Acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one. However, it doesn’t imply it is easy to retain a customer.
Both individuals and businesses will always look for the best deal. Unless you keep in touch with them, unless they see your interest and unless you have some positive surprises to offer (in terms of new services or at least interesting upgrades), they will simply leave you and do business with one of your competitors.
Exactly for this reason your future job exists–the Relationship Manager, sometimes called also the Relationship Officer (though manager is more common since it sounds more fancy and attracts more job applications). Anyway, your main goal will be to retain existing customers, and to secure more business with them, ideally on a regular basis. Everything else you will be responsible for in work you’ll do to achieve your primary goal.
Qualities they observe in an interview
Interviewers will use a combination of role-specific and behavioral questions, trying to understand the following:
- The level of your communication skills
- Your understanding for the role of a Relationship Manager
- Your sales skills
- Your analytical and management skills
- Your motivation and attitude to various situations (including the tricky one) that will happen in your daily job
I will show you some of these questions and how you should address them in your interview. Let’s start!
Why do you want to work as a Relationship Manager?
Because you love to close big deals, and enjoy private corporate parties in Jacuzzi at the top of a five star hotel, signing contracts while drinking glasses of champagne…
Well, perhaps that’s the real reason for your application (especially if you apply for a job in a company that’s active in B2B segment and multi-million dollar deals), but you should not refer to this in your answer. Focus on a value you can bring as a relationship manager–to both your employer and clients.
Talk about your excellent sales skills, your understanding of a given segment of business and target customer. You can also say that you love to work with data and believe you will improve the level of customer retention in your new job. Simply say that you have a lot to offer to everyone involved, once you will start your work.
I’ve done a lot of selling in my life. I feel like a fish in the water while trying to talk an executive into signing a big contract. I enjoy the negotiation process, the adrenaline one feels in such meetings, and the satisfaction when you close a big deal after two months of hard work. This isn’t an easy job, but once you have passion for sales—and I do have it, you see it as the right choice.
Why do you want to work for us, and not one of our competitors?
Research about the company will help you a lot with your answer. You should find something special either about the company or the products they sell. It allows for several good interview answers.
First one is saying that you checked their portfolio, and learned about their sales process and customers, and that it strongly resonates with you. You simply believe to be the right relationship manager for the particular segment of economy/market.
Second good answer consists in praising the business, for example their excellent reputation, the working environment, employee benefits, and other things, citing it as a reason why you liked their offer more than the offers of their competitors.
Third option is referring to a personal recommendation. If you know someone in the company, if they recommended you the job, for whatever reason, you should explain it to the hiring managers.
First of all, I’d love to work in advertising industry. I see a huge potential in online advertising. I also checked your most successful campaigns, and must say that your style stands out. There is something we can rely on while pitching the clients, and I believe that I’ll be able to find new customers for your business, and extract some additional value from existing customers. I also have some connections in advertising industry, and I would benefit from them while working for you. That’s the reason of my choice.
How do you imagine a typical day in work as a Relationship Manager (Officer)?
This changes slightly from one company to another, but the core of your activity will always consist in improving the relationship with existing clients, and starting relationship with new clients.
The most important thing is to show the interviewers that you expect to be busy, make phone calls, and leave your office regularly to visit clients in their companies.
Business is all about relationships, and you should show the hiring managers that you understand how to maintain an excellent business relationship.
I prefer to follow a daily schedule in work, since it helps me to stay organized and effective. Perhaps I will have a list of existing clients, with a lot of details next to each name. Products and services they may need, and when they may need them, the time I (or my predecessor) contacted the client the last time, what sales strategies work the best with them, my connections in the company (sales managers, executives, senior technicians, finance directors and other who can impact sales decisions), opportunities to meet each of them, etc.
Then I will spend my days working with the list, improving or at least maintaining the relationships with the clients, and cooperating with other members of sales and marketing team, with an ultimate goal of generating better sales volume and improving the profits of the company.
However, at least few hours each week will be dedicated to researching about our competitors and analyzing the latest industry trends, in order to come up with the most appropriate offers, and to ensure we won’t lose clients to competitors.
This is my vague idea of the job, and I would certainly love to hear more from you.
A long-term customer complains to you about product prices and wants to end your business relationship.What will you do?
Try to show a complex way of thinking. To lower the price is not always a feasible solution, since having a business relationship that eventually costs you money is a stupid strategy.
Say that you would consider the lifetime value of the customer, and how much you can lower the price (if you can at all), and what impact it would have on your relationship with other customers (maybe everyone would want a better price then), and other variables that come into the process.
You can also say that you would use your excellent interpersonal and sales skills, trying to talk the customer to stay with you, without lowering the price. At the end of the day this is your main goal as a relationship manager—to build trust and loyalty in customers, so they won’t change suppliers as soon as a better offer reaches their inbox.
Well, we have to consider many variables before proceeding in this case. As a good relationship manager I will likely know everything about the customer—how important they are for our business, what profit margins they operate with, what is their lifetime value for us, what connections they have in the industry, and so on. Considering all these things and talking about the options we have with other people from sales and product management, we should be able to come up with the best possible decision. In some cases it can be lowering the price, in other arranging personal meetings with “our people” at client’s side, trying to convince them that price isn’t the most important factor, and that they should stay with us. Anyway, I’d do everything within my capacities to retain the client by conditions that are favorable for our business.
Do you create any reports to keep track of your work? Do you work with any software products while managing customer relationships?
In my opinion, various fancy tools and software products can make our work more effective, and save our time. But they can’t make from one a good relationship manager… It’s soft skills, motivation, persistence, and knowledge of both the product and the customer which determines how good you will fare in your negotiations with customers.
Nevertheless, reports are important, at least for your superiors, and partially also for you, as they help you to spot some mistakes and certain patterns of customer behavior. Software products then help up to analyze data quickly and effectively.
You can talk about reporting on sales level, campaign level, or even customer lever (profitability, buying patterns, etc). Avoid using technical jargon though, since people in the interviewing panel may not understand it. You should rather talk about the value these reports bring, and how they help you to be more effective in your job.
Power is in data, and creating reports is crucial if we want to analyze the effectiveness of our work, and to improve over time. This is my first job application though, so I do not have much experience working with particular software solutions for customer relationship management.
However, I can typically learn to work with any new software quickly. I will certainly learn to work with any CRM solution you have in place. I understand the importance of reporting and analyzing in sales, and definitely want to devote part of my time in work to these activities. It will pay off in a long run.
Special Tip: To know how to answer a question and to come up with a great answer on a big day, when facing a panel of interviewers, are two different things. Very different things. If you are not sure about your interview answers, or experience anxiety, or basically want to stand out with amazing answer to each interview question, have a look at an eBook I wrote, the Relationship Manager Interview Guide.
Multiple brilliant answers to 25 most common relationship manager interview questions will help you streamline your preparation for this difficult interview, and quickly get ready for every challenge you may face. Thank you for checking it out!
Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult client.
You will experience a lot of difficulties in this job. Some clients will always demand a better deal, it will be a pain to negotiate with them, and you will need a lot of courage and persistence. The key is to talk about a situation that had a happy ending--either you eventually won the client over and convinced them, or you learned something important in the process of dealing with them, something that will help you do your job better next time.
Difficulties belong to this job, and you will experience rejection on a daily basis. Your interviewers should feel that you are ready for such difficulties, and have realistic expectations of the job…
I recall a situation from my last job in sales. One client got extremely upset when we had to increase the prices by 10%. They were operating with tight profit margins, and in a competitive industry. They called the increase in prices destructive for their business, and threatened to look for another supplier. But I stayed calm, and clearly explained why we had to lift the prices, that we also had our bottom line and would lose money otherwise. I did my research and knew that they would not find another supplier, at least not with the same quality. I was prepared and didn’t let their anger to impact me in any way. Eventually they stayed with us, and paid more, because they didn’t have another option. We just had to play the waiting game, and that’s exactly what I did.
Other questions you may face in your Relationship Manager interview
- What motivates you the most in work?
- How would you discover new sales opportunities?
- Describe a time when you had to meet a tight deadline.
- Who is our biggest competitor, and can we beat them and become the leader on the market?
- See this notepad on my desk? Try to sell it to me right now.
- Describe a time when you struggled to communicate something to your boss, colleague, or to a customer. How did you manage to get your message over?
- Describe the most difficult deal you’ve ever closed.
- What are your expectations on people from the sales team, marketing managers and other employees you’d cooperate with in this role?
- Describe the biggest failure of your professional career.
Conclusion, answers to all questions
Customer Relationship Manager is a fancy job title, and you will always compete with other people for the job. It can be five, ten, but also fifty, depending on the popularity of the company, and the salary they offer to their new relationship manager.
Since formal education plays a little role in this position, your interview answers (and answers of other candidates) will decide who gets the job, and who will walk away empty handed.
If you want to come up with better answers than your competitors, have a look at an eBook I wrote recently, the Relationship Manager Interview Guide. Multiple great answers to all difficult questions you may face in this interview will help you streamline your preparation, and eventually outclass your competitors.
You will find some excellent interview answers directly on the eBook page, so it makes sense to check it out even if you do not plan to purchase anything. Thank you, I wish you good luck!
* You can also download the list of questions in a one page long PDF, and practice your interview answers anytime later, even when offline:
May also interest you:
- Salary negotiation tips – Learn how to get as much as you deserve–or even more…
- How to overcome interview nerves – Learn how to get rid of stress and improve your chances of succeeding in this difficult interview.