Account Management

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These are some quick notes on sales jargon commonly used in English-speaking westernised sales organisations. There are other ways of looking at how to sell things, but this is overwhelmingly the most common in the western technology trade. There are shelves full of books on this subject, and I have only rarely found one that isn't both poor quality and boring.

About Accounts

'Accounts' refers to 'Sales Accounts', in other words, your customer or potential customer. Imagine a list of everyone you are engaging with closely as you sell to them - that is a list of your accounts. Once you have had someone progress from merely making an enquiry ('sales lead' is the term) to becoming an account, you want them to be a valued customer. Someone who is going to be happy to keep giving you money for good service. That is what is called a relationship, and maintaining that relationship is Account Management.

The textbooks, which presumably need everyone to use their jargon to justify their own existence, divide Account Management into biggies and littlies, or Strategic/Key Accounts and just plain Accounts. A Key Account is a customer so big or potentially so big that they are worth special efforts and a lot of time dedicated to keeping them happy. An ordinary Account is a customer who is happy buying your standard product.

Account Management

There's all kinds of ways people like to think about account management. In large companies the roles and responsibilities get quite complicated, and political power structures develop(!) There are two different kinds of skills involved, Sales Account Management and Technical Account Management. Sales Account Management is neatly summed up at this Buzzle.com article. This article doesn't mention the skill of building yourself out of an account: some account managers will have ambitions to do more will therefore find ways for other people to take their place while they go on to either manage sales or find larger accounts to manage. Some people are ideally suited to a particular account or group of accounts and build themselves an entire career just in that area.

A Technical Account Manager (TAM) still has a distinct sales angle (not many positions in a company are not!) but is someone able to understand the technical needs in the Account, and often someone doing technical delivery. Sales teams often consist of two people, one filling each role. If you search Clusty for 'Technical Account Manager' you get back a lot of job advertisements with descriptions of what they think a TAM should do (you can compare the results of this Clusty search with 'site:uk' and 'site:com' to get a feel for the different ways people view the role.)

Small Companies

Small companies don't have the luxury of two-man account teams. They probably need to think of some accounts as being strategic because without them the company would die, as opposed to considering whether the account is actually helping the business forward. Nevertheless, a good understanding of account management is required. If you're technical by nature, maybe you're doing a good job of being a Technical Account Manager, but not an Account Manager. That will not be the best thing for either your client or your business.

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