Is the world really ending? And if it is, what should account managers do about the impending doom?
Lots of people are asking that question, though they really mean “Is the business world as we know it really ending?” That’s a hard question to answer, so I will “cop out” and answer it this way—sort of, but not really.
The case for sort of—Some things may never be the same. The U.S. government is way too involved in our capital markets and industry. The bailouts/stimulus/spending activities were considered necessary by many to stop the bleeding (though after passage of both bills, the market bled more sending some strong signals to our government). This could have long-term ramifications on how our free markets work. And for a while, there will continue to be much more caution in the way people spend, the way credit is granted and the way we invest. How, and how quickly, the government withdraws itself from our markets and industries (including financial services, automotive, healthcare for a start) will determine how quickly our business world can return to something we might consider normal.
The case for not really—Most things aren’t changing at all. In fact, these times call for cool heads and a lot of continuing to focus on things that matters the most. The stock market will do as it always does and digest all this craziness, eventually returning to create new highs. The bad news is that we will likely live through more pain first. Kind of like the stock market version of Marine Boot Camp—knock ‘em down to build ‘em up. Our system of government and our capital markets have a way of taking care of themselves (especially when one leaves the other alone), so I am highly confident that everything will be alright—at some point.
What does it mean for us as account managers? We have to focus on taking care of our accounts. Our customers are having the same issues as everyone else. We need to creatively help them solve their issues, finding new ways of creating customer value.
Capital is very scarce in most companies. That means that your customers might be looking for extra time to pay bills or asking for longer terms. Anticipate this and talk to your CFO…are there creative ways we can help them without increasing the risk to your company and your shareholders?
Budgets are getting squeezed and trimmed. Be prepared for slowing growth in their purchases from you, at a minimum, and declines or complete cancellations, at worst. Don’t let that deter you from spending time with them and delivering value. Look for ways to help your customers weather this storm. Are there less expensive alternatives in your arsenal that might suffice until budgets free up?
Travel restrictions are everywhere. If you are under travel restrictions, don’t use that as an excuse to not reach out to your customers. Get creative in terms of how you interact with them. Try videoconferencing or reach out more frequently on the phone. Send them relevant articles or other helpful information you have found. Find ways to continue to connect. During these tough times, you should triple the amount of time you spend with your customers, whether it’s face-to-face or using some other media.
Don’t let the economic crisis change what you focus on daily. Continue to focus on creating the best experience possible for your customers and building customer loyalty…it will always pay off in the long run.