How do you develop trust and credibility with customers?
As a key account manager you must have trust and credibility with your customers. Otherwise you'll struggle to get them to listen to your advice, accept your recommendations and make the changes they need to make to get results.
9 steps to build customer trust
Part of your job as a key account manager is help your customer make better decisions. To encourage them to embrace change and to take action that leads to better results, faster.
Which means they need to believe you know what you're talking about and have the expertise to turn your promises to reality.
You need to establish trust and credibility to quickly to make an impact.
The good news is it's not difficult.
Here are some ways to grow your reputation as a credible and trustworthy key account manager.
1. Appreciate the business your customers give you
Adopt a gratitude mindset.
While of course it's a two-way street and you are providing a solution your customer values, I still think it's important to appreciate that without your customers you wouldn't have a business. c
Here's a simple exercise. Write down 3 things you enjoy, like or a grateful for when it comes to your customers.
If you're a key account manager with hundreds of customers, then think about them collectively. Go through your portfolio and make your list per account. I've found this really helps me not sweat the small stuff and keeps me engaged with my customers even when I am having a bad day (or they are).
2. Become an eternal optimist
We all have bad days, even our customers. You'll quickly establish your credibility if you approach your partnership with optimism.
Be the type of account manager who helps their customers see the possibilities in their partnership with you and takes the steps towards achieving that potential.
Your customer will soon learn to trust that you are someone they can rely on during adversity because you have helped them come out the other side.
3. Say thank you to your customers
When my niece was a toddler she used to sing:
Please and thank you, please and thank you,
Manners are important, manners are important
to the tune of the nursery rhyme classic, Frère Jacques. We teach children to be polite but often we forget as grown-ups the simple art of thank-you.
A brief thank you note as a follow up goes a long way. If a customer has helped me out I'll send a new email (not a reply) with the subject line "Thank you..."
Here's an example of one I sent recently:
I just wanted to drop you a quick note to say thank you for your support in arranging the presentation to your Leadership team this week.
I really enjoyed the meeting and have already had some encouraging feedback on the proposal we shared - couldn't have done it without you.
Have a great week and talk soon.
Not only is this a terrific way for building trust and credibility with your customer, it's a nice thing to do.
4. Share leads with your customer
As a key account manager, you have customers from a variety of industries and your main contact is likely from the purchasing team. If you stumble across an opportunity to connect your customers, then make the introductions.
For example one of my customers was looking for new premises and another of my customers was in commercial real estate, so I put them in touch.
I didn't need to do any more than that but it certainly saw my credibility as an account manager and influencer skyrocket (well at least with these two customers!).
5. Listen more than you speak
The secret to building trust is to be a great listener.
Let your customers do all the talking.
Not only will you build instant rapport and likeability, your customer may share some gossip (in which case they have no choice but to trust you).
6. Be honest, even if it means losing sales
Don't sell your customer something they don't need. Your goal as a key account manager is to learn about your customer's challenges.
And then show how you can solve them.
If a product or service is not fit for purpose, if it's not quite right - then say so. It's far better to be honest upfront then deal with the fallout later when they're disappointed.
This not only fails to build trust and credibility, it destroys it.
Many years ago, a potential customer set up a pre-implementation meeting with me prior to making a decision on awarding the contract. We went through every aspect of our product in detail.
There were some gaps, of course (there always are).
Some of the reporting and billing solutions didn't meet what they were looking for and I told them so.
The customer said they appreciated my honesty and that it wasn't a deal breaker. Now they knew how things worked, they could manage expectations internally.
We won the contract and I had one of the smoothest implementations I've ever had with a customer.
7. Be free with information and advice
Your customers expect their key account manager to be an industry expert and to know the benefits of their solution. So try sharing the occasional article that relates to your (or their) business. Perhaps recommend a book you've read or a podcast you listen to or a new study that was just released. Don't just rely on your company's marketing newsletter.
Twitter is a great place to find this type of content.
I've set up a Business Trends Twitter list I can scan for new whitepapers, case studies and articles from sources like Harvard Business Review and KPMG.
8. Focus on the results that matter to them, not to you
Nothing establishes credibility like a strategic plan You need to understand your customer's needs, their priorities and how they're measured.
Then you can build a strategic plan by identifying opportunities and listing the actions you're going to take to achieve them.
Check out a recent post in which I show you how to create a strategic plan including a free template.
9. Meet your commitments
When my mother chased me to do my chores, I usually yelled: "I'm going to". Her reply was always, "Going to never did".
Don't be the type of key account manager who's always missing deadlines and promising to get around to it.
It's the fastest way to lose credibility.
If you make a commitment, meet it.
When you've delivered, follow up.
Ask your customer if things are as they expected, what impact it's made and get feedback.
Sometimes things happen. People let us down, we forget, technology fails... all sorts of reasons. Let your customer know ASAP.
If you've missed a deadline, make sure to phone (not email) to apologise and discuss next steps.
Don't miss it a second time. Trust and credibility depend on your reliability.