Once upon a time I had just been given the opportunity to lead my first really high profile enterprise account. Excited though I was, things didn’t start as smoothly I had hoped.
“Can we catch up with your management team for lunch?” My new client asked in our very first meeting.
“To be frank, last year wasn’t very good from a service level perspective, and we’ve worked with your organization for a few years. We’d like to cover off what our expectations were last year, where the gaps exist, and how we would like things to change this year.”
But, by the time that lunch rolled around only 6-weeks later, the head of that business had contacted my manager at the time. “No need for the catch up” he reported. “Things are going very well, so if we do lunch, let’s make it for purely social reasons.”
From a forehead creasing beginning… to a social catch up… in only 6-weeks: What a relief!
While I’d like to take the credit for the turnaround – the truth is it took a tremendous amount of work that the team I led did (I did very little of it). In fact, we had the right people, the right processes, the right understanding of our clients business in place the whole time. But the previous account leader hadn’t met the client’s service level expectations in the previous year.
Why? And what did we as the ‘new team’ do to change that in only 6-weeks?
Principle #1: Act like an owner and “own” your client outcome. (Don’t be a bullet dodger).
As people, we like certainty. It’s in at our nature. From your clients’ perspective they want to know someone is going to own the outcome they get from working with your organization. A mentor of mine once told me that accountability is the bedrock of professional relationships. Without accountability, there is not even the ground on which to build a foundation to work with your client in a meaningful way.
To transform an unhappy customer into a happy one you need to stand up, and own the outcome for them. Even if you don’t do the actual work that you are responsible for itself. Reassure them that you will be accountable for the work being done on spec and on time.
And if it isn’t done on spec and on time, let them know that you will be accountable to them. Ultimately they want to know *you* (and not your company, or your manager) will be in the trenches with them fighting to make them successful.
Principle #2: Be bold. (And communicate boldness.)
Part of owning an outcome is being bold enough to communicate that cheap nfl jerseys you have a position. And that you could fail in that position.
“Yes, I assure you we will deliver that data on January 18th at 2pm”. This is much bolder than “I will have to check with my team on what their schedule is and will let you know if they hit any problems. But we can most likely get that to you on time.”
If you put yourself in your client’s shoes for a second, you would realize that they also have stakeholders. Your client also needs to be to be accountable to be successful. They need to know you are going to deliver, because cheap mlb jerseys *they* also need to deliver to their own stakeholder group.
Being bold also makes it easier for your client to hold you accountable. They will trust you more because you are letting them know what you will do and when you will do it.
Principle #3: Take your team on the journey. (And make sure you go on your team’s journey).
If you follow principles #1 and #2 effectively, you might well be tempted to panic when you get back to the office! What did I just promise my client I’m Paris, going to do?! None of the people who do the work report to me! How is any of this going to happen?!
So let’s take a step back.
It’s important that you sat down with your own stakeholders (way before you met with your client) to understand their priorities this year. Understand what their Confidence focus is, what they are capable of delivering. Because without a deep understanding of what’s possible, you cannot ethically make bold statements to your client.
Do you know what your team can deliver? Do you know what a small or a large ask is? (Sometimes even small changes in the way things are asked for completely changes the delivery specs, and things that might have taken weeks only take minutes when asked for in a different way. It’s critical you understand how hard certain tasks you ask your team for are. This is for two reasons: 1. So that way you can help your client understand the trade-offs of their asks and educate them on what is easy/fast vs hard/slow to deliver, and 2. So you know when you are asking your team to do something difficult and monitor how frequently you are Nov. making those asks to ensure you are being fair to them and the other people who depend on them as well.)
Principle #4: Lead with Compassion. (Put your own needs last).
Your job is to manage the expectations of people who need work done for them, and people who do the work itself.
Both group have one thing in common – they have a lot of expectations on them, from stakeholders above, below and all around them.
Lead with compassion (and put your own needs last). For me, leading with compassion encompasses a few specific things:
1. Responding within 2-hours (or a business day when travelling) to any client request so I can reassure the client I know what the ask is, and to manage their expectations about timelines to task completion. Sometimes this means giving clients news they don’t like (which I always hate to do). But from what I’ve experienced it’s more compassionate to be upfront and be accountable with disappointing news, then it is to make promises you know you can’t keep to try and keep someone happy.
2. Know your clients business. Read about their industry. Understand their macro business conditions. Understand who their management team is and what their 5-year focus is. And I don’t mean in a superficial, “Here are 10 facts about your business I researched 30 minutes before this meeting to demonstrate I know something about you to build rapport kind of a way”. I mean really, truly, completely understand it. This task might take you years. So get started now. You won’t have all the answers in the beginning, but the answers you do have will show the client you care about them. And they will notice how much you’ve learned every time you meet with them.
Principle #5: Double down and girl up. (Never run away from challenges.)
(I say girl up because “man up” is an archaic term with no relevance today. My sister can dead-lift more than two times her body weight and has been promoted 3 times in the last 2-years. When I think of someone who defines running towards challenges, it’s her).
There is no way to run away from challenging client relationships. You can only run toward them. They will inevitably catch up wholesale nfl jerseys as you try to run away, and overtake you.
To double down: Volunteer to your client where you sincerely think you aren’t meeting your own expectations of where you want your relationship with them to be. let them know what you think you could be doing better. Let them know what you are going to be accountable for next year. Have higher expectations of yourself than they have of you. And make sure you communicate those expectations, clearly, to them.
If you follow these 5 leadership principles closely, your client will be transformed from cynic to believer. And they in turn will reward you with an honest and constructive partnership that will endure the ups and downs of business.
John Childs-Eddy is a sales and marketing leader who is passionate about helping the world become tiling more efficient through technology. He writes and speaks on transformational growth strategies.
Written by: John Childs-Eddy