Every successful relationship starts with a mutual understanding from both parties. The most effective way to create this mutual understanding is to have a dialogue. Especially when focusing on Key Account Management, communication (especially at the start of a relationship) is vital to the long-term health and success of the partnership.
Most business relationships are built off of precise questions that get to the bottom of the client’s goals, ideas, and expectations and both sides need specific questions in mind for each meeting to make sure that they walk away with new insight into the other side’s thinking. That being said, many new account managers have a hard time formulating the cutting questions that will get to the heart of the client’s problems or goals.
Many people feel uncomfortable grilling new clients for answers to difficult and complicated questions and would instead start the relationship off on a more casual, relaxed manner. The fact is, if you want to become a trusted advisor for your key accounts, you need to know the right questions to ask.
In this post, we’re going to take all of the confusion out of the initial questions you should ask during preliminary meetings that will help you get the answers you need to know to ensure that the relationship is mutually successful for years to come.
1) What are your goals?
This is perhaps the most important question on this list. If you want to ensure that the long-term relationship is successful and the account sees your company as a trusted advisor and business partner, you need to know what their goals are. When asking what their goals are, you want to know not only the long-term goals but also the short-term goals as well. Without a clear understanding of their goals, what they want to get out of the relationship, and how your company can help, you won’t know which subscriptions, products, or services you should recommend.
2) Who’s on the team?
If everything goes well, you’ll be working with this same account for years to come. It’s good to know upfront and while the relationship is still new who you will be working with. Unless it’s a tiny company, most of the time you’ll have to work with a few different people related to the account. In addition to having a list of names, you should also know their role in the account. Who is the decision-maker? Who is just a gatekeeper? Labeling and putting a role to the name will help tremendously in your efforts to nourish and grow the relationship for the long term.
Once you know all of the members of the team, you can then use Kapta’s built-in features to manage and track every contact within the account.
3) How do you like to work with partners like us?
Governance is important when it comes to high-performing clients. Everybody has their own preferred method of working with business partners, and by asking this question, you’ll ensure that you are staying within their expectations and will affect your game plan moving forward. Some clients prefer to come to their service providers when they need help and prefer a hands-off approach. On the other hand, some other clients might prefer that you stay in constant contact with them, so they feel valued and that you always have their best interest in mind.
Every client will be different, but this question is crucial to ensuring you are operating within the client’s expectations moving forward.
4) How should we communicate?
Does your client prefer to communicate through email, phone, text, video, or in-person? This is related to the previous question above as you want to ensure that you are operating and communicating with the account in a way that matches their preferred workflow. Some clients will have no problem keeping in touch through email while others might prefer to take an old-fashioned approach to business and would rather meet face-to-face. Ask this question to make sure you are speaking their language using their preferred method for future success.
5) How will you measure success?
You can’t keep score of the winning relationship if you don’t know where the goal post is. Asking this question first and upfront, while the relationship is still in its blossoming phase, will ensure that you and everyone else working with the account is living up to the client’s expectations. Different clients will have preferred key performance indicators (KPIs) than others. While one client might measure the success in sales numbers, others might measure it in relationship growth. Figure out what their preferred measure of success is, and make sure that you not only meet their expectations but wildly exceed them.
There’s More to the Questions
Asking the right questions of your new accounts is essential, but there is more to it than just asking the questions themselves. If you want to get the most out of the answers that they provide, you must do the following:
Far too many times we notice that new, unseasoned account managers will put too much emphasis on asking the question and not enough focus on listening to the answers the client provides. After you ask the question and the client is responding, don’t let your mind wander to the possible next up-sell or solution and instead focus on the answer. You’ll be surprised the new information you can learn from the tiny details in their response.
Once you carefully listen to your account’s answers, you can start thinking of follow-up questions that will allow you to learn even more about their expectations, goals, and performance indicators.
Read Between the Lines
It can be hard to effectively communicate exactly what you need through short Q and A sessions. You should do your best to read between the lines of your account’s answers to determine if there is an underlying need or problem that you and your organization could solve.
How Kapta Can Help
Managing the account doesn’t need to be complicated. With a powerful set of account management toolset your disposal, you’ll be able to get to work finding solutions to their problems much quicker than ever before. To give Kapta a try and to see how it can benefit your organization, schedule your free demo today.