Creating Personalized Touchpoints With Strategic Accounts When Meeting in Person Isn’t an Option

The last year has forced most of us to get very comfortable conducting business in ways outside of our norm. In fact, many experts agree that certain workplace trends will be changed forever: things like travel and flexibility in where we work from, for example, are likely to be reshaped permanently. And while there’s plenty to miss about the days of interacting in-person, the new normal of virtual meetings and gathering remotely may actually allow us to connect face-to-face more, which, if approached with the right strategy, could be a boon to customer relationship building.

With people more willing than ever to meet via video conference, there’s a lot you can do to keep customer relationships strong despite the distance. So while in-person meetings remain on hold (and “Zoom fatigue” is certainly real), it’s nevertheless possible to create personalized touchpoints among your high-value accounts. Here are some ideas to keep virtual meetings fresh and keep engagement high among your strategic accounts, even as we continue to work remotely.

Relationships Are King

Let us take a step back to say what can’t be said enough: B2B relationships are fragile. It was true pre-pandemic, and it will remain true as long as customers continue to have more choices and more power (which it seems they do, by the day). The greatest tool at an account manager’s disposal is their own human ability to connect with their customer—and not just names and titles. A successful account manager will actively work to understand the customer’s needs, and to ultimately build a relationship that’s unique to them.

Know Your Customer

When building customer relationships, the goal is to create a partnership that puts YOU at the top of the client’s call list. Take an honest account of your existing client relationships: has your work together been on autopilot? Do you understand your client’s unique objectives and do you actively work with those objectives in mind? If you can’t definitively say that those are the kinds of customer relationships you have now, there are things you can do to start moving in that direction—today.

It’s easy to put off big conversations for a future date, but “back to normal”, whatever that will mean, is still far away; now is the time to schedule a face-to-face video call to dive deeper into your customer’s needs, expectations and goals. Better yet, use

Kapta’s Voice of Customer tools to help you jump start the process, and learn to exceed your customer’s expectations and become a trusted advisor.

Keep It Consistent

Relationship building and Voice of Customer exercises are not a one-time act. Continuous relationship management involves staying in regular contact, perpetually anticipating a customer’s needs, and devising ongoing strategies to solve the customer’s problems. To say it’s a lot of work is an understatement. But it’s critical that key account managers not let this be a time that communication drops. Video calls and virtual conferencing have become the norm; it’s time to think about creative ways that these now mainstream channels of communication can work for you.

Go Beyond “Checking in” and Add Value

Ok, ok, I get it—despite the optimistic picture I’ve painted, at the end of the day, all of what’s being suggested here requires yet…another…video…call. But if relationships are king, then communication is queen, and for important or longer conversations, as well as general getting-to-know-you chit-chat, a video call is still better than an email or phone call. In addition to the practices listed above, here are some ways to keep customer interactions engaging, and to add value every time you meet.

1) “Coffee Chats”

Try to remember the last time a “coffee” meeting turned up on your calendar…now imagine seeing that invitation showing up today! At the very least, your attention would be piqued, right? A reimagined, virtual take on the coffee chat is a creative way to surprise and delight your clients.

Have your account representatives electronically send $10 Starbucks gift cards (or Dunkin, or whatever the locally convenient java option is) to customers before a sync-up or account review. This is also an impactful way to introduce yourself to a new contact or business team. And hey, maybe you’ll all get a laugh out of the not-so-distant throwback to the coffee chats of yore.

2) Celebratory Donuts

Donuts are cake, and cake means celebration. So what better way to mark the completion of a major project or a successful quarterly review than with donuts? Send your client contacts an electronic gift card or QR code to order donuts for themselves, or take it a step further and have donuts delivered.

3) $20 Charity Donations

Up the ante by incentivising your clients through charity. Create a promotion around a desired touchpoint—for example, a top-of-the-quarter kickoff call to discuss the year’s successes so far and areas of focus for the coming months—and offer to make a donation to the charity of choice for any clients who agree to join. This gives you the opportunity to engage in a key conversation, and provides an added feel-good factor for your client, too.

Conclusion

Working remote and keeping distanced has taken customer relationship building from what was already a heavy lift, and made it, at times, seem impossible. But it’s well worth exploring how our “new normal”—and the necessity of over-communicating, to compensate for distance—can be used creatively. To see how Kapta can help support, accelerate and mentor your efforts, schedule a personal demo today.

 

How Analytics is Improving Strategic Account Management

Psychology 101 tells us that responding with reinforcement when someone performs a given action encourages them to repeat it. And behavior that is not reinforced is less likely to be repeated. However, most sales processes fail to implement frequent, predictable, and positive reinforcement beyond quarterly SPIFs, QBRs, or Club. These are fine for driving specific behaviors on a short-term basis but fall short when striving to encourage consistent long-term performance improvements.

Including account management analytics in your Key Account Management (KAM) Software is a powerful way to improve performance and account growth on an ongoing basis. These analyses provide continuous reinforcement, guidance, and feedback to KAMs and executives. Leveraging this valuable data improves strategic account management in the following ways.

Going beyond opportunity metrics

Account management analytics go beyond opportunity metrics by incorporating Account and Business dashboards in your KAM software by pulling data from multiple sources. It tracks embedded success metrics for each account, tracks client outreach efforts and overall customer engagement, and tracks internal metrics such as revenue and organic growth for existing clients. And continually provides KAM feedback about business results, account relationships, and account health. This consolidated intel becomes a single source of truth, eliminating guesswork, enabling Key Account Managers and their teams to easily measure their progress and identify areas needing improvement. This leads to more targeted coaching and consistent performance improvements.

Highlighting a KAM’s Impact

Keeping these analytics easily accessible allows KAMs to see how their continual work and Our KAM Process contribute to account health and growth. They’re able to see which actions have the greatest impact and which are less effective. While it seems trivial, watching account health visually go from red to green is extremely rewarding and tangible to a KAM. This feedback is proof that the steps they are taking are working to advance toward meeting customer goals, increasing their motivation to repeat those actions within an account or within new business units.

Offers Guidance for Prioritizing Timely Intervention

When things aren’t moving in the right direction, these analytics act as a guide, enabling KAMs to know when adjustments are needed. They provide a struggling KAM with leading indicators so they can take immediate action and flag appropriate resources to improve their performance and account health. Giving them a bird’s eye view of their entire book of business, these analytics dashboards make critical information clearly visible. It also simplifies identifying what needs to change to ensure success. Especially with a big strategic account, a timely intervention is of the utmost importance. The ability to see that issues exist before they go too far is critical for account retention and to prevent churn. Recognizing these early allows for adjustments to account plans that address existing issues and customer concerns.

Feedback Loops are Essential

Before you implement a new strategy, process, or tool, think about feedback loops and how to reinforce behavior for desired outcomes. Without these in place at the outset, you risk taking longer to consistently establish new behaviors and potentially never reaching your end goals. Don’t leave your success to chance. Ensure it by incorporating methods to continually reinforce the desired activities to accelerate progress toward your targets without spinning your wheels.

Want to learn more about Kapta’s analytics features? Talk to a rep.

The Psychology of the Change Curve – The Top 3 Mistakes Account Management Leaders Make When Implementing New Strategies

Change is difficult whether it is personal or work-related. Organizations also struggle to successfully guide their employees through change. Studies have shown that 70% of change programs fail to achieve their goals, mostly due to employee resistance and lack of management support. But when people are committed to change, success is 30% more likely.

To help employees navigate change and reach a point where they accept it, it’s helpful to understand the psychology of the Change Curve. This curve explains the emotional process your staff experiences whenever there is a change they need to adjust to. They may be shocked or in denial initially. Then they may fear what the change or new procedure means and how it will impact them. Once they work through that they try to find the path of least resistance, expending minimal effort required. This starts while they are going through their initial training. As they begin to get more comfortable with the new situation, they gradually get on board, realizing this change is here to stay. And, finally, they embrace the change and productivity improves.

This may make sense, but Account Management Leaders still make mistakes that delay progress through the change curve when implementing new strategies. These errors result in employees’ failure to change, reducing your results. To ensure successful implementation, keep the following tips in mind so you can help your Key Account Managers (KAMs) through the transition until they embrace the new process.

Address why the change

It’s essential that you explain why a change is necessary and beneficial to your organization. So, seek buy-in from individuals at every level of your organization to ensure the change goes as smoothly as possible. Your employees are more likely to accept and embrace a change when they understand why it has to happen. Tell them how the new strategy will fulfill a need for your business and what value it will bring. And define the benefits in terms of every level and department. This tells them individually, “what’s in it for me” and gives them something to look forward to at the end of the project. Without this understanding, change is an uphill battle. But when you create a big compelling picture for why you need to do something different, change is much easier.

Failure to set up reinforcement strategies

You can have the perfect plan that fits together nicely, then complete onboarding and training on new software successfully, but your new strategy can still fail by the middle of the year. This is where your reps stop doing things like filling out account plans, meeting regularly with customers, and completing account reviews.

To avoid failure before completing implementation, you need to plan for continued training, routine check ins, and reminders while monitoring progress throughout the year. That’s because everyone involved is developing new habits and skills. And this takes time. People learn at different rates and have different backgrounds, so some will need more training and assistance than others to successfully make the transition. Encourage open communication about training and provide additional resources and support to those who need it. This will increase adoption and minimize employee turnover.

No measurement or goals in place

Account Management leaders love numbers and the best way to prove value is to show how you are tracking to your goals as an organization. So, work with your consultant or provider to establish measurable and actionable 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year goals. And even if you believe your goals will be realized, you’re bound to lose focus on them if you aren’t tracking your progress. Be sure to mark your accomplishments, progress, and growth as you strive to reach your goals. Then celebrate the positive results. Doing so will keep your team energized and enthusiastic about the new strategy while inspiring them to continue advancing toward the desired end goal.

Ask for feedback too quickly

Account Management leaders alter the change management plan based on feedback from the field too early. This often leads to plans being abandoned or unnecessarily changed based on the will of the sales reps. You need to give your employees time to see the value and benefits of the new strategy. Before that the change hasn’t had sufficient time to change your employees’ hearts and minds. Instead of rushing it, check in with your employees after a week of using the new tools. Meet with them as a team to gather feedback and understand their thoughts on using the tool. Then follow up on a routine basis. This feedback can help identify needs for additional training or finetuning of new processes to meet your organization’s needs.

In Conclusion

Change is a process that takes time. Avoid making these mistakes to ensure you successfully implement your new strategies and realize your goals. Take the time to help your employees understand why a change is needed and what benefits they’ll receive when the change is complete. Provide ample continuous training, support, reminders, and reinforcement to help your staff work through the change process. Establishing and measuring progress toward goals helps keep everyone on board and excited throughout the process. And remember to give your employees a chance to get onboard with the change process. Don’t be too quick to request feedback or abandon plans as a result. Giving them time allows them to see the value of the new tool. Then gathering input on a routine basis allows for minor adjustments along the way.

Don’t do it alone. Kapta has helped many organizations establish and improve their Key Account Management programs. Find out how we can help. Schedule a demo to speak with one of our engagement experts.

Three Books Every Strategic Account Manager Should Read in 2021

2021 began, for most of us, as a year that didn’t feel very new at all. The pandemic wears on, unrest in our country persists, and our post-holiday days looked a lot like they did pre-holiday. Yet there are signs that 2021 will be a year of positive change.

Regardless of how not-new it feels, the start of the year is a good time to take pause and put structure around what you want the next 12 months of your career to look like, and we’re recommending three great books to get you started.

While they’re not sales books exactly, these authors have all done a brilliant job illustrating the basics of what it takes to be a better strategic account representative. So take advantage of this quiet, not-so-starting-with-a-bang time of year while we have it, and dig into these books that will surely set you up for success in the months ahead.

1. “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi

First published in 2005 and updated and expanded in 2014, “Never Eat Alone” explores an enduring topic: the power of relationships. Author Keith Ferrazzi explains how networking shouldn’t be a passive collecting of names and contact info, but rather, an active, ongoing exercise in connecting. Using personal stories from his own life, Ferrazzi demonstrates how we can and should add value to every networking connection, by sharing knowledge, resources and genuine emotion, so that connections become a two-way street in which everyone wins. Ferrazzi’s practices of strong foundation building within your network, coupled with cultivating your personal brand, will help you get more value out of the limited client interactions you’re already having; they’ll also help you connect with new and even hard-to-reach people to ultimately expand your network into new accounts. This book is a valuable read for beginners and veterans alike—as one Amazon review points out: if you are already good at networking, this book will help you become better; if you’re nervous and don’t know where to start, it will help you there as well.

2. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

“How to Win Friends and Influence People”, incredibly, was first published in 1936, so it’s no wonder that Dale Carnegie is known as a pioneer of self-help. Even more incredible is just how relevant this book still is today. Simple and straightforward, “How to Win Friends” walks through techniques for interacting with people, and how to “win” people to your way of thinking. Concepts like “be a good listener” and “try to see things from the other person’s point of view” aren’t groundbreaking, but they are invaluable and abiding in their effectiveness. Enacted with a client focus, the tactics outlined in this timeless bestseller will ensure your customers walk away feeling good after every interaction they have with you.

3. “Great on the Job” by Jodi Glickman

The full title of this book is “Great on the Job: What to Say, How to Say It. The Secrets of Getting Ahead”, and it focuses on the art of communication. The book is based on a consulting program developed by the author, who, as a former Goldman Sachs exec and EPA policy analyst, knows a thing or two about professional greatness. Especially useful for those planning (or hoping) to move up in their career in 2021, “Great on the Job” provides the building blocks needed for every conversation you’ll have at work. From things like “how to ask for help without sounding dumb” to perfecting your elevator pitch, “Great on the Job” will give you tips for getting your boss to like you, and building a better network inside your organization overall. The book posits that the ability to communicate well is the most important precursor to success in the workplace, and we agree.

Conclusion

Looking to level up as a key account manager in 2021? These books are just a start. To see how Kapta can help support, accelerate and mentor your efforts, schedule a personal demo today.

How to Turn Customers into Advocates

Existing customers are more profitable and easier to sell to than entirely new prospects according to a study by Bain & Company. Increasing customer retention by as little as 5% increases profits by 25-95% while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% versus 5-20% for a new prospect. Your current customers buy more and buy quicker because they already know, like, and trust you and your product. And, if they become advocates, they will tell others and be a reference for you. Sounds great, doesn’t it! But how can a KAM turn customers into advocates?

Understand your customers

The better you Know your customers, the more strategic and effective you can be for them. Going beyond names and titles, you need to ask them about their personal and professional goals, motivations and expectations. Take time to understand the overall reporting structure in each key account, providing insights around what your day-to-day contacts are juggling in their job as well as the culture of their organization.

Dive deeper by leveraging Voice of Customer (VOC) email surveys combined with individual conversations consisting of customized questions across key account organizations. Then look at internal and external factors that may influence account success through a SWOT analysis.

While getting to know your key customers and when updating your customer knowledge, be sure to ask questions that reveal how you can become a great long-term partner to them. This is important since everybody has their own preferred way of working with business partners. By making a point to ask, you set yourself up to meet their expectations.

Some prefer to initiate contact when they need assistance, where others want partners to maintain consistent contact with them. It’s also important to learn their preferred method of communication as well as what key performance indicators against which they want to measure success. After you ask a question of your key contacts, take the time to listen carefully to their responses, ask follow-up questions, and confirm understanding before advancing to the next question. Then, it’s time to take appropriate action.

Deliver on your promises

Now that you have all this customer knowledge, it’s time to Act by creating an action plan. This is where you set goals, objectives, tactics, and tasks to deliver on the commitments you’ve made to your key accounts. Breaking down each goal into actionable steps enables you and your team to deliver value by actually doing what has been promised. Plus, it makes it easier to stay focused while tracking your progress. This is critical to the overall key account relationship.

Deliver value at every interaction

Make sure that you’re respectful of each contact’s time. Don’t schmooze. Instead, provide value in every interaction by showing them you understand their business and communicating clearly while offering insights, guidance, and new perspectives. This establishes you as a trusted partner delivering buteiness value and increasing customer retention. It also means your clients make you aware of changes and upcoming opportunities first. And they provide you with open, honest feedback quickly and continuously, enabling you to take timely steps to consistently improve customer experience.

Put your customer’s needs ahead of your own

As a Key Account Manager, you must always put your customer’s needs first. Doing so is a win-win where meeting or exceeding the goals and objectives of your key accounts means reaching your own company’s goals as well. Failing to remain focused on your customer’s goals ensures you fall short on both fronts.

Follow up on the value

It’s essential to establish specific goals and success metrics to Measure the success of your action plan by identifying which ones to use as you create each plan. Be sure to establish good baseline data at the beginning as you’re getting to know the customer. Doing so facilitates tracking your progress toward goal attainment. It makes it possible for you to quantify results when communicating internally. And allows you to clearly articulate to your clients the value you have provided. This can make all the difference when it comes to renewals by quantifying account success to stakeholders who think in terms of ROI.

In addition to clearly communicating valuable outcomes, be sure to ask customers if they received the results they were expecting and how you can improve. Always get feedback – this is essential to the future health of your accounts and enables you to keep your finger on their pulse at all times, addressing issues and making adjustments along the way.

Ask for references and advocacy

If they receive quantifiable value from you, ask your client to be a reference or to provide a testimonial. Then share these on social media. There’s no greater form of advertising than customer references, referrals, and testimonials. Make sure you take the time to ask for them once you’ve created this type of deep and trusting customer relationship.

Need help taking your Key Account Management program to this level? Kapta can help. Contact us to schedule a demo today.