I hear account managers complaining that they can’t get high up enough in their accounts. Or that they are fobbed off and end up dealing with more junior people. Sometimes of course, they don’t complain, they’re relieved because they feel the pressure is off if they don’t have to meet with the C-level people. But if they’re not complaining, then their managers will be – they certainly will want their team members calling at as high a level as possible.
How is it that some account managers manage to participate at a higher level within their customers? What are they doing that makes them different?
The answer of course is they’re doing lots of things. It helps if they have confidence, or a bit of swagger. But you can’t learn or buy confidence. And certainly some experience means they are more likely to participate at that higher level. But experience takes time and can’t be rushed. However, one of the many things to focus on if you want to play at a higher level within your customer is to bring genuine insight to the account.
Insight is the bringing together of two totally unconnected areas of information:
- Knowledge of your customer
- Knowledge of your products and services (and of course what they can do for your customers)
It’s important to know your customer inside out. You need to know so much about your key customers that you could pass as an employee. But even though customers appreciate this and like account managers to know their business, in itself this does not bring them value.
And of course it’s just as important to bring customers knowledge of what your proposition is about, and how it works for customers ‘like them’ – be careful with that phrase. But, in so many sectors, the customers already know as much as the suppliers do, sometime more! And with the internet and the wealth of information out there, they are better briefed than ever. So again, product knowledge alone is not enough.
The real value to the customer comes if you can bring the two together. If you do, you are bringing them insight – and that is something customers do value. Insight is about the specific application of your proposition for them, given their situation. It’s about what it can specifically do for them. How it can be implemented. How its impact can be measured. How it can improve their situation. This all takes time and effort – if it were easy, everyone would be doing it!
Bring them insight, and you will have much less difficulty meeting more senior people in your accounts.
By Andy Coughlin works with international blue chip companies in the UK, US, Europe and Middle East. He delivers progams that enable clients to perform better under pressure, in the areas of sales and customer service. Follow him on Twitter.