Account Leadership is about Accountability
Like many of our clients in Australia, Asia, Europe and the USA, I continually look at ways to grow a sustainable revenue stream and EBIT from our client base. We grow revenue and profit from our top clients by focusing on one thing. We focus on what our top clients can do to bring greater value to their clients to allow their clients to be more successful.
As we consult and deliver workshops around our “Strategic Account Management” processes and tools, a recurring theme in each location is raised: how internally do we change our business to deliver a competitively different solution based on value. On each occasion we respond the same: each senior manager who is assigned a top account must have total Profit and Loss (P&L) responsibility for this account.
A few months ago, I saw this quote from a global account, "I don't want ANOTHER single point of contact! What I NEED is a single point of ACCOUNTABILITY!"
Accountability is a model of leadership, accountability uncovers opportunities and accountability means having the courage to change our way of doing business with our top accounts.
The quote connects strongly with our approach to growth and account management. At the core of this model is ownership. When I see accounts flourish and grow it is because someone becomes the responsible voice for the client within their organization. This means being accountable for putting a solid business case together, having a strong internal network and negotiating organisational changes.
When a senior manager is not accountable, their approach is: “I can do what is in my control and that’s all.” Accountability is maybe the hardest element for the Strategic Account Manager to adopt as it requires resisting the temptation to avoid the problem or to "pass the buck”. With the current economic situation, we are all asked to do more with less. This increases the temptation to find an escape hatch, as one US observer noted to "chuck and duck". A well developed sense of accountability helps to close off this escape hatch. An accountable account manager will not avoid problems, they will solve problems and persuade others to bring more resources to their account.
Unfortunately, if the account manager doesn't have the complete support of the Senior Management Team, they are doomed to failure. Too many failures are within the supplier organization - and not the client. Recently, at a meeting with a prospective client about a major contract out of Hong Kong, our key contact said the focus was on sales growth not value optimization. This was code for “this is not seen as a leadership initiative”, so we didn’t take the project.
The message from this blog post is clear, if you want growth, understand your top accounts, what do they value and how can you leverage that point of difference in a very competitive market.
Choosing the account manager to interact with a strategic account is one of the most important decisions the leadership team will take this year. Your choice will send a clear message to your top account that you are serious about their business and their growth.