Early in my career, my manager at that time would say, “channels fulfill demand, they do not create it.” Wise words and if not headed, can lead to problems and missed opportunities. Much like shipping a product is the first step in a journey that requires marketing, support, bug fixes and new releases, many deals begin when the contract is executed.
All successful deals are a result of accountability and proactive management by both sides. If you are not ready to allocate the resources to support a deal, think twice before signing it.
Earlier posts talk about sales vs BD that focus on delivering new revenue and new partnerships. In most cases, account management will own the ongoing relationship and is a different person than the BD person that did the deal. In early stage companies, the BD person may need to play a dual role of doing new deals and managing current partnerships however, this does not scale for a few reasons:
- Priority conflicts: this ties back to goals and compensation for BD and managing priorities. If you set goals and compensation around new deals, once the deal is done, a motivated BD person is going to look for your next deal. Even the most well intended people fall back to what excites them and pays the bills.
- No ownership: product, engineering and other parts of the company may take part in the deal process. It is a team effort and often helps build strong ties across teams to work together and close a deal. Deal is done and people go back to their jobs and no clear owner has been established and everyone tries to execute on their piece of the deal with no centralized coordination/ownership.
- Wrong owner: why did you do the deal in the first place and is the owner the best person to achieve that goal? If the goal is to drive revenue, is a product person the right owner? Is the BD person already on a plane or call chasing the next deal?
In most cases, identifying the owner in advance of signing the deal and establishing goals will set you up for success and this is where account management or partner management can make all the difference. The account manager should have variable compensation or incentives tied to meeting the goals established by both parties.
This is a business person that may possess many of the same skills as BD or sales people with a few important differences. Some like to use the “hunter vs farmer” to describe the difference and I think that makes sense and like to get a bit more specific.
A good account manager should excel in establishing process, putting systems in place for tracking, reporting and follow through. The idea of bringing structure to some chaos is appealing. The ability to manage multiple priorities across multiple groups with a diplomatic style is incredibly helpful. Whereas sales and BD may enjoy the thrill of the hunt, an account manager thrives in expanding the relationship, solving problems and exceeding the initial expectations of the deal.
In short, think about who owns the partnership before you sign the deal. If you feel confident you have a plan in place to execute the deal – go for it.
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