The 5 skills you need to cut your teeth on before managing people and accounts

Author: Lee Hosking   Date Posted:15 November 2018 

The 5 skills you need to cut your teeth on before managing people and accounts main image The 5 skills you need to cut your teeth on before managing people and accounts image

The 5 skills you need to cut your teeth on before managing people and accounts

Management roles of both people and accounts are abundant in virtually every business in every sector of Australia’s B2B and B2C landscape. For some, it will come naturally to understand both the big picture and the detail to achieve the end goal, and to balance multiple areas of responsibility at any one time, but for others, it takes years of building knowledge and experience working in customer facing roles, back of house, operations, procurement, marketing, sales and more to appreciate the complexity of account management.


For me, it’s taken 20+ years to cut my teeth on managing people and accounts, and I’m grateful for every mentor I’ve had, book I’ve read, team I’ve worked with, customer who has confided in me and task I’ve jumped head first into even if I didn’t know what I was doing! Now I oversee over 4 accounts as National Account Manager with Di Bella, and work with an incredible team to help deliver value to our clients.


At the time of writing this, there were more than 3,000 National Account Manager roles and over 8,400 Account Manager roles currently needing to be fulfilled across the country. This shows the opportunity that awaits anyone who is willing to put in the hard yards and develop their skills and experience in management, business and sales.


Here are my top 5 skills I encourage you to develop now, to be an amazing manager in the future.


  1. Accountability – this is an easy one because you don’t need any formal training or guidance to tick this box. You just need to do what you say you are going to do! This can be something as small as if you’re in a meeting and you say you’ll circulate a document to everyone, then do this as soon as you can after the meeting or better yet, do it in the meeting. Or it can refer to the bigger ticket items – saying you’ll work to improve sales by 10% or reduce staff turnover over by 5% means you need to start actioning the deliverables that will help get you there.


  1. Create solid internal relationships – account managers spend much of their working week face to face with clients or executing strategies on behalf of their clients, but really, it is the internal team you work alongside that you need to build relationships with. From the manufacturing and dispatch teams to the accounts, customer service and HR departments, there is a wealth of knowledge and support within the business that can help you better understand your client’s pain points, desires and general commercial landscape. Every person in your business plays a role in ensuring the product gets to the shelf so tap into their expertise – it will make you a much better account manager.


  1. Strategic planning – for most of us, we worry about what’s on today, this week and perhaps this month, but for account managers, you need to be looking well ahead into the business calendar a good 12-18 months out. This is because it can take this lead time to develop a new product and bring it to market and because businesses need to predict its future financial position. For account managers, it means keeping abreast of emerging issues and trends through attending industry expos and trade shows, subscribing to media and industry associations and publications and understanding the broader retail, P&C or FMCG environment and where your product fits into this from a sales and marketing point of view.


  1. Know your data – speak with a manager, mentor or analyst about the facts and figures you need to know to properly conduct business. Data is the basis for all forms of influence, negotiations and decisions particularly in the grocery segment. I look at incoming sales daily, sell through data weekly and the category share data monthly to help me know where I sit in reaching my personal targets (which links to the accountability trait I mentioned earlier) and where the business sits in the market. Numbers don’t lie so an intimate knowledge of your data shows competence, confidence and assurance – all traits you want to leverage in new business meetings!


  1. Talk less, listen more – I hear it all the time that to succeed in sales and account management roles you need to have the gift of the gab. This simply isn’t true. What you do need is the ability to listen and ask questions, so you get the full story and picture from your client. Knowing the what, where, how, when and why of the consumer is fundamental to account management. It’s only from here that you can respond and tailor the right solution to them. Sometimes a client will tell me they’re having trouble with category margin but when I delve further, we discover the real issue is sometimes supply issues from another vendor or having the low margin products in prime shelf position. By really listening, you can help solve problems and challenges long term, rather than acting hastily and applying only a band-aid solution.


Oh! And one bonus tip – read business, management and sales books. These authors have been in your shoes once before and have a wealth of knowledge to tap into. Early in my career, I was encouraged to read “How to win friends and influence people” and while I wasn’t sure it all applied to me at the time, I have returned time and time again to the principles and tools in the book in my day to day operations as a manager. I firmly believe you can takeaway something valuable from most books and articles. After all, knowledge is power.

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