Legacy is your gift to others who follow you as a Customer Manager

Thoughts about legacy are typically reflective. Celebrating seventy years in one role deserves a significant amount of respectful reflection. Leaving a great legacy, no matter how long you’re in role as a Customer Manager, is arguably the most powerful thing you can do. It enables you to have influence beyond today and well into the future.

As we saw in our recent LinkedIn discussion, first thoughts about the legacy of Customer Managers are typically about “the numbers”. These numbers are commonly focused on increasing the supplier’s top and/or bottom line, and at best are combined with increasing the customer’s category top and/or bottom line. We’re respectfully challenging that for the benefit of both parties, Customer Managers should be owning and creating a more multi-dimensional legacy, which must be at the forefront of their everyday decision-making (commercial and non-commercial).

For the last two years Sales Leaders and Customer Managers have been living in the extreme present and navigating their way through it. Literally keeping the wheels on, solving today’s problems, and trying to minimise tomorrow’s challenges has been the focus. Commercial conversations have been restricted and business topics largely reactive.

Emerging from this, Customers and Suppliers need to re-frame their time horizons and re-learn how to manage the ongoing volatility of the present, whilst making future history. In doing this Sales Leaders and Customer Managers can consciously create and live their legacy rather than leaving it to chance.

As we move into new roles within the wider customer team, we might be required to undo some of the legacy created by others, or we may be fortunate enough to benefit from it. Research shows that when we know we have benefited from the legacy of those before us, it gets us thinking about the positive legacy we want to leave and are more inclined to make better long-term choices and decisions.

Doing the next thing right to create a powerful chain of actions leading to a powerful legacy beyond the numbers isn’t easy. Ask yourself:

  • Can you/your team actively extricate from the comfort of the here and now?
  • Is the mindset and capability in place to be future focussed?
  • Is the path of least resistance being taken? Internally and/or externally?
  • Is a culture being created to promote a legacy biased to longer term outcomes rather than short term results?
  • Based on today, what legacy would we be leaving?

So how do you create a multi-dimensional commercial legacy that benefits both supplier and customer?

Using the popular Urgency and Importance Model described in Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People”, we can identify where different elements of our customer management activities fit.

Quadrant 1: Urgent and important

  • Activities that are important to the customer and require short term decisions or actions. The requirement for urgency means the decision making may not be as rigorous as it could be and there is a danger of precedents being set.
  • Most sales teams have been dominated by this quadrant over the last two years.

Quadrant 2: Non-urgent and important

  • Pro-active activities that can re-set the agenda, build relationships and trust, enable us to think differently and challenge the current ways of doing business.
  • These activities are commonly crowded out by other quadrants, leading to them never being achieved or falling into the urgent important quadrant.

Quadrant 3: Urgent and non-important

  • It is common to see internal activities and meetings in this quadrant. These are not as important as customer focused activities and meetings but often steal time from “important” quadrants.
  • Challenge the time spent here and if there is opportunity to say “No” more often.

Quadrant 4: Non-urgent and non-important

  • Activities that are a distraction from the essence and purpose of our roles.
  • Often internal administrative processes that could be completed more effectively and efficiently by others.
  • Urgent matters tend to have more visibility, meaning we spend more energy reacting to them.
  • Important matters increase in importance when we are clear on the legacy we want to leave. They require weekly planning and daily action.

Map your activities this week to see where your time and effort is biased. Is this congruent with the legacy you want to leave? Ownership must be taken on how much time is spent in each quadrant to create a legacy beyond the numbers.

Choices and decisions need to be coloured with output from honest conversations about both organisations on subjects like:

  • Effectiveness with the trading essentials
  • Strengths and credibility in and beyond the buying office
  • Depth and breadth of connectivity, relationships and trust
  • Current and evolving will/skill to work together
  • Areas of mutual interest and opportunity
  • Willingness to invest and resource in the “non-commercial”

Legacy doesn’t have to be seismic, but it does have to genuine and authentic.

Your legacy is yours to own and pay forward for those who will step into your Customer Manager shoes. Think how you want to be remembered in yours and your customers’ businesses. Make choices and decisions accordingly.

Start living the legacy you want to leave …, as an individual, a team and organisation.

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