The unfortunate side of sales or life in general is sometimes you mess up. It may not even be your fault but it falls in your responsibility. The type of mess it is, how you respond to it and the relationship you have with your customers will ultimately determine how well you recover.
Sometimes that recovery can be hard and sometimes you might lose big. I'm going to share an example I had of losing a big account, dealing with the strain of the relationship and the lessons I took that I share with others today.
It was around 6 years ago I had brought on a large account in the software space. The whole sales process had gone smoothly. The agreements were being prepared, people being lined up and all that was needed was for us to deliver a presentation that required two external partners, one of our internal team and my clients senior management. Unfortunately I couldn't make the presentation but it didn't require me being there. Or at least I thought it wouldn't need me there.
The day of the presentation arrived and everything to my knowledge had been set up. I then get a call while on holiday with my family to say the client needed to speak with me immediately. With a big apology to my wife I rushed to get hold of a phone to call back. To my shock I hear the news that the client wanted to back out of a multi six figure deal and that the experience they had on the presentation was terrible. How could this be? I had prepared everything, informed everyone and set things up. After arranging a joint call with my customer contacts it was clear that communication between those involved was not clear or helpful. They had delivered the wrong presentation, argued the needs and said completely contradictory things based on the proposal. WHY, WHY, WHY? I could feel the strain and anger from my clients on the other end and I knew it would be a long hill to climb back to trust.
We continued to work together based on an existing agreement but it was clear they were just buying time before they switched providers. Despite the relationship I had and concerted efforts to rebuild trust and over deliver on everything after that moment I couldn't turn things around.
It really does take one moment to lose trust completely. I also recognised that the relationship just wasn't as strong as I had perceived. Based on that experience I've been able to support a number of key account and account managers in similar circumstances. Check out this blog that talks about this in more detail. One of the hardest decisions is being willing to let go and build trust again from scratch.
Two thoughts to guard against the unexpected and potential trust eroding situations
You have to own every part of the process. Even where it doesn't involve you at all - I don't mean treading on the toes of your colleagues and telling people what to do. As a key account manager or account manager. It does mean you need to be aware of every process and touch point your customer has in your business. You'll then have a much clearer understanding of the potential blocks, opportunities or joint efforts needed to really deliver for your customers.
How you end is even more important than how you start - When you start the discovery process with your clients you're exploring and working with them to determine the right things to do. if you haven't quite got it right you and your customer are more open to discuss to ensure you're both clear on expectations for delivery. The reason your end needs to be looked at even more than the beginning is because your onboarding process doesn't begin when they sign it began when you moved to a close. How you introduce them to your solutions, outcomes and the way you'll help meet their needs sets up the expectation for what will happen later. This is why so many deals stall at the close. Too much time is spent upfront and not enough time preparing for the real beginning which is the close.
What experiences have you had in client relationships where trust has been broken?
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