If you’re a key account manager, you’re probably overwhelmed with a number of day-to-day tasks. While keeping on top of what’s currently going on with your key accounts is important, it’s also necessary to look at the bigger picture.
And in order to do this, you have to pause every so often and ask your customers:
“What are your top business initiatives, and how does our product/service/solution help you accomplish them?”
This is the most powerful question to ask your key accounts, largely because it’s the most basic question. You’re there to fulfill some kind of need that your customer has. They’ve come to you because they had a problem and the product or service you provide solved it. So, if you want to remain an invaluable asset and keep your key accounts around, you need to make sure that their biggest pain points are still being addressed.
A Clear Answer
Let’s assume you ask your customer this question and you get a clear answer. Great!
For example, maybe you provide outsourced accounting services to a photography studio. The top business initiative of the studio is to provide the equipment and space for photography shoots to photographers, magazines, newspapers, fashion designers, and advertising firms.
In order to focus on doing what they do, the studio needs to make sure that they get paid, and that’s where you come in. People in the fashion and photography industry are very creative, but not necessarily financially oriented. So, maybe your accounting firms helps to keep them grounded so that they can continue to do their creative work.
If the customer tells you all this pretty clearly, it means that you’re giving them a key service and they understand the value you bring to their business. You’re there to resolve a specific pain point, which, in this case, is a lack of financial organization.
However, it’s very possible that the needs of your key account will change over time. In the beginning, the studio might need you to collect the money that various businesses owe them. Later on, they might need help with taxes. And at a different point in time, they might need you to do payroll. All of this would be included under the umbrella term “accounting.”
You need to make sure that you stay on top of your key accounts’ changing needs, and asking them the above question every so often makes sure that you know what they need in the moment. A clear answer could suggest that you’re helping them to achieve their goals, but it might also tell you that certain needs are not being met. In either case, you still benefit from asking the question.
An Unclear Answer
When you ask your customer this one, powerful question, it’s also possible that you might get an unclear answer.
If this happens, you need to make sure that the customer understands the question. To put it very simply, what you’re asking is this: “What does your business do and how are we helping you to do it?” If you put the question in this form and you’re still not getting a clear answer, then chances are you’re not helping the client as much as you thought you were.
Most people are clear on what their business is doing, but they may not feel that you are helping them to achieve their business goals, in which case they may be trying to let you down easy by not directly telling you that you’re not doing your job.
Or, it’s possible that they just don’t understand what you do well enough to see how you’re helping them. In this case, your job is partly to educate the customer about what you do and partly to educate yourself about what they do and how you can help them.
Asking your key accounts this simple, but powerful, question is crucial to demonstrating the value you offer and to understanding precisely what your most valuable customers need. By starting this dialogue, you can create better communication and, ultimately, better working relationships with the customers that count.