A few days ago an interesting question came over email –
Thank you for your valuable inputs and keep them coming as usual at your blog..I have been reading your blogs for sometime now and I enjoy reading them as the info provided are very helpful for me.I have recently taken a new role into account management. My task is to define the scope of account management.
Though I have some specific areas in mind; acct governance, acct communications, acct performance & reporting.. do you have any advise on what should be also included? Might you know if there are any interesting online account management portals/association i can get into?
Your advise will greatly help.
Account Manager is somewhat ambiguous position with often very unclear job description. Well, when it comes to job descriptions many companies stay at very high level not providing employees sufficient understanding of the expectations and expecting employees to fill in the blanks. That’s in particular common in management positions (take a look at my post Manager, the Job Description).
As a matter of fact Account Manager (AM) is an exceptionally important role, especially in the Offshore Outsourcing world. There are several definitions / understandings of the role, ranging from “a sales person dedicated to existing accounts” to “a customer advocate”. I think it’s not one or another, it’s the entire spectrum and in that light AM responsibilities include many dimensions, the list below includes the most important three.
BTW, I am clearly taking a “seller” approach here, putting myself in the shoes of an outsourcing provider.
Farmer, that’s a common sales term describing a sales person dedicated to existing accounts. Unlike “hunters” who seek and close new accounts farmers develop existing relationships, find new opportunities within existing clients’ organizations, and increase the scope of the existing engagements. Depending on what sales processed is embraced by organization AM might be involved in multitude of activities related to performing against the sale quota. With sales being numbers game I think it’s fairly easy to define KPI / metrics that can be useful in achieving the sales objectives. That is probably a topic for a blog of its own or at least for a few posts.
Spy in Residence. In my view that is one of extremely important dimensions. AM must be aware of what is going on in the account to a degree that there is never a surprise. Competition never stops, both internal and external, without knowledge of the situation, intimate familiarity with current affairs, and in-depth understanding of customer’s plans losing the account is just a matter of time. In that role a few elements are particular important – building personal relationship at multiple levels of organization, pay-it-forward support of your account contacts, and real face-to-face social networking. An important distinction is that AM is not an undercover spy but a spy-in-residence; his / her interest are understood by all parties and the only reason s/he is granted the residence that while working for their employer AM has customer’s interests at heart.
Customer Advocate. I take this one with a grain of salt. Some companies can afford the luxury of a person acting on behalf of the client as the customer advocate, quality champion, and excellence evangelist. That’s commendable. It is very difficult to achieve for someone burdened with a real quota. As a matter of fact that is practically impossible to combine with the role of the farmer. So I approach it in a slightly diluted way. I expect AM to be a customer advocate only to a degree – while that role / activity contributes to building relationship and getting sales. Once in a while it could be quite helpful to take customer’s issues to proverbial court to show the loyalty and build the relationship. You can not do it on full time basis though… I like Joe Girard positioning – “If I sold you a lemon I will turn it into a peach”. The best thing to do is not to be in business of selling lemons though.
AM topic is well covered in many books on sales and managing strategic accounts. I will add a few of my recommendations to book list later on.