In this article, leading Sales Expert Andy Preston talks about the death of Account Management… and in particular, how many Sales Leaders failure to recognise this vital point – and how this then causes problems in their sales process, their recruitment process and how it negatively impacts on the activity, behaviour and ultimately the sales figures of their sales team!…..
Account Management is dead. For most companies it died a while back. But people have been pretending not to notice. Trying to keep the body warm. Keeping it on life-support, desperate to try and pretend it’s still alive.
But it isn’t. And it hasn’t been for a while.
You see, things have moved on. I’m not saying that Account Management belongs back in the 1980’s with luminous socks, ‘Relax’ t-shirts, and the Rubiks Cube . (Okay, so we will perhaps make an exception for the Rubiks Cube, it’s still kind of cool!). But Account Management certainly belongs in the past.
Account Management comes from the days where we labelled salespeople ‘Hunters’ and ‘Farmers’. It comes from the days when we were making enough profit out of an account to let a salesperson ‘sit’ there and deal with them without any concerns over what they were doing. It comes from the days when customers were loyal and kept their business with a particular supplier for years.
But those days are gone. Long gone. In these economic times, customers want more from their suppliers, but are prepared to pay less for it. Buyers are more ‘promiscuous’ with potential suppliers and play them off against each other. Prospects in some cases verge on ‘bullying’ suppliers to get the best deal for themselves.
Account Management wasn’t designed for these times. Therefore, in order for you and your Sales Team to be as successful as you COULD be… and make sure you aren’t missing business opportunities…. you need to re-evaluate the roles within your sales team, and see if ‘Account Management’ still fits in. I think you’ll find it doesn’t.
So if Account Management is truly dead, what should be the roles in your Sales Team right now?….
It’s my belief that there are now 3 roles in your Sales Team. Of course, depending on the size of your team then one individual may have to wear more than one ‘hat’, but it’s important in the first place to define these roles, as that may affect what actions you take next.
1) The first one is ‘New Business‘. This is where the individual brings in NEW, fresh business from prospects that don’t currently spend money with you. Using a variety of prospecting methods, the ‘warmest’ this role gets is trying to win back a lost (or lapsed) customer. Otherwise it’s all about bring it in from scratch!
2) The second role is ‘Account Development‘. The main function of this role is about bringing in MORE BUSINESS from existing accounts – i.e people who are ALREADY spending money with you. This role is about getting those clients to spend more – whether that’s increasing order value or order frequency, up-selling or cross-selling other products/services, taking business off your competition that may be active in those accounts, or finding new ‘buying points’ in those accounts (and getting them to spend with you), that’s the focus of the Account Development role.
In other words, it’s like having a ‘New Business’ focus within your existing accounts, and therefore requires a different skillset to the ‘new business’ role, and most definitely a different skill-set to the old ‘Account Management’ role!
3) The third role is what I refer to as ‘Account Servicing‘. If I was being harsh, I’d label this ‘Customer Service’ or ‘Project Management’ – in effect the focus of this role is to MAINTAIN the account, to keep the customer spending with you, deal with any complains, problems or queries, and ‘service’ the account.
Okay, so now we’ve defined these roles, what else do you need to do?
So, now you know the roles involved, it’s about ensuring you separate these roles in your team to give yourself the best sales results!
The skillsets are different for new business, account development and account servicing. Yes there can be some ‘crossover’. Yes, in a smaller sales team, one person could undertake two roles (or even all 3). But it’s highly unlikely they’ll be good at all three, and therefore will be costing themselves, and the company, business. Definitely not advisable in a sales team when it can be avoided!
It’s obviously not ideal, as ideally each salesperson should do the single role must suited to them, and their skills and abilities.
Sometimes however, in smaller businesses with smaller teams, people will need to cover two roles, rather than be able to separate everyone into separate roles, and solely focus on that one role.
For clarity…. there is no ‘best role’ or ‘best type’ of Salesperson – it’s what’s suited to their individual styles and skillsets. Typically they can be great at one type of role, average-to-good at another role closest to their main role, and typically awful at the role furthest from their main role!
Someone who is best at NEW BUSINESS can cover Account Development but will be hopeless at Account Servicing.
They are typically great at bringing in “cold’ or ‘fresh’ business, and can be great at developing existing accounts (especially when they first get given to them!), but lose interest after a while. And they get really frustrated at dealing with complaints and ‘hassle’, aren’t very good at it. They get bored with dealing with existing accounts (especially once they’ve had them for a while and there’s no ‘new’ stuff to come from them!) and want to be out winning new stuff! Ultimately that costs them business
Someone who is best at ACCOUNT DEVELOPMENT can cover either New Business OR Account Servicing (but not usually both!).
They are typically good at relationships. At getting on with people. And also good at generating more business from an account – whether that be more business from the same contact, finding new contacts within the client, or selling additional products/services into the account. But not as ‘sharp’ at new business from fresh, or sorting out complaints for example.
Someone who is best at ACCOUNT SERVICING can cover Account Development, but will be hopeless at New Business.
They are typically great at sorting out logistical issues, designs, paperwork, problems, complaints, and organising things, but don’t often prioritise sales (or sales activities). They also hate new business and picking up the phone to do any of the ‘colder’ type of activities. You’ll see call avoidance, ‘phone fear’, and doing anything else, rather than pick up the phone to sell! They don’t want to be calling people they don’t know, and expecting them to do this without being ‘pushed’ to do it is dreamland!
I have yet to meet (in training 130,000 Salespeople in 42 countries) anyone who is great at all 3 roles. Of course people try and convince me, but no-one has succeeded – yet!
So you know that it isn’t IDEAL to have someone cover more than one role, but if it’s forced upon you, then make sure they are ‘covering’ the closest role to their main one!
This is obviously a worst-case scenario, but likely if you have only one salesperson, or it’s a startup, so the only salesperson is you!
The key tip here is to know which ‘hat’ you are wearing at any one time. Make sure your salesperson blocks out their time for new business, account development, and account servicing and (where possibly) only allow yourself to do the tasks that you are wearing the ‘hat’ for in that moment!
Then hire as quickly as you can to avoid this situation going on for too long!
One of the biggest problems is when either of the first two categories are pushed too much into ‘account servicing’ mode – even temporarily. The true ‘new business’ person hates this for example, and avoids it at all costs – leading to customer complaints, and lost contracts/business because the ‘new business’ person didn’t follow though or sort the issues quickly enough (which they don’t see as their job by the way).
This is where the distinction between the new role of ‘account development’ and the old role of ‘account management’ is even more critical. The true ‘account developer’ understands that customer service, complaints, queries etc are part of the ‘account servicing’ role. Whereas the old ‘account manager’ would get dragged into account servicing/customer service issues all the time.
Part of this would be because it’s their comfort zone – helping the customer is part of good account management, right? So they’d take that on board and spend all their time doing customer service or admin tasks, which is a great excuse for not picking up the phone and developing their existing accounts isn’t it? And partly because they often believed no-one else in the business would sort it out. The ‘account servicing’ role deals with that sort of nonsense immediately.
Spending too much time on customer service/admin tasks was a habit of the old ‘account managers’. They usually weren’t paid for that. Their managers didn’t want them doing that. But in some cases up to 75% of their could be spend in that area. That’s the role of ‘account servicing’, which is on a completely different pay-scale to what the old ‘account managers’ expected to be paid.
Here are 10 common signs that you or your team) are desperately trying to keep ‘Account Management’ alive in your company – and if you are guilty of one or more of these, we DEFINITELY need to talk!
1. You have/hire ‘Account Managers’ that seem reluctant to pick up the phone?
2. Your team spend too much time in ‘Account Servicing’ mode (admin/service tasks) rather than Selling?
3. Your Sales Team tell you they ‘don’t have time’ to Prospect or do New Business?
4. The team seem to focus on ‘developing relationships’ rather than closing sales?
5. Your sales team keep finding ways to justify why THEY personally (not colleagues) should solve an existing customer problem?
6. You have existing accounts that are also spending money with your competitors?
7. An existing client’s spend doesn’t increase year-on-year – in fact in some cases it goes down?
8. One (or more) of your sales team start telling you why an existing customer can’t spend more?
9. You get the feeling your sales team are complacent, or stuck in comfort zones?
10. You have low activity levels for new business (or lower than you’d like?)
If you’re experiencing ANY of the above symptoms right now, we DEFINITELY should have a conversation. If you or any of your team are still in the old ‘Account Management’ mindset right now, I GUARANTEE it’s costing you sales…..
You can contact Andy on +44 161 401 0142 or through the web here