When you're making a purchasing decision, are you more likely to buy from someone you don't know or will even be working closely with, or someone you know and have an established relationship with?
If you're like most Americans, you're going to trust the person who you know and already have a relationship with. Trust plays a huge role in making sales and building long-term clients. And that's why your account managers are often your best salespeople.
This may seem counter-intuitive. After all, most companies have designated separate departments for sales and account management. They have people specially trained for two separate aspects of the client's experience. Sales turns prospects into customers. And account managers help keep those customers continuing on as their customers and not jumping ship to competitors.
But trust us. Your account managers may be the best salespeople you have.
A combination of skills
For starters, your sales and account management teams actually require similar skills. From building rapport to closing deals, your account managers and your salespeople develop and require overlapping skills.
This article by Salesforce outlines six essential skills in salespeople: expertise, curiosity, emotional intelligence, confidence, teamwork, and a knack for narrative. Those six soft skills pop up frequently across the board in lists for successful salespeople. So we'll take a look at each of those skills and see how your account managers possess them.
- Expertise - Account managers by definition have a ton of expertise. Their job is to handle certain accounts and act as a liaison between the company and the clients. They're paid to be an expert on everything the company offers - and to know everything the client needs. This means they're perfectly poised to know how to pitch the clients.
- Curiosity - In addition to knowing the company and the clients backwards and forwards, account managers require a certain level of curiosity to know what to do next. They need to be one step ahead of the competition, and so their job is to anticipate the clients' needs. They need to constantly be asking, "What makes us the best for this client?" and then communicate that to them.
- Emotional intelligence - Sometimes things go wrong. Or sometimes the rep from a client is having a bad day and pushing an up-selling pitch would cause more damage than good. Navigating situations like these requires emotional intelligence. It's a skill that is required of successful account managers.
- Confidence - Account managers are the go-to experts. They know how to find out what the client needs and how to make the right up-sell to meet their quotas. Being the navigator between the client and the company requires confidence and finesse - skills both vital to sales people and account managers.
- Teamwork - Account managers work with multiple other departments to get their clients' needs met. They often coordinate between different reps, sales, product, and finance departments to make sure that the company is profitable and the client is satisfied. They're often the person the client rep goes to when there's a problem. And if they can't personally address the problem, they're the one who knows how to find the solution or work with their teammates to find a solution.
- Knack for narrative - A good salesperson knows how to sell a narrative. Whether it's allowing the person to see themselves using the product or how a business will be there for them in the long run, they sell an idea along with a product. Account managers often live the narrative. They handle a client's account as long as they're with the company. They're there for the long term and are able to promise and deliver on a commitment.
Which brings us to our second point.
Long-term relationships & trust
A major complaint with sales people is that, from the client's perspective, it feels like sale people make promises and then disappear. And while that's the way that sales works, this can often leave your clients feeling shuffled around and cast off. But when your account managers are making sales, your clients know they'll be with the same person the entire time. The client won't have to repeat information or wonder if their needs will get lost in translation because the same person will be handling their account.
In addition to this being better for your clients, it's also better for you. When your clients experience the continuity of being with one account manager, they're more likely to build trust. And the more they trust the account manager, the more likely they are to stay loyal to your company and be responsive to up-sells. Clients trust their account managers and are more likely to stay with your company when they aren't being shuffled between sales and account management.
A focus on sustainable growth
When your account managers make - and keep - sales, they are building a foundation to have lifelong, sustainable growth. They are able to promise your clients service and care and are able to personally deliver on those promises. Account managers are able to build a long-term relationship with your clients and see that their needs are met. They'll know the client well and be able to seamlessly suggest up-sells and cross-promote your products and services. They'll be able to make sales that make sense to you and the client and suggest products that the client is most likely to use and keep.
The basic goal of any business is to profitably satisfy their customers or clients. Often the best way to do this is to create sustainable relationships with your clients. One of the best ways to show potential leads that they'll receive the best care and product with you is to showcase your account managers. When your account managers do the sales, they can show your potential clients that they won't get lost in the shuffle of your company. And your account managers already posses the skills necessary to turn prospects into loyal clients.