Two Tips Anyone Can Use to Become a Great Account Manager
First and foremost, always add value to your company AND your customer. This seems intuitive and should be easy to accomplish, yet few Account Managers routinely create value for both organizations.
This begs the question: How do you always create value for both?
Answer: Increase your win rate at acceptable margins and provide a superior customer experience. This is a win for the supplier and customer.
In today’s world, markets are competitive, pricing from one supplier to another is usually very similar, so how do you win when pricing is basically the same?
Below are two proven strategies you can implement immediately:
Superior customer experience
- When you have the ball, own it, never drop it
- Be humble and let you customer have the bigger ego
- Collaborate to develop solutions that fit a customer’s need
Think of the best waiter you know. Got it? Ok, now let’s apply the three points under superior customer experience. Most likely this waiter smiles and treats you like a valued customer. Your order is confirmed for correctness, service is prompt and they periodically check in to ensure all is well. If there is an issue with the meal, they work hard to fix it and keep you updated. They understand service so they always treat you with respect. If you aren’t sure what you want or if you are looking for something different, they steer you in the right direction – not just what’s most expensive, unless that’s what you want. For this, you tip on the high side and reward the establishment with repeat business. Now, check your experience with the bullets above. If a waiter can apply the principals of Superior Customer Experience, you can too and watch how you are rewarded with repeat business at slightly higher margins.
Here’s another example that took place in Colorado. This was a greenfield development where a Major Oil and Gas operator entered the basin with the goal to become the most effective, lowest cost/ft, driller. Halliburton engaged with the operators drilling team early to understand their objectives and issues. Due to their size and safety requirements, running independent operator best practices would not get them where they wanted to be, so we developed an innovation plan where we brought ideas to our customer then worked jointly to validate and implement them. For ideas that did not work, we failed fast with no fault placed on individuals, and learned quickly. When we failed, we kept the operator and Halliburton management team updated on the results so they did not have to ask. Sometimes, these were difficult conversations. We found transparent communication worked the best and kept both teams at ease while improving the team commitment to innovate. When innovations worked, we gave the credit to our customer and were humble regarding Halliburton’s role. This fostered teamwork and a willingness to continue to innovate. By the end of the first year, complex wells were being drilled in a little over five days, which was best in class for the basin.
Engage your management with your customer
- Demonstrate commitment: Buyers are flattered and appreciate the commitment you demonstrate when you bring the right member of management on a sales call. Their job is to demonstrate company commitment to the customer, provide expertise and take ownership for delivery as promised.
- Develop business relationships: Focus on the word business. How is a business relationship different from a personal relationship? Take a moment to write down your response to this question before reading on.
- Business Relationships: Built around key business principles that create value for both sides; reduce risk, address supply & demand concerns, document value created, track key performance indicators, meet delivery and service quality expectations, demonstrate the ability to resolve conflict
- Personal Relationships: Built around social acceptance, respect, positive energy, fun activities and comradery
- Improve your Business Acumen:
- Do you fully understand your business model and how the company makes money? (Most sales people don’t)
- What does your operations group need, besides higher price, to improve margins? (The best way to build your business acumen is to engage an operations manager in a discussion around his/her business. They enjoy talking about their business to people who are genuinely interested and will help you understand what you, as a sales person, can do to make their life easier, improve their margins and reduce risk. Look for items that are aligned with your customer’s strategy, as these are the opportunities where both groups win.)
Call to action:
An earlier blog, SEI Customer-Supplier Relationships, discussed the benefits of a strategic relationship with your supplier. By definition, the way to move up the relationship scale is to engage your management with your customer at the appropriate level. For this discussion, let’s use an example where you bring the operations manager with you on a sales call, which is part of your plan to close this deal.
How do you prepare the operations manager for a successful call?
- Provide him/her with the customer’s business drivers and objectives then discuss why they are important to the customer.
- Review the operation manager’s role in the meeting and the specific commitments they are to communicate.
- Identify pitfalls that could make the meeting a disaster and develop a strategy with how to respond.
How do you prepare your customer?
- Ensure they know you are bringing management to the next meeting.
- This is a great opportunity for your customer to bring in a one or two level up person(s) to the meeting.
- Set a clear agenda agreed to by both organizations.
Here’s a management and sales example. To close a deal in the Gulf of Mexico with a Major Oil Company, Halliburton identified the need for a business relationship between our customer’s leaders with Halliburton’s operation manager. Key components of this business relationship included detailed knowledge of the customer’s safety program, project expectations and the commitment to deliver as promised. To prepare for the meeting, we created a clear agenda for a one-hour meeting the week before the customer visit and met again for an hour before the actual meeting. This allowed us to discuss business philosophy, drivers and key initiatives of our customer, Halliburton and general market trends that would be of interest for our customer. During the meeting the account manager facilitated while the operations manager & customer took the main speaking roles. One of the outcomes of the meeting was to set up a monthly meeting between the two leaders to establish a long-term rapport. We followed up to ensure the monthly meetings took place and there were business issues on the agenda that added value, not a meet & greet. The Account Team played a key role in establishing the agenda for these meetings. The result was a long-term sustainable business relationship able to withstand a very volatile market with difficult conversations on tough issues.
Creating value for your company and your customer can be done. As with most things in life, the harder you work to create a workable plan with a compelling outcome, the more successful you will become. A great way to start is by identifying ways to create a superior customer experience and then engage your management with your customer’s leadership to build a business relationship.
By: Steve Young, Halliburton Global Account Director, Retired
Fore more blogs and resources, sign up to be a member today:
Have questions or need further information? Contact Frances Wheeland, email@example.com