What Is a Relationship Manager? (And How To Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 27 December 2022

Published 13 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you easily make connections with others, becoming a relationship manager may be a good career choice for you. These professionals work in various sectors focused on generating positive stakeholder relationships. Their efforts increase customer loyalty and brand awareness, so they can be instrumental in a business's success and growth. In this article, we define what a relationship manager is, note the common types of roles, detail their duties and explain how to become one.

What is a relationship manager?

A relationship manager is someone who handles the connections a business has with its stakeholders. These professionals usually specialise in managing connections with a specific kind of stakeholder. You may find a relationship management role in one of the following industries:

  • Banking and financial services

  • Community services

  • Energy

  • Recruitment

  • Government

  • Defence

  • Construction

  • Information technology

  • Healthcare

What are the types of relationship managers?

The two types of relationship management professionals are client relationship managers and business relationship managers. These professionals are classified according to the stakeholders they work with. Below we describe each of these roles:

Client relationship managers

Client relationship managers handle the connections between the company and the people or groups it serves. These professionals focus on creating and maintaining trust with clients. This is important as trust encourages positive business interactions, client loyalty and recommendations. Through positive interactions with a client relationship manager, clients trust the business to:

  • Answer any questions honestly

  • Sell high-quality products and services

  • Resolve any issues with their products or services

  • Inform them of any key business developments

  • Help them make sound purchase decisions

Related: Relationship Management Skills: Definition and Examples

Business relationship managers

Business relationship managers handle the bonds between the company and groups that aid its success. These stakeholders may be vendors, suppliers, government departments or communities. They ensure they keep positive ties with these groups to grow relationships over time.

When they form new connections, these professionals manage the contracts and negotiations. They speak openly with business stakeholders and share details about budgets, purchases and the business's value.

Related: How to Build Positive Client Relations in 10 Steps

What are the common duties of relationship managers?

The relationship manager role is nurturing the connections businesses have with their stakeholders. They maintain open communication with stakeholders. This communication ensures stakeholders feel informed and valued. It also makes sure the business understands its stakeholders' needs. When businesses understand their stakeholders, they can create strategies to serve them better.

The duties of relationship managers vary depending on their industry and the stakeholders they work with. The tasks listed in a typical relationship management job description may include:

  • Meeting with clients or business representatives and discussing their needs

  • Developing strategies to satisfy stakeholder needs

  • Presenting new products to stakeholders

  • Identifying key employees in stakeholder businesses and building relationships with them

  • Contacting prospective clients or businesses to form new relationships

  • Answering stakeholder questions and resolving any concerns they have

  • Researching competing businesses and analysing their customer base and issue resolution strategies

  • Presenting value propositions

  • Liaising with the sales team and highlighting selling opportunities, including upselling and cross-selling options

  • Negotiating new deals with stakeholders

  • Creating new and renewal contracts and presenting them to stakeholders

  • Resolving client conflicts with other employees

  • Developing stakeholder retention processes

  • Setting revenue goals and brainstorming strategies for meeting them with department heads

How do you become a relationship manager?

Below is a common career path for this role:

1. Complete year 12 of high school

Completing year 12 of high school helps you qualify for university. Many businesses prefer applicants with their secondary school certificate, so finishing high school can make you more employable. Study enough units to qualify for an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR). Some university courses have prerequisite subjects, such as English and Mathematics. Ask your preferred university about their prerequisites before selecting your senior subjects.

If you leave school before year 12 or get a lower ATAR than expected, a TAFE course can help you qualify for university. The Certificate IV in Tertiary Preparation is the most common vocational degree for early school leavers and people with low ATARs.

2. Get a relevant bachelor's degree

A bachelor's degree can deepen your understanding of relationship management and separate you from other job candidates. As formal qualifications are optional for relationship management employees, you can choose any relevant degree program that appeals to you. Some useful bachelor's degrees for employees in relationship management include:

  • Bachelor of Business

  • Bachelor of Business (Marketing)

  • Bachelor of Marketing (Psychology)

  • Bachelor of Management

  • Bachelor of Applied Management

These degrees usually involve three years of full-time study. Universities also have part-time study options. Online study may also be possible in some cases.

Related: 15 Common Business Degrees To Consider for a Business Career

3. Apply for entry-level jobs in your preferred industry

After graduating, apply for entry-level sales, administration or customer service positions. Choose jobs in your preferred industry so you can understand how it works and the way its relationship management professionals operate. Focus on developing your relationship-building and customer service skills in your role. Most people maintain entry-level positions for between three and five years.

Related: Sales Jobs and Salaries

4. Develop relationship management skills

Developing your relationship management skills can strengthen your case for promotion. Assess your skills and consider where you could strengthen them. For example, if you lack confidence in speaking in public you may develop this skill by joining Toastmasters. If you are unfamiliar with customer relationship management software, you may enrol in a training course.

Related: How To Develop Your Skill Set To Advance Your Career

5. Apply for relationship management jobs

Once you have industry experience and relevant skills, you can apply for relationship management jobs. Ask whether positions are available with your current employer. Many businesses prefer promoting their own employees, as they know the company and its relationships with stakeholders. Alternatively, you could apply for vacant relationship management roles with other businesses. Highlight your experience and skills that match the position's job description on your resume and cover letter.

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a Resume

What are important skills for employees in relationship management?

For relationship management jobs, businesses look for applicants with the following hard and soft skills that will ultimately help them succeed:

Interpersonal skills

Successful relationship management employees quickly establish rapport with people. They are empathetic people who understand others and their needs. They also have positive attitudes which encourage others to interact with them. These qualities help them nurture their business relationships so they stay strong over time. They also help these professionals work with employees from other departments in the business.

Verbal communication skills

Relationship managers are confident communicators who can express themselves clearly and professionally. They feel comfortable speaking to stakeholders one-on-one and speaking in public to large groups. They also understand how to adjust their language to communicate with various stakeholders and employees in other departments. This ability helps them communicate effectively with people with different knowledge and education levels.

Related: Communication Skills for Managers (Including Examples)

Customer service

Customer service skills help relationship management professionals serve the company's stakeholders. They interact warmly with stakeholders, greeting them with smiles and handshakes whilst engaging them through their dealings. They listen to stakeholder requests and spend time resolving their issues. Their efforts ensure stakeholders feel valued, which can lead to long-term relationships.

Problem-solving

Keeping stakeholders happy often requires keen problem-solving skills. Relationship managers use creativity and analytical skills to resolve any issues stakeholders have. If they lack the expertise to solve problems on their own, they identify people with the skills they need.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

Organisation

Strong organisation skills help employees in relationship management maintain relationships with several stakeholders at once. They can multitask by dealing with a range of issues from various stakeholders by making sure they get them resolved as soon as possible. An organised relationship management professional pays attention to all their stakeholders so every bond stays strong. They can also prioritise their interactions and tasks to make sure all stakeholders remain happy with the business.

Related: Effective Organisation (6 Key Steps to Achieving It)

Industry knowledge

Relationship management professionals understand their industry's practices, products and regulations. Their understanding helps them operate legally and share accurate information with stakeholders. Many of these professionals stay in the same sector for their whole careers as their knowledge easily transfers from one job to the next.

Computer literacy

Relationship management professionals use computers to organise their schedules, track their interactions and communicate with stakeholders. They feel confident using customer relationship management software to complement their organisation skills. Email and video conferencing supplement their face-to-face meetings and phone calls to stakeholders.

Related: Computer Literacy: What It is And How You Can Improve Yours

How much do relationship management employees earn?

The average salary for a relationship manager is $86,064 per year. Many factors can influence a relationship management employee's salary. For example, experienced employees usually earn more than people new to the role. The average salary for a client employee in relationship management is $94,997 per year as these professionals can also earn more. A relationship manager's education, industry and employer can also impact their salary.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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