11 Sep Selling vs Account Management – They’re Very Different
Selling vs. Account Management – They’re Very Different
We’re always amazed at the number of companies – big successful companies – that train their client facing people in persuasive selling skills. It’s as if they believe that the essence of effective account management is the ability to convince your client to do things, or behave in ways, that you want them to. This is wrongheaded at best and dangerous at worst.
The true essence of enlightened account management is first in understanding the client’s corporate expectations. We say “corporate” expectations to draw clear distinction with individual expectations. Different players are likely to have different (even contradictory) expectations. This is a recipe for failure. The account manager must facilitate a process where individual expectations are sublimated to corporate ones, which are then made specific and measurable and expressed in order of priority. These clear expectations become the client’s definition of value.
The second step is in managing the client’s expectations. This involves the professional courage to “just say no” and carries the incumbent responsibility to educate the client as to why a specific expectation requires modification.
The third step is to align the resources of the provider to directly achieve the client’s prioritized expectations. This is managing the work – solving the problems we were hired to solve – operating effectively and efficiently, then proactively bringing innovation to the work product.
The fourth step involves relentless follow-up. This means communicating with the client behind the work – ensuring the expected value is recognized and appreciated and that expectations going forward remain valid.
While Step #2 involves some negotiating skills, nothing we’ve just talked about has anything to do with selling, in the classical sense. Persuasive selling skills are vital for acquiring new clients, but way out of touch with the challenges of managing existing ones. The existing ones are about collaboration, not persuasion.
Years ago, my wife accepted a new role with her company. Her boss told her in an initial meeting the three keys to success in his organization: “1) Communicate Precisely, 2) Activate Aggressively and 3) Follow-up Relentlessly.” That’s pretty great advice for managing client relationships too.
Steve & John