The Impact of the Account Lead Role

As discussed in previous blogs, talent is a driving force of success in a Professional Services (PS) organization, whether embedded into a larger product organization or standalone.  Therefore, clearly defined roles and responsibilities for such high-value talent becomes critical.  In this blog, we will touch on a handful of key PS roles but focus on one of the most crucial – and most overlooked – roles: The Account Lead.

In a team-based environment, roles help define the responsibilities and decisions rights at a particular client, in a particular engagement, at a particular point in time.  Roles always exist – so, it is important to be explicit about them.

Key Roles Overview

  1. Account Lead – Owns the overall strategy and coordination of engaging the client; Establishes and grows the client relationship at an executive level.
  2. Sales Lead – Provides and executes selling strategy and process at a specific account; Identifies (with Account Lead and Delivery Lead) and pursues the appropriate pull-through/up-sell opportunities.
  3. Delivery Lead – Ensures the effective planning and execution of projects & engagement; Typically serves as the Subject Matter Expert during sales pursuits.
  4. Delivery Consultant(s) – Manages or completes assigned project work at the direction of the Delivery Lead.

Key Considerations for PS Roles

  • Different job titles may fill a particular role for different opportunities based on the specific client circumstances, availability, pull-through opportunity, etc.
  • Role assignments may change in the course of a pursuit, but the decision to do so should be explicitly communicated amongst the team involved.
  • One individual may fill more than one role at a given time for a given client or opportunity.
  • Defining roles and updating the team as roles change is the responsibility of the entire team.

Exploring the Role of an Account Lead

Let’s breakdown the Account Lead (also occasionally referred to as “Client Lead”) into the two parts of the definition above:

  • Developing the account strategy – the Account Lead is responsible for determining the short-term and long-term goals of an account. In other blogs and whitepapers, we have referred to Account Journeys (the sequence of pre-planned deals at a given account) and Account Plans (the actionable set of steps to lead accounts on a deliberate journey) – the Account Lead is responsible for creating the journey and plan based on the high-level strategy.
  • Growing the Relationship – Although heavily supported by sales and delivery resources, the Account Lead is also ultimately responsible for executing the strategy. They should be focused on becoming a Trusted Advisor to the account, which provides the ability to grow the relationship and provide enhanced value.  This individual should build a close working relationship with the executive buyer(s) at the account; staying informed of any current engagements so they can represent the current status and value of the engagement and identifying opportunities to provide additional support to the account.

Unlike the other PS roles, the individual chosen to play this role should remain consistent throughout the entire account lifecycle. This role needs to be the explicit responsibility of one individual.  A common challenge that we see in PS organizations is that they are aware of the need for this role but allow the responsibilities to become disaggregated, spreading ownership across different members of team at different points in time.  This usually leads to inconsistencies in the way an account is managed, confusion from the client’s point-of-view, and ultimately the lack of ability to truly maintain a close partnership.

Despite that, the other PS roles  also have an important part to play in supporting the Account Lead and driving the account plan.  The Sales Lead owns securing the next deal, with strategic guidance and direction from the Account Lead. The Delivery Lead ensures that each engagement delivers on the promise and provides value to the client, while keeping the Account Lead informed and involved.  Furthermore, the Account Lead should join – and play a role in – sales meetings and delivery report-out meetings to maintain a presence with the client.

In our next blog, we will discuss the characteristics of a best-in-class Account Lead that enable them to effectively perform their role at and with the client.

Written by: Jackie McMann

Jackie McMann is a Senior Manager at McMann & Ransford with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 clients to transform their business models, develop differentiated portfolios, and inject best practices into professional services.


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