Monday, April 2, 2012

Frequently Asked Questions for Relationship Manager Opportunities

A Relationship Manager position, as described in this note below, refers to a farmer role whose responsible for maintaining and growing business within an existing set of customers. You'll find below some of the most commonly asked questions that I've come across in all my RM experience.

Most of the questions here are based on live situations that RM's across verticals face in one way or the other. It's important to know your business and be prepared with some live use case scenarios.

Q1. What is the most challenging situation you worked on and failed at?
A. This question is geared towards understanding the level of complexity that you can handle, or have handled in the past, and how you approach the problem. This becomes a 2-fold question because the interviewer inherently expects you to also talk about how you'd resolve the situation differently today.

Q2. What would be your strategy for turning around a non-responsive customer?
A. Here, the interviewer is looking to gauge your engagement skills. What lengths would you go to to make sure that you leave no stone un-turned to retain a customer. I usually pick a live situation and elaborate on that. Make sure you talk about the size of the deal, it's impact on your overall base of accounts, and the exact steps you took to turn the account around.

Q3. A relatively small customer asks you to deliver some new features within a very short time. How would you respond to such a situation?
A. In such a situation, it's critical to look at a couple of things:

1. The current size of the customer vs. it's growth potential going forward.
2. The brand value that this customer brings to your organization.
3. The level of commitment that this customer has shown towards your organization since they've been on-board.

With these points in mind, one could argue the ROI of such a request with the internal Product Management teams. Internally, you'd need to evaluate the long term implications of developing such a feature. Does this feature have widespread requirement? Would this enable your sales team to close more deals? How well does this new ability resonate with your other customers? and finally, is this feature a logical extension of your company's vision for the product?

There's no Yes or No answer to such a situation. It'll all depend on the outcome of all the above mentioned scenarios.

Q4. A customer commits to an even greater business if you customize the solution completely based on their request. Would you do it?
A. A large part of this answer would have to be borrowed from above. Customizing a solution completely just for one customer doesn't make 100% business sense, especially if you're in a SaaS environment. You're in the business to provide an out-of-the-box solution, and the customization's wouldn't help any other customer in your kitty. This change may help you acquire this one large customer, but wouldn't fit in at all in to your long term product plans.

Q5. A customer is getting ready to cancel their services with your company. They're convinced that they don't need your services. How would you approach this scenario and try to retain the customer?
A. Having a senior management level sponsorship between the two companies from the very beginning always helps alleviate issues like this. It's normal to bend over backwards in such cases and offer price discounts, free training sessions, and complimentary consulting services to retain such accounts. It's important that you engage with both the top level and mid level management in such cases. This becomes a selling opportunity and not a retention opportunity. You'd need to resell the value of your product all over again. It's important to re-evaluate the problem points you're trying to solve, and then present the solution again. Identifying new sponsors within the customer account also helps.

Q6. How do you retain a customer whose getting ready to leave you because of your price?
A. Such customers often demand an extremely low price for your products or services. A price which is possibly impossible to sell at. In such scenarios, it's always helpful to do an ROI analysis with the customer. They might spend only 50% of what they're spending now, by going to a competitor, but with that additional cost, you're providing XYZ services / features that no one else can, a dedicated and highly motivated customer support team which thrives on customer satisfaction, the confidence and guarantee of your time tested and proven solution that is COMPLETE in all respects, and the confidence that you'd come to their rescue ANYTIME they need help.

This answer can also be customized based on the specific industry in question.

It's important to remember that you may not always be able to retain a customer in such circumstances. However, never engage in an aggressive standoff, or bad mouth your competition. Hold your ground and trust your product. This customer will come back if you genuinely provide a superior solution.

Q7. A customer is willing to commit a greater amount of revenue for you if you develop certain features / enhancements for them. As an industry and a solution expert, you know that this new enhancement would be a waste of time and money for the customer, but easy money for your company. How do you approach this situation?
A. This is a tricky situation. While on one hand, this might seem like easy money. Your team wouldn't have to spend too much time making this happen, but you know for a fact that this won't be helpful for the customer in the long run. Here's how I choose to answer this question:

It's critical to understand the end goal that the customer is trying to achieve. At times, the goal itself may be irrelevant and you as an RM would have to politely educate the customer of the long term implications of such a goal. Contrarily, you could leverage this opportunity to prove to the customer that you're not just in it for the money, but for a long term partnership based on trust and ethics. You'd have to give the customer the complete picture of why you think this wouldn't be a wise investment of their money. Here, it's very important to suggest alternatives to your customer, if you think that their need is genuine, but the solution approach needs to be changed.

Remember, you might gain this extra money today, but potentially lose your customer in the long run.

Q8. Before preparing for a presentation to a senior member at a customer, what are the most important things to keep in mind?
A. Here are a few things that are extremely critical for any RM or Account Manager to keep in mind before going in for such a presentation:

1. Be absolutely clear about the pain points that you're going to address.
2. Before getting deeper in to your presentation, get a sign off from the attendees on the agenda of the meeting.
3. Be thorough in your background research of the client. This research could vary based on the stage you're approaching them in.
4. Provide a crisp and clear solution, and leave them with specific action items at the end of the presentation. This ensures they come back to you and the engagement continues.
5. Don't give away all that you have in your bag right away. Weigh your answers and ask probing questions.

Q9. How would you grow your company's footprint at an existing customer who currently isn't giving as much revenue, but has a huge upside potential?
A. Such accounts have to be handled with Kid Gloves. Make sure this is a high touch account that's given highest levels of priority and only the best service. It's important to engage your champions and sponsors in helping you identify new champions. Encourage a peer-to-peer discussion to spread the word about your products and services within the extended groups. Frequently reach out to such new sponsors and restate the value proposition that the other groups are leveraging. Make your communications relevant for the audience and connect at a level that's most important to them.

Q10. What are some of the most common engagement techniques you'd adopt to manage your client relationships?

A. Here are some of the ways that I've experimented with:

1. A bi-monthly newsletter highlighting some specific features of your solution. The audience would be the end users.
2. Sharing a new release video with your end users.
3. Creating a custom video for your users talking about the overall benefits of using your solution.
4. Usage analysis to gauge end user adoption of your product. Identify the power users and encourage them to work with their un-adopting peers. Offer a small reward or recognition in return for helping you.
5. Offer quick training on specific features.
6. Engage with both the top level management, and the end users, all the time. Make sure you're all on the same page.
7. Keep an eye for growing the footprint, and any other competitor lurking in the background. Make friends with the end users who wouldn't hesitate to give you some of the internal details of conversations.

I know I'm not perfect, neither are my answers (or even questions). Please feel free to comment or add questions that you think I may have missed out on.

I hope this helps you get a better understanding of how to prepare for such interviews, and what to expect.

For those who don't know what an RM is, here's something useful:

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Great Customer Service is No longer an Option

Today when there are tons of players in the market offering similar products/services, there’s no dearth of options for a buyer to choose from. Reducing cost has traditionally seemed to be the best way to overtake competition, combined with innovation. The landscape however is shifting to who offers the best Customer Service Experience. A good customer service experience has now become one of the key differentiators for a buyer to select or reject a partner.

One of the biggest reasons for a customer to not renew has frequently appeared to be the inefficiency of the product in delivering what the customer thought it would. Half the times, the customers are not able to optimally utilize the services/products, and end up thinking it can’t do it at all. A couple of days back I was on the phone with a customer who was quite unhappy about our data coverage. Although I couldn’t change his opinion about the data coverage immediately, I did show him how to use our Company Addition on Demand and Executive Addition on Demand feature to add data from our partners in real time. These are features that he wasn’t already aware of, and immediately got hooked on to. Without meaning to sound pompous, I had just saved us a customer. The moral is, it’s the responsibility of a company focused on delivering exceptional customer service to ensure that its agents are helping customers adopt better.

Customers hate to be surprised. It’s difficult pacifying an irate customer about a change you made, which significantly impacts the way a customer uses your product, without notifying him about it in advance. The rule of thumb is to communicate early and often. Quoting from a white paper I recently read (published by Parature) “A large transportation client says, “Our customers can handle the trains running late, what they can’t handle is when we don’t call them to tell them we are running late!” You may not have a solution or an answer - just keep them updated. Silence is not golden. How long does it
take you to respond to your best customers’ email or voicemail?” We recently made a significant change to the way our application looks and works. We made sure we adopted every possible method viz. newsletter, blog, emails, etc. to ensure our customers knew about the upcoming change. The result was an overwhelming welcome of the new look. It would have been extremely difficult to answer the questions if we had not worked on prior communication.

Another factor that I see making customers coming back to you is when you spoil them. Pamper them with exceptional customer service so that any other player appears to be slow and unresponsive. Despite having millions of customers worldwide, manages to respond to phone calls in less than a minute. Their customer service reps continue to follow up with their customers until the customer confirms that the problem is resolved. We at InsideView strive to do the same. We approach all our support requests, from a Free or a Paid user, with equal weightage. We aim to respond as quickly as possible, trying to ensure first contact resolution.

Paul Greenberg (aka the Mr. Miyagi of CRM - the Pat Morita Mr. Miyagi) said something February at the BPT Partners training event (aka Social CRM Summit). He cited a survey that found 40% of people calling customer service for assistance, called with no expectation of having their problem resolved. (Source: Why Do 40% of People Call Customer Service Without Any Hope of Getting Helped? Mr Miyagi Knows...)

Four out of ten people calling customer service without hoping to be helped. Brent Leary goes to say that most of these four customers are simply looking for a listening ear, a person on whom to vent frustration about the service/product. Imagine the massive positive impact that the rep can make if he/she is actually able to resolve the issue, and send back the customer with a smile on his/her face. That’s what I call fabulous customer service.

It’s the need of the hour for every organization to focus their energies on setting up a robust customer service vertical. We at InsideView believe in under committing and over delivering. We believe in getting the wow from the customer every time they interact with either a customer service rep or their Customer Success Manager. Customer Service in Action (as one of our customers recently commented about us) is what we strive to achieve, and something that every company worth its dime should be practicing for every single customer interaction.

You can reach us at for any feedback or questions.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Six degrees of separation: Find out how the Sales 2.0 leader can help

The biggest challenge that I often come across is “how do I find the right people to speak to at a company, who can help?” I’ve tried everything possible viz. going through LinkedIn, Jigsaw, scouring multiple local data providers, company websites, etc. The one common thing across all these is the immensity of data that I’m faced with. Once I have the right data, I then need to organize it together and start looking for some sort of connection to these people. It used to take me anything between 1-2 days to gather my data set, and then start calling people.

InsideView is one source where I can get everything I need at one place. Its smart search abilities allow me to narrow down my companies based on specific criteria, track companies, and the best part is it tells me the people I’m connected to at my target accounts.

We’ve all seen the overflow of data across multiple social and professional networks. It’s not difficult anymore to find people, but it’s still a mammoth task to find out a good connection to those people. InsideView’s Smart Connections help you uncover relationships that you didn’t know existed. It’s a simple three-step process:

1. Put in your list of existing clients (reference customers)
2. Put in your previous employments
3. Search for and open any company record in InsideView
4. Voila!

Your connections are right there on the first page. Want to go down deep and find out more detailed level of connections? Just click through the people that it shows you’re connected to. Want even more? you’ve got it. InsideView partners with some of the most popular social and professional networks to bring together everything you need. You can look up people you’re connected to through your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, all while staying within your InsideView or your CRM pages. The best part of it all is that none of your personal data gets displayed to anyone else, yet allows you to optimize your resources, while respecting everyone’s privacy.

Everyone wants something more, something’s always missing in everything. I can’t deny that there may be a situation when despite everything, you still can’t find that one guy. Just because you can’t, doesn’t mean your BOD, or your colleagues can’t either. InsideView will not only help you uncover direct relationships, but also the ones that your other team members or your senior leadership can generate for you. InsideView maximizes its immense database and smart technology to connect the dots between your colleagues, senior management, and shows you the people you can use as a reference point.

Gone are the days of granddaddy methods of selling. InsideView has ushered in a whole new era of Sales Intelligence, Sales 2.0. InsideView has long been doing breakthrough work by integrating cutting edge technology, artificial intelligence, user entered content, and managed to bring it all together in a logical and actionable manner. Sign in to your InsideView account today, and start connecting.

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