What do Account Managers Really Do?

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Account Management is one of those jobs in an organization that seems really ambiguous.

I mean really? What do Account Managers really do?

When describing account management to my non-marketing friends, they often nod and smile and secretly think “people actually get paid for that?”

So what do account managers really do? As both the business development and relationship management function of a business, the key role of an account manager is to keep customers flowing through the sales pipeline and replace the natural attrition with new customers. This may sound like an easy task but it’s actually more complicated than you might think. Account managers have to be able to think long term and be strategic about how they are hitting their targets. Each customer not only represents a dollar on the bottom line but also a relationship that can help fuel the growth of the company.

From the client side, the account manager is the key contact within an organization that can help solve their business challenges. This person is not only responsible for following through on the execution of a product or service but also forecasting what the future needs of the client will be.

The reality is that account management is a vital part of any business. These people effectively manage the relationships that will either mean growth or decline for the business.

So what makes a good account manager?

I’ve found that there are three key qualities that are essential to being successful as an account manager.

1) Relationship driven

Taking clients out for dinner and drinks Mad Men style is typically the vision people get when they think about relationship management. Taking clients out is part of it but only one small piece of the pie. Good account managers need to go beyond excellent customer service. They have to anticipate the needs of their clients and figure out where the pain points are. It’s almost like being a therapist. Good account managers guide their clients through the steps they need to take to figure out how to solve their business challenges.

2) Strong personal management ability

This isn’t just time management but also the ability to prioritize and make decisions. No boss wants to have their employees in their offices all the time. Somebody with strong personal management skills knows what needs to get done and how quickly. They are proactive in their approach and also sets realistic deadlines for their clients and internal stakeholders. The account manager with strong personal management ability also knows when to call it a day.

3) Big picture thinking

Very few people have the ability to see big picture. In order to be strategic as an account manager, you have to be able to see all the moving pieces at once and see what the next step is to advance the overall plan. If you can treat each decision and project like a chess game, you will have incredible results as an account manager.

So the next time somebody asks you what account managers really do, dismiss their simplistic thoughts of wining and dining clients and tell them that account managers are the people that keep an organization in business.

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11 comments

  1. Very much enjoyed this. In various guises, I have been an Account Admin, Account Exec, Account Manager, Account Director and agree with your three pillars – just think you should consider two others that I found were vital to me and the people I worked with – 4th, being “Solutions focused”, in that no matter what, you have to have your eye on both finding and then solving a client’s problems; and 5th “Natural curiosity” – you have to want to know more. What the root cause of a client’s problem is; who that new contact is and where they fit in the equation; what that new product is and its benefit to clients; how well that new media channel has worked for others etc, etc….you have to be naturally curious about these things – as opposed to it being a pre-requisite of the the job that you HAVE to find out.

    Just my take!

    1. Thanks for reading the post! I definitely agree with your two points. I especially like the one about natural curiosity! It’s so true. By taking an interest in finding the root problems for a client, you win their trust and their business.

  2. Fascinating post, and totally agree on the three points. Like a lot of areas of business, it’s about being able to follow through on details while thinking of the bigger picture.

  3. As a former Account Manager, I can say that an Account Manager is a “Sales Guy” They simply build and service a set of key customers – or “accounts.” Account Managers are ambiguous because their customers often are as well!

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