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If there’s friction within your company over who should manage current accounts – sales, operations, or service delivery – this post is for you.

The solution can be straight-forward if your company is willing to apply the “if this, then that approach.”

Let’s look at both sides…

When the operations and service delivery teams push-back on an account manager from the sales team, some of the arguments go something like this:

  • I work with the customer daily and have a good relationship. Why would I need a salesperson to get involved?
  • I’ve seen what the assigned salesperson can do, and I’m not impressed.
  • I can manage the account, and we can save on commission.
  • I don’t need the salesperson’s help to renew or maintain the business; I need them to sell more. Why don’t they find some new logos for us?

When sales want to manage the account, some of the arguments to push back on operations and service delivery go something like this:

  • The operations team does not have time to grow the account; they are too busy dealing with day-to-day activities.
  • Operations is overly-worried about their P&L and bonus, and they are under pressure to increase the margin percentage. They are reluctant to pursue big deals due to the risk they can present.
  • We have multiple product lines that operations or service delivery teams are not comfortable selling, and they are not rewarded for selling it. They want to sell “more of the same,” but we are tasked with selling different solutions to existing as well as new customers.

We can address the management arguments between sales and operations if we can resolve “What, How, When, & Who.”

What are the account goals?

Growth? Retention? Margin Improvement? Do we need to expand or strengthen the account relationship?

How are we going to achieve our goals?

Different goals may require a different approach. In some cases, more than one method may apply.

When do we need to achieve our goals?

Are they short-term, or do they cover more than one year?

Who is the best resource to go after to charge with the What, How, and When?

For example, an early in career or transactional salesperson might not be a fit with a large, sophisticated account. Conversely, an operating leader may be a whiz managing front-line workers and a healthy P&L, but not skilled at account planning, executive relationship building, or selling new services outside of their area of expertise.

 

Working collaboratively to determine the best account manager for an account requires a pragmatic approach:

It would be best if you then went more in-depth with questions like this:

  • Which roles can bring the most value above and beyond what we are doing with the account right now?

  • Do we need to sell-into different divisions or business units?

  • Are deeper relationships needed to keep competitors out and reduce risk to what we have?

  • Do we have a mix of short-term and long-term/strategic goals that need to be addressed?

     

If growth is essential…

You must assign growth goals (targets, quotas) by account. Evaluate your share of wallet and white space within the account to determine what’s possible. No sandbagging or applying an inconsequential number for growth.

Work through again the What, How, When, and Who questions.

Whoever is assigned (sales, operations, service delivery) to manage the account must create an account plan, and own the revenue goal (target, quota). Pay attention to this one: If operations or service delivery are going to manage the account, they need to be assigned the appropriate share of the annual sales goals

Sales, operations, and service delivery always need to work as a team and establish precise lines and cadence for communication. Does the salesperson need to meet and get to know everyone the service delivery team knows? In some cases, yes, but in many cases, NO! If the operating team has a strong relationship with a certain level with an account, the sales account manager may need to focus on different relationship levels or lines of business.

Conclusion

Sales, Operations, or Service Delivery, are all capable of growing and managing an account. However, they aren’t all capable of handling every account.

If you can establish clear account goals, how they can be achieved, and when they need to be completed, then you’ll be in a position to determine the right account management assignment – Sales, Operations or Service Delivery. One answer does not fit all.

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