The Guide To Being a Relationship Manager

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 26, 2021 | Published October 27, 2020

Updated February 26, 2021

Published October 27, 2020

To succeed, it's common for businesses to hire relationship managers who can foster important relationships with others. A relationship manager may need to interact with clients or other businesses to help the organization maintain its growth. With a relationship manager in place, an organization can continue to benefit from valuable relationships and keep their brand top of mind for their partners and clients. In this article, we describe what a relationship manager is and the types you may see, describe a relationship manager's responsibilities and share how to become a relationship manager.

What is a relationship manager?

A relationship manager is responsible for communicating with others both inside and outside of the company. They may either speak with clients and customers or key businesses such as vendors and partners, but the goal, in either case, is to cultivate relationships and maintain an open line of communication. Relationship managers can understand their partner and customer needs and develop strategic plans for fulfilling these needs as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

Read more: Relationship Building Skills: Definitions and Examples

Types of relationship managers

There are two main types of relationship managers, both of which are valuable in the workplace:

Client relationship managers

A client relationship manager focuses mostly on cultivating a relationship with clients, customers and others the business may serve. These relationships are largely based on trust, as a relationship manager must be honest to earn the business of their customer. A customer is choosing to come to your business over your competitor, so it's important to show them why that's the right decision.

A customer comes to trust their relationship manager to answer their questions, resolve their issues, inform them of important company news and product launches and use data to assist them in making decisions.

A client relationship manager may work more closely with executives, managers in sales or finance or members of the marketing team. These are the individuals at a company who are more likely to be big decision makers and open to hearing what a relationship manager is presenting.

This role also requires an understanding of the industry and knowledge of any sales trends that the sales team should be aware of so they can effectively sell a company's offerings to meet client needs. Client relationship managers can also help the sales team develop goals and revenue targets based on the data.

Business relationship managers

Instead of working closely with clients and customers, a business relationship manager may work with external stakeholders that help keep a company's operations running smoothly. Their main focus is usually on vendors, suppliers and other partners, and it's important that they maintain their business relationship with them. A business relationship manager may handle budgeting, track purchases and share information about business value among different teams.

A business relationship manager typically views trends, analyzes data points, fosters communications, draws up contracts and participates in the negotiation process. It's also common for the business relationship manager to build relationships with whole communities and individual groups. For example, they may work with a community group for volunteering opportunities.

Responsibilities of a relationship manager

If you want to be a relationship manager, there are certain responsibilities you may have. Here are some things you may need to do as part of the job:

  • Resolve customer or client complaints

  • Speak with a customer to understand their needs

  • Conduct a competitor analysis where you learn about their customer base and how they approach customer issues

  • Negotiate contracts

  • Present value propositions

  • Cultivate valuable relationships with stakeholders at target companies

  • Develop strategies to address widespread customer needs or existing issues

  • Connect with potential customers to form a business relationship

  • Work with a customer or client on their contract renewal

  • Resolve client conflicts with members of your staff

  • Establish a client retention process

  • Foster positive relationships with teammates and the clients you serve

  • Partner with the sales team to communicate how they can sell products, services and other offerings to the customer base in new ways

  • Schedule one-on-one meetings with clients to showcase a new product offering

  • Set revenue goals and work with different departments on what they can do to help

  • Gain an in-depth knowledge of the business and related industries

  • Analyze data to use in your strategy development or sales pitch to clients and customers.

  • Seek creative solutions to problems

Read more: 7 Ways To Use Customer Relationship Management

How to become a relationship manager

Follow these steps if you want to become a relationship manager in the workplace:

1. Gain a lot of experience in customer service

At its core, a relationship manager position requires that you provide excellent customer service. You'll want to make sure you have experience handling different situations with customers, including when a customer is upset, when you have to find the answer to a question, when you have to go above and beyond to make things right and more. The more customer service experience you have, the more prepared and qualified you'll be for a relationship manager role.

Read more: 9 Tips for Improving Your Customer Service Skills

2. Work on your negotiation skills

While not every relationship manager will have to negotiate, it's a common responsibility in the position. A part of building and maintaining a relationship with another on behalf of your company is providing the customer with what they need while also being able to work within a situation where you simply cannot do what the customer wants. Your negotiation skills will help you identify the issue and offer solutions that should work, all while sustaining a positive working relationship.

Negotiation skills also come in handy if you work as a business relationship manager where you may need to negotiate contracts with vendors, for example.

Read more: Negotiation Skills: Definition and Examples

3. Get comfortable speaking to people

There are a lot of ways you can manage relationships with others, but one of the most effective ways is by speaking directing to the individual. You must be confident in doing this or risk losing the relationship to someone else who is better able to connect with the individual or group. To feel more confident speaking to people, consider taking a public speaking course or practicing with a manager so you can get direct feedback from someone with your and the company's best interests in mind.

4. Learn customer relationship management (CRM) tools

There are a lot of tools out there that can help you understand the role of a relationship manager. It's advisable to work within CRMs so you're better able to complete your work as a relationship manager later on. CRMs can keep you organized, enhance your communication abilities, provide automation for some of your tasks and give you built-in analytical data for your reporting. A hiring manager may ask you about your experience with CRMs and it's best to have something to share.

Read more: What Is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System?

5. Earn a related bachelor's degree

Many relationship managers have degrees in business, management or marketing, as these are all studies that can organically provide the experience and knowledge you need to succeed in the role. These degrees should also point you towards courses that will be helpful in the future, such as advertising, customer acquisition, accounting, data analysis and public speaking.

6. Consider getting a certification

As much as a four-year degree can help you earn a position as a relationship manager, a certification specifically for relationship management can go a long way and supplement your degree nicely. There are business relationship management (BRM), certified business relationship manager (CBRM) and similar certifications you can earn as long as you take some coursework and pass an exam. These professional development certifications really focus on the specifics you'll benefit from if you want a role as a relationship manager.

Certification courses may walk you through how to develop strategic relationships with others, understanding the value businesses have, how to understand and work with organizational change and getting your team to become a part of the solution.

7. Obtain your master's degree

Although a master's degree may not be a requirement for many relationship manager roles, it could set you apart from your competition and give you even more experience and skills than you'd have without it. Explore opportunities at your current place of employment to get reimbursed for course expenses.

Browse more articles