#6 Missing the Exit – Again and Again
Roundabouts are one of the greatest traffic management inventions, ever. Period. I love roundabouts! The town in which we lived for 10 years was fast becoming the roundabout reference site for the entire country
as virtually every intersection around town had been renovated by removing stoplights and installing roundabouts. Tangible results ensued with overall traffic flowing more smoothly, traffic accidents decreased and traffic accidents with serious injury had been virtually eliminated. Roundabouts are good things, right?
Well, for anyone who has ever been stuck on the inside lanes of a roundabout, you know the downside of roundabouts first-hand. Trying to navigate to the outside lane to exit the roundabout where you need to is oftentimes stressful. That stress grows as you make a second pass through the roundabout and still cannot get to that side street you need. How do you get people to slow down or speed up or generally move so you can get to the exit you need!?!? Or how do you plan ahead well enough to know which side street you need to take so you position yourself strategically prior to even entering the roundabout? For this effort to prove effective, it takes work in advance to know the area and the lane shifts and to be alert of the traffic around you.
In the world of account management, this analogy of missing an exit is aligned to multiple scenarios, the most egregious of which is this: not knowing when to shift from inquiry to proposal with a customer. Said another way, the account manager misses the buying signals the customer is indicating by continuing to build a need or develop consequences. Instead of pivoting toward solving the concern or challenge the customer has stated, the account manager continues to ask strong, thought-provoking questions of the customer, even though the customer has given indications they are strongly interested in making a change and doing so in a timely manner.
So what is it that causes the account manager to miss the buying signals? For some, the inability to pivot to selling feels contrary to the training they’ve received. They are taught to ask good questions and align to the customer’s need. In the example above, the customer is ready to buy but the account manager fails to pick up on the fully developed need. There may be a focus on continuing to ask questions due to a lack of listening, a drive to ask all planned questions toward a legalistic requirement, or an inability to shift to proposing a solution. Once the need is developed the account manager should then cease asking and begin proposing a path toward solving the need with their product or service. Instead of asking to present the solution or asking to schedule a meeting, the account manager should be proposing the next steps and confirming the customer’s agreement. Being able to read the customer, adjusting tactics on the fly and being confident in the company’s products and services are essential to success in the solution proposal step.
For coaches, the best support you can provide your account managers is to rehearse any calls which are at or near the proposal phase to encourage the account manager in making the pivot. Suppress the tendency to grade your account managers on quantity of questions and focus instead on effectiveness of questions and the account manager’s flexibility and nimbleness during a call.
By utilizing good listening skills, strong EQ and confidence in the products and services, the ability to exit the selling cycle and merge onto the proposal cycle will grow, driving greater success and increased customer-centric solutions.