KAM’s need to become lighthouses and not just lamps to their customers

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 like a lighthouse.

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.

Do you behave like a lighthouse?

I think too often account managers and customer leaders 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 as lighthouses rise above the shoreline of where everyone else is. 

They 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.

Three areas to develop lighthouse thinking and behaviour…

ONE: Think about the challenges of your customers in 3, 6 and 12 month increments

You can do this by thinking about your customers’ goals through powerful questions: 

  • Where does your role fit in helping your customers meet their goals and achieve their outcomes? 
  • Typically, what gets in the way of customers achieving those goals you help solve? 
  • Outside of what your current offer. What products/services have they not taken advantage of because they haven’t seen the potential problem it solves? 
  • What resources, services or products do you have that based on your customer’s potential challenges will really help them win in the future?

All of these reflections help you go deeper and wider so you have greater perspective and power to act.

TWO: 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: 

  1. Consider what people, tools and information and processes you need to look at that will enable you to add and create more value for your customers.
  2. Take a plain piece of paper. 
  3. Turn the plain paper landscape and draw three identical columns. 
  4. First column: write down all the potential people, tools, information etc.. you might need it.
  5. Second column: write down the potential obstacles you’ll need to overcome to uncover and activate the insights and potential solutions for your customers. 
  6. 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. Join my mailing list where I’ll be putting together a monthly Q&A to troubleshoot things like this.

THREE: 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. 

  1. Make 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. 
  2. Write down all the questions you would typically ask a customer today.
  3. Now Imagine you could never ask those questions again. 
  4. Craft a new sheet of questions that help you get greater results. 

This is exercise is challenging but the process of going through it will train your brain to think more analytically and solve problems more quickly.

What next?

You’ll notice that all these questions are framing the thinking of how a lighthouse thinker operates. This won’t happen overnight. The power of being able to think critically and laterally eliminating what’s 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 or customer leader with a desire to grow in your role, achieve even greater results and become an authority get connected to my customer growth email list.

Let’s talk about how we enable you to become the adviser your customer never wants to leave.

Wishing you all success

Jermaine Edwards

Your Customer Growth Guide