Some months back I spoke on the area of key customer insight and the cirtical nature of knowing your customers better than you know yourself. In the conversations I had with many key account managers they all prioritised research but many didn't have a good reason why they researched the way they did and what the impact of that research was.
This is a fatal flaw and a huge missed opportunity if the time you're spending in research with your client isn't being looked at as value driving activity.
When I started out in sales I was told to do customer research and evaluation. No one told me what I should be researching, why and how I should use it. I researched everything wasting hours of time on the non-essentials. Some account managers and key account managers can get paralysed by over research. I want to speak to those working diligently getting to know your customers.
Stop trying to research everything and get to know the most important things first
If you haven't read my article on delivering value I'd advise that. In key account management or any sales role its important you make your research count.
Here are 9 things you should know about your customers and actively consider as your customer behaviour, value perception, needs and challenges will change over time.
- Why they buy from you? - problem they’re trying to solve or result they’re wanting to gain that they believe your product or service solves.
- What they buy and how much they spend on it? – This is really helpful information in knowing where their investment is going. Two questions you might ask yourself when seeing this data is: How do they determine how much they’ll buy (is it reactive/proactive)? What allocation of their budget do they put to it? Who does this spending impact and is the result they want from it still the same?
- How they buy and the stages for different levels of buying agreement? – who has typically been involved in purchases? Is it always the same people? who else do you need to make sure you're aware of when looking at buying agreement above your normal spend with your client?
- When they buy and why? - This is a helpful trigger to understanding your clients buying cycle. You’ll also see where you may be able to change buying behaviour and map out a more predictable forecast for purchases of your service or product. If you assume in your pipeline you'll be unpleasantly surprised. Tell your customer about the trend you've noticed and get their thoughts.
- What’s most important to them about working with an external partner? - Are the expectations between you and your client clear and being met. This wont always be evident so you have to check in periodically. If not make sure it is and you communicate this internally so you can deliver on and above it every time.
- What does value look like for them today and in 6 months? – this isn’t the same as why they buy – this is an extension to it. You need to discover what the implications of your service based on their future needs might be. How do they see your product or service working for them as their business grows or as they move to different goals? The better you understand this the more opportunity and value you can create upfront.
- How they feel, think about and experience your company? Whats your brand? What weaknesses do they perceive you have? What wouldn’t they purchase from you because of it? A good pulse is needed on this. This will also require some honest conversation but also internal collaboration. You need to know how things are going with other departments who have contact with your client.
- Know their successes - How often do you document your clients successes that are outside of what you do? Your clients successes can tell you a lot about their business. It can reveal facts about other suppliers they're working with, it can reveal other key players or influencers in their businesses. Recognising your clients successes, acknowledging it and asking them about how its impacted their business not only shows you care but can often reveal more about the wider business goals of your customer.
- Do you know how employees experience, use and talk about your product or service? - One of the most helpful choices I made managing my first key account was to go into my clients business to see how people were using the services we provided. Spending a little time there I saw an immediate opportunity to be of value by creating a simple how to check list that helped improve user engagement and use by 40%.
Bonus tip: don’t do research on your clients based on a moment in time. Work with your colleagues and internal departments perhaps checking in monthly. Ensure you’re not missing vital information. Don’t assume your CRM will capture it all. That is a fatal mistake. Write down these areas and have them as a check list for your client reviews.
If you resonate with what I write Send me a LinkedIn request. If you're a key account manager, sales leader of consultant responsible for and concerned with existing customer retention and growth get connected to my customer growth email series and mailing list HERE. You can start the process of learning a new framework of thinking to growth. www.jermaineedwards.com
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.