#3: The 30 second GPS check

 

“I know I saw a napkin in here SOMEWHERE! I just need to jot down a couple of these questions I thought of since leaving Starbucks so I’ll have something to use in my customer meeting. I’m sure the conversation will go just fine even though I don’t have a detailed call plan prepared. Now where is that napkin?!?!?”

 

Some account managers are always prepared for every single engagement with a customer and have never made plans on the run while chugging a skinny mocha, texting their kids about soccer practice or catching the latest news headlines. Some even ponder the next steps needed to close a deal or scribble questions or additional talking points about their last meeting. And off they go…

 

On a recent road trip to Asheville with my wife, we decided to make a stop at the college campus our youngest daughter is interested in attending. I quickly pulled up a route on Google Maps on my phone, and after a very brief review of the route, I opted NOT to turn on the directions function. Needless to say I didn’t quite get the details I needed or wanted.

 

I spent an additional 45 minutes trying to understand the route from the 30-second check of the GPS. We really needed a detailed plan with specific directions that would take us to the college on the most time-efficient route possible. Instead, I wasted time cutting corners.

 

I should have done my homework beforehand for a smoother trip and visit. Regrettably, our visit to the college campus and the time needed to gather important information were cut short. I failed to plan using the appropriate tools.

 

When we ignore or short-change the upfront planning it takes to effectively prepare for a customer visit, our interactions with customers can result in similar outcomes. Preparation is the single most important element of the interaction in the high-stakes world of account management.

 

It is easy to believe we can manage a meeting or visit with a customer with a couple of questions and a quick review of notes about the last visit. What is more, we erroneously believe we know our customers completely before even engaging in conversations with them. Such beliefs often lead to inadequate planning. Lack of planning wastes the customer’s time. A minor investment of time preparing for an engaging and productive conversation with a customer could reap major returns.

 

The appropriate amount of planning and preparation shows respect and professionalism during every critical interaction with an account. Your customers deserve it; your team members need it; your leaders expect it. Don’t rely on a quick glance of your CRM to generate important talking points. Devote time planning a well-paced and focused dialogue on topics of high interest to both your customer and your company. Plan that visit the same as you would plan a car trip with the intent of arriving at your destination as efficiently as possible but also in the manner that satisfies your customer, you and the company you represent.