Confidence in the details can help drive growth
It’s a situation we’ve often seen: your technology account management team struggles to get a sale or renewal to the finish line. You know your product could help the client, but for some reason they’re still not ready to sign the contract. You feel you made a dazzling sales presentation, crushed the RFP, and answered all of the client’s questions perfectly. What’s missing?
Your client needs to trust you
We’ve frequently seen clients pick a second-rate solution that is demonstrably less efficient for their business. Why? Because they struggle to trust your company. Perhaps they have heard a rumor that worries them. Or they do not understand your technology product and what it does well enough to make an informed decision. Consider how important trust is when making a large-scale or enterprise-level software technology purchase. How does your client know they can trust you to deliver everything promised on time and within budget?
There is no simple answer to this complex question, but we believe there is one way to increase your odds of success. It’s as simple as knowing your product.
Understand your product like someone who routinely uses it
We are often surprised by account management teams who are not familiar with the nuts-and-bolts of how their product works (or doesn’t) in the real world. They understand all the business considerations like contracts or pricing, but they cannot describe the product at the feature level and struggle to articulate the associated value proposition. This lack of sales skills is a direct result of unfamiliarity with the base product.
Any front-line account manager should have the proficiency to actually operate the product in the real world. If your product is customer care software, then your account manager should be able to act as a customer care agent. If you sell hardware hosting services, your account team should be able to rack a server and connect it to their network just like any client would.
Will they be as proficient as someone who operates the product on a daily basis? Of course not – but they should be proficient enough to be able to discuss the minute details about how your service is superior – and where it falls short.
Be confident about the details
All clients know that your product or service must have some deficiencies. An account manager who knows your product at the user level is much more likely to be able to confidently assert that your product’s shortcomings are not fatal and that its merits far outweigh any concerns. The key is confidence – when your account team is confident and secure in their answers, it builds trust with your client… and trust leads to sales growth.
We spent some time in the US Navy. One of the requirements for any regular watch-stander on a ship would be to occasionally stand watch in a subordinate’s watch station. For example, the Executive Officer may stand watch as Officer of the Deck, or a chief who manned a supervisory watch station may man a watch for an individual contributor once a quarter. Why does the Navy do this? Because they know that part of the confidence to lead comes from knowing the details, even if they’re not part of your daily role. It also brings challenges or issues that may not be readily apparent to the attention of senior leadership. The Navy wants their leaders to “know their product” inside and out.
For account management teams we lead, we always ensure that part of the training and onboarding process is getting hands-on with the product. This can be time spent actually implementing the product or daily, practical usage. Regardless of the details, becoming familiar with the product should be a required part of any on-boarding training for your account team – we often tell the account team to ‘be physical’ with the product. Some products lend themselves to this type of approach better than others, but we have yet to find an industry that doesn’t have at least some way for your account team to get their hands dirty.
Often, up-front training is overlooked when managing an account team. But focusing on real-world experience pays enormous dividends by creating trust with your clients… and growth.
A Dragon Walks Into a Meeting is our guide to the best tactics for a professional account manager. Pick up a copy today to learn the tactics that make new account managers into seasoned professionals.