Selling is, without any doubt, the main objective of any business because sales drive revenues and growth for an organization. However, you just cannot expect to reach your growth goals by prioritizing sales only. Building relationships with your customers and strengthening them is equally important for businesses to stay in the race and sustain in the long run. This is where account management steps in as one of the key business operations.
Essentially, account management refers to reaching out to your important customers and nurturing long term relationships with them. It is closely connected with sales and both salespersons and account managers need to work together to ensure the best experiences for the customers. Even while both functions have a lot in common, sales and account management differ in several ways. Let us highlight the differences between the two.
Timing: Pre-sales and post-sales
Primarily, the sales team is responsible for fetching new customers for the business. They focus on prospecting and closing deals in the pre-sales stage. On the other hand, account management is more of a post-sales operation. Once the sales team converts the customers, their ownership goes to the account management team.
From here on, they work on developing relationships with the customers with the aim to retain them and propel the long-term growth of the business. Their job mainly revolves around getting the customer feedback on products/services, identifying the scope for improvement and taking relevant steps to implement the improvements. Simply speaking, the sales process focuses on conversion while account management prioritizes customer satisfaction.
Strategy: Prospecting and cultivating
A strategy is another way in which sales and account management differ from each other. Sales can be visualized as a prospecting strategy where your team goes out to identify the prospective leads and capture them as real customers. Conversely, account management is comparable with cultivating. The customers you convert during the sales process are like seeds that you need to nurture and grow into a crop.
Alex Raymond from Kapta.com explains that it’s important to know which of your clients bring in the most revenue, and to put extra effort into those accounts. The strategy is identifying them, follow them up consistently and ensure that they contribute to your growth. The contribution can be in the form of retention and referrals.
Results: Short-term and long-term
Sales are concerned about profit upfront and the aim is just to close as many deals as possible within a short span of time. Account management is a long-term process that rests on the foundation of strong relationships. You spend months or even years consolidating relationships with the customers so that you can retain them and leverage them to spread the word about your business.
While short-term profits can give your business the growth potential, account management is more about sustenance in the competitive landscape. Excellent customer experience is what is likely to make your business stand apart and this is exactly what an account management strategy can do for you. The payout may not be visible right away but only after a period of time, when you get the benefits of strong relationships.
Skill sets: Persuasiveness and perseverance
Considering the fact that account management and sales are not the same, the skill sets required for them will also vary. Since the sales team needs to find prospects and close them as well, persuasiveness is the key skill they need to have. They should be able to identify people who will be genuinely interested in your product or service, follow them closely and persuade them to buy.
For account managers, on the other hand, perseverance is the skill that matters the most. Their job is to maintain the customer base over a prolonged period of time. This involves keeping them happy by ensuring that your product/service matches their expectations in every possible way. Creativity is another skill that makes smarter account managers because it enables you to go one step ahead for making your customers happier, driving upselling and increasing retention.
On the surface, account management and sales have the same objectives and outcomes. These include higher revenues, higher profit margins, deeper market penetration, and longer contracts. But there is much difference when you scratch the surface. Beyond just boosting your sales, you need to prioritize stronger relationships and this is exactly what account management does. Both sales account management, thus, is indispensable for any business. At the same time, both need to work in tandem so that you can get the best results with the minimum amount of effort.