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: http://bit.ly/gUiv47