Posted by: peterhact | July 6, 2011

Account Ownership – who owns the account at a company?

Account Ownership – Any sales person you speak to refers to the accounts that they look after as “their accounts”. For the present, they are. They are allocated by a manager to a member of a team, there isn’t any true ownership of the account, it relies on the ability to make the client happy, achieve pre-defined goals and hit targets.

I was looking after a large account recently. it was taking all my time, and it seemed that I wasn’t going to hit my targets this year as this client was becoming my only client. Management noticed the work I was doing, the efforts I was devoting to this client, and the fact that there was no run rate revenue being generated by it. In their eyes, it was a lack of run rate that would impact me at the end of the year. The company wants to help me succeed, they don’t want me bogged down in one client, they want me doing what I love to do, hunting for new business, and supporting all my allocated existing clients.

What happened? The account was removed from me. Am I sorry to lose it? yes. am I going to try and find one that is the equal of its size to fill the gap it has left? absolutely.

The account was never mine, I didn’t have ownership of it, any more than the other accounts I manage. Here is what separates the old hands from the new sales people coming up the ranks:

Accounts are allocated to sales “caretakers” who look after the account on behalf of the company. They drive business in the account, assist the clients, make time for the client to understand their needs, and propose solutions that will benefit the client. The old style – “mine! Hands off” approach is gone. every new sales person wants that old guy’s account. Management won’t prevent the account being reallocated if:

  1. The client has complaints about the current account manager
  2. No new revenue has been generated by the current account manager
  3. The account hasn’t been “touched” in the past month or months by the current account manager.

One sure fire way to lose accounts through lack of activity is to grab every account you can, until you can boast that you have over 100 clients, whilst a colleague has far, far less.

Imagine being a developer who buys an entire suburb, starts strong, building house after house until the suburb is full. The first part of the job is done. Now comes the hard part. Say  that you realise that there is more money in rentals than selling the houses. So, you start selling the concept and gain a few rentals. Then, you find that of the entire suburb of houses, you are concentrating more on the existing tenants than attracting new ones. As the numbers of rentals decrease, you find that the numbers of new tenants vs old ones is dwindling. What would you do?

Most companies would hire more staff to sell and support the rental concept. But this raises a new problem. How do you divide up a suburb of houses so that the new people selling have the same access to existing and new clients? This is where a suburb or a territory is divided between sales people to ensure that you get:

  1. Complete coverage of the suburb
  2. responsive support to the tenants and new clients.
  3. Ongoing revenue for the sales people so that they are interested in working for you.

With any business that has a sales force, you need to define key areas for the sales people to work in. some companies call this a territory, or a segment of the business. It is these defined “patches” that keep sales people focused on the job at hand, without coveting their neighbor’s accounts.

The Accounts will always, forever, be the property of the company. Any sales person who thinks otherwise will soon come up against management and their policies – often with embarassing results. Losing accounts through inaction is bad enough, but quibbling about “why isn’t that one mine, it should be mine” leads to a very dim view being taken.


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