This is the first blog in a series on the topic of Account Management.
You may be wondering, “Why a series of blogs?”. The answer to this question is simple: Account Management is seemingly a straightforward topic yet time and again, we see Account Management being a misunderstood and/or sub-optimized business function. It is perhaps a more complicated and multifaceted core business function that therefore warrants additional time and pages than one blog can cover.
So, let’s start by defining what we mean by Account Management.
What is it? As stated above, Account Management is a core business function that is a part of every B2B business model. It is the process and actions to deliberately manage customer accounts along their lifecycle journey to achieve their strategic outcomes. Even if you disagree with this basic definition, I hope you can agree with me on the target goal and outcome: Driving your customers’ success is at the core, and you and your company succeed in return. Naturally, a high-performing Account Management business function is a system that includes but is not limited to:
- The tools and methods for building specific account strategies and plans.
- Properly equipped and enabled talent to build and execute those strategies and plans.
- Metrics and procedure for holding each other accountable for executing those plans to achieve the target goals and outcomes.
Why is Account Management so important?
Most (if not all) attribute its importance to a financial outcome such as revenue growth. And that is true. However, it is critical for many other reasons related to financial performance such as customer retention, selecting the “right” strategy for engaging each customer account most efficiently, and enabling your resources to successfully sell into and manage accounts.
There is one additional aspect to Account Management that makes it so jugular to your business: to drive intimacy and differentiation. This should not come as a surprise if you have been reading and following other McMann & Ransford blogs. Assuming competitive products and services being equal at the same customer account, the opportunity to truly differentiate is:
- The continual and relentless focus on solving your customers’ biggest challenges and/or creating new opportunities with and for them.
- Being there with them to realize and achieve the outcomes.
In other words, managing accounts throughout their lifecycle with you and your organization.
So again, this all seems fairly straightforward, right? And yet, I regularly see B2B companies struggle.
Why is Account Management so difficult and challenging? The reasons are many, and I often find that there are varying points of view on what Account Management truly is. I often see companies solving for something different such as Customer Experience Management and Customer Satisfaction and categorizing these initiatives under the umbrella of ‘Account Management.’ In addition, many companies struggle with answering key questions such as:
- What is our standard model?
- Our markets often feel underserved/under-communicated to because of the sheer number of accounts – many would buy more but are not enabled to do so. How do we enable them?
- Who “owns” Account Management? Is it the Selling organization? Is it the Customer Support and Service team? Overall lack of accountability for key account management components – such as setting Account Strategies and creating Account Plans, executing Account Journeys, etc. prevents us from being best in class.
- Who coordinates and navigates customers within our company?
Through this series of blogs, I hope to dissect the topic into meaningful pieces so that we can explore Account Management through different lenses, points of view, experiences, and examples to answer these and other related questions together.
Written by: Mark Slotnik
About the Author: Mark Slotnik has spent nearly 20+ years advising clients in the areas of designing and taking to market high value business solutions, solution portfolio management, talent development, resource management, business process re-engineering and commercial software.