Where did the year go? It seems like just a few weeks ago we were pushing out our goals lists and new year tips and now it’s already time to look ahead to 2020. Q4 is here, and it’s crunch time. A lot of things always happen at the end of the year and you need to stay light on your feet and driven towards the finish line with a purpose if you want to go into 2020 with any sort of success and momentum.
We’ve seen a few Q4’s or two (or ten or twenty) and we know that there’s a bit of art and science behind getting everything wrapped up and avoiding any nasty surprises. If you want to stay on top of all of your clients’ goals even as the holidays approach and the calendar pages flip over, here are a few priorities to have in mind and some tips that you can follow to cut through the noise.
Secure the Renewal
As you’re organizing your clients list and prioritizing who demands the most attention towards the end of the year and who doesn’t, your code-red high-alert priority should be clients coming up for renewal soon. All else aside, if you don’t have a plan to keep these clients on board, that’s a huge chunk of revenue for your organization right out the window.
Now, how do you go about securing the renewal? Well, it helps to have a solid understanding of where the account is right now and what, if anything, you need to change or adjust. Some customers just need an email reminder and they sign up for another six months, a year, or however long your contracts last. Other customers, even if they love your product and have seen results since starting the relationship, need a little more convincing.
Whether they’re looking to save a little bit extra this time around or they are actively looking for an alternative, it’s all hands on deck. Ensure that ideally all of your clients renew this year and work to identify possible reasons they might want to cancel and find a way to recommunicate your organization’s value to them.
Can’t tell if a customer is thinking about leaving? If you don’t feel at least 90% confident that you’re doing that you can for the account, it’s time to act. Treat the situation as if your customer will leave if you make the smallest mistake. No, they realistically won’t, but you’ll be more focused and methodical in your approach to get them to renew. Make renewals your number one priority heading into Q4 and don’t stop until every client has signed back on.
Find Out Who’s Making Waves
Once you’ve gotten your code-red-alert renewals out of the way, your next priority should be the customers that are planning to make waves in their industry with initiatives either happening soon or just beyond the horizon. As a key part of Customer Success, you want your clients to make as much noise and have as much success as possible. If they’re doing good, you’re doing good because it makes you seem like the partner in their success and, ideally, they couldn’t have made it possible without your help.
So, who has a new product coming out? Who is planning a big promotion that could generate tons of revenue? Consider all of the recent conversations you’ve had with clients and their plans for either the end of the year or in Q1 of 2020 and make a list of the ones making big moves soon. These clients will require the second-most attention behind your clients up for renewal.
Identifying clients with major initiatives will provide you with a variety of opportunities to prove your worth to them and also some new revenue opportunities for your organization. Maybe with the new round of funding your client just raised, they have more budget to put into your current work with them and all they need is that little push to scale. Or maybe a new initiative brings a whole new series of challenges that they might not quite know about yet. With your industry information and experience working with high-profile customers, you could have the perfect opportunity to cross-sell additional products and services or premium features they might not have needed until now.
The opportunities are out there and Q4 is the time to capitalize on them. Think about who is making the biggest moves on your client list and find ways to help them achieve their new goals.
Take a Closer Look at the Data
How much do you think you know about your clients? If you’re like most key account managers, you’ll undoubtedly say you know your clients inside and out, and you might be close, but not correct. When we’re dealing with the day-to-day duties of this job, it’s easy for us to forget some important details that could really change the way we approach Q4. Use this as an opportunity to dive back into the data that you’ve collected and dig for answers. The best part is that if you’ve done your part throughout the year, maintained constant contact with your customers, and taken thorough notes along the way, the data is already there.
Dust off your Voice of Customer and SWOT analysis and really look at the information that they’ve provided you. In the VOC, you can learn more about what they like, what they dislike, and what their plan is moving forward. Go all the way back to Q1 and consider what they expected of you then and how that might have changed or stayed the same throughout the year. Have you dealt with snags and problems along the way? Have you exceeded their expectations already and need a new plan to keep them coming back for more? You can gather a ton of data from VOC and you might come to new conclusions or reaffirm what you already knew.
In the SWOT analysis of your customers and your role as their account manager, you can also find new opportunities. Are the strengths still the same and have you fully capitalized on them? What about the customer’s weaknesses? Are they protected through your product or service and are you making strides to keep it that way? Finally, review the opportunities you listed at the beginning of the relationship and consider what you’ve done to capitalize on them. Do you need to cross a few of them off the list? If so, add some new ones and bring them up the next time you meet with your customers.
All of this information is good and all, but if you just read it and forget about this altogether, it won’t do you much good. More so, you can’t do this once and then move onto the next thing. Every great key account manager knows that staying diligent and light on their feet is the secret to success in this field. Things change rapidly, and if you’re not prepared and are caught flat-footed, you’ll fail.
During Q4, you want to stay relevant on everything related to your clients. Unsurprisingly, the things that will change the most are typically out of your control, but that doesn’t mean you can’t step in to either prevent them from damaging the account and the relationship or stepping in to create new opportunities. Your organization isn’t the only one going through the hectic Q4 as your clients are probably running around trying to keep up as well. Whether they’re gearing up for the holiday season push or cutting back in preparations for the Q1 slow season, stay on top of it all.
They’re all likely busy too, so you might go days or weeks without hearing from them if you aren’t diligent. Make communication a priority and fight to get your 15-minute phone call with them. Show them why they need to take time out of their busy day to speak with you and you can build your credibility and show that you are still working for them even during the busy time of the year.
As a part of being diligent in your efforts to push, push, and push some more for results, you also need to be proactive. At Kapta, we consider proactivity as a core tenant of key account management. It’s essentially one of the few deciding factors between great and “good enough” key account managers. To build a strong relationship with a client that makes them think long and hard about canceling, you must be proactive.
During Q4, it’s especially crucial that you are the one that picks up the phone and calls the client. Like we said, they’re super busy too, so it’s not unusual for them to forget to reach out to you when there’s a problem. Some might follow the “no news is good news” philosophy, but in this case, you need to know if something goes wrong.
Imagine they have an issue with your product but they’re too busy to reach out to you. If they did, it’s a quick fix and you can work with them to get it working for them the way it should. But instead, they power through it and work around the problem. This can leave a bad taste in their mouth and they might start to see your product or service as inferior and not beneficial to their business. That leads to cancellations and lost revenue for you. Be proactive in your approach and continue to work with them and check up to see how things are going on their end. Most of the time, we’d hope that it’s only good news, which is still good for you to know. You can work back to the other tips in this article and look for new opportunities as close out the year with big wins for you and your clients.
Q4 is a busy time for every business. Whether you’re in marketing and advertising or CPG, it’s all hands on deck and you need to be on your A-game for your clients. They need you now more than ever, but you also should have your priorities straight and remain diligent in your efforts.
Start with the clients that are looking for the door and show them why that would be detrimental to their goals. Then work towards building new plans that can capitalize on their initiatives coming up. Consult the data that you have on hand and refresh yourself on what matters most to them. After that, it all comes down to doing what you do best: picking up the phone, being proactive in your efforts, and creating real results that affect their bottom line.
Kapta believes in relationships first, and number-crunching second. The Kapta platform was developed to make the modern key account manager’s life easier. Rather than spending every day bouncing from app to app and staring at spreadsheets, Kapta does all of the technical work so you can get on the phone and build relationships with your customers. Kapta is the KAM platform that account managers rely on to become the Trusted Advisor for their clients and is a crucial tool to create mutual success. Built into the platform you’ll find powerful tools like Voice of Customer (VOC) Insights, account health scores, account planning templates, and so much more.