2014-01-May-Onboarding.jpgProbably the only thing that will change more than the version of the software or hardware you’re using at work is the sales representative who sold it to you, and sometimes the service team that supports you. Corporate layoffs, mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations and retirements create new challenges for businesses that require relationships and ongoing communications with their vendors and account managers.

Each new account team member needs to be educated on your business, products, processes, contracts and the people responsible for them. Such a transition at the end of a critical quarter or technology rollout can sabotage success and set you back for months.

One way to ease the onboarding of your next account manager is to organize a shared knowledge base in a way that can help them hit the ground running.

A shared knowledge base can answer an easy question in place of an inconvenient phone call or email. It can prevent common mistakes that take time to correct. And it can nurture an environment where the account manager feels at ease to propose new ideas for greater efficiencies and results.

Here are five ways to design a shared knowledge base that facilitates an ongoing relationship with your vendor by quickly onboarding new managers as if they were your own employees.

Determine what information to place and prioritize in your knowledge base

Possibly the most annoying and time consuming aspect of adjusting to a new account team member is answering questions on topics you’ve spent months training their predecessor.

Start off by identifying information that is critical to both sides, such as current contracts, buying cycles and ongoing projects. This will give the new account manager a baseline on which to build out the relationship and establish what’s important to both sides.

Also include the context of these topics. CRM and ERP programs that provide dates and snapshots of recent transactions and interactions sometimes fail to provide a complete picture of what’s really going on. By understanding the history of your engagement with the vendor, the new account manager won’t waste your time or theirs asking unnecessary questions or trying to sell you things that you don’t need.

Provide easy access to general information, but secure access to critical stuff

You’ll want to provide easy and obvious access to relevant and general data for your new account manager. However, you can separate the more sensitive data like pricing, product roadmaps and legal documents by creating a private sub community with stricter access, alerts and reporting. This can be developed in layers – the more sensitive the data, the more narrow the permissions.