Transitioning Prospect from Sales Person to Account Manager

The transition from new biz to account management is critical. I’ll explain how and when it should happen and then highlight the three problems you’ll have if it’s not managed well.

Look at the illustration to see how this fits in the bigger picture.

The dashed line (far left) represents a period when the prospect knows nothing about you. As far as they know, you don’t exist and thus there’s no possibility of a relationship.

At the first vertical green line (question mark above it) they find your website (organic search, WOM, heard you speak, etc.) and they begin exploring. There’s no conversion and they haven’t been cookied. They are exploring your uniqueness and your POV. Google Analytics registers it as traffic from some IP on some platform, but there’s no actionable data. More interaction with your insight depends on organic or maybe a bookmark they’ve saved because they aren’t yet getting your emails.

At the second vertical green line (CTA) they respond to a specific call to action because they don’t want to miss more of what you have to share or because you’ve gated some content that they really want. They get either of those in exchange for handing over basic information about themselves (at least an email address). Your picture of that prospect gets more specific because you can now associate specific activity with a specific prospect, but they’re still just browsing and exploring. You should still leave them alone, although a carefully crafted workflow/automation might deliver something particularly relevant in a more individualized way.

At the third vertical line (raised hand) a small minority of these folks will reach out to you, via a form or a phone call, and give you some degree of permission to sell to them. The better job you’ve done before this the easier and shorter that interchange will be. In other words, the more you make available for free, the less you have to invest in that sale. You want to let the second stage expand in order to compress the third.

When the prospect raises their hand, at the outset of that third phase, everything changes and a different dance begins. This is that brief period during which the sales person’s role is to assess fit–and that’s it. It is not to close the business! There might be one exchange where the sales person evaluates the mutual fit, but after that they will immediately introduce the account person who will, in fact, be managing that relationship, if both parties agree to consummate it.

When that account person is introduced, they take the lead role and the sales person recedes into a secondary role. The account person closes the first piece of business, including navigating the MSA, as the first of hopefully many pieces of business.

What happens if you don’t let the dance unfold like this? Three nasty things:

  1. The account person inherits stupid promises that the sales person has made in a possibly desperate attempt to close the sale.
  2. The sales person gets all bogged down in closing the sale instead of leaving the cave and finding something else to kill and drag back to the shop.
  3. The client experiences this strange bait and switch as they look up one day and wonder who the he!l this new “account person” is that they haven’t met and wonder if it’s because they are just an order taker. There’s been no bonding to facilitate that transfer.

Here’s a bonus thought: none of this works unless you have strong, capable account people managing client relationships, which includes closing that first sale. And if they can’t close that first sale, they probably aren’t going to grow the account much, either.

If you’d like to learn more about this via audio, listen to this episode of where we talk about why account people should close new business.

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