By Olivier Jacob and Andrew Sobel
A CEO I worked with noticed that year after year, they were doing less and less business with an important customer. The partner in charge of the relationship, however, confidently insisted that all was well and that they were on excellent terms with the customer.
So the CEO visited the customer and met with his CEO to review the relationship. Was the CEO satisfied with the quality of the work? Absolutely. Had they met the CEO's business needs ? Yes. Did they have high-quality team members involved? Yes. But... When my client asked about the partner managing the relationship, the CEO stopped. Finally, he shared that the relationship partner wasn't the right person to run it. Although technically competent, the CEO described him as complacent and not in tune with their new strategy and culture . Moreover, his inability to listen had seriously impacted their senior management.
Customers rarely sit you down to share their dissatisfaction. to your relationship. More often than not, they simply vote with their feet and gradually delegate your affairs to other competitors. Or, one day, you discover that they're making proposals to other companies to do your work. In my customer's case, they were lucky to have discovered the problem. in time.
Within six months of installing a new partner to manage the account, the negative revenue trend reversed.
Here are nine warning signs that your relationship may be in trouble:
1. You seem to be the last to know about your customer's new strategies and initiatives.
In a healthy relationship, your customer should share their priorities and plans with you early on, and even consult you when they're in the early stages of planning. If you learn about them at the same time as everyone else, it could indicate that your relevance is waning, and that there isn't a deep level of trust.
2. Your revenue from the customer decreases
There can be numerous reasonsThis is why it happens - for example, the customer may have a "bad feeling" about the quality of the relationship. serious financial crisisIn the past year, there may have been an unusually high demand for your services (for example, due to a major transaction). However, relationships tend to go to or to back off - they rarely stay the same. If your income is steadily decreasing, this should open your eyes and encourage you to take a very close look at the relationship.
3. Your customer is watching you
If your customer is watching your every move, insisting on frequent checks on your work and leaving you little autonomy, there's a lack of trust. Without deep confidence in yourself and your ability to deliver your work, you'll find it hard to develop the relationship and build a wider network with management, which is essential to growing a client account.
4. You start seeing your competitors more often
When you start to learn, by accident, that your customer is using your competitors for new projects, it could be a sign that your influence and reputation are waning. The same applies if new competitors start to appear that you've never seen before with this customer.
5. The account manager constantly says that everything is fine and never asks for help.
If that's the message you're being sold, caveat emptor! First of all, things never always go well in a customer relationship. And secondly, an account manager can almost always use help: colleagues who are experts in the field, investment resources, training, ideas on new ways to add value to the relationship, and so on.
6. Your relationship depends on the whole
It's great to have a trusted advisorrelationship with a key executive. But without a broader set of relationships within the customer's organization, if that person leaves or changes roles and needs your services longer, you risk being sunk.
7. You don't have a trusting relationship with an advisor - no one in the customer's organization seems to really want to have a relationship with you.
If you don't have strong relationships with individual executives at a customer, you'll always be a supplier who can be fired at any time. And, you'll often be asked to participate in relentless bid ding for every new job.
8. The relationship systematically consumes more time and resources than expected.
If the relationship is always tilted in the customer's favor and you find that you're giving and giving, never reaping enough financial rewards (for example, your profitability and total profit are low), then something's wrong.
9. You are unhappy and frustrated with the relationship
If you're not happy in the relationship, it's hard to give it your all and be enthusiastic about serving the customer. This doesn't necessarily mean that the relationship is about to fall apart, but it will eventually happen if your own attitude and feelings don't change . You need to analyze why you're not satisfied and what problems need to be solved.
In some cases, there may be compensating factors that mitigate some of these negative indicators. For example, if the customer is a leader in his or her sector, and working for him or her brings other important benefits. Nevertheless, if two or three of these factors are present, it's time to investigate more seriously.
About the authors
Andrew Sobel is the leading authority on the strategies and skills needed to develop clients for life. He is the world's most published author on the subject, having written eight best-selling books on customer relationships, including the international bestsellers Customers for Life and Power Matters. More than 100 leading firms, such as PwC, Citibank, UBS, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cognizant, Deloitte and many others have used his book Clients for Life to develop trusted advisor skills and increase their clients' revenues.
Olivier Jacob has decades of expertise as a coach, trainer, and conference facilitator on the topics of management and sales. Author of the book "Make your business grow" and passionate about personal effectiveness, strategy, sales, commitment and new technologies, he created Inéa Conseil in 2008 to help companies sell more and better, and managers better mobilize their employees.