The hard reality
Everyone works hard with and for their customers but not everyone gets a reward.
Throughout most of my early career in sales, I struggled.
In fact, the first real sales job I had I sold Garden furniture door to door in South Carolina.
I worked six days a week for three months straight and sold one deck chair for the grand total of $57. Oh yeah!
I also learnt that even the most ineffective and inefficient systems worked long enough produce a result. But, the cost is so much greater in almost every area and the rewards mediocre at best.
Slowly and I mean slowly I learned the lesson that hard work alone isn’t enough even if your intentions are good. You must know the right things to work hard on.
The question I challenge myself, my team and customers with is…
Is your hard work giving you the highest and best reward for what you are putting in?
Equally is your customer happy with the work they do and are they getting the highest reward they are expecting?
If we don’t know. This is a good time to ask hard but necessary questions.
The benefit is both you and your customer get better. We first need to know what gets in the way.
There will always be huge top-line pressures for revenue results as a customer leader.
If you’re a customer leader responsible for revenue and retention of your existing customers it can be challenging to truly understand the activities that impact the long game while knowing there are expectations for you to deliver results TODAY.
Nevertheless, it is very important for you and your team to know and understand what you’re actually working hard on. More importantly, know whether or not the activity being done is achieving the kind of results you expect consistently.
Don’t mistake activity for progress or you may end up with greater costs than you expect and rewards mediocre at best.
This was me early in my career but even as a mature leader when I began leading teams, I fell into the activity trap.
You cannot play the same customer activity management game as everyone else.
You must learn how to activate the right practices to help you design for the results that matter for you and your customers.
When you aren’t aware of the activities to help you and your client win, you lose and your customer does also because you’ll be unable to give the very best of what you do consistently.
I don’t want that for you, I don’t want this for my customers and I definitely don’t want this for me. Let me share two powerful steps. Steps I’ve honed and studied and taught hundreds of customer leaders and key account teams to become more consistent results bringers.
Two steps to activate results for you and your customer
Step 1 – A.F.F
Every result we want for ourselves or our customers begins with how we manage ourselves. If we aren’t clear on what impacts how we do what we do and those actions, how can we possibly expect to help our customers get greater and better results through their relationship with us.
With high performing customer leaders and key account teams, I work with we practice a simple codified and proven model for challenging activity assumptions, remaining clear on what matters and executing with energy and conviction.
There are just three considerations. Awareness, Focus and Feedback.
When I mention awareness I’m not speaking directly to how well you know yourself, although that is important (I’ll leave this for another article).
I’m speaking about how well you know the purpose and design of your leading activities.
With every team I work with we go through an extensive module I call “customer clarity”.
Most automatically think it’s about what the customer is doing. Little do they know it actually begins with them.
The scale you see below is a reference point for testing and evaluating the understanding of the purpose of your activity, your knowledge of what to do with it, and competence (the skill to use it).
|SCALE – 1||SCALE – 2||SCALE – 3||SCALE – 4||SCALE – 5|
|You have little visible results from your activity. Results tend to be scattered and inconsistent.||You have some visible results from your activity but mostly when conditions are in your favour. But, it is not consistent.||You are able to get results with some regularity but the outcomes are varied and not consistent.||You’re able most of the time to get the result you want from your activity regardless of the situation The is fairly consistent.||You’re able to get the result you want from your activity every time regardless of the situation. You overachieve.|
Think about your activity with your customers today in five areas:
If you were to honestly evaluate your activity in each what level on the scale would you give them?
I was once told by a mentor…
The activity scale is just one of many tools I use.
The point here is, doing a structured awareness audit of your activity will limit and even eliminate wasted time and energy on things that just won’t move the needle. If answered honestly we’ll be able to see more clearly the obstacles to results and what we may need to stop, start, change or keep along the way.
Focus is the ability to pursue one thing until completion with excellence.
Once we’re aware of the areas and leading activities that make the biggest difference to our results. The most effective way to get focused is to eliminate distraction!
It’s very easy when we begin work, to be distracted by email, social media, and conversations with our peers.
We need to find a way to create an environment where we’re in a state of focus, working on the one thing that matters most. We may not in all cases be able to avoid the dreaded internal meetings and countless zoom calls.
Here are a few quick things that can help us.
- Whenever you sit down to begin a client task. Ask yourself what is the one thing that if spent time on now would have the greatest impact and make everything else easier or more manageable? See what answers come up!
- Only have the tabs open that you need to get that one task complete. It would be no surprise to you how often we switch between computer tabs, often for no reason but habit or to be distracted.
- Remember why your role matters to you, your company, your team and customer. We can sometimes miss the power and importance of the work we do daily.
- Have a documented system for focusing on what matters. I’m not going to be dogmatic about who and what you use as long as it helps you focus. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of actions and activities needed to successfully manage multiple customers. The image below is one example breakdown of an integrated system of the lead activities that support the most important customer outcomes.
Once you have awareness, a plan for focus on a system to follow daily. We need to set up space for feedback. Feedback from our peers, superiors where needed and our customers.
Because even with all you do you won’t see everything. Neither will you understand the full extent of your impact in a bubble.
I have a client in the manufacturing sector who every month was diligent and on time delivering a specific report which marked out comparative data in delivery and product safety for their customers. For years their customers hadn’t really said a word about it until I sat in a meeting and asked a different question.
Instead of “How are we doing?”
We took an inventory of all the specific recurring activities we delivered for the customer.
Instead of assuming, we asked.
What impact has the monthly report had on your business?
To my clients surprise their customer lit up, smiled and went on a 10 min rant on how much value they got from it. They use this same report with their customers to position the quality of work they do. WOW.
With a single question, we were able to not only get useful feedback on that one area. We got feedback on 6 others which led to dramatic improvements in the customer relationship.
How are you getting feedback?
Step 2 – SALT
Now it’s time to talk about how we get collaborative results for you and your customer together.
This is where we need to awaken your skill as a coach.
I say this with all seriousness that you are the coach for your customer.
A coach in my book acts as a lighthouse.
Someone capable of bringing clarity, safety, wisdom and insight to their clients by illuminating the challenges they may not see and helping them create a path to success.
Too often I see key account managers and customer leaders 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.
Your customer is the hero of this story and your job is to help them realise their power to take action for their benefit.
The SALT method is part of a framework called CRC (Customer RESULTS Coaching).
Salt by its nature preserves, accelerates and removes.
We need all those attributes in helping our customers and ourselves achieve results.
CRC is about the pursuit of understanding and acting on the one to two things that when focused on or removed could greatly increase your client’s likelihood of success in achieving an internal and/or external customer result in less than 90 days.
S – Solve
We identify the most pressing problem/challenge and get to root cause and symptom elimination.
A – Accelerate
We look for momentum to drive a specific customer result. Where are things working?
L – Leverage
We review the underused, unidentified and under-leveraged assets, services, solutions to significantly increase client value and results.
T – Target
We focus on the handful of actions to start, stop, keep and change that will give you a system for continuous improvement and consistent results.
I’ve shared a lot of information here.
This may look like a simple model
Within it are a series of tools, strategies and tactics that I have helped hundreds of leaders and team members help themselves and their customers get specific results when it matters.
- Turning around lost customers
- Growing lifetime value
- Creating a new and unrealised revenue opportunity
My hope is that you didn’t read through this and say I know this but at some point asked “how can I use this?”
The hard reality is…
everyone works hard with and for their customers but not everyone gets the just reward for that work
If that’s something you’d like to avoid, better leverage and learn from I’d love to talk or hear what you have taken away from this article.
I truly believe that everything you have to make an even greater and meaningful difference with your customers doesn’t begin with doing more but have a deeper understanding of what you have.
Take hold of what works and go help your customers change the world.
I wish you an awesome day.
Founder of the Customer Mastery System and The Irreplaceable Advisory Group