Are You Thinking What I Was Thinking No.1

From time to time, I get requests to share my expertise with members of my professional communities. I am delighted to respond briefly and encourage you to email me requests to

Q: I would like your perspective, it is no longer good enough to be an order-taker or a passive account manager in market-leading businesses. In today’s economy, companies with high growth opportunities need to recruit people who can close business and fast. Robert McGarvey, Chicago

A: Robert, outstanding account managers and their brands have learned to adjust their approaches, behaviour and attitude in the following three ways:

1. Account managers do not wait for the right time, they make now the right time. That means identifying or creating a client need, which the client is willing to write a check for now, not in six months time.

2. Account managers adopt a process of constant reinvention and communication with their best clients. Their mindset is that the world never stands still and neither does the competition. Their weekly routine would consist at a minimum, most if not all of the following:

  • Rapid completion of existing client assignments
  • Progressing the discussion with prospects towards clients
  • Contacting past clients, seen or spoken to them and presented 1 new, relevant product, service or relationship offering
  • Creating 1 new alternative way for their target buyers to utilise and purchase their products, services or relationships (for example, a workshop, a video, live-streaming meetings, a tool or template, a breakfast seminar and so on)
  • Eliciting three referrals per week from their highest potential clients and positioning the introduction to each referral candidate
  • Investigating and formulating a plan to attend 1 networking event
  • Contacting and proposing a speaking opportunity to a meeting host or sponsor
  • Identifying and developing a relationship with an internal or external alliance partner
  • Routine calls outside of current assignment to target buyers without a particular agenda
  • Sending targeted mailing or newsletter with relevant information to a target group of buyers or prospects
  • Identifying opportunities for an article in media regularly read by their target buyers
  • Disseminating ideas and gaining internal support (financial and non-financial) amongst peers and subordinates for additional client development activities

You would be right to say that requires a lot of focus and discipline but that is precisely the pace that the very best people in your sector are running at. They have learned to adapt their behaviour, skills, experience and resources to get to this level. They have become much more time concious (meetings attended, time usage in meetings, travel to/from meetings, email management, other technology disruption and so on) Why can’t you?

3. Education is the “currency” of outstanding Account Managers. Repeat business success and an abundance of referrals creating an overflowing pipeline of new opportunities is largely about people with the skills and volition to educate their customers. That presumes that they have built first, a peer-level trusting relationship with the buyer. My observation in professional services, re(insurance) brokerage, private banking, financial services and so forth is that selling in a conventional sense is fading fast. The remnants lie in the commodity ends of those businesses but even there technology is acting as a dis-intermediating force for change (price comparison sites, business to consumer capabilities and so on). The future for traditional transactional sales is weak. Who wants to be sold to? Corporate buyers want to be better educated, make more informed decisions and enjoy a collaborative relationship with experts that creates impressive results. That means harnessing data and technology, transforming it into information, knowledge and ultimately, wisdom consistent with the buyer’s goals.

My advice for outstanding account managers who want fresh and exciting challenges and the commensurate rewards:

  • What new, relevant value are you capable of bringing to clients now that you weren’t able to do 3 years ago? (the benchmark at a minimum should be an additional third of your capabilities. Anything less and you are plateauing, whether consciously or not)
  • What are you doing to re-invest in your educational competencies? (at a minimum each year, you are reading 5 new publications, you are listening to 5 new influential opinion-makers, and you are regularly taking advice from 5 new powerful voices, largely operating outside your industry sector)
  • What new skills and behaviours can you readily acquire and apply profitably in the short-term for your best clients? (at a minimum, each year you should be able to pint to 3 new skills or capabilities)
  • Can others readily see a strong “fit” between your skills and the opportunities in today’s markets? (at a minimum, quarterly you should be able to point to 3 occasions where buyers have remarked on your strong alignment with their needs)
  • Are you  emphasising those skills and results in your conversations, presentations and credibility statements regularly or sporadically with target buyers? (at a minimum, monthly you should be able to point to 5 different marketing activities where visibly buyers can see your new, relevant skills) If not, why not?

Success goes to those who are the fastest to adapt in today’s global economy.

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