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the account as well as care for and cultivate the customer. It is the process through which all successful account management takes place. The successful account managers constantly monitor and evaluate their customers’ progress, needs, and problems and actively use the buying cycle to spot and manage new sales opportunities. Successful account managers also know how to manage individuals involved in the buying process, the next key ingredient to their success. Managing Decision-makers The decision-making processes within an account vary significantly. Rarely do they involve just one individual, and rarely are they discernible simply by looking at the customer’s organization chart. Buyers, line mangers, specialists, accountants, senior influencers, directors and even entire boards can be involved in all or part of the decision-making process. Successful account managers are able to understand the concerns, the role, and the personality type of each influencer involved in a sales opportunity, and are able to respond convincingly to each one. Each influencer will have a perception of the progress the organization is making, and the needs or problems it has. Account managers need to understand these and the reasons behind them. To do this, they need to enlist the help of a ‘champion’ who wants the sale to succeed. Good account managers have ‘champions’ in every account and know how to work with them to manage the decision-making process in the best possible way. From the customer’s point of view, account managers are doing a good job in managing their decision-making processes when they can relate to a wide population of people within the account and can talk their ‘language’. The issue ultimately is one of trust born out of an account manager’s credibility with a wide variety of people. From the standpoint of suppliers, the more people their account managers know both up and across their customer accounts, and the more aware they are of the decision-making process and influencers within them, the greater the likelihood of ongoing success in servicing and growing their key accounts. Account managers can only do so much to achieve success in these areas on their own. The help of internal colleagues can make all the difference. Their final skill is that of being able to manage and motivate account management teams, usually made of individuals over whom they may have no direct control. Managing Account Teams Account management teams can exist for a particular sale, for the duration of the relationship with the customer, or at a point in time during the relationship with the customer. They can vary in size and membership and the individual members usually play different roles in the management of the account. There are many good reasons for having more than one person involved in the management of an account. • Greater depth and breadth of expertise brought to the customer. • Like level people dealing with one another. • Avoidance of exposure to just one individual. • The gaining of different access points to the customer. • Coverage of split sites, different locations, and different decisionmakers. Account teams however need to be managed, and this is not always easy given that account managers may not have direct control or authority over other team members. Accountabilities of team members can often be very blurred. Successful account managers are able to influence others from within their organisation to assist them; they can co-ordinate the efforts of colleagues to bring an impressive team together for the customer’s benefit. The skills of consultation, persuasiveness, negotiation, and relationship building all play an important part in this aspect of the account manager’s role. Without these skills and the active support and involvement of colleagues the account manager can be severely disadvantaged. Summary Account management is a balancing act. It requires great sensitivity to the needs of both the customer and the supplier. Both parties rely on the skill of the account manager for the success of the ongoing relationship. The account manager needs to be constantly in touch with what is going on within the account and how this translates into the buying cycle. The buying cycle continually produces opportunities for the account manager at the progress and evaluation stage. At this point, being able to consult, manage, and influence decision-makers is critical to the account manager’s success. The whole account management process can be helped significantly through the use of account management teams who need to be properly led and co-ordinated. Account management is a difficult and demanding skill requiring planning, insight and a high degree of sensitivity. As an extension of both the customer and the supplier the ultimate challenge for account managers is quite simply TO BRIDGE THE GAP. SSE Jeremy Francis is CEO of Buy and Train which provides online, downloadable training and personal development resources. Jeremy has worked in human resource development for over 30 years. From a background in Training and Development within leading British and American banks in 1982 he became a self-employed Human Resource Development Consultant working with blue chip corporates. Visit www.buyandtrain.com Account Management sales and service excellence essentials presented by HR.com | 10.2014 Submit your Articles 9


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