I've always been fascinated by the power and beauty of the ocean. But if you've ever been out on a rocky sea at night, it can be a frightening place. I was 17 when I saw a lighthouse up close. The sea that night felt like the waves were playing catch with our boat. My friend's dad seemed composed and completely confident as he steered the boat. Suddenly he shouts, "There's the lighthouse!"
We looked over and the danger became less frightening. We could see the path to the island. Whatever happened we knew we were close and we could see the potential dangers more clearly. We knew that if something happened to our boat rescue services on the island could get to us pretty quickly.
This might seem like an odd analogy to bring to an article on key account management but ,fundamentally, I believe key account managers should be lighthouses.
Someone capable of bringing clarity, safety, wisdom and insight to their clients by illuminating the challenges they may not see and giving them a path to success.
I think too often account managers can behave like lamps. They only allow themselves to see with limited reach and capacity to solve beyond what is in front of them. They can be short term thinkers and reactors to situations instead of being proactive and thinking long term on behalf of their customer and company.
They very rarely ask themselves the question "What do I know about my customer today that might help us solve potential challenges and uncover more value for them tomorrow?"
Key account managers that behave like lighthouses rise above the shore line of where everyone else is. They can see the dangers, opportunities and potential paths to success before others do. They notice the common mistakes and challenges most clients have and share that information. This means their clients avoid crashing into rocks of disappointment.
Am I just playing with words and imagery? Well yes... and for a good reason. More than ever our customers need partners who can help them navigate the sheer enormity and complexity of what's out there. If you remain a lamp you'll very rarely see the opportunity to become more to your customers and experience phenomenal sales growth.
If you choose to be a lighthouse to your customers, then you'll be adopting a new framework of thinking:
- You'll become much more strategic,
- be forced to ask better questions,
- your activity will be more focused,
- you'll become more valuable to your customers,
- you'll see bigger and better opportunities and
- ultimately make more sales.
There are three things you need to begin to truly develop lighthouse thinking and behaviour.
Number one: You need to start thinking about the challenges of your customers in 3, 6 and 12 month increments.
You can do this by thinking about your customers goals. What is the role you play to help them meet those goals and achieve those outcomes? What typically gets in the way of customers achieving those goals you help solve? what outside of what you currently offer have they not taken advantage of because they haven't seen the potential challenge it solves? What resources, services or products do you have that you know based on your customers potential challenges will really help them win in the future?
Number two: You need to consider the resources you have and how you can become more resourceful.
You can have all the great ideas in the world but your ability to get hold of the resources you need to execute it and become more resourceful are critical things to your success. We all work in different business environments. You'll know some of the challenges that might be there. Your CRM might suck or perhaps there is little support to get the type of data you need. I need you to know that you can find answers to these challenges. Practising the art of resourcefulness is a powerful way to get you there.
Resourcefulness is there is a great article you can read on resourcefulness at Lifehacker
Here's what you can do right now: Firstly consider what people, tools and information and processes will you need to look at that will enable you to add and create more value for your customers. Take a plain piece of paper. Turn it landscape and create three identical columns. In the first column write down all the potential people, tools, information etc.. you might need.
In the second column write down the potential obstacles you'll need to overcome to uncover and activate the insights and potential solutions for your customers. In the last column write down what you can do this week to solve it.
If you get stuck bring your ideas to a trusted colleague or manager that can help. You can also join my mailing list where i'll be putting together a monthly Q&A to troubleshoot things like this.
Number three: You need to train yourself to ask different questions so you get answers that you've never had.
What are the answers you've never had from your customers that would make a difference to how well you could serve them and get to know them? Do this exercise. Write out a list of all the 'truths' you would need to know from your customers. This information about your contacts, their desires, interests, concerns, challenges that will help you better understand where to take them next. Then write down all the questions you would typically ask a customer today. Once you've done that. Imagine you could never ask those questions again. Then craft a new sheet of questions that help you get to greater result. This is a very difficult exercise but the process of going through it will train your brain to think more analytically and solve things more quickly.
You'll notice that All these questions are framing the thinking of how a lighthouse thinker operates. This wont happen over night. The power of being able to think critically and laterally eliminating whats not helpful and what is can't be underestimated. Just have a look at the evidence by reading Edward de Bono's book or check out this article on sales problem solving.
If you're a key account manager with a desire to grow in your role, achieve even greater results and become an authority get connected to my customer growth email list www.jermaineedwards.com
If you're a sales leader, lets talk about how we enable your team to deliver on these skills at a higher level. www.jermaineedwards.com
Wishing you all success
Founder of the Key Account Hack System - New Key Account thinking that transforms customer relationships and creates predictable sales growth.