19 May 2011
I was speaking to the account manager for vendor A, at a client about 6 months ago. The client had a serious business challenge but unfortunately, as I saw it, there were no tools for the challenge in the account manager’s bag. However, I knew of a tool from another vendor, vendor B, that was spot-on to the problem. Vendor B had nothing competitive with vendor A. A “solution” using vendor A’s products would clearly be exorbitantly expensive for the client, risky, and a first-time-ever solution involving vendor A development staff. The client is midsize and has no capacity for such activity. So, I mentioned I would introduce this vendor B product to the client. It’s a client-centered approach and obviously we both want to see the client succeed so he was fully on board with the idea and even offered to arrange the meeting.
He went nuts at the idea and threatened to “ruin me” to the client. His language was extreme like that. He seemed prepared to give it all up for this cause – and I do mean give it all up. I was making sure I had enough distance in case he decided to lunge at me!
I talked him off the ledge and made him see my solution was a win-win for him and the client. If the client is unsuccessful, so is he, and the client needed the tool he didn’t have in order to succeed. There really was no way his solution would have worked. In a few months, it would have been ugly.
I’ll even go so far as to say this young account manager had not heard of such an approach before. And so it goes. A lot goes on behind the scenes that a client is not privileged to see. I would recommend a real consultative approach for account managers and I do see it quite frequently too.
It’s easy when the rep is carrying a full bag o’ software for a client’s narrow needs. When things get gray, that’s when the fun begins. And clients may have preferred vendors, but most have many – and consequently consider many choices when it comes time for software.
It’s a matter of knowing when to sell, not just how to sell that tiers account managers into different levels of success over the long run.