This article comes from Natallia Hunik and Katrina Terry’s Fireside Chat, ‘Nurturing relationships with enterprise level accounts’, at our 2023 Chief Revenue Officer Summit.
Developing strong connections with high-value enterprise accounts is the cornerstone of success for revenue operations professionals. But with shifting stakeholder maps and C-suite access challenges, where do you start?
In this candid discussion, two experienced Chief Revenue Officers, Natallia Hunik, Chief Revenue Officer, at Cube Logic, and Katrina Terry, Chief Revenue Officer, at Lionfish Cyber Security, share their proven playbooks for nurturing these essential major account relationships in today's landscape.
So let’s dive into some of their insights!
The irreplaceable value of in-person
Remember the days of wooing clients over conference drinks and power lunches? Virtual meetings kept partnerships alive when COVID necessitated digital-only contact.
However, as Natallia Hunik of enterprise software provider Cube Logic admits, “That in-person magic just can't be replicated.”
Katrina Terry, Chief Revenue Officer at cybersecurity innovator Lionfish, wholeheartedly agrees. Between recent in-person events and client visits, she noticed people squeezing every moment possible out of real-life interactions again.
But why is face-to-face contact so vital for account managers and revenue operations professionals? As Hunik explains from her perspective, in-person moments build trust and rapport like nothing else.
When you’re together in person, casual and formal guards drop. You see each other as real people, not just prospects.
Terry agrees fully. While digital communication channels definitely help nurture relationships and keep things humming between in-person meetings, they simply can’t replace the bonds built during authentic human interactions.
Make in-person interactions at conferences, networking events, client visits, and informal gatherings a top priority for revenue operations managers.
Use digital tools thoughtfully to nourish connections in between face-to-face meetings.
Carefully evaluating technologies
Before unleashing armies of bots and automated outreach sequences, Hunik and Terry urge revenue operations teams to carefully evaluate whether these technologies truly nurture relationships.
For example, Cube Logic has implemented AI-powered customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to help their account managers handle complex enterprise accounts with multiple touchpoints more smoothly.
Intelligent automation tools can track details and take over administrative tasks so account managers can focus on higher strategic relationship-building activities.
However, Terry thoughtfully cautions against letting digital platforms like email and LinkedIn completely replace personalized human outreach. As she notes from experience, at the end of the day, nurturing authentic human-to-human relationships must remain job one.
It’s about finding the right balance and thoughtfully integrating digital solutions in ways that enhance workflows and increase efficiency without compromising real person-to-person connections.
As Hunik summarizes, the human touch remains indispensable, even in today's tech-driven climate. Technology should always be viewed as ultimately supporting and supplementing human account management efforts, not replacing them.
Carefully vet each new sales technology solution and only implement those that thoughtfully drive efficiency without diminishing the authenticity of real person-to-person connections.
Earn trust by solving problems
While gaining direct access to executive-level decision-makers is vital for revenue ops professionals managing major accounts, it’s also notoriously challenging.
As Hunik notes from her extensive experience, “I used to manage accounts with stakeholder maps like spider webs!”. Navigating complex organizational charts to reach the real purchasing decision-makers takes finesse.
So how can account managers and revenue operations teams crack the code to gain access to those coveted C-suite connections? Terry suggests that rather than aggressive outreach, position yourself as an indispensable partner to the client by helping them solve their most pressing problems.
As she explains, "I'll ask a series of thoughtful questions to uncover what their most urgent needs and pain points are. Then I connect them with experts and resources from my network that I trust to help them tackle those problems. Even if it's not directly my offering, providing value by making connections for them builds immense goodwill very quickly."
Hunik stresses that earning an enterprise client's trust requires playing the long game of consistently demonstrating strategic value over an extended period of time.
As she notes, there's a reason the old adage goes, "People do business with people they know, like, and trust." Building genuine trust doesn't happen overnight.
She advises revenue operations professionals to keep sharing strategic advice, industry insights, and introducing helpful new products, services or offerings on an ongoing basis.
This shows major accounts that you’re laser-focused on their success as a trusted partner, not just trying to complete a one-off sales transaction.
Expanding your capabilities also provides more touchpoints to organically interact with stakeholders across multiple departments.
Build trusted advisor status by taking the time to identify each major account's most pressing current challenges and needs.
Then follow up methodically by providing meaningful connections, resources, and solutions tailored to addressing their issues. This is the path to earning the trust required to gain access to executive decision-makers.
Monitoring key metrics
To quantify the strength of account relationships and track progress, Hunik and Terry emphasize monitoring clear metrics, with customer retention being paramount.
As Hunik explains, they closely track retention rates over rolling three-month, six-month, and yearly periods. Comparing current retention rates versus past periods provides a quantifiable measure of the health of customer relationships and whether bonds are strengthening over time.
In addition to retention data, Terry's team conducts regular relationship reviews with major accounts to solicit candid feedback on what's going well versus what needs improvement.
As she notes, she asks for brutally honest input about what her team is doing right or wrong. While this real-talk feedback can sometimes sting, it provides invaluable visibility into how the client currently perceives the partnership.
Hunik wholeheartedly agrees that continuously collecting open and candid customer feedback across the entire account lifecycle is hugely important for revenue ops managers.
Unfortunately, she observes that many companies still fail to set up simple mechanisms to proactively solicit feedback at every possible touchpoint.
Instead of just sending a basic survey once a year or quarter, she advocates using quick pulse-check style surveys at every interaction across all channels, whether it's sales calls, account management check-ins, technical support tickets, events, and more.
With the technology available today, it's straightforward to embed these lightweight mechanisms to take the temperature and collect input across the entire customer journey.
Monitoring this feedback in real-time allows revenue teams to rapidly respond to any dips in satisfaction scores before minor issues snowball.
Make monitoring customer retention rates and continuously collecting candid feedback across all interactions a cornerstone of managing major account relationships.
This quantitative and qualitative data provides unparalleled visibility into the true health of partnerships, allowing teams to proactively strengthen bonds.
In addition to in-person meetings and digital comms, Hunik and Terry emphasize that small personal gestures go a very long way toward showing enterprise clients that you're committed to the relationship.
As Terry reflects, taking the time to understand what individual client stakeholders value outside of work and weaving that into simple personal touches makes a massive difference.
Get to know what their passions are, what their personal lives are like, what volunteer causes they support. Identify something unique and use that knowledge to demonstrate you view them as more than a revenue payout.
She gives the example of taking five minutes to send a handwritten birthday card or holiday gift related to a passion they've mentioned like golf or charity running events.
Tying the gesture back to a detail about that specific person makes it memorable and impactful. Suddenly you’re perceived less like a generic vendor and more like a trusted partner who genuinely cares about them.
Hunik wholeheartedly agrees that everyone loves those small surprises that show you were really listening during a conversation and picked up on a unique detail about them.
She recalls a story of an account manager who attended a local swim meet one weekend after learning the daughter of a client stakeholder competed. The manager didn't have any expectation of discussing business - she simply wanted to show support and cheers for this person's child.
Hunik notes that the gesture utterly delighted the client, and the account manager remains one of her most beloved to this day within the organization. It’s simple personal touches like this that stick in people's minds for years and build immense goodwill.
💡 Key takeaway
Look for opportunities to thoughtfully surprise and delight major account stakeholders through gestures demonstrating you genuinely care about them as individuals, not just revenue sources.
This builds durable feelings of trust and kinship.
Key ingredient = Human connection
In conclusion, despite today's digital-first business landscape, both CROs emphasize that human relationships remain the fundamental ingredient for success in revenue operations.
Even with advanced sales technologies and automated tools, nothing can replace forging authentic human connections built on trust. As Hunik says, "At the end of the day, it’s still about trusted relationships. That remains our superpower that we can never forget."
By combining digital efficiency with thoughtful in-person relationship building, revenue professionals can nurture the deep and trusting executive-level partnerships that fuel sustainable enterprise revenue growth.
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