Moving Violation #5 - STARING AT THE HOOD ORNAMENT
I am far from done! I have two articles left in this series. In them, I will focus on account managers who miss opportunities with customers. The articles will uncover opportunities that other account managers often overlook or, simply, do not consider as relationships deepen and expand with key decision-makers, influencers, and new contacts. The articles will guide you toward spotting changes in a customer’s priorities and requirements. While it might sound cliché, account managers must remain alert and adept at recognizing these new sources of inputs and factors that could shift the direction of business and value for their customers. We’ll look at the first of these behaviors in this post. Moving Violation 5, “Staring at the Hood Ornament.”
Most vehicles manufactured over the last 80 years have displayed an emblem on the hood denoting either model of the vehicle or its manufacturer. For example, the iconic Mercedes-Benz hood ornament, the ubiquitous blue and white propeller blades of BMW, and the classic American blue bowtie of Chevrolet are all global brands displayed prominently on the hood.
The emblems allow quick recognition of the brand and often captivate onlookers. Someone gets a glimpse of the Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Ecstasy” in a parking lot or on the highway, which leaves little doubt of quality, craftsmanship, and cost. Owners and drivers are enthralled by that hood ornament because it represents an extension of their personality. A car’s hood ornament alone states to others: “I’ve made it.” “I’m rugged and adventurous;” “I’m eco-friendly;” or “Don’t even think of beating me to the finish line!”
Yet, trouble often begins when a driver focuses entirely on the hood ornament and not on other important things such as the direction and speed of the vehicle. By staring at the hood ornament and ignoring external cues, a driver often becomes oblivious to exits, signs that warn of structural changes to the road, and dangerous conditions.
Likewise, an account manager should not focus solely on today’s win, which often serves as that shiny, chrome hood ornament. Professionally trained and developed account managers should always remain alert to opportunities, threats, shifting strengths, and emerging weaknesses among a customer’s competitors. After all, the world of business is made round so customers often cannot see too far down the road.
Changes may be new projects or priorities the customer has set. Your company’s products and services may then become the optimal solution to the desired business outcomes they seek. New entries in the market might mean new competitors or new uses for your customer’s products and services, providing new potential uses for your solutions as your customers evolve. The key is to be constantly assessing the marketplace and your customer’s business environment, decision-making and overarching goals.
If you lead a team of account managers, you might consider coaching the following:
- Ask your account managers to highlight their most recent customer’s outcomes or goals
- Have your account team review their contact grid and develop a plan to meet two new contacts within the account
- Ask a few key questions as you engage each account manager on their recent account intelligence gathering efforts, such as, “What goals are customers pursuing still and why?” “What department at the account exerts more influence on decision-making than other departments?” “What new marketplace developments are of interest to your customers?”
After you and your team answer those questions, start demonstrating the recommended behavior of “not staring at the hood ornament.” Guess who will be watching with admiration as you pass through their hallways
Michael Hillan is Principal and Co-founder of DriveTrain Learning, LLC, an account management training company