How to develop high performance account managers

Updated Nov 6, 2023
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Account managers are the only job roles (other than the owner/president or division manager/branch manager) that touch and require proficiency in all primary segments of your business. That includes overall management, operations, marketing and branding, sales and client management, finance, compensation, human resources, and...of course...results. 

There are essentially two types of account managers. While there are some hybrids and variations on the theme, they typically follow these two models. Let's look at both.

Type one: The production-focused account manager

As companies develop and grow this is where the job starts.

This role will typically be responsible for the following tasks or processes.

  • Operational crew supervision
  • Managing the clients' properties
  • Sales of extras or enhancements
  • Contract renewals

This job type is a tough job to fill as it requires skill sets in two divergent areas, The hands-on Nuts and Bolts of Operations and the nuanced skills of Client Relations and Sales. When companies are small and growing, this role is put into play resulting from two imperatives:

1. The company cannot afford multiple roles.

2. The owner is more directly involved in the day-to-day functions and can better support the people in these roles.

Type two: The client relations-focused account manager

This account manager tends to develop more as companies grow and the complexities of finding and keeping production-focused account managers becomes increasingly difficult. 

This model will typically be responsible for the following tasks or processes.

  • Prospecting and selling base contracts
  • The development and maintenance of client relationships
  • Sales of extras or enhancements
  • Contract renewals
  • Interfacing with field production managers and their teams

This job type results as companies grow and separate the production-focused role into two separate job functions: The client-focused account manager and the field production manager. Both roles are easier to source and develop as they come from two different skill sets. More people have one or the other, while few have both together.

So, your first step as an owner is to identify which type of account manager you have or should have in place. The next step is to identify the action steps for development and training.

Action steps should follow this trajectory:

  • Build a plan (short, intermediate, and long-term)
  • Develop detailed job descriptions and identify pivotal duties
  • Create a career ladder that lays out a road map for achieving upward mobility 
  • Develop an employee accountability platform or process
  • Develop a guiding strategy: "Vision, Mission, Core Values"
  • Develop the training protocols for each type of focus

In regard to that last point, training protocols should be grouped into three areas:

1. The areas both types share: This is because it will serve as the training program for both the production-focused account manager as well as the field production manager

2. The areas that are exclusive to the client-focused account manager

3. The areas that are exclusive to the production-focused account manager

The overarching training protocols can or should look like this:

Duties and accountabilities

  • Organizational and operational duties
  • Sales and marketing duties
  • Financial duties
  • HR people duties
  • Quality control duties
  • Personal effectiveness
  • Timelines and imperatives
  • Results and outcome expectations

Training topics

  • Sales and marketing
  • Client relations
  • Operations
  • People
  • Technical training program
  • Equipment

Take note that this is just an approximate list to use as a guideline. The actual items that work best for you should be determined by your individual organization.

There's no question that the role of the account manager in your company is a "Critical Path Function." It touches all aspects of your organization. That means for your account managers to become high-performance business people, you must develop a program like the one outlined here. Always remember that nothing happens until somebody trains someone. 

Fred Bio

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