I wrote a post about pride and got some interesting direct responses from people who had similar experiences of having a sales manager, senior executive derail a customer conversation because of their own ego and pride.
As frustrating as that moment is that's not the end of that story. I ended with the KAM I was working with James and Dave the sales director picking up the pieces after a disasterous meeting.
The next big question for James is.
How do you rebuild a damaged relationship that may not have been your fault?
You can imagine a relationship being worked on for six months and a deal worth seven figures gone in a 45 min meeting.
For James who I was working with it felt like he was starting all over again and this deal would've given him his best quarter ever in his 5 year career with the company.
He was angry, frustrated and felt helpless.
If this were you where would you begin?
If you’ve ever been in a difficult situation like this or have a damaged customer relationship check on these seven steps I went through with James that kept gave him greater control, clarity and focus on the things that matter most.
First you need to take ownership of the relationship, all the disappointment, misunderstanding and frustration that comes with it. This is tough but the most crucial stage to rebuilding a broken relationship with a customer is right at the point it happens. Your ability to respond quickly, with courage, clarity and empathy is critical. Don't try to justify or defend go in simply to start the process of making it right. Begins with saying you’re sorry and owning the behaviour and the next step.
Really get to understand where your customer is and what is hurt in the relationship. This may sound obvious and you may think it's just about regaining trust. Yes and No. You can't heal what you don't understand. Begin to carefully ask questions to help draw out your customers specific concerns, fears, disappointments and new expectations based on that experience. You can't try to build trust or act on assumptions of your own ideas this has to be something your client will validate as something they will recognise as moving forward.
Once you're aware of the new expectation get clear on what action you will take that is visible and agreed with by your customer. Write this down and begin to ask the question. What would need to be true for us to deliver on this? you may discover from this question that you need to have hard conversations with particular people in your business.
Let all who interact with your customer in your business know what you're doing and why and set up a simple communication to ensure you're all on the same page.
Check in with your customer as regular as is appropriate and make those changes intentional and visible to your customer.
Optional: If needed and if your manager or colleague who was part of the disruption is still around you may to address that behaviour directly. Especially if you know this person is likely to be involved in other conversations. If it’s your manager and you have a relationship where you can be open and honest then respectfully but factually feedback your thoughts but never go to blame always go to behaviour and be future solution focused E.g. I noticed that in the meeting we weren't communicating well and the response you gave to the customer caused them to withdraw and feel like they were being attacked. The result of this is we've lost trust and the deal. I know you're someone who cares about the service we give to our customers. I've spoken with them and here are some ways we can make it right. Are you open to working on this so we do what’s best for them and rebuild this relationship?
Get things started and maintain consistency. There are no guarantees but if you remain responsive, results and relationship focused with your customer you will rebuild trust.
For those who are in a difficult spot with a customer I hope this adds value to you and you can use some of these ideas for your customer success.
If you're a key account manager, sales leader of consultant responsible for and concerned with existing customer retention and growth Send me a LinkedIn request and get connected to my customer growth email series and mailing list. 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.