Three reasons account management teams are under-leveraged
If you are a leader in the technology industry, chances are that up to 10% of your workforce performs an almost “hidden” activity for your business. It’s not discussed in the Harvard Business Review or any type of technology forum. It’s not taught in undergrad or any of the leading business schools.
Chances are, the team is an afterthought – a group of people from the technical or operational parts of the business that have some client-facing skills and fell into the role almost by accident.
It’s your account management team – the team that works with your business clients after the sale. For many technology-oriented businesses, the team exists out of necessity, but does not attract much attention from senior leadership. If they do think about the team, it is usually in a shallow fashion – “that’s the team that says ‘yes’ to everything the clients ask.”
Here are three reasons why this team is under-leveraged and under-appreciated.
Aggressive business leaders love the hunt, but not always what comes after
Chances are your senior leadership team loves closing new business and the thrill of winning the day. They may call your sales team the “hunters” and your account management team the “farmers.” We all know which one is much more exciting. No wonder your account management team gets left in the back seat.
It’s unlikely the role is clearly defined
Should your account management team be oriented towards growing their accounts or sustaining what they have? Should they be focused on keeping clients happy in any situation or ensuring that your needs as a vendor are met? Should they also do new client implementations? How do you judge success in the role?
Most senior business leaders (particularly those in finance or strategy) haven’t had the day-to-day client management experience necessary to make judgements about what constitutes success, and expectations can vary widely between different executives. In addition, many executives are unsure how to handle everyday client situations.
It’s likely the team and its leadership take a task-oriented approach to client management
Because the team is subjected to a non-stop bombardment of requests from clients (better pricing, more features, faster delivery, etc.) they will tend to focus more on solving individual customer issues but less on growth and future strategy. Combined with the lack of role definition, the team is less strategic than it could be, so the executive team assumes it lacks value for driving growth.
It is well-documented that the cost of sales is anywhere from 50-80% less to sell to an existing client than an entirely new client. In addition, many industries rely on revenue growth from end-consumers through channel marketing (e.g., the business client must market your technology or service to their end customers). So, creating a talented account management team should necessitate the same level of planning and investment as your sales team.
Graduates of top-tier business programs tend to gravitate towards product, strategy, or business development roles. You may not be able to find a client success leader with the right background and skills to set expectations for your account management team. You may have to create a leader and a team with clearly defined role descriptions and growth goals. The good news is that this is easily accomplished without any incremental investment besides time: setting goals, defining standards, and training. Developing your account management team pays dividends in growth with fewer resources than a new sale.
Banish the word “farmer”
Think of your account managers as your front-line team spotting opportunities for growth. Account managers build trust and coordinate the delivery of products and services to the end client – a more complex task than just “making the sale,” but just as important and valuable.
A Dragon Walks Into a Meeting is our guide to the best tactics for a professional account manager. Pick up a copy today to learn the tactics that make new account managers into seasoned professionals.