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The Right Kind of Responsiveness

Question:  A good account manager always responds as quickly as possible to a client or internal request.  Right?

Answer: Usually, but not necessarily.

Built into that responsiveness is the assumption that what the client or internal person wants is what he/she needs to solve their problem, address their issue, complete their task, etc.

And you know what they say happens when we assume.  (For those of you who don’t know, ask someone older than you.)

Often the best response to a request is to first assure the requester that you can give them what they need and an approximation of how long it will take to get it done.  By doing this, you’ve checked this off of their mental “to do” list and cleared the deck to ask them key questions that can demonstrate that you are a good and thinking account person.

And that is to ask them why they need the information and how they intend to use it.

Of course, the reason to do this is that they may not be asking for the right thing and/or there is something else that can better solve their problem.  Now comes the tricky part.

You’ve got to ask these questions in a way that doesn’t make them feel challenged or foolish, if they asked for the wrong thing or didn’t know the right thing to ask for.  

How do you do that?  Here are some suggestions:

  • “I want to learn as much as I can about your business (or what you do), so could you please tell me what you’re going to do with this information?”
  • “I’m gonna get asked by “X” why I need this, what should I tell them?”
  • “Are you going to use that information for “X” reason?
  • Think of your own non-threatening, politically-correct way to ask, but do ask.

If it turns out that there is a better way to solve the problem, try to have the requester feel that he has been part of the solution.  Making the requester a co-conspirator is always a good idea.

Net, net – given the choice, choose being right over being fast.



Bruce Kelley

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