Welcome to our first edition of Expert Speak for 2018, ‘Storytelling’ which comes from Mike Hughes, Chief Executive Officer, CPM International Group.
Last year we lost a client – something I am not used to, something I take personally and something that bothers me. Since then I have spent time reflecting on what went wrong and how we need to be better next time.
Part of this process led me to reflect on the current trend for ‘storytelling’. Storytelling, we are told, is the best way to create chemistry with people, to get you more airtime with customers, colleagues and leaders; apparently, that’s because a great anecdote hooks people, takes them on an emotional journey and conveys a memorable message……stories that resonate with people inspire them to take action.
I completely buy all this and successful pitch meetings need to do all of those things but I think there is one word that is missing which is particularly important in challenging economic times…and that word is ‘true’….because stories need to be true stories backed by evidence, fact and testimonials. Donald Trump has introduced the world to fake news and the blurring of fact and fiction and in a world where performance pressure has never been greater, where the sales director’s door revolves ever faster and where experience is at a premium, it is easy to believe the hubris of a new supplier pitch.
Ideas are easy but execution is difficult and the stakes are high when execution falls below the required standard. I hear increasing numbers of stories where clients are on the receiving end of over promising and under delivering suppliers, for example, thinking they are getting a state of the art reporting system from day one only to find it doesn’t work or where they are told they should not worry because their sales team will transfer to the new supplier only to find out that they have lost 50% within the early months because promises are not matched by delivery. This matters because poor performance stains the image of our industry as well the individual company delivering it and the short term pressures our clients are under means they can’t afford to lose a single sale.
Clients need partners who are going to do what they say they will and this year if you ask CPM to pitch for your work, you can rest assured our stories will be true stories.
What is a High-Tech Account Manager?
According to Business Dictionary the definition of an Account Manager is:
“An employee whose job is the day-to-day support of a particular customer’s account with a business, and who serves as the primary point of contact between the customer and the company. The account manager position can provide customer support, technical support, planning and optimization for the account, as well as developing a relationship with the customer.”
The key phrase we take from the above definition is “developing a relationship with the customer.” This is by far the fundamental building block of Account Management in order to be successful. This is no different in High-Tech Account Management, the main difference being that a higher level of technical knowledge regarding the product is often required.
To be successful in this role is dependent on a range of variables but it essentially comes down to being able to build strong, lasting business relationships. Below we have highlighted some key qualities that are instrumental in this.
What are the qualities that lead to success?
In High-Tech Account Management you may often find yourself talking and presenting technical slide-decks to CEOs, CTOs and Software Engineers; professionals that have years of industry experience and have a real in-depth technical knowledge. Although it is not our place to know the absolute ins and outs of the latest technology, it helps to get a high-level overview in order to be confident in the role.
Presenting via the telephone throws up some interesting points to be considered. Body language is non-existent in this scenario, it is all about phone manner and presentation skills. Practice could not be more important than at this stage and the presentation must be concise, thorough and delivered with confidence. Take the time to learn about the company, present the slide deck to colleagues, partners, dogs – anyone who will listen – because the more natural the presentation, the more at ease the listener will be and the more they will be taking in.
Confidence is key to building trust with accounts. Learning the product knowledge and, therefore, presenting it assertively leads to the audience gaining trust in the information provided.
Like in any relationship, trust is the groundwork that must be laid for success. Stick to your word, when you say you are going to do something – follow that through. Know your account, do your homework. Showing that you know your stuff will let your client know you are serious and they will trust to leave their business with you.
This follows on nicely from the previous point – stay in touch. After a successful initial reach out with newer accounts, follow-up is vital. Working with Software Engineers, it is essential to build the engagement pipeline to ensure the momentum continues. An effective engagement pipeline will map out the activities paved out for the next year; embarking on technical projects to produce results that show the valuation of such advancements in the latest products.
Don’t leave an account in the dark, as soon as you know the latest information that impacts this account, inform them. They will respect you for that.
Being a High-Tech Account Manager often means being the middle-man between the client and the Software Engineers, whom will be working hard on technical projects. Build a rapport with both sides to ensure you keep yourself in the know at all times. Keep everyone in check, it is not the responsibility of the Software Engineers to manage your relationship – they manage the project. Linking back to the above point, make sure everything is communicated well; if everything runs smoothly, your client is likely to want to use your services again.
The Final Result
All-in-all our role as an Account Manager is to grow the account base. This will only be done through successful relationship building and management. If all of the above points are done correctly, your rapport will lead to your client having a high level of respect for you and in turn, you will have more influence over the account and where they choose to take their business. Leverage this with some hard work and great client management skills and a successful business relationship will last years and produce many prosperous ventures.
Location, location, location! The importance of share of shelf online ? Detail, online merchandising tool
Holiday shopping is continuing to set new sales records, especially online. In Sweden for example 1/3 of all gifts are estimated to be purchased online. That’s a 14% increase in e-shopping over just last year, according to the prognosis from the Swedish Trade Association Quite a lift. And most other markets are looking the same. Is your brand ready to profit from that? Are you visible online? How are your SKU’s looking? Your digital share of shelf? Do you know? A lot of brand managers don’t. That’s where Detail, our online merchandising tool can help.
Online visibility is crucial for your brand
The digital shelves are where the customers find your product, read about it and compare it to other products. Studies show that over 80% of all shoppers turn to their smartphones to find information about a product, while in a physical store.* This means that your visibility online is of double importance – for information and awareness as well as for actual shopping. But while physical retailing has been studied for decades, the strategies for online sales are quite new.
Consumer behavior – nothing new under the sun
A comforting notion for brand managers wondering how to reach customers online is that people are pretty much the same as before. It’s just the channels that are different. People still prefer products at eye level, which in the digital era translates to being in the top spots of the search result page. Because that’s pretty much the attention span we have. The majority of shoppers who enter a site use the search function (roughly 70% of all shoppers) and the rest rely on menus and navigation to find what they are looking for. Research suggests that shoppers using the search function are the ones most ready to make a purchase. Hence the importance of being in the top tier of the search results. People buy what they see, the only difference is that they now do it from the couch. Hence the rise of “couch commerce”**.
Your keywords – your brand
Since people don’t scroll through page after page of products looking for just your brand, keywords have become increasingly important. Not only for visibility in big search engines like Google and Bing, but also onsite at the different retailers. The modern brand manager needs to be observant about which keywords different brands and products appear under, both generic as well as more specific. Detail helps with this by letting you choose which keywords you would like to keep track of, and gives you clear information on how your brand ranks in relation to the chosen keywords as well as current and historical trends and competitors.
Be visible, be in stock and be purchased
Successful brand managers make sure that their brand is at the top of the digital shelf by bidding on the right keywords. And the products get bought if they are in stock. This is where Detail comes in. Detail is a revolutionary new way to supervise your brand’s online visibility, the in-store availability of your products, the past and present price and consumer ratings and feedback. Detail gives you a comprehensive ranking of your brand’s and products’ position on each retailer site. It even lets you keep track of what your competitors are up to. An easy-to-read interface gives you an instant overview of the current situation … and lets you dig deeper into products or retailers that you wish to investigate more thoroughly.
Stay on top of your game (and the digital shelf)
We have several different packages ranging from a simple status check to the full standing of your brand’s presence online. And once set up, Detail provides daily reports on how well you’re performing. Detail helps your brand to stay visible and on top of the digital shelf wherever you want.