Your relationships with customers aren’t immune to problems. Just because you start off strong doesn’t mean things will always continue in the right direction. Sometimes you’ll begin to notice that a client isn’t as interested in working with you, or that you aren’t making the revenue gains you had projected with that account. It’s something you need to pay attention to, but don’t let it overwhelm you.
The account checks and milestone reviews you have in place should alert you when something’s up with one of your customers. After that, it’s up to you to turn things around and figure out how to get back on track towards growth and your projections.
Your first step for improving the strategic partnership is to pay attention to what you as the Key Account Manager (KAM) and your company in general are doing for your customers. Having a lot of interaction with you customer and doing a lot of work on the account doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going in the right direction. You have to differentiate whether you’re just being busy or if your work is having a real, tangible impact.
Busywork can be distracting. It’s easy to pile up a lot of activity that you feel needs to be done for your customer, even when those activities are not bringing in the right results. Look into the impact of every action you and your team do for a customer account and ask:
- Which specific goal is this helping to achieve?
- What measurable progress is coming from this action?
- Is this part of the strategic plan in place for the customer?
- Does the customer know what you’re doing and approve of it?
- Is this the best way to work towards the goal?
- Could you be using your time and resources more effectively?
It’s easy to get distracted by doing so much that you lose your focus on fulfilling customer goals. Or, you can accidentally focus on fulfilling goals that aren’t very important to your customer’s success. Your job as a KAM is to help your customers succeed and grow, which means you have to help them reach goals that are most essential to their business. To this end, you should turn your focus to only 3 customer goals at a time.
Don’t try to be all things to your customer. Narrow down your field of vision so that you’re focusing only on the 3 most important things to your customer. By addressing a smaller list of needs and goals, you can turn your attention toward doing more to accomplish the most important goals first. If you’ve been spreading yourself too thin, you may not be doing enough to accomplish the things that your customer prioritizes, which can put some strain on your partnership.
Even if you’re doing something and making progress towards some goals, it may not be enough when you’re focusing on the things that are least important to your customer’s success. Their top goals need to drive your actions.
Uncovering Your Customer’s Top Goals
You already have a working relationship with your customer. It won’t be difficult for you to re-focus on the right goals, because your customer should have no problem communicating with you about what those goals are. It’s time for you to meet up with your customer to have a straightforward talk about what’s most important to them and what you can do to help them achieve their main goals.
A lot of these questions can be answered with a thorough voice of customer (VOC) meeting. Some companies like to send VOC surveys for customers to fill out and send back, but that won’t be thorough enough for you. Instead, meet up with your contacts in person and have an honest conversation with them about what’s important for their company. Ask the right questions and follow up to make sure you get the full picture. You can read a bit more about how to do an effective VOC interview meeting here.
Aligning with Customer Goals
After you’ve understood your customer’s goals, you need to act on the new information. Now that you know which 3 goals your customer prioritizes, you have to arrange your work to fit those goals and knock them out of the park! If you focus on bringing all your work in line with the top 3 goals for your customers, your partnership will grow stronger and you’ll be providing more value to your customer.
Evaluate what you’re doing now and see what needs to change in order to make better progress. If any of your time and resources are spent on tasks or activities that aren’t benefitting you and your customer by getting them closer to their goals, do something differently. Keep your work and your resources focused on what your customer is focused on, those top 3 goals.
As a KAM, your job revolves around making your customers more successful. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t need to look at your own company goals at all. Yes, your customers are your focus. However, keep in the back of your mind that you shouldn’t be doing anything that’s going to actively hurt your own company and your potential progress.
Keep Your Focus Narrow
Maintain your focus. It may feel like you could be more productive if you try to do more, but dividing your focus will actually make you less productive over time. You likely don’t have the resources or manpower to focus on more than three goals at a time anyway, so you shouldn’t be trying.
It’s tempting to list the top 5, 10, or more things that your customer cares about and try to tackle everything at once. This isn’t an efficient way to succeed at anything, and is more likely to set you up for failure at everything instead!
Three goals gives you enough to keep you busy, dedicated, and strategic without giving up on your ability to do all you need to exceptionally well. The level of value you provide will directly affect your partnership. Better focus leads to better results and creating more value where it really counts.
Don’t get too comfortable in your ability to multi-task. If you’re having some trouble adding value to your customers, find out what you could be doing better to help them achieve their top 3 goals. Listen to what they have to say and re-evaluate what you’re doing in regards to what’s most important to your customer. Find out what your customer prioritizes and make sure you’re working in line with that.