By Matt Donaldson, Channel Manager, Channel Telecom
Consistent, honest communication is the essential factor in any relationship whether business or personal. When dealing with a key account make sure the customer feels valued by having a regular ongoing dialogue, so the customer knows they can come up with any issues and they will be resolved quickly. Contact should never be intrusive and can be just an email or text, but must include regular face to face meetings. No matter how good modern comms technology becomes, nothing can substitute in MHO for sitting in front of the customer ideally on their premises. You get a much clearer and better understanding of the customer’s business and their state of mind in a face to face meeting.
Personally I like to have some structure to meetings, which shows a professionalism and respect for the customer’s time. It doesn’t have to be a formal agenda and can be as simple as some jotted notes but it gives purpose to the meeting and ensures positive outcomes. Best practice is to summarise points in an email after the meeting, so there’s a clear understanding of what was agreed.
In 12 years of experience in major account management I’ve found that a KCI (keep the customer informed) policy is crucial to success. Nothing irritates a customer more than failing to return calls. Phoning back to give an update is essential even if there is nothing new to report. It goes without saying that issues should be resolved as quickly as possible, but it’s also important to provide an explanation so the customer understands what went wrong and the steps taken to resolve the fault.
At Channel Telecom we have a large portfolio of products and services, with experts in areas like data and mobile. But it’s important for our account managers to have good product knowledge and to be able to make a presentation on anything we supply. It’s part of being professional and your confidence will instil confidence in the customer. Trying to blag it always ends badly and insults the customer’s intelligence.
Our channel partners and their customers always appreciate it when we exceed their expectations, so it makes sense to promise a little and deliver a lot. We very much take the view that we are there to help and to nurture our partners in their business growth. Assisting them with marketing, training and presentations shows that you are prepared to go the extra mile for them and that you’re providing something more than just a competitive pricing.
It’s a cliché but still true that people buy from people. Being able to think on your feet is an essential part of selling, but product knowledge, preparation and structured customer contact are also needed to make a success of account management.