As the remaining selling sand slips to the bottom of the 2022 hourglass, it’s valuable to ponder the past year as we prepare to start strong in 2023. And in thinking back, I’m reminded of the famous saying of MBNA America Bank, the amazing company that pioneered the concept of affinity cards before being acquired by Bank of America. Emblazoned on the walls of every MBNA location were the words, “Think of Yourself as a Customer”. And that is exactly what I suggest we all do as we approach the new year – think of ourselves as our customers. Often, we view our customers from a self-serving lens, considering only the business opportunities that they each present us. But for now, put your pipeline and your pursuits aside and consider your customers in terms of what really matters.
The last year has brought much change for many of your customers, much of it long-lasting. And we all care deeply about what happens to our customers, don’t we? And it’s more than sympathy because in reality, they represent our future as well as theirs. So, while it’s important to care, our very business survival depends on our ability to KARE.
In selling, we work with logical groupings. We bundle our accounts into vertical categories, like healthcare and financial services. We also differentiate by geography, adding efficiency by combining accounts by location. Organization size also provides designations as we connect firms with similar revenues, numbers of employees or other size metrics. And we always separate commercial from public sector accounts, doing all of this to be more effective in our efforts to win business and to serve. It just makes sense. But while these descriptive designations are helpful, what do they tell us about the actual traits and tendencies of our customers? How does the information help us build meaningful and actionable strategies? And how does it help us at this critical time, with one year ending and another beginning?
Think about this. In wildlife, we group creatures into categories that provide scientific value. How valuable is it, though, to simply know that two different creatures are both snakes? While King Cobras and Garter Snakes may be in the same classification, their individual traits and tendencies are quite different, to say the least. And what about spiders? It would be much more valuable to be warned about what you can expect from a Black Widow versus a Daddy Long Legs than simply knowing they’re family members. While scientifically accurate, knowing creatures’ categories tells you nothing about how to prepare for them or what actions you should consider taking. Truthfully, the Black Widow and the King Cobra have a lot in common. Scientific designations aside, they are both killers.
The same applies to our customers, although hopefully not at such a dangerous level. For understanding differences in terms of accounts’ traits and tendencies can be as valuable as knowing that you’re safer with a Garter Snake roaming around your kitchen than a King Cobra.
Over the year, your customers have changed. What you understood twelve months ago is obsolete. So, how do you develop fresh understanding, not about their tactical groupings but about what you can truly expect from them in 2023? About changed traits and tendencies. And let’s expand that thought to consider not only your customers but your prospects as well. Enter KARE, a practical account profiling framework utilizing four categories – Keep, Attain, Recapture, and Expand. Let’s consider each one. Keep accounts are your average current clients. They’re not going to change your life, but they generate the bulk of your revenue. And you’re happy to have them. Attain accounts are your profile prospects. You actively target them to win their business. Recapture accounts are previous clients that are currently inactive. Unlike past clients whom you consciously choose not to pursue, you’d welcome Recapture accounts back. Expand accounts, finally, are your most treasured assets. They’re your current clients driving major revenues, profits and potential – your truly strategic assets. Simply stated, they are your future.
Of course, one selling organization’s KARE accounts are different from another’s. As such, you craft KARE profiles with customized attributes specific to your business and you match your clients and prospects with the appropriate profiles. You’ve then earned the right to develop the common actions that apply to each category. For your Recapture accounts, for example, your actions will focus on winning them back. While customized pursuit strategies will apply for some, your Recapture actions will apply to all past customers, saving you time and effort. The same applies to your Keep, Attain, and Expand accounts. The actions apply because, remember – the accounts in each profile share the same traits and tendencies. That’s the beauty of KARE profiles – they’re actionable!
As we head towards the new year, we must recognize the changes. Some of your Keep accounts are likely vulnerable or might be on the verge of becoming Recapture accounts. Some Attain accounts may have a higher probability of becoming clients due to 2022 changes that increase needs for your products and services. Being acutely aware of changes in accounts’ traits and tendencies absolutely positions you more effectively for a strong 2023.
Know your accounts well. But don’t be satisfied with knowing their 2022 selves. Many King Cobras and Garter Snakes have changed. Understand and embrace their new traits and tendencies. Then, you’ve earned the right to deliver value in the new year.
And always, “Think of Yourself as a Customer”!