A participant in one of my high-performance programs was an Account Manager for a marketing company. He was in charge of forty accounts ranging from Local Authorities to Blue Chip companies.
In simple terms, his job had two key outcomes:
- Retain the customer by ensuring they recognised the value of their service and renewed their contracts.
- Grow their value by selling in other services and by deepening their reach into the organisation.
The biggest obstacle to his success was that he struggled to get time in front of his prospects.
We discovered this when I asked him to bring me a list of his accounts categorised in A, B and C, as follows:
A – Accounts that would always answer his phone calls and didn’t bat an eyelid when he needed to meet with them.
B – Accounts where he could get appointments, but they didn’t have the same level of energy and excitement as the ‘A’ accounts.
C – Accounts that resisted seeing him.
He brought the results to me at a face-to-face meeting we had in London. I remember it because it was a pleasant evening, and we had a discussion over dinner in a small Italian restaurant in London.
When the next sentence spilt from my lips, I had a subconscious urge to protect my face from a potential barrage of half-chewed Linguine.
“Has it ever occurred to you that you might be boring?”
There was no carb shower, but there was a look of bemusement. I went on.
“When I was a Director at Orange, I had lots of people vying for my attention. Suppliers and their potential replacements would engage in all forms of subterfuge to get past Sam. As skilled as they were at trying to break through, they were no match for her supreme guardianship of my diary.
However, there were two types of suppliers that we let through:
The ones we liked and always came prepared with some information or insight into what we were doing, what our competitors were doing, or changes in the marketplace.
Those who had something new to offer or an alternative frame through which I might be able to view the world.
In other words, people I liked spending time with, people who could teach me something new, or people who could make me look more intelligent to others.”
When he was trying to get meetings with his customers, he would say something along the lines of “It’s time for our quarterly review, so I’d like to catch up over a coffee”. All well and good if the person has more time on their hands than they know what to do with, but how common is that these days?
If your idea of an account review is a coffee, asking if everything is alright and then asking if they want to buy anything else, it’s little wonder that you struggle to create a slot in your customer diaries.
We continued our discussion and identified things he could take along and present that would help the customer with the things they were wrestling with. The list included:
- exploring what was happening in the customers business and how that impacts their use of the service.
- data about the customer’s usage of the service they are paying for.
- benchmark data against industry best practice.
- case studies of how others were using the service and the pitfalls and successes they were encountering.
Suddenly it doesn’t sound like such a drain on the customers time, does it?
There was one other thing we discussed that I felt was important.
Recognising the impact of how he was ‘showing up’ in the relationship on his customer’s predisposition to give him some time or not.
It’s easy to be positive and engaging when you visit someone who is an ‘A’ type customer. But, if you want more B’s to become A’s and C’s to become B’s, you must engage with them from an excitatory state; whether you are leaving messages on their answerphone, dropping them an email or camping outside their office entrance!