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The Art of Account Management

AUSTRALIA 3 NOVEMBER 2020: Managing and improving the relationships you have with your customers, prospects, partners, and your delivery teams is key to achieving the trusted advisor status of an Account Manager.

Kane Parker is ECC’s Director of Strategy & Client Success and explores his insights into Account Management.

Account Management

The way in which we communicate with our clients is critical to how our relationships with them progress. And if like me, you have worked in professional service environments, you too will understand the delicacy of client communication – understanding what the client wants and needs, balancing brainstorms with a budget, and working together to achieve mutually-accepted goals.

The skills I have developed over time, and continue to build upon, require a mixture of hard and soft skills. In the first instance, in managing anything today, you need to apply practical skills – writing, scheduling, etc. But it’s not all technical.

Account Management requires you to fully immerse yourself in the client’s thought process, culture, and brand, and to understand not only what they offer or what their insights are, but what their customers need.

Like Art, Account Management gives aesthetic appreciation, someone that embodies care and thoughtfulness. Below I have summarised some key skills I have learned in Account Management, in the hope that I can support my clients, colleagues, and those who are like-minded.

Empathy

Today, more than ever, in the face of a global pandemic, changing economic challenges and priorities, the transient nature of teams, and the ‘gig’ economy — clients face uncertainty and challenges in their businesses that we have to know about, understand, and help them problem-solve.

Importantly to Account Management, and at our core, we should empathise with their struggles.  When we encounter their constraints, we should elevate the conversation to focus on understanding a different point of view and out of the box solutions. 

The role of an Account Manager is three-fold: to care, to lead, and to help provide solutions.

Priorities

We must kick start our hard skills here, naturally.

The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what is important first.

– The War of Art- Steven Pressfield

Since time is our most limited resource, it’s important to use it wisely and to know what is urgent, and what is not. Each day, it’s important to focus on the principle of priority and what is important first.  The ‘important’ must always come first because it is what drives results.

Change

All change involves tension, even positive change.

While you should do everything in a professional and pleasing manner, never conflate helping the client achieve their goal with making them “happy.” We want to go beyond this.

This is easier said than done, I instinctively want to make clients happy. The reality, however, is that what’s important to clients is to help them achieve their goals and run a successful business.

Conflict is inevitable in that friction can be overcome by clear, honest, purposeful communication. The client is an expert in their business, and we are experts in ours, and we have to directly explain what will and will not work in delivering their project or product. When there is uncertainty or disagreement, it is the role of an Account Manager to reframe the discussion around the priorities using problem-solving questions.

Feedback

I am proud of the work we do here, and a big part of our co-design and collaboration process is through seeking feedback from everyone we work with.

There are three kinds of feedback from personal coaching, project evaluation, and performance review/appreciation.

Feedback enables me in my role to understand our progress, which is set against our deliverables and it is my responsibility to actively ask for feedback, listening thoughtfully and respectfully to what each person has to say.

Account Managers are able to drive the tone of the conversations and the project culture, through our ability to work within the client’s business and empower the project teams to deliver what’s required and what will work for the client. We are agents of change and communication, and I hope the future for this role is becoming ever more powerful, as we continue to learn and engage in better ways to work with colleagues and clients.

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