How to succeed as an account manager

Account manager
As an account manager, there are several strategies that you can employ to stay ahead of the game. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The strategic account manager that fails to remain strategic compromises the position. For instance, a CEO of say, a manufacturing entity, tells his company’s bank relationship manager that he needs a personal credit card.

The manager proceeds to get him forms to complete, collects his statements, sees through the application, promises periodic updates and requests for alerts if the CEO has any challenges with the card. On the surface there appears to be nothing wrong with this. Until you look at the other scenario. The RM informs the CEO that he will get him a salesperson who handles credit cards to see through the application; and the CEO says, “Connect him to my PA (personal assistant)”.

CEO and this RM are on the same (strategic) wavelength. The former RM became operational.

The challenge with the first approach is that the CEO will automatically lower your status in his mind. As CEO he is not concerned with operational matters such as sourcing packaging material or approving overtime requests.

There are people designated to do that. His productivity comes from overseeing the growth of the institution, not writing advertising briefs or preparing books of accounts. Therefore, when the RM presents himself as doing the equivalent of such operational matters, the CEO immediately dismisses his capacity to grow the manufacturing institution’s account which is the RM’s core job.


He knows you can’t do both. And so he starts looking for alternatives. Yes, to remain relevant, the corporate RM must demonstrate such strategic thinking as the CEO’s. Whereas the CEO runs a company, the RM runs the account as a project. Hence, the credit card matter (like overtime requests) will be handled by someone else but the RM (just as with the CEO) will still monitor and grow account (business) performance.

The strategic account manager that insists that all operational matters to do with his account must be done by him will likely disagree with the foregoing saying, “I need to know the instant things go wrong with any of the cogs in the entire wheel that is the account.” Or, “The other departments involved in the account will ‘mess me up’ if I leave the credit card (or, software installation) to them.” What he will not say is this: “I lack the managerial capacity to monitor the various moving parts of the account and I don’t trust other departments to do their job.”

And yet, these are the leadership skills he must grow to remain strategic. Can you be ‘messed up’? Yes, you can. It’s a (business) relationship and so you handle challenges as they happen. Is it easy to be salesperson, sales manager and CEO all at once? No, it’s not.

However, much like a parent delegates ‘parenting’ to teachers, but remains accountable to the child’s growth, so too the effective strategic account manager ‘delegates’ the necessary responsibilities but remains accountable to them.