It’s true now and it was true pre-COVID-19: customers are easier to lose and harder to engage than ever. Customers today have choices and they have power, all while seeming more difficult to connect and build relationships with, making driving the kind of business results you want to achieve more challenging than ever. Consider these troubling statistics:
- Only 31% of companies believe their suppliers understand their needs (Gallup: B2B Secrets to Big Customer Partnerships)
- Only 47% of customers strongly believe that their vendor delivers on its promises (Gallup: Companies Only Deliver on Their Brand Promises Half the Time)
- 71% of B2B companies are ready to take their business elsewhere (Gallup: B2B Sales Growth: Anemic)
B2B relationships are clearly fragile. And even if companies have a program in place for managing accounts, chances are you only think you’re managing your accounts, when in reality, your accounts are likely managing you.
Read on for the top signs that your business may be at risk; if these indicators ring familiar, it may be time to invest in tools and software to help your key account management team build more meaningful relationships with your clients.
1. You’re Tactical, but Not Strategic
It’s easy for tactical to become the default setting for key account managers — talking about your company’s products and services and the details that go with them just makes sense, right? But if you’re always stuck in the same tactical mode, that’s where you’ll remain. The same conversations will keep happening, over and over, and it will be a struggle to truly move business forward.
If you’re able to pull back and have a strategic conversation with the client, that’s where the potential for magic lies. Elevate the conversation to find out about the client’s business from their perspective. What’s their worldview? If you can be strategic in your approach, the client will learn to see you as more than just a vendor. Strategy is how you become a partner.
2. You’re Reacting vs. Acting
If your days are spent in your inbox, responding to emails and answering calls and other client inputs — well, you’re not alone — but you’re also too reactive. For key account managers, the goal is to be proactive. When you’re constantly reacting, you’re not really in control of the situation or business. If reactivity is your reality, it’s time to start thinking about how to handle your clients, projects and accounts more proactively.
3. You’re Not Customer-Centric
Most companies lead with an ethos of customer-centricity, touting client service as a top value. But applying a customer-centric approach to everyday business can be harder to realize.
Give yourself and your team this test: the next time you join a routine internal meeting, imagine yourself as an objective third party listening in on the conversation, and pay attention to the types of questions that are being asked. Is the discussion focused only on forecasts and sales plans, or is the client and their individual needs being considered? Are questions being asked about how current world events are affecting your client’s business specifically? Does everyone in the meeting understand how the client defines success, and how they like to work with partners?
It’s these customer-centered questions that define a customer-centric approach. If your internal conversations are all just pipeline, opportunities and deals, then you’re acting self-centered as a team and organization.
4. There’s No Overarching Account Plan
This one is (or should be) a no-brainer. If you’re not building account plans, you’re giving away your power as a key account manager. Without an account plan, you lack structure; there’s no roadmap or guide, and you have no way of knowing, definitively, if you’re doing a good job.
By creating thoughtful, actionable account plans based on your customer’s needs and with clear alignment between their business and yours, not only will you be able to see the unambiguous steps to success, but you’ll also have a clear story to tell your client to demonstrate that success. If your goal as a KAM is to be more strategic, proactive and more effective, account plans are an impactful place to start.
5. You’re Communicating Too Low (or Too Narrow)
Communication is key, and if you’re only ever communicating with junior folks low on the client’s chain of command, or if you consistently communicate with the same one or two people, strategy and proactivity will be difficult to enact. C-suite meetings may not always be necessary, but if you think or know they’d be impossible to get, that’s a pretty strong indicator of your relevancy (or lack thereof) to the client.
On the flip side, narrow communication can be an internal issue, too. As a key account manager, you talk and think about your customers all day, but that’s not necessarily true for all of the internal teams who touch your client’s business. As the KAM, it’s your job to be an internal champion for your client, to make sure the client’s wants and needs are broadcast throughout your entire company, and that everyone understands what needs to be done to meet and exceed the customer’s expectations.
6. You’re Seeing Low or No Growth
If your business’s growth is slow or non-existent, it likely has to do with the way you report value back to the customer. Remember, your customer doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking about you; they’re thinking about themselves. It’s your job as a key account manager to remind your customer what you’ve been doing and what results you’ve delivered.
Don’t be timid when it comes to demonstrating value. Ask the client, “did you get the results you’re looking for?” By consistently reporting on value and having candid conversations, your customer will be able to internalize your offering and how it fits in with their business goals. It’s that top-of-mind awareness that comes to aid when invoices are due or renewals come around. Growth is easier to drive in a long-term partnership if you regularly communicate value.
Getting Back on Course
All of these signs are evidence that you’re not in control of your accounts or your business. If you’re operating within the above conditions, you’re missing out on opportunities, likely leaving money on the table, and putting your business at risk.
So how to course-correct, to maximize opportunities and minimize risk?
Become a Trusted Advisor and Work at a Strategic Level
Follow our KAM Process to know which customers are healthy and which are at risk, to have actionable account plans in place, and to measure and communicate value.
Have Commitment and Buy-in From Your Entire Company
Customer engagement will be difficult to achieve without support from your own leadership. The intention to support your customer’s strategic objectives and to keep your customer promises is something that must be agreed to from your CEO down.
Have the Infrastructure Needed To Support Your Intentions
Make sure you have the right tools, processes, teams and training to manage your customers. If you and your team aren’t using the right systems — or if you’re using disparate or inconsistent systems — you’re not setting yourself up for success. CRM is a start, but it’s not designed for the unique demands of post-sale account management. You need a roadmap to help you deliver value, processes that are consistent and replicable among all key account managers, and you need a tech stack that integrates account plans in KAM daily workflows.
If the above attributes describe your current company situation (or describe it too closely for comfort), your business may benefit from key account management software. To see how Kapta can help support, accelerate and mentor your efforts, schedule a personal demo today.