The Rise and Fall of the Account Manager

The Account Manager is supposed to be responsible for making sure your client captures the value of using your products and services, and for helping to drive greater adoption. With that value recognized, the Account Manager can then introduce new offerings and create even greater value, bringing in the Account Executive to help create and capture these new opportunities. Well, in theory, this is what is supposed to happen.

There is a reason that the Account Executive (supposed Hunter) is now the Account Manager (supposed Farmer) and the Account Manager is now Glorified Customer Service. The reason your Hunter isn’t hunting and your farmer isn’t farming is because each of them has taken one step down in responsibility. More accurately, they are pulled in that direction.

When the customer service and operations teams can’t clean up the day-to-day challenges, maybe because the challenges are systemic, maybe because that team is disempowered, maybe because the Account Manager lacks trust in their operations team, maybe because the client has no trust in that team, or maybe because no one wants to engage in the conflict necessary to produce better results, the Account Manager steps in to solve those problems.

Now, the Account Executive who ultimately owns the client, steps into their role of the Account Manager, trying to help the client with the existing problem and managing relationships without selling anything new, fearful of failing the client even further, and petrified of the pushback they expect from stakeholders who are already not happy.

I’m just back from a day with the team at CEB, now Gartner, where they shared their latest research with me and a few other friends from the community. Their research shows that the strategies most companies believe will encourage revenue growth only end up causing members of the team that serves the client to do everything possible to retain the client–and nothing to actually grow the account.

As I have written here and here, the best retention strategy is proactively creating greater value, from month to month, and quarter to quarter.

Changing the Account Manager’s title to Client Success Manager (all the rage now) isn’t likely to clear up the lack of role clarity. It’s going to take a change in the overall strategy, and it’s going to require a clarity in roles–and a greater commitment to execution in each.

Filed under: Sales Acumen

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