#1: Following the Ruts in the Road

“You’re going to do what? You’re moving where?” Those were the typical reactions I received when I announced my departure from the company and the job many from my area deemed The Dream.  Yes, it was a great employer and yes, the job I had was engaging and fairly compensated, and had reasonable travel. The path I was on was the one everyone expected me to be on and the one that likely made the most sense. People said to continue on the proven path, to be satisfied with the results – to stay in the ruts in the road. But my call was to something else – to a different path, at a different company, in a different city. So I followed that call, veered from the path I was on, navigated the ruts and forged a new path. And those moments of veering away from the path provided such rich experiences and growth opportunities. Yes, there was jostling – even bruising – crossing the ruts onto new terrain. Just like driving on an old country road, the car bounces and veers, attempting to steer itself as you travel that worn path. Yet as we stay on the worn roads, we often miss the sights and sounds of life, the experiences and moments that make life rich as we pursue those things someone else has likely said are important. We end up less than fulfilled and unaware of the richness we missed.

Account managers act similarly when they engage the same small circle of contact points within an account. The tendency is to engage those customers with whom we connect and, in some instances, who will give us time. We pursue the good at the expense of the great. By pursuing only those customers who are easy to see or who don’t challenge us, we miss countless opportunities to learn more about our customers and gain insights into needs and challenges and concerns of theirs beyond those in our immediate purview. There are cycles of business that require many account managers to stay in close touch with a key contact point – contract renegotiation being one obvious example. We need to stay close at those times. And these go-to contacts are also excellent sources for new connections and referrals within the account. But it is the role of the account manager to grow their presence in the account and be viewed as a key business partner across multiple departments at multiple levels. At DriveTrain we call this working a 4 dimensional customer – engaging multiple departments, at multiple levels, discussing multiple areas of opportunity. This approach prevents the account manager from driving in the ruts and opens up countless areas of potential value for both the account manager and the customer.

You may be saying to yourself, “I’ve tried that, Michael, and it’s really hard. In fact, It’s impossible with some of my customers. How do I do this?” We’ll address this challenge in our next post. In the meantime, challenge yourself or your account team members to make 1 new contact within an account this week and to uncover one major challenge that new contact is facing. That simple activity will fuel you and your teams to pass the competition and exit the road more traveled to a broader and more engaging approach with accounts.