How to Train Your Clients: Three Strategies for Client Education

It’s easy to think of clients like we think of the weather: A mysterious force over which we have no influence or control.

If that’s your take, you’re probably more a vendor than a strategic advisor, no matter what you’re billing. True customer engagement means helping to guide strategy, not just helping with tactical execution.

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s true: if you’re always doing exactly what your client asks, you’re not doing your job as a strategic account manager. Good key account managers know when, how, and why to step up and steer their clients in a new or different direction.

In this post, we’ll look at three pathways to growth that are grounded in pushing back —and pushing your customers towards better work.

  1. Accommodate, then educate. Make sure your clients understand what you and your team need in order to do exceptional work.
  2. Options, options, options. Deliver what they’ve asked—then present your recommended solution.
  3. The power of a POV. Show them what you know to add lasting value.

Why the Customer is Not Always Right

Before we dive into the strategies outlined above, it’s important to set the stage. Everyone in client service has faced a situation where the customer asks for a deliverable or an approach that isn’t the best path forward.

When that happens, you have a choice: Defer, or push back. There’s a time for both—and when you decide to push back, there’s a real opportunity for you to demonstrate your value as a trusted strategic partner who adds perspective and expertise, instead of just a vendor who adds capacity.

So why is it so difficult, when the customer is wrong, to push back?

  • We have all been raised in a business culture that says “the customer is always right.” After all, the customer pays the bills. It takes confidence and clear-sightedness to see the long game: What they’re actually paying for is help achieving their goals—not someone to agree with them every step of the way. If you fall into the trap of always saying “yes” because it seems easier and less risky in the moment, you’ll slowly dilute your value—especially if you put long-term outcomes at stake.
  • Defensiveness is the human condition. We are all hard-wired to feel defensive when someone tells us our brilliant idea maybe isn’t so brilliant. Unless you have strong communication skills and good judgement, it’s intimidating to enter what feels like a confrontation with your client. To be clear, we’re not recommending you burst in, guns blazing, and commence to calling them names; rather, we’re recommending you find a way to open a productive dialogue about new ideas.

The strategies below are all ways of navigating defensiveness on the part of your clients—especially if they also believe, as customers, that they are always right.

A final note about tone before we dive in: You have to use your own judgement about when it’s time to push back and introduce an alternate idea, and when it’s time to just to do what they’ve said. To use a soccer analogy: you have to go for the ball, not the player. If it’s clear you’re acting in the interest of the best possible work, and never attacking anyone personally, you’re less likely to incur a foul. And finally, you have to understand your customer inside and out. The more you know about the challenges they face, and the objectives they’re trying to meet, the more you can ground your conversation in long-term outcomes—which everyone will appreciate.

1) Accommodate, Then Educate

One common situation is that clients ask for something on an unreasonable timeline, or within some other unreasonable constraint. This can cause tremendous stress for your internal team.

It may be tempting, as the key account manager, to shrug your shoulders and say, “Well, the client asked for it, so we’re working all weekend to deliver it. My hands are tied.” But if you do that consistently, you’ll work every weekend. You’ll also degrade your relationship with the internal team and risk the quality of your finished product. “Rush makes mush,” as they say.

This is an opportunity to step back and teach your client what goes into your deliverables, so you can plan for a better process next time—and show them just how valuable your work is.

Remember the good/fast/cheap paradox: Your customers can have 2, but not 3. If you roll over completely to get them all 3, you’ll set a dangerous precedent that, while it seems less risky in the moment, actually threatens the quality of your work (and the strength of their outcomes) down the line. And while you might feel you’re outperforming your competition by delivering the impossible, you’re actually degrading the value of your work by implying it’s quick and easy (when it’s not). You may also be reducing the profitability of the account.

So, accommodate: Do what’s possible to meet the request. Then educate: Make sure you’re better set up for success next time. When the stressful moment has passed, have a check in with your client and explain what you need moving forward to do even better work—that helps them be even more effective in their own goals.

2) Options, Options, Options

When your customer asks for something that you know is not the best solution to their problem, a very low-risk way to introduce new ideas is simply by delivering options.

  • Option 1: The thing they asked for, the way they asked for it.
  • Option 2: Your recommended path forward.

If you go this route, don’t just send both options to them via email. Get on the phone. Show them their options and talk through your rationale for taking a different approach. By delivering what they ask for, you buy credibility and trust—if they don’t like it, you haven’t lost any time off the project timeline by not following their directions. But if they do like it, you’ve over-delivered, and you’ve hopefully shown them that next time, they should involve you even earlier in the decision-making process. (And they’ll usually value the thinking and ingenuity, even if they don’t choose your option this time.)

Presenting options creates opportunities not only to do better work in the moment, but also to drive organic growth with your customer. The farther upstream you are in their process, the more chances you’ll have to grow your business with them—and the more influence you’ll have over the outcomes that make you both look good.

3) The Power of your POV

It’s not enough to present options—you need to present a recommendation. There’s something very comforting to clients in knowing that you (a) understand their business; (b) understand your business; and (c) have a clear idea for how to move forward. At the end of the day, what many customers are looking for is confidence.

After all, navigating a complex marketplace (which many B2B customers do) and weathering a recession (which we’re all doing right now) take an emotional toll on even the most experienced professionals. So while you may not be able to offer certainty, you can offer confidence—and when you do, you’re addressing a fundamental emotional need of your client, even if it’s not one they express out loud when they assign you a task.

Conclusion

As you’ve probably picked up by now, a common thread through all these strategies is that they speak to your customers’ underlying (and potentially unspoken) needs, rather than focusing only on the task at hand. To reiterate: The only way to push back well is to understand your customers’ underlying needs—personal and professional; functional and emotional. (Last week’s post about mining customer insights might be helpful here.)

Ultimately, the reason you push back on clients is not to put your ego or your needs first. You push back to better address their needs, whether it’s by giving your own team the space they need to do great work, or by presenting new and different solutions that will help your customers meet their goals.

When you do this well, you build true customer engagement. You rise above “just another vendor” to a trusted advisor. You generate confidence, respect, and a greater understanding of and appreciation for what you bring to the table. You grow your value by keeping your eyes on the long game.

So when your client says “jump,” don’t always ask “how high?” Build the credibility and confidence to say, “Let’s try flying instead. Here, I’ll show you how.”

To see how Kapta can help you be a more confident key account manager, schedule a personal demo today.

Customer Insights Workshop: Tools and Best Practices

You need to know your customers. But you can’t read their minds. So how do you learn more about the people you serve?

You can always ask them. (And you should.) You can also mine insights from your own team. A customer insights workshop is an engaging way to learn what there is to know about your customers from the people in your organization who work with them all the time—and rally your team around a customer-centric approach.

Just remember 3 keys to running a great customer insights workshop:

  1. Get the right people at the table: Make sure to include customer-facing teams from across the organization, as well as leadership and marketing teams.
  2. Set the right tone: Remember, your customers are people. Consider their emotional needs as well as their functional needs.
  3. Make the most of your time together: Focus on learning from different contributors, discussing key points, and gaining alignment around customer needs so you can re-infuse your organization with a customer-centric purpose.

In this post, we’ll dive deeper into best practices—as well as exercises and output—for running a great customer insights workshop.

Best Practices

1) Get the right people at the table.

The goal is to turn customer insights into a customer-centric strategy (whether that’s marketing, operations, or account planning), but that doesn’t mean you only need one group in the room. It’s critical to have people there who interact directly with customers all the time. This is especially true in large organizations, where operational silos tend to diminish the customer voice in certain circles. So ask yourself: Who interacts directly with customers? Key account managers (or client service leaders) are important participants, as are customer service/success teams if you have them.

2) Set the right tone.

Before you dive into “who are my customers and what do they want?,” it’s important to make sure you’re thinking about them not just as clients, but as human beings. Too often, we conflate professionalism with a loss of personhood—but your customers don’t check their humanity at the office door. So don’t just consider their functional needs; dive deeper into their emotional needs. For example, they will always need their B2B partners to deliver timely, accurate, value-added work. But what else? They probably also need to look good to their leadership and colleagues. They need to feel like somebody sympathizes with their day-to-day frustrations. In short, they need what all humans need: They need to feel heard, seen, valued, and successful.

3) Make the most of your time together.

The highest and best use of a workshop like this is two-fold: (a) to learn about your customers from the people who interact with them everyday; and (b) to re-invigorate disparate teams around a shared purpose: Customer centricity in everything you do. Make sure everyone has a chance to participate. Pursue and facilitate discussion. But don’t try to wordsmith now; let people know you can take the output and turn it into recommendations on the backend.

Tools

Here are a few ways to frame questions in order to get ideas flowing:

  • Day in the life: What does your customer’s day-to-day job look like? What are they responsible for? Who reports to them, and who is their boss? This is a great warm up since it tends to be pretty easy to answer.
  • Goals: What are they trying to achieve, both personally and professionally? What is their organization trying to achieve? How does their daily work life contribute to the bigger picture goals around them?
  • Gains and pains: When working with a B2B partner, what makes them look good? What makes their life easier? In contrast, what drives them nuts? What are the dealbreakers?
  • Value add: Once you’ve painted a portrait of your customer—their job, their goals, their gains and pains—ask yourself how you as an organization are set up to deliver on a customer-centric promise. How do you:
    • Save time, money, or effort?
    • Do something they’re looking for?
    • Help them sleep at night?
    • Fulfill their aspirations?

Output

Once you’ve completed the workshop, it’s time to turn your insights into action. What did you learn about your customers? How can you better address both their immediate functional needs and their long-term goals and aspirations?

The best way to upsell your customers is to proactively raise new ideas grounded in a comprehensive understanding of who they are. When your ideas are relevant and resonant, you create a platform to introduce innovation—and bigger deals.

Conclusion

We are strong advocates for regular VOC work, i.e checking directly with your customers to stay current on their needs, expectations, and satisfaction. But people don’t always vocalize their aspirations. They might not say out loud, “you need to make me look good to my colleagues.” So in addition to VOC work, mining customer insights from the people in your organization who know the customers best is a great way to unearth deeper needs, bigger strategic goals, and hidden pain points. Armed with this insight, you can make an action plan to grow the business in a truly customer-centric way. To see how Kapta can add structure and support to this process, schedule a personal demo today.

3 Reasons to Update Your Customer Org Charts

Be honest: When was the last time you took a long look at your customers’ org chart? We’ve seen too many B2B companies establish customer org charts early in the relationship — and then never look at them again.

On the surface, org charts may seem like busy work. But they’re the kind of work you need to do consistently to build customer engagement. Org charts are an exercise in stakeholder mapping, which you need for:

  • Influence: Decisions are usually made by a cohort of customers. Make sure you know them all.
  • Intelligence: When you can see the dynamics within your customers’ organization, you can better serve individual and enterprise needs.
  • Resilience: When your relationships go beyond a single champion within the organization, you’re much less vulnerable to inevitable personnel shifts.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at all the reasons listed above, and cover a few best practices for stakeholder mapping through detailed org charts.

 

Kapta org chart example

Influence

According to an in-depth analysis of buyers and sellers in the B2B world, an average of 6-7 decision makers influence every B2B purchase. So it’s simply not enough to have one or two strong contacts within your customers’ organizations — you need to develop a coalition of champions from across the organization.

Your coalition will be different depending on the services you provide. If you sell software, for example, you need buy-in not only from day-to-day users, but also from procurement, the C-suite, and internal IT, to name a few. Your org chart will help you visualize the relationships within the organization, so you can cultivate the right client relationships along the way. In this sense, your customers’ org charts help you build your own, by making sure you have the right team in place to meet the variant needs of individual decision-makers, influencers, champions, and implementation partners in your customer’s organization.

Org charts cement your influence by making sure you invite the right stakeholders to the right checkpoints at the right time. In doing so, you’re increasing your reach within an organization while also helping your direct contacts manage their internal partners, whether it’s their leadership or their key collaborators.

Intelligence

One of your jobs as a key account manager is to know your clients better than anyone. Org charts can give you all sorts of insights and leads in this pursuit. They do this both by visualizing both vertical and horizontal relationships.

Vertically, org charts show you who reports to whom — and what the pathway for advancement is for individuals within your customer’s organization. This is key for understanding how to make your direct contact’s life easier. For example, when you can see the managers to whom they must demonstrate value, you can help arm your direct contacts with the results and messages they need in order to look good to their leadership — and get buy-in for their projects. (These are your projects, too, so it should be clear why this serves you well.)

Org charts also give you insight into your direct client’s goals — what’s the path forward for them? If you can help your clients not only meet their deadlines and execute their deliverables, but also grow their careers, you’ll have a champion for life — and that champion will be more and more influential as they ascend the ladder.

Org charts are also important for the horizontal picture — how different functions or departments collaborate within the overall structure of the organization. This information again helps you be more proactive for your direct contacts, by helping them manage lateral stakeholders in the organization.

Big picture, the org chart serves as a lens into the organization’s values as a whole, since companies tend to build structures and hierarchies based on their strategic goals and overarching values. They also give you a forward-facing view into where the organization is heading, so you and your team can work proactively to offer proactive, integrated B2B services.

Resilience

If your “in” with a customer rests entirely with one person, and that person leaves, where does that leave you? Worst case scenario, relying too heavily on one client contact can leave you out of a client.

The more integrated you are — which means multifunctional relationships with stakeholders across the horizontal and vertical org chart axes — the more you’ll engage the customer at an enterprise level, building resilience as individuals leave or initiatives come to a close. Enterprise-level engagement tends to unearth new business opportunities at every turn.
Best Practices for Stakeholder Mapping
We say all the time that customer-centricity can’t just be a value you state in a strategy deck somewhere. Customer centricity requires infrastructure.

Org charts are infrastructure for stakeholder mapping. They give you clear horizontal and vertical visualizations for the structure in your clients’ organizations. They give you influence, intelligence, and resilience — and each of those things builds on each other to form broad and deep customer engagement.

So how do you make org charts work for you? The best org charts are:

  1. Detailed: Make sure you capture the nuances of internal relationships. People don’t have to be direct supervisors to be strong influencers.
  2. Dynamic: Things can shift quickly when it comes to personnel and structure. Make sure you’re checking in regularly and capturing any changes.
  3. Visible: Everyone at your organization needs to be able to see the org chart for your customers in order for you to be able to offer integrated B2B services.
  4. Tech-enabled: The right key account management software will give you templated org charts to help you maintain this detailed, dynamic, highly visible tool for your teams, whether or not they’re directly customer-facing.

Conclusion

Org charts may seem like busy work — but in fact, they’re critical work. Org charts help you build influence within your customer’s organization; they give you intelligence you can use to broaden your engagement; and they help you build enterprise-level engagement for greater resilience over time. To see how Kapta can help you create dynamic, detailed, highly visible org charts, schedule a personal demo today.

Notes from the Other Side: 5 Ways to be a Great Client

We talk a lot about putting customers first, and that’s because we truly believe in customer-centricity as the path forward for B2B (and B2C) organizations. True customer engagement—knowing your clients, understanding their needs, and placing those needs ahead of your own—is the means by which B2B companies move from vendor to strategic partner.

The benefits of this for the provider are certainly clear: More revenue. More organic growth. A profitable and resilient business model. But the idea is that the relationship is, indeed, mutually beneficial; in a high functioning customer-vendor relationship, both parties succeed.

On this blog and elsewhere you’ll find a wealth of information on how to be a good B2B provider—but it’s less often you see people exploring how to be a good B2B customer. And that’s actually really, incredibly important, because at the end of the day, it takes two to build the kind of relationship that elevates both organizations. (And we hate to break it to you, but you aren’t always right.)

So this week we pause to take a look from the other side: What does it take to be a great customer?

The big picture goal is to build a powerful team, and inspire the absolute best work possible from all your partners. And while those partners certainly have their fair share of work to do, clients must also do their part. Here are 5 ways to be a great client:

  1. Share what you do know.
  2. Know what you don’t know.
  3. Be descriptive, not prescriptive.
  4. Be curious.
  5. Mind the social contract.

1) Share What You Do Know

Your partners can do better work when they know the full picture, period. They should be asking; you should be sharing.

Culturally, it’s about transparency and collaboration. Once your partner signs the NDA, expect them to dig in and ask questions about not only the specific task at hand, but also the overall picture of what your organization is trying to do. They can complete even the smallest task more effectively when they understand what it’s all leading up to.

Logistically, it’s about setting aside time for partner education. This will be a big lift in the onboarding period. Make sure you plan on a few in-depth sessions to answer questions, and set up SME downloads from people in different capacities and departments in your organization. If you plan for an intensive onboarding, you won’t feel the burden as much, and trust us: It’s worth it in the end.

Once onboarding is over, you’ll still want to keep your partners appraised of changes in your organization or landscape, including personnel changes, new product or service offerings, new competitive threats, changes in regulation, changes in internal strategy, and more. Expect your partner to be watching the landscape, too, but don’t engage in trick questions: If you know the answer, share it.

2) Know What You Don’t Know

As a writer, I’m often jealous of my art director and web designer friends. Everyone knows they don’t know how to code a website or build an app. But people are generally less aware of their limitations as writers. They think, “Here I am, writing right now. All I need is a keyboard and the word ‘utilize.’”

So let me just tell you the truth since this is a relatively anonymous space: You probably are a functional writer. And you’re probably not as good as a professional writer. (In fact, if you’ve used the word ‘utilize’ more than once already today, stop what you’re doing and go find a copywriter.) There are lots of things you aren’t for a living, and that’s okay—that’s why you hired people who are. No matter what service or product you’re buying from your partners, it’s good to remember the reason you hired a vendor in the first place is for their added expertise and/or capacity. So once they’re on board, let them do their job.

The major risk here isn’t that you’ll annoy a copywriter. (It’s actually kind of fun to annoy a copywriter.) The main risk is you’ll compromise the quality of the work and you’ll miss out on some of the major value-add of bringing on a 3rd party teammate in the first place.

Consider this analogy: If you go to a nice restaurant, you should expect good food. You should expect to order what you want, make special requests, and get what you asked for. It should be better than you could have made it yourself, and you shouldn’t have to do dishes. But you shouldn’t expect to walk back into the kitchen with your server and tell the Sous Chef, “I actually cook a little at home, so I’ll do the sauce and you can take it from there”—and then expect them to produce a delicious plate of food.

Choose a nice restaurant. Keep your expectations high. And stay out of the kitchen.

3) Be Descriptive, Not Prescriptive

Piggybacking on the idea above, you don’t have to solve every problem for your partners—that’s why they’re there. But you do need to make it clear what problem you’re trying to solve, how it fits into the big picture, and what the parameters are so they can apply their thinking.

Description vs prescription is key in 2 ways: Project kickoff and periodic feedback. It helps to have a clear brief when you engage with your partners, outlining: The big picture goal, the immediate objective, mandatories (do’s and don’ts), timing, and budget. Aside from the parameters you know to be immovable, leave the brief open ended enough for people to think creatively about how to meet your needs. If you can resist the temptation to be prescriptive, you may be pleasantly surprised at what comes back. That said, if you know exactly what you want, obviously it’s okay to say so (again, no trick questions!), but know that the more prescriptive you are up front, the less you should reasonably expect to be surprised-in-a-good-way by what comes back.

Feedback is also a place to balance prescription and description. I often tell junior writers that if someone tells you it’s not working, they’re definitely right. When they tell you how to fix it, they might be wrong. In other words, you can and should say if you aren’t happy with the first round of a deliverable from any provider, whether it’s a product, a software configuration, a marketing campaign, or any other bespoke service. But try as much as possible to stick to why it’s not working, i.e why it’s not achieving the intended objective from the brief; avoid diving too far into how to fix it.

You should also ask yourself, when you see something unexpected: Is this actually not fulfilling the objective? Or is it just not what I expected to see? Again, this is all about leaving space for other people to bring their expertise to the table so you get the most from the partnership.

4) Be Curious

Remember, you’re entrenched in your job and your organization, and that’s how it should be. Part of the value of outsourcing work isn’t just capacity—it’s perspective. So if your 3rd party partners are telling you something you’re finding hard to hear, that’s exactly when you should listen most closely.

At the end of the day, partners who push back diplomatically and constructively are more valuable than those who just say yes to you all the time. You should never feel attacked. But if you feel uncomfortable, that’s probably a good thing.

And in general, if you find yourself struggling with any decision or action internally, ask yourself whether a 3rd party partner—especially one who understands your business deeply and works hard on your behalf—might have an opinion to share. Sometimes being just 2 steps removed makes all the difference in perspective.

5) Preserve the Social Contract

This is just a friendly reminder that your partners are people, too. Sure, the business contract makes you more important. But the social contract says you are both professionals working towards the same goal. Too often, clients forget that—and the relationship gets toxic.

Another way to think of it is that it seems on the surface from the way money flows that you are on DIFFERENT teams. And technically, that’s true. But in reality your partners are on your team, and you should strive to manage, lead, and inspire them just as you would an internal team. If you set it up as a rivalrous or resentful environment, you simply won’t get the best work possible. Not because your partners are being punitive, but because nobody works as well as they could if they’re not working in a supportive, mutually respectful environment.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the most successful B2B partnerships are those driven by true customer engagement. That means your 3rd party providers are taking the time and making the effort to understand what you need; they’re defining clear action plans to meet those needs; they’re checking in regularly to track metrics and refine their approach as needed. They are courteous, sincere, and professional. They do great work.

We encourage customers to maintain high expectations of their providers—and we also occasionally encourage them to step back and examine their own contribution to the relationship. Generally speaking, the more you make space for your partners to bring their expertise and thinking to the table, the better work you’ll get from them, and the more value you’ll get from the relationship.

If you’re a client service provider and this resonated with you, stay tuned for more content on how to educate your clients—how to help them help you. And to see how Kapta helps you hold up your end of the bargain, schedule a personal demo today.

It’s a Small World After All: 7 Industries Where Key Account Management is King

As the saying goes, it’s not what you know—it’s who you know. This is especially true in niche industries, where everyone knows everyone, and the same people pop up over and over again over the course of your career. For these industries, key account management (KAM) isn’t optional. It’s essential. Here’s why:

  1. In niche industries, there are only so many players. You can’t grow the market the way B2C retail companies can; you can only grow within your market.
  2. Your demonstrated results are your chief marketing strategy—not big ad buys. If you understand customers, act effectively on their behalf, and demonstrate measurable results, you’ll build strong relationships and a reputation that speaks volumes on your behalf. If you let your customers down, that reputation will follow you, too—and it will be hard to escape.
  3. Finally, KAM not only strengthens your organization’s value in a niche industry, but also increases your value as an individual contributor. Your relationships are one of your biggest assets as you move through your career—particularly in a specialized field.

Here are 7 examples of highly consolidated industries, where the market is limited and the key players are few. If any of your customers are in these industries, you can’t afford not to engage in KAM practices:

  1. Aviation
  2. Healthcare
  3. Government/municipalities
  4. Automotive
  5. Wireless/Telecom
  6. Food service
  7. Satellite TV

Key Account Management Overview

For organizations whose B2B clients live in any small, niche industry, it’s imperative to deliver on your customers’ needs, over and over again. Doing so takes both intention and infrastructure.

Intention means you cultivate a customer-centric culture at every level: In your own personal approach to work, and in your organization as a whole. You understand and support your customer’s strategic objectives, keep your promises, and prioritize your customers’ growth over your own (knowing yours will follow).

Infrastructure means you have the people, process, and technology required to operationalize a customer-centric approach. You need a roadmap to consistently deliver customer value; a repeatable process for KAM; and a tech stack that integrates customer knowledge, account plan, and KPIs into your teams’ daily workflow.

Our KAM ProcessTM

At Kapta, we’ve built our platform around a proven methodology:

  1. Know your customers. Understand their objectives, pain points, and motivators. See where they sit in their organization and their marketplace.
  2. Act on their behalf. Develop meaningful tactical plans laddering up to stated strategic objectives, and keep the end goal front and center, even as you work on smaller tasks.
  3. Measure your results. Track internal and external KPIs so you can demonstrate value throughout the course of your engagement.

Your KAM Platform

If you truly want to build customer engagement, CRM is not enough. CRMs have their place; however, they reinforce a transactional culture, rather than a truly customer-centric approach. This may work in a broad market, where the goal is to reach as many potential customers as possible. But in a niche industry, where the goal is to build strong, lasting relationships with a limited group of customers, CRM will fall short every time.

Kapta is a purpose-driven, customer engagement platform. Kapta prompts and rewards the behaviors that strengthen customer relationships—everything from probing to learn more about their strategic goals, to building an action plan that delivers, to measuring and reporting real-time results. Kapta is the platform that supports your people and frames your process—in other words, it’s the glue that ties your infrastructure together, so you can deliver on your intentions.

Conclusion

We’re firm believers in Key Account Management, and we see its value across multiple industries. That said, the stakes are particularly high in niche industries, where your number one asset is your relationships, and those relationships are built on your ability to deliver on customer goals. There’s no hiding in a niche industry—if you’re good, everyone will know it. If you’re not, everyone will know that, too.

To see how Kapta can help you grow your market share in a niche industry, schedule your personal demo today.

Why Customer Engagement is Everything Right Now

Customer engagement is always important, which is why we write about it all the time. And while a recession doesn’t increase the importance of customer engagement, it certainly underscores it.

In an economic boom, companies have some customer engagement cushion, meaning: even customers who aren’t completely engaged will keep paying the bills when things are good. But when times get tough, and budgets get cut, only companies with strong customer engagement will keep their accounts, protect their revenue, and possibly even find ways to grow.

In this post we’ll look at indicators and benefits of customer engagement, and hopefully convince you there’s never been a better time to double down on your existing relationships.

Defining Customer Engagement

Customer engagement deals with the emotional connection between your customer and your company and therefore looks different across different industries. For example, a retail brand is not going to define or measure customer engagement the same way a creative services consulting firm might. However, sifting through the many definitions of customer engagement will highlight 3 common, crucial elements:

  1. Customer engagement is rooted in ongoing, 2-way communication between a customer and your company
  2. Customer engagement creates a dynamic relationship that leads to real resilience
  3. Customer engagement can be measured against stated goals

At Kapta, when we distill and simplify those key elements, we say: Customer engagement is a resilient, strategic partnership in which both parties succeed.

At the end of the day, customer engagement is better demonstrated than defined. So let’s take a look at practical indicators of customer engagement.

Indicators of Customer Engagement

One way we help our own customers understand the strength of their customer engagement is by asking a short list of questions, each designed as an indicator of customer engagement.

  1. Do your customers reach out to you? Engaged customers will reach out anytime they face an issue or opportunity. If you find you are always the one initiating contact, you may need to work on customer engagement.
  2. Do you understand your customer’s big picture business goals? Understanding what your customer is trying to achieve at the company level—not just with the individual product or service you provide—means you’ve asked the right questions, and earned enough trust to get the right answers. That’s how you graduate from vendor to strategic partner, strengthening your position and delivering great work.
  3. Is your customer engaging with vendors who offer similar or complementary products and services? Even if they aren’t actively looking to replace you in your specific capacity, this is a bad sign. It indicates they aren’t aware of everything you could be doing for them, or that you haven’t demonstrated enough value to get the attention of other teams or functions in the organization. Which means you’re missing opportunities for organic growth and leaving yourself open to competitive threats.
  4. Do your growth goals reflect what’s possible for key accounts? In a customer engagement model, your own growth goals should reflect what’s reasonable in the context of your customers, rather than imposing your company’s own goals onto customers who may or may not be able to support them. When you’re truly engaged with your customer, you have a detailed sense of how much room they have to grow with your suite of products and services, and you can plan your own growth accordingly.
  5. Are you experiencing high customer churn? This is a no-brainer. If you’re losing customers left and right, they aren’t engaged with you. Of course, by the time this is happening, it’s pretty late in the game.

In summary, the questions we ask are designed to give you a sense of the strength of your customer engagement. If your client is reaching out to you regularly; if they call you when they’re facing an issue or opportunity; if they share with you the bigger context for what they’re doing; if you are confident in their satisfaction and your future with them, and if you’ve built your own sales goals accordingly, then you are doing customer engagement right.

Benefits of Customer Engagement

Let’s take those indicators and spell out the benefits of customer engagement in a recession. First, we’ll state the cold, hard facts: It’s a bad time to pursue new business. Cold calls are always a little awkward—they’re especially painful now. Even pursuing new opportunities with existing customers is a delicate proposition during a major crisis.

Here’s how real customer engagement helps you through a recession.

  1. Your customers reach out to you. Your customers are facing unprecedented challenges. If, time and time again, you’ve shown them that you’re here to help, they will actively seek your help navigating this crisis.
  2. You understand your customer’s big picture business goals. The more you already know about your client’s organization, structure, objectives, strengths, weaknesses, and more, the more you understand how this recession has affected them, and how they may need to change course. Armed with this insight, you can adjust your conversations accordingly, and ensure you’re a contributing strategic ally, rather than a tone-deaf vendor who’s really only adding stress to a stressful situation.
  3. Your customer engages with you across multiple teams and functions. The more you’re horizontally embedded in your client’s organizations, the less you need to worry about direct competitive threats. Recessions are a risky time for bidding wars—competitors might be willing to slash their prices to make their numbers. But if you’re deeply embedded in your client’s organization, the effort it would take to switch horses midstream won’t be worth even the most aggressive price gouging.
  4. Your growth goals reflect what’s possible for key accounts. The more your own growth goals were already grounded in what your customers could support, the less blindsided you’ll be by the recession. Sure, it might not be your biggest year. But if you were starting from a reasonable projection, rather than an inflated one, you’ll be much closer to your forecast and much better equipped to plan around the dip.
  5. Your customers stick with you. This is a no-brainer. If your customers were always on the brink of churn, they’ve probably already left—or they’re about to, as the recession continues. If your relationships are strong, they have a much better chance of weathering the storm.

Building Customer Engagement

So how do you get there? At Kapta, we believe customer engagement is the end product of a customer-first culture and process, executed by a dedicated team of account or client service professionals.

Let’s pick that apart for just a second. First, you need intention: A company-wide culture and a set of internal processes that puts customers first. This has to happen at the company level, because it has to be reflected in every function at your organization. It affects who you hire, how you train, how you measure performance, what products and services you offer, how you plan for growth, and more. The companies with the highest level of customer engagement are those that prioritize their customers, full stop.

A recession is in some ways the perfect time to make cultural shifts. But if that’s too daunting a task for right now, start by focusing all your energy on existing accounts—understanding how the crisis has affected them, and how you can help them get through.

You also need infrastructure: both people and technology. Customer engagement demands team of professionals dedicated to building and strengthening client relationships. If you’re not in a position to hire, start by ensuring your existing teams understand the importance of building customer engagement.

And set them up for success with a purpose-driven process and platform to support customer engagement. CRM and sales tools cannot do this for you. Neither can an ad-hoc collection of various communication, presentation, project management, and billing tools. We’ve written in detail before about how sales differs from Key Account Management, and why you need purpose-built tools for each. We’ll simply recap here that CRM tools are excellent for generating new leads or managing a high volume of low-touch customers, but they don’t provide the framework and visibility you need to build an ongoing, highly strategic relationship with any given, high-value client.

Kapta: Your Customer Engagement Platform

Hopefully by now the benefits of Customer Engagement are pretty clear. Customer Engagement creates lasting, loyal, strategic partnerships that help protect your existing revenue—and even drive growth—in a recession. Customer Engagement also helps position you as an indispensable strategic partner, vs a pesky salesperson trying to save themselves in a difficult time.

Kapta can help you get there. If you want to start light, download our KAM To Go framework to ground yourself in Our KAM Process. Then get in touch to see how we can help you double down on your existing revenue—and weather this storm with your clients.

How Key Account Management Software Can Make You a More Effective Client Services Director

By the time you’re the Director of Client Services for an organization, you already know your stuff. Customer communication comes instinctively to you. You know how to manage a crisis. You know how to ask questions that reveal opportunities to add value, and you know how to turn the answers into action plans that keep your customers coming back for more. In short, you know how to grow a book of business by engaging customers and putting their needs first.

And chances are, you’ve been doing it for years without the support of a KAM-specific software tool. You might be using your own personal blend of tools: Email, text, and phone. Spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations. Maybe a CRM, if that’s how your company pursues new business. So why add a KAM-specific tool to your tech stack now?

The right KAM software can make you an even more effective Client Services Director by helping you:

  • Cultivate a checklist mindset, prompting and sequencing critical customer engagements while diagnosing account health in real time
  • Improve visibility with a single source of truth, capturing client goals, feedback, and deliverables in a single dashboard, even for multiple accounts
  • Harness the power of data, using real-time KPI tracking and data visualization to inform client-facing and internal account reviews
  • Create clear expectations for your team, with a strong internal process that improves performance and performance reviews

Let’s take a closer look at each of these things, and how they help you be more effective not only with your clients, but also with your team.

Cultivating a Checklist Culture

Aviation is well known for its checklist culture. From their first day of training to their last day of flying, pilots at every level use checklists for nearly every aspect of flight. They use them not only to sequence their actions, but also to diagnose the flight itself periodically throughout. (Are we heading in the right direction? Is the engine running smoothly? How is our fuel supply?)

The mindset isn’t that as you get more experienced, you need the checklist less—the mindset is: We’re human. We get distracted. We miss things. In fact, the more experienced we are, the more prone we are to getting comfortable, and forgetting something major. When the stakes are high, checklists are a calm and focused way to make sure everything runs the way it should.

KAM software can act as a checklist for you and your team, prompting the behaviors we know make a difference to customers, and diagnosing account health throughout the course of any given contract or engagement. KAM software reminds your team to reach out to clients consistently, asking good questions each time—and software can raise a flag if it’s been too long since a key client heard from you. KAM software can help your team work through their Account Plan methodically, ensuring every action item ladders back up to your client’s big picture goals. And KAM software can give you an at-a-glance sense of customer engagement and overall account health.

Think of the right KAM software as another pair of eyes and ears on your book of business. The busier you are (and we know you’re busy), the more it helps to have a constant scan on all your clients, ensuring nobody falls through the cracks.

Many industries are learning lessons from aviation’s checklist culture, including healthcare. In the case of client service, nobody’s life is on the line (thank goodness!), but that doesn’t mean checklist culture can’t be a valuable tool for averting disaster and improving performance.

Improve Visibility with a Single Source of Truth

As Director of Client Services, you oversee client management for every key account. KAM software gives you visibility across every account in your organization, with a single source of truth that collates input from your entire team. This gives you a bird’s eye view of your entire book of business, flagging areas that need your attention or intervention.

When you do need to appear in front of a client—say, because their senior leadership is present at this meeting, so you should be, too, or a client is frustrated and wants to escalate their concern—you’ll have a quick source of relevant info to guide your approach. Of course, your day-to-day account manager will also fill you in, but KAM software contributes to a full and objective understanding of the situation, prior to facing clients in a room.

KAM software also creates a single source of truth for individual accounts. This is especially helpful when the account is run by multiple account directors, and/or cross-functional teams. KAM software makes critical information clearly visible: What have we committed to this client? What’s the next thing we need to be planning for? What are the big picture objectives we’re working for? How are we tracking against those goals? When everyone knows not only what they’re doing, but why they’re doing it, they are more engaged—and the work is better.

Harness the Power of Data

We work with key account managers and client service professionals at every step of the journey. And one thing we find is that even the most experienced client service professionals have room to improve when it comes to metrics and performance data.

The explanation is simple: Data monitoring and visualization capabilities are growing exponentially as technology gets more sophisticated. So even if you’ve spent 20 years in client service and understand the relationship side of things inside and out, you may not be using data and reporting tools to their maximum ability.

The good news is, it’s hard to teach relationship management; it’s easy to track data. That’s where tech excels, and where the right KAM software can support you as you craft meaningful account reviews for your clients. KAM software can pull data from multiple sources, tracking embedded success metrics for each account—and even individual tactics or deliverables. At the same time, KAM software can track client outreach efforts and overall customer engagement. And finally, KAM software can also work as an internal tool, tracking revenue and organic growth for an existing client. So as you’re using your instinct and experience to put together a meaningful presentation, you can lean on your KAM technology for the numbers you need to build your case.

You probably have various tools that can take on pieces of this: Web analytics. Internal spreadsheets. Presentation notes. But the right KAM software puts it all in one place. And, even better, it generates specific, relevant reports for your clients and C-suite alike. So if you’re prepping for a presentation to your boss or your biggest client, a few clicks will get you the data visualization you need to demonstrate progress and value.

Define Clear Expectations for Your Team

As a Client Services Director, you’re not only responsible for your clients—you’re also responsible for your team. To be successful, they need to be empowered to exercise good judgement; but they also need a clear process to work with.

KAM software can help reinforce your process, especially if it’s built around a strong KAM process of its own. Kapta, for example, is built around Our KAM Process (Know, Act, Measure) with tools in each category.

Not only can KAM software reinforce your expectations for your team, and work as a checklist for their day-to-day activities, but it can also give you clear visibility into their actions and results. This is a helpful tool at performance review time, because it gives you insight into both leading and lagging indicators of their success, helping you see the full story behind the numbers. Maybe revenue has plateaued, but your account manager is reaching out meaningfully and often to the client, and revealing potential growth possibilities in the process. Or maybe it’s the opposite: revenue is still growing, but your account manager is neglecting the client—you can flag this in the review before it’s a crisis, and create a Performance Improvement Plan designed to boost their proactive client management.

Conclusion

Though we often work with client service professionals at the beginning of their journey, we love working with experienced Client Service Directors. Mostly because we can skip over so many of the tenants of great client management, which you already know, and get straight to some of the pain points at the director level. We enjoy helping client service directors build even more effective engagement with their clients and their team, and we love introducing them to the potential of the right technology to take their data tracking and reporting to the next level.

To see how Kapta can support Client Service Directors, schedule your personalized demo today.

Your Key Account Management Tech Stack (and Tech Hacks)

There are 3 pillars to building a truly customer-centric Key Account Management (KAM) function: People, process, and technology. You hire talent with the focus and skill to build customer engagement, and you empower them with a clear internal process, supported and accelerated by the right technology.

One way to look at the ideal Key Account Management tech stack is chronologically, along the customer journey:

  • Tech to win business
  • Tech to keep and grow the business
  • Tech to communicate along the way

As we walk through our recommendations for each, we’ll keep in mind the 3 pillars above (people, process, technology) and explore ways in which tech can support and accelerate—but never replace—the people and process that make Key Account Management meaningful.

Tech to Win Business

In a perfect world, KAMs can focus on existing customers, working towards organic growth through long-term customer engagement. However, many KAMs do still participate in the pursuit of new business, which is fine—as long as it doesn’t detract from their ability to serve existing clients.

Whether it’s KAMs themselves or a different team working on new business, there are ways to do so that set everyone up for success—including the customer.

The best upstream fit for a strong Key Account Management function is ABM, or account-based marketing. Compared to traditional sales tactics, ABM works harder to find customers who can truly benefit from your products and services. ABM tailors marketing to meet customers where they are, both in terms of channel and message. By pushing your company to think about things from the customer’s POV, ABM inherently selects for strategic, best-fit accounts—and gets you into the right mindset for long-term engagement.

Since KAMs focus on keeping and growing accounts after the initial sale, their job is easier if the accounts coming to them have already been filtered for strategic fit. That’s why we think ABM and KAM are a powerhouse partnership: ABM to win the right customers; KAM to help them reach their full growth potential.

It’s worth noting that sales isn’t always upstream of Key Account Management; when it’s done well, KAM can be a driver of sales. For service firms who work with customers in a niche industry, winning business isn’t a question of sales or marketing technology at all. Customers generate RFPs, and send them out to a few select firms. In cases like this, the relationships KAMs have made in their careers follow them as they go, creating opportunities for major new business wins. And the value your firm has consistently demonstrated for clients is the reputation that earns you an invitation to the RFP table. As a leadership team, RFPs serve as another reminder that freeing up and supporting teams whose focus is existing customers is not only an organic growth strategy, but also a long-term strategy for winning new business.

Tech to Keep and Grow the Business

You’ve made the sale. Now what? Key account management is how you keep and grow the business, so the partnership can reach its full potential. Key account management builds engagement and drives impact, helping customers reach their biggest goals so you can reach your biggest goals, too.

The right KAM software is purpose-built to support the activities and behaviors that make KAMs successful:

  • Consistent client communication: Asking the right questions, building dynamic org charts and detailed profiles, and getting the strategic insights you need to place your customers in their own market. KAM software not only prompts the right dialogue, but also captures the output in a way that stays visible to cross-functional teams as they work on day-to-day deliverables—so key customer insights, goals, and expectations stay central to the planning and execution process.
  • Action-oriented account planning: Research and experience teach us that the number one way to build customer engagement is to make an impact on their business—and half of impact is “act.” KAM software has built-in methodologies that help you translate big ideas into actionable tasks, ensuring everything you do, big or small, ladders up to your customer’s goals.
  • Meaningful metrics: Your customers will want to see the value you create for them. KAM software pulls data from multiple sources to track KPIs and other customer success metrics in real time. And reporting tools make it easy to quickly pull the answers to any questions your customers have about progress and impact.

Strong KAM software is relatively new to the scene. For years, KAMs have pieced together ad-hoc solutions for their critical role: They’ll build incredible strategic PowerPoint decks—and then store them in a folder on the server where nobody sees them. They’ll build account plans in spreadsheets, burying the most important message (why are we doing this?) in a cell somewhere. They’ll spend an hour searching their email to find a single client comment.

KAM software doesn’t replace email or PowerPoint, but it does give KAMs and their teams a single source of truth for everything related to a client or project. Dashboards keep the who, what, why, and how of every account and deliverable clearly visible to the whole team, which makes it easier for KAMs to keep work on time, on budget, and, most importantly, on strategy.

Tech to Communicate

We think you can communicate effectively with 3 main tools: Slack for internal collaboration; Zoom for conference calls; email for clear and secure client communication.

Three is a magic number: It gives you the flexibility to harness the strengths of each platform without overwhelming your clients or internal teams. (Nobody wants to be checking 7 different applications all the time, or searching 7 different applications to find a client comment.)

When it comes to communication, there’s not a tech solution in the world that can solve for good judgement. You have to know when to stop emailing and pick up the phone. And you have to know when to put down the phone and go meet with your clients in person.

Remember, tech only works as a pillar of key account management. You have to consider its role in relation to process and people in order to make the most of your tech—and your time.

Tech is Not Enough: Process

In today’s world, there’s a tech platform for everything. (For example, “Yo” is an app whose sole functionality is to send your friends a message that says, “Yo.”) We are bombarded by tech solutions promising to make work more efficient, more effective, and more enjoyable. But do they really?

The answer is: Only sometimes. And only if they are implemented with the bigger picture in mind. Rather than just adding platform after platform to your tech stack, take a step back and ask yourself: What is our growth strategy? What is our process for getting there? Who are the people who will be using this and how does this help them? (Hint: If the software company itself is practicing good key account management, they should be able to help you answer these questions, and use their product in a way that brings real value to your organization.)

When tech exists not for its own sake, but as a complement to a clear internal process, it can be implemented and integrated in a way that lets it deliver on its promise: To make work more efficient, more effective, and even more enjoyable.

Tech is Not Enough: People

Even at its best—fully integrated with people and process, fully integrated with complementary platforms—no tech solution can replace the human element of customer engagement. Exceptional client management takes, among other things, experience, skill, judgement, diplomacy, rapport, time, and effort.

So while KAMs can and should expect technology to support their efforts, they shouldn’t expect it to replace them—and they should be wary of any tech platform that suggests otherwise. Good KAMs know when to meet with clients in person: Workshops, account reviews, presentations, critical conversations, and more. They use their tech tools to prepare, follow up, and implement output from these meetings—but they don’t send an email when they should show up in person instead.

Conclusion

At a high level, you can think about KAM as consisting of 3 pillars: People, process, and technology. And you can think about your technology as a set of solutions placed along different points in the customer journey: ABM to win business; KAM to keep and grow business; and a combination of Slack, Zoom, and email to communicate along the way.

Kapta is purpose-build KAM technology that integrates seamlessly not only with your tech stack, but also with your overall KAM process. Our coaches and services are designed to make sure you make the most of your tech investments, by assessing your overall approach to customer engagement and ensuring you have all the right tools in place (not just ours) to be successful.

To see how Kapta fits into your KAM tech stack and process, schedule your personalized demo today.

What Your Clients Really Want – and How Key Account Management Delivers

In 2018, CSO Insights, the research division of the Miller Heiman Group, conducted a Buyer Preferences Survey with 500 B2B buyers working for medium to large-sized companies ($240M USD or greater) who made purchases of $10K or greater. They defined “buyers” broadly, as decision makers in business purchases—not just procurement teams.

What they found was that buyers are changing faster than sellers. Buyers are demanding more and more personalization from sellers; they also have more and more opportunities, through companies like Amazon and Alibaba, to sidestep sellers altogether. In short, as we often say (and we’re not alone): Customers are harder to engage and easier to lose than ever.

It can seem intimidating to try to keep up with something as rapid and unpredictable as technological trends, and the inevitable changes in customer demand. But there’s good news: As much as things change, they also stay the same.

Digging deeper, the survey asked the question: What do customers really want from their sellers? The answers:

  1. Understand my business. Know me.
  2. Demonstrate excellent communication skills.
  3. Focus on post-sale.
  4. Give me insights and perspective.

Looking at this list, it’s clear: These are the same basic tenants of strong relationships that have informed customer engagement for years. They run deeper than tech and last longer than trends. If you can get good at them, you can weather any change with your customers.

Key account management (KAM) is how you get good at delivering what customers want. At its heart, KAM is the art of building strong relationships through deep customer knowledge, excellent communication, and insightful commentary. And, by definition, it happens post-sale.

In the post below, we’ll offer our take on the list from CSO Insights above, and we’ll talk more about why KAM is the way to deliver what customers really want, so you can build resilience, drive growth, and stay ahead of—rather than just keep up with—buyer change.

1) Understand my business. Know me.

The best way to understand your customers is to engage early and often. In a perfect world, you enter the conversation early in the buying journey, when they are still identifying and clarifying their needs. One great way to do this is through Account-Based Marketing (ABM)—essentially an upstream component of key account management. (See our recent post on why ABM and KAM make a great team.)

But all is not lost if you can’t engage as early as you’d like the buying journey. No matter when you come in, you always have an opportunity to understand your customers better. Chronologically speaking, this starts with doing your homework to understand their business, then asking thought-provoking questions to spark meaningful dialogue. And it never stops—as long as you’re working with a client, you’re doing your research and asking good questions, so you are always up to date on their industry, their company, and their goals.

Let’s start with the homework piece, though it’s fairly self-explanatory. Come to the table prepared and informed so you don’t waste your client’s time asking basic questions. A good example is advertising agencies who work with pharma and medical device companies. Their teams understand complicated disease states and cutting-edge treatments surprisingly well; they can speak with fluency about the cellular mechanism of action of the drugs they work on before they even meet with the client. That way, when they do meet with the client, they can jump right into the specifics, rather than spending hours on the medical backstory.

There’s another side to this coin. Clients like to be the experts in their field. They like to know more than you do. And as the SMEs, they can and should know more than you do. So there’s a balance here: You shouldn’t show up unprepared. But nor should you show up thinking you know everything. Be ready to hear their perspective and expertise. In blunt summary: People like being asked questions. They just don’t like being asked stupid questions.

2) Demonstrate Excellent Communication Skills

Throughout the course of your customer relationship, you’re being judged in every single interaction. We are sorry to say so, but it’s true—and it’s fair. Your customers are paying you, probably large sums of money, so it’s only natural that some part of them is always asking: “Is this worth it?”

Since every interaction contributes to an overall impression of value, it’s important to make every interaction valuable. Luckily, you can apply some basic human skills here, the most important of which is: LISTEN. Easier said than done, we know. If you’re not sure how well you’re listening, try an experiment: For a full month, ask yourself after every client interaction: “Did I learn something, too?” If the answer is more often no than yes, you’re not listening well, and you’re missing opportunities to understand your customer—the first thing they want you to do.

Now that we’ve put all this pressure on you to make every interaction great, let us take some of it away with 3 easy words: Don’t get weird. If you’re hyper-aware of the fact you need to add value, and your focus is adding value for its own sake, you’ll undermine your own efforts. Rather than trying to seem important, spend your time actually making yourself important: Do your homework. Know your stuff. Show up ready to share ideas you’ve thought through carefully, and ready to listen to the ideas of others. When you don’t know the answer, don’t pretend you do.

Clients know when someone is engaged, earnest, and genuinely acting on their behalf; they also know when someone is full of it. Again, we return to what we think is a comforting thought: Everything you need to do to be a good client communicator is grounded in basic human skills: Think before you speak. Listen actively. Don’t BS.

3) Focus on Post-Sale

A sale is like a wedding. Yes, it’s the culmination of months—maybe years—of planning. It’s a big accomplishment; a literal cause for celebration. But it’s only the beginning of a marriage—and that’s where the real work happens. A sale, like a wedding, is not the end. It’s the beginning.

If your company focuses too many resources on winning new customers at the expense of cultivating existing customers, you’re doing both your company and your customers a grave disservice. Existing customers are your company’s most important asset—organic growth tends to be more profitable and more sustainable than winning new business.

Post-sale is what KAM is all about. It’s why KAM should partner with but operate separately from sales. It takes infrastructure—people, process, and technology—to make KAM work, and ensure your company is treating the sale as the start of the customer engagement, and not the end of it.

4) Give me Insights and Perspective

This is where the list culminates. Insight and perspective come from a combination of customer knowledge and long-term, post-sale commitment. And they have to be delivered with good communication.

One form perspective might take is healthy disagreement. Some clients might think they want you to agree with them all the time—and it’s certainly easier in the short-term to do so—but it doesn’t improve the relationship, or the work, in the long run.

In the movie Bohemian Rhapsody, Freddie Mercury returns to his bandmates to plead his case for reunion, after having left to pursue a solo career. “I hired a bunch of guys. I told them exactly what to do. And the problem was, they did it.” Without “push-back, re-writes, and funny looks” from his bandmates, the musical product was not as good.

Clients hire you because you presumably know more than they do about whatever product or service your firm provides. They need you to push them towards better solutions—but they need you to do it skillfully.

  • Stay relevant: Show them you understand their business, and your disagreement comes from a place of deep knowledge
  • Stay supportive: Show them you’ve been listening, and your perspective actually comes from a shared vision for success
  • Stay client-focused: Demonstrate your commitment to their goals, rather than your own sales quotas

Remember: Your job is to make the work better, and your client’s life easier. So if you disagree with an idea of theirs, don’t just point out the problem. Propose potential solutions. Give them options to choose from—one that reflects their idea, and one that reflects your recommendation. Don’t try to force them into your POV; lead them there in a way that respects their own expertise and contributions. And finally, know when to let go and just do it the way they asked.

Of course, “insight and perspective” isn’t always oppositional. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to build on your customer’s ideas. And you’ll reveal opportunities for upselling. When it’s done right, upselling doesn’t even feel like “selling,” in the traditional sense—it feels more like offering a proactive and fitting solution to a client problem. Upselling works seamlessly when it’s a genuine reflection of your customer’s needs, rather than your own need to meet a quota or number.

How KAM Helps You Deliver on What Customers Want

Key Account Management starts exactly where this list did: Understanding your customer. Pushing beyond the marketing data to know them personally: What are they trying to achieve? How do they expect you to help? How can you exceed these expectations?

Knowledge is the foundation of strong customer engagement, as well as the foundation for strong key account management. KAM software can help, with Voice of Customer tools, SWOT analysis templates, dynamic org charts, and detailed profiles of key customer contacts. Kapta has all those tools, prompting various kinds of customer questions and interactions designed to dig deeper than a traditional CRM.

Key Account Management is also inherently focused on post-sale—something more buyers wish more companies could be. In fact, KAM is your post-sale customer engagement method. And KAM software understands that. KAM software isn’t about lead generation. It’s about ongoing strategic client management.

Conclusion

When you use key account management to deliver what customers want, you build relationships that withstand changes in the market, in technology, and even in customers themselves. Why? Because rather than just keeping up with trends, you’re going a level deeper, fulfilling what customers really want from their 3rd-party partners: Knowledge, communication, commitment, and perspective.

To see how Kapta can help you deliver on what customers really want, schedule your personalized demo today.