We all want to be liked. It’s just a part of our DNA. Ever since we lived in villages and tribes, humans have wanted to fit in and feel appreciated by other members of the ground. There’s no way around this, but when it comes to the professional world, sometimes there are more important things than your feelings.
Especially in key account management, you’re going to run into grumpy customers. The thing is, even if they don’t like you and in fact maybe can’t stand you, if you’re giving them what they want, they’ll continue working with you.
Sure, it doesn’t hurt if your clients like you, but in the end, it’s the outcomes that you provide them that will mean more continued work for you.
The Flip Side
Is there ever a downside to being liked by clients? Well, the answer is tricky, but you might be familiar with the following:
You spend weeks courting a customer. They’re a big account, and if they partnered with your organization, you would be seen as the office hero. So, you pull out all of the stops. You talk to them on the phone, you’re incredibly polite, and it all seems like a home run.
Then you get an email that says, “We really like you, and you seem like a great account manager to work with, but we’ve decided to go with someone else.”
Your heart sinks, and you wonder how you could have missed the shot if you were so nice. That’s where the role of outcomes come in. The outcomes that you provide your clients are the most critical element of the continuous relationship and the niceties are just the icing on top.
So, what should you focus on instead of being liked? You need to focus on making your customers happy through tangible outcomes and results.
What Are Their Ideal Outcomes?
Off the top of your head, can you create a list of your key account’s ideal outcomes? If not, you have some work to do (we’ll help you get there). Your client’s goals and outcomes are the most important thing to them. They don’t care that you’re friendly, although it does make the relationship more pleasant. But, in reality, it’s how your organization benefits them that really matters.
This is a core element of Customer Success. You are essentially pulling out all of the stops and going above and beyond to make sure that the client is successful with your tools and solutions. By identifying your client’s ideal outcome, you can then do a better job as a key account manager to help them reach their goals.
Discovering their Outcomes
So, now that we know finding their ideal outcome is the first step, how do you go about finding them?
Well, it all starts with good communication. Most of the time, they might provide you with some insight into their organizational goals, but if you want to learn what really makes their company tick and what will really excite them, you need to know how to ask the right questions.
This is best done during the Voice of Customer interview. You need to make sure you’re speaking their language, but we have an article on the blog all about questions to ask to understand your clients better. Of these questions, a couple stand out as directly applicable to this current situation:
“Two years from today, if we were looking back at this project, how would you define success?”
Getting an answer to this question is huge and could be the difference between keeping the account for years to come or losing them after the next QBR.
Many people are surprised to learn that success is a subjective term, and every client will have a different definition for it. While you might think that your client cares more about the bottom line, they actually might care more about expanding their market share and reaching more customers. In your next Voice of Customer interview, make sure that you can fully understand your client’s definition of success, and you’ll be one step closer towards delivering their ideal outcome.
“How can I best support you?”
This question is another big one that your client might not often hear from other vendors. While traditional salespeople want to do just enough to get the sale and then disappear, the role of a key account manager is to provide support to their clients as their trusted advisor.
Getting an answer to this question might seem tricky, so it’s best to clarify with the client. You want to know what you should do on a daily basis that will support them in their journey to achieve success. The answer to this question will be different for every client. Some clients might want you to call them every day to provide an update while other clients might be fine with a weekly check-up. Whatever the case is, make sure you’re going above and beyond to support your clients.
“How are you going to be evaluated?”
The final question we want to cover gets down to the ideal outcome your client has personally. Remember, part of your role as their key account manager is to ensure that they are the office hero. They should be able to point at the results of your work and show their boss that they were partly responsible.
Everyone wants to achieve greater success for themselves, and being the office hero is a goal for many people in corporate settings. The first step towards making your contact the office hero is to understand how their boss will evaluate them. Once you know that, you can have a greater appreciation for the work that needs to be done.
While we all want to be liked, it isn’t a requirement for key account management. Focus on the outcomes you deliver clients first, and their opinion of you second, and they’ll likely like you more when they see real results for their organization.