I'm not sure if you ever were introduced to the Mr Men, Little Mrs Helpful was one of them. The irony was at times she wasn't always very helpful. Suggestions made and things she had we're always useful to the other Mr Men.
As account managers, key account managers we all strive to be of help but I’ve recognised that being helpful and having something that is useful doesn’t always arrive together.
Useful being: unable to be used for a practical purpose or in several ways
Some of you English scholars may disagree. But, allow me to share this recent example to illustrate the difference I see between being helpful vs something being useful.
I noticed my neighbour Willard was having some trouble with his garden pulling up weeds and planting these rather large plants I couldn't pronounce. I called over the fence with a friendly face to get his attention. With a positive voice I asked if I could help. Willard got up and relived promptly said yes and I got my garden clothes on and off I went. As soon as I got over I noticed his tools needed an upgrade (they we’re dull, blunt and worn). Either way I was there with him and we toiled through the weeds and dirt. It was harder work with these tools. As much as I was helpful being there along with the tools. Even with my good intent me and those tools weren’t going to get the results he wanted today. They just weren’t useful.
It got me thinking about sales in my own obsessive way. This could explain the reason for some stagnancy and value not seen when clients choose to buy more from you.
The unfortunate reality for some account managers and key account managers is they are great at spotting problems, opportunities and being helpful. Your clients will appreciate your input but take that information and speak with your competitor about it. Why? because you’re helpful in spotting the needs or problem areas they might have but the tools or solutions you have are not perceived as being of value or useful to your client because they are:
- Dull – uninspired and unattractive
- Blunt – lacking effectiveness and demonstrated results
- Worn – out of date and not shown to be relevant in the context of where your client is today
Is it possible in this age to be Dull, Blunt and Worn as a business. There are many case studies to suggest so without naming names.
It's helpful to get this perspective. Are you:
- Helpful but your service or product is not being seen as useful – you help clients discover and uncover needs. You notice they’re constantly hesitant about your company and probably don’t really believe in your service or product and won’t stay around long.
- Helpful and your service or product is sometimes useful – you help clients discover and uncover needs. Only some of your products meet their needs. They sit on the fence with using your other products or services you have and may not use them.
- Helpful and your service or product is always useful – You help clients discover and uncover needs and all of your services are aligned to help them win and they see the value. They may not buy everything today but they recognise it could be useful to them later.
I recognise that as an account manager, key account manager you may have little control over the development and relevancy of your products and services. If that is the case how do you ensure you’re always helpful and always useful?. Here are three ideas for you to consider.
Sell what you know is helpful and useful, build on it and be honest about the rest. Your clients will reward you when they experience great service from your best of what you have. They’ll trust you even more when you’re honest about what you don’t do best.
Be observant of changes in your clients business so you know if you do need to adapt. Use surveys and speak to a wider range of people in your clients business. The more access to the right information you have the better the insight you’ll have to work with. You can then warn your company early so you can gradually build in the right level of insight or innovation to stay helpful and useful to your client. This way you avoid the perception of a company that is outdated and are constantly seen as current.
Never take your client purchases for granted. Staying helpful and useful is also about showing you care. Take the time to say thank you to your clients and continually promote and nurture the value of partnership. When you work on the relationship you’ll have more room to be forgiven for mistakes and recover.
Jermaine Edwards - Founder of the Key Account Hack System - Helping you retain your key clients and see massive sales growth from your high value customers