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Organization Maturity: How to establish Level 2 (Account Management)

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn here)

The foundation of success of a tech company is a compelling and competitive offering solving real world problems, much greater compared to the effort and risk required to make use of it, and commercial model, including but not limited to pricing, and the appropriate go-to-market motion.


After the Disruptor has achieved Level 1 in the Disruption Selling Maturity Model (Product Market Fit), the next level is Go To Market Fit (GMF). Reaching GMF is the prerequisite for scaling the sales function. If scaled prematurely the Disruptor will waste precious time, energy and money and it will lead to frustration with employees and investors.


The first part of this post focuses on the core tasks of the sales function and the second part provides further considerations to ensure it is set up for success.


For two parties to conduct business with each other they must agree deliverables in legally binding form. 


To achieve this the Disruptor must assign the following tasks to Account Managers:


Effective customer relationship management that involves a multifaceted approach to building and maintaining strong connections with clients. The foundation lies in understanding customer needs, preferences, and objectives, possibly tailoring products or services to address their specific requirements.

 

Utilization of various communication channels such as meetings, phone conversations, emails, and face-to-face encounters to provide the Account Manager the opportunity to understand and address concerns and ensure ongoing satisfaction. 


Safeguarding customer loyalty is a continual effort to guarantee that clients are content with the delivered products or services. Resolving issues and providing solutions is pivotal for a positive customer experience, addressing difficulties promptly and effectively.


Execution oriented account planning with customized objectives and strategies for each customer, encompassing sales targets, expansion opportunities, and initiatives to strengthen client relationships. It also allows us to identify growth opportunities beyond meeting immediate needs, involving recommendations for additional offerings to enhance overall customer value. 


The process of agreeing on terms and conditions, a meticulous one, involves proposal, negotiation, and closure of legally binding agreements, including non-disclosure agreements, data processing agreements and frame contracts. 


Gathering feedback via a continuous loop, obtaining valuable insights to refine products or services and better align them with evolving customer requirements.

Cultivating customer advocacy that transforms satisfied customers into active promoters, referring new business and providing testimonials or case studies. 


Lastly, monitoring and reporting performance which involves a detailed analysis of key metrics like customer satisfaction scores, retention rates, and revenue generated from each account. This comprehensive approach ensures that customer relationships are not only established but also nurtured, contributing to sustained growth and success in the ever-evolving business landscape.


Here are some important considerations regarding the sales function:


1/Collaboration: While Account and Technology Managers collaborate in a sales cycle and have even overlapping customer contacts, their ownership is distinct (commercial resp. technical) and hence they should operate independently within their area of responsibility.


2/Transition: When the Disruptor moves up from Level 1 to Level 2 a transition from founder-led-sales to sales-led-sales takes place. The founder must not step out immediately. Instead, a transition period allows to distill the best practices from the founder’s experience and subtract what a non-founder can’t credibly say or do.


3/Mindset: Especially in the early days in Level 2 ensure radical transparency and measure everything. This will help the Disruptor to make informed decisions and adjustments going forward. They must foster a mindset of builders and pioneers who enjoy continuous improvement. Fail fast.


4/Objectives: When a Disruptor starts with the sales function or expands into a new market (geo, vertical, use cases) and a lack of history makes it challenging to set the right quota for an individual, they can select other objectives that positively influence the leading indicators for the territory. E.g.: Imagine an Account Manager of an IaaS provider 10-15 years ago trying to sell into Financial Services. Giving them a $ amount as a goal might have been too early. A better goal would have been things like # visits to the HQ by at least CIO-1, conducting a certain number of security and compliance related workshops per quarter (>4 hrs) including CISO and similar.


5/Onboarding: Once the right individual for the Account Manager position accepts the role, the next major task is to maximize their momentum and learning to ensure their time to productivity is as short as possible. If the Disruptor already has an onboarding program they must ensure that it is contextualized by a local mentor. E.g.: Prospecting is important everywhere but the way you do it differs a lot from one continent or even country to another. If the Disruptor doesn’t have an onboarding program yet, they must be conscious about it and create something that gets extended and improved with every new hire. The onboarding program must include external information (e.g.: foundational knowledge, important adjacent topics, business context, etc.) and it must contain practical parts (e.g.: present the first call deck to an internal group of colleagues roleplaying stakeholders of real customers or targets, listen in on support calls, shadow experienced Account Managers and similar).


6/Benchmarks: Take benchmarks and ratios with a grain of salt. E.g.: The average quota of an Account Manager doesn’t help you if you’re selling for SAP or Oracle vs. selling series A software into a Blue Ocean market.

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