Working with key accounts is relatively safe if you’re doing everything correctly. You focus on building the relationship for the long-term, and you provide your key accounts with personal care and service that they can’t find from any other vendor.
With that being said, what do you do when a client is about to bail? It can be a scary scenario for many account managers and even some of the most experienced key account managers will still feel their stomach sink when they start to notice the warning signs.
So, what do you do? Do you just accept your fate, give up, and curse your competitor for stealing one of your favorite accounts? No! You’re a key account manager for a reason and winning people over is one of your natural-born talents. Even so, we could all use some extra help every once in a while. Here are a few of our favorite tips to help you reclaim your client before they just ship.
Look for Warning Signs
The most important tip to help prevent a client from leaving is to know the warning signs. The sooner that you can put your client emergency plan in place and respond the better and early detection is the key.
The most common early warning signs that a client is thinking of leaving include the following:
1) They ask for discounts
While this warning sign isn’t immediate cause to sound the alarms and put your emergency plan into action, it can be a foreboding sign of things to come. If a client starts asking for discounts, it could mean that they don’t see value in your products or services.
Also, it could mean that they found a better deal elsewhere which means you’re less of a trusted advisor and “just another vendor” to them. Small discounts here and there are normal and expected the longer they work with you. Steep discounts, on the other hand, might be cause for concern.
2) They question the value in your services.
This issue commonly arises when the champion of your account is replaced, or their organization goes through an organizational shift. The new person making the decisions might want to tighten the belt and cut back on non-essential services. If they start asking questions about what you’ve done for them lately, you should be concerned.
As the key account manager, your clients should never feel like they’re paying for services they don’t need. If they don’t see the value in your services, you’ve done something wrong that must be corrected swiftly.
3) They become distant or unresponsive.
If you’ve noticed that your customer has become hard to reach all of a sudden, it’s a bad sign that they might be on their way out the door. Don’t panic and start stalking them to see who they’re talking to. Instead, you should reach out professionally and positively to discuss their goals and reaffirm your commitment to their organization’s success.
Bringing Them Back Starts with Communication
So, you’ve determined that a customer is about to bail; what should you do next? Think about how you would approach recruiting a new client — how does every successful relationship start? If you answered “effective communication” you’re already one step closer towards reclaiming the customer.
As soon as you have even the inkling that a customer is leaving, you must reach out to them with effective and dependable communication. If it’s been a while since you talked to the client, that could be one of the reasons that they’re thinking about leaving. Now is the time to correct this misstep and reaffirm your commitment to the account.
You can also get to the bottom of their concerns and find possible solutions to encourage them to stay. Give them a call, and even if they don’t answer, leave a nice voicemail thanking them for being a customer and tell them that you want to meet with them soon to discuss their goals.
Assuming that you were able to get ahold of the customer and set up a meeting, your top priority should be to help them, not yourself. Ask them what they’ve thought of your services so far, and see if there is anything that you can do to make their experience better and encourage their organization’s success.
Chances are that during this meeting they’ll voice any concern that they have. Whether it’s that they can’t afford your products anymore; are unhappy with the experience they’ve had thus far, or maybe they’ve just been too busy to talk, you must diagnose the cause for the warning signs.
Once you have diagnosed the problem, it’s time to pull out the big guns and correct the problem as if they were a new customer. Depending on the severity of the problem or reason for them wanting to leave, it could mean figurative life or death of the account. You must do everything you can to ensure that it isn’t the latter.
Now that you’ve determined the cause, it’s time to get to work putting together a solution for your key accounts. You want to get creative here, and you need to make sure that you’re checking off all of the boxes. After all, they might be talking to one of your competitors so you need to come up with a unique solution that your competitors simply can’t match.
This might mean that you need to jump through a few management hoops depending on their concerns. If it’s pricing, you could offer a special bundle that you don’t offer to other customers. You could provide them with exclusive discounts that you don’t provide other accounts. This also depends on the significance of the account too. While all of your key accounts are important (they’re denoted as “key” for a reason), the ones that are about to bail should take priority over the others.
Show You Care
Finally, your role of key account manager also means that you need to show your accounts that you care about their success. You aren’t just another vendor looking to make a quick sale, and instead, you’re a trusted advisor that they depend on.
If you have trouble keeping track of your accounts or feel overburdened with tedious daily tasks, give Kapta a try and see how it can increase your efficiency and improve your accounts.