each others’ long-term mutual success prioritize them over nickel-and-dime mentalities.
Empathetic account management
A people-first approach and empathetic foundation helps cultivate successful account management—especially for global and large accounts. Account managers need to connect with the individuals behind the roles they collaborate with and invest in their success.
That effort is shared between true partners.
And one of the most telling signs that a partner is invested in your success is whether pride and respect show through in the work delivered to the client. True partners and account managers who bring an empathetic touch to their relationships take pride in delivering work that makes the client’s employees feel proud to be part of their company.