How well do you know your clients? Every successful Key Account Manager knows that to nourish and grow a relationship with clients, you need to know them better than their other vendors do. Through this understanding, you’ll be able to claim the coveted title of “Trusted Advisor,” and they’ll have a much more difficult time leaving your company for another.
With this in mind, we’ve found that you can always understand your clients better. Finding out the answers to the questions that keep your customers up at night can help you provide better services, maintain stronger relationships, and make you an all-around better Key Account Manager.
Let’s discuss some of the benefits of asking your clients the right questions:
Know Their Needs
Sure, you probably already know your customers’ surface-level needs and goals, but do you know what keeps them up at night? Not many account managers will go through the trouble of “going deeper” and delving into their clients’ wants and needs and will instead shift all of their focus to the immediate sale.
Key Account Managers don’t follow this principle, and you want to make sure that you know your account’s needs inside and out. With targeted, specific questions, you should be able to shed some light on the problems and needs the client wasn’t even aware of.
What if your client is thinking about switching vendors? What if they need to reduce their usual order by half? These are questions that you need answers to, and if you continue to operate off of assumptions that your relationship is running perfectly, you could run into devastating problems.
By asking questions about your clients’ needs, you’ll be able to uncover hidden risks, and take steps to ensure they never become a problem. Stay one step ahead of your clients’ expectations and needs by getting to the truth.
Finally, you want to know your relationships better, because should the sponsor ever decide to leave, you can still maintain the account. In many cases, the primary contact for your account might leave for a different job. If you haven’t taken the time to understand the account through and through, including the other faces and names associated with it, should your main account leave, you’ll be stuck at square one.
Now that we’ve discussed the reasons for wanting to understand your key accounts better let’s get into the top five questions you should try asking during your next Voice of Customer interview.
1) “Two years from today, if we were looking back at this project, how would you define success?”
Not everyone defines success in the same way. Just as each of your organization’s key accounts might specialize in different industries, they’ll have different goals as well. The thing is, if you want to help them achieve their goals through your products and services, you need to know their definition.
Two years can be a long time for a regular account, but since these are key accounts, you’ll be banking that they’ll stick around for that duration and beyond. With this time period in mind, your contact might have a hard time coming up with a concrete answer to this question. That’s okay!
The goal is not to have a specific numerical value (although that could be helpful) but in actuality, you just need to know precisely how they see the relationship progressing as time moves forward.
2) “What risks are there to this project?”
This question can be asked at the start of the relationship or any time after. Risks and opportunities come and go, and chances are they will change throughout the course of the relationship.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to know, from the client’s perspective, what their worst-case scenarios are. By understanding the things that they not only hope will happen, but their worst fears as well, you can create an account plan that mitigates and minimizes their risks.
3) “Is there anyone on the team (or in the company) who might want this project to fail?”
This question might seem a little bit out of the ordinary but the answers the client might provide could surprise you. While it’s always best to assume that everyone within your client’s organization will be entirely on board with the work that you’re doing, office politics still play a role in everything. There might be people vying for the client’s position, and seeing them (and your project) fail could allow them the opportunity to take on that role.
Ask your client directly, tell them that their answers and opinions are confidential, and it’s just a hypothetical scenario. Using the answer that they give, you can develop a better understanding of the environment over at their organization.
4) “How can I best support you?”
Everyone needs a helping hand every once in a while, and even if you have worked with a client for years, they might need extra support to make their jobs easier. Some account managers might fall into a false sense of normalcy and assume that everything is going smoothly. If you want to grow and nourish the relationship for years to come, you should consistently seek new opportunities to help the client.
So, whether you’ve worked with the client for a few months or five years, always try to find a new way to support them in their work.
“5) “How are you going to be evaluated?”
This final question covers the topic of making your contact the “office hero.” Everyone wants to feel like they single-handedly solved their organization’s problems, and if you do your job well, you can help them get there.
So, for this question, you want to determine which metrics and merits matter the most to your contact. How will their bosses judge their performance? How does the management team of their organization evaluate the success of a project? With these answers, you can adjust your strategy to meet their personal goals.