Working as an account manager is a minefield of potential customer issues, delivery delays, admin cock-ups and all manner of other problems. The reasons you do this job are probably a combination of the following:
- The money
- Being able to work from home
- Having your ego stroked every time a deal closes
- More money 🙂
- You love talking to people
But in some cases (the romantic in me would like to think most cases) you do it because of a general love for people, business, and the idea you can make a positive difference to the people you serve.
If you can balance the fine line between friendly and over-familiar, bonding and business and creating excitement while managing expectations then you are probably in the right role. What you should prepare yourself for, is the idea that the people supporting the sales effort may not be.
Sales support, governance, commercial managers, lawyers, techies and all manner of other people support the work I do. I build the relationship and find the ideas and opportunities to work with customers. I then rely on the expertise and efficiency of others to ensure these opportunities are designed, priced, contracted, built, delivered and ultimately paid for. For the most part people work really hard. For the most part people are interested and they want to get the job done. In some cases, and this is by no means a symptom of where I work, this can happen in ANY company, you come across people who just don’t care. These people – who sales people tend to refer to as the “deal prevention team” – have no sense of urgency, no customer service skills and no impetus to help you get the deal over the line. Again…this is not everyone…but some people.
I get it in some respects, people that don’t have a number on their head get paid regardless. They get paid the same however much I sell. Perhaps the team effort alone is not motivating for them. But equally they wont get fired next year if I don’t hit my number (probably). Whatever this team of people do, or don’t do, the buck stops with me.
This means that I channel hours of time, countless calories of energy and who knows how much of my sanity chasing, investigating, co-ordinating, apologising, fixing, selling, travelling and team building in an effort to achieve an end goal that frankly contributes to keeping the whole organisation in work. And every account manager in every company, I am sure goes through the exact same thing.
Yesterday evening I was at an event hosted by Natwest and Generation Success. There was a speaker Andy Doe, an intriguing and inspiring person who gave the most wonderful account of his career. The reason I am mentioning it is Andy said that an important thing he did in his career was to take ultimate responsibility for things that went wrong, whether or not they were his fault. What this achieved was that rather than the company looking incompetent because several people were blamed, the problem was viewed as a minor, fixable oversight by him. Taking this responsibility meant that the client trusted him to be responsible and to work hard to correct and mistake.
I could now reel off advice for dealing with difficult colleagues, incentivising the un-incentivised, team building and numerous other topics. But the truth is this: account managers, sales people, we do what we do for the rewards it brings be that financial or personal. Keeping your head in a whirl of people all moving in different directions is not easy. Taking responsibility for the overall outcome is not always palatable. But the big win at the end of it when you sign that contract and deliver a project that makes a real positive difference to your customer and a real positive impact on your finances is worth the pain to get there.
Next time you get that commission slip, just think of it as “danger money”.