Who should be responsible for relationship management in your business? Everyone

The Barrett team regularly reviews and discusses all aspects of selling and sales management, including what’s new and what remains constant.

In recent weeks, we have re-examined the topics of prospecting, new business development and relationship management, especially as it relates to who in the organisation is responsible for these activities.

Our observations and findings?

It’s very easy for those non-sales people to take a hands-off view around the sales function and point at the sales team as the ones solely responsible for these activities. However, effective businesses know that a coordinated effort across the business from the top down is a better way to manage these important activities.

Who and how many people get involved depends on your target markets and how large and complex your clients are. If your business is involved in B2B sales with a range of client and supplier businesses from large to small, and where there are multiple stakeholders, then everyone from the chief executive, sales director, sales managers, other key senior executives – i.e. marketing director, COO, CFO, directors or partners right through to strategic key account manager, the field sales team and telephone sales teams will need to have some level of responsibility for these activities.

Clearly, it is important that your prospecting, new business development and relationship management activities are organised and coordinated around well thought out strategic and tactical account plans.

This is especially important for strategic key accounts where there are multiple stakeholders involved on both sides – supplier and client.

To help you coordinate your team’s efforts, here is a checklist you may like to consider:

Level 4: Strategic key account and large complex account development

Here we need mature, experienced business executives who are supremely competent salespeople and negotiators, business people, relationship mangers, and diplomats.

These people are required to develop, apply, supervise and implement strategic sales plans that help grow accounts as well as build barriers to exit.

They identify potential clients and negotiate long-term agreements for solutions that impact a significant proportion of the buyer company’s value chain and the selling company’s revenue stream.

They are responsible for profit and loss in an account, for incremental share of wallet and spend in a category, as well as the sustainable relationship between buyer and seller.

In many organisations where the relationships with those top accounts have evolved over a long time, it is the top level executives nurturing and nourishing these partnerships through their networks and their position.

It is worth making sure there still is a support role installed to systematically support the executives with that task, provide additional insights and research and suggest new directions and connections to grow their network systematically beyond its natural evolution.

In addition to that, everyone else in the organisation should be aware they can contribute to the existing relationships through their connections and dealings with the client organisations and potential prospects. Executives need to promote this idea and make sure the task it isn’t left to them alone, just because they have the highest ranking connections.

Who is responsible?

CEO/MD/GM, sales director, strategic key account managers, partners, directors, C-suite executives, through to customer service, distribution and technical support

Level 3: Major and complex account development

Here we need more experienced (usually a minimum of five years field experience) salespeople with well-developed business acumen. These sales executives are seasoned in solution selling.

They build and maintain longer-term relationships with clients. Sales tend to be longer-term in nature and are usually to larger or more complex clients. Buyers may not be strategic accounts but key in target markets.

An organisation needs to explore what internal and external resources they can utilise to support those with the key responsibilities for these accounts in their task and provide them with additional insights and opportunities.

Who is responsible?

Sales managers, partners, business development managers, account managers through to customer service, distribution and technical support

Level 2: Standard account development

At this level we need salespeople who are accountable for the business development and delivery of contracts, providing the prime point of contact to the customer. They develop new clients and manage existing clients of medium size often for the standard services and products of the company.

A high level of standards and a very systematic client management system is necessary for these accounts to ensure all are consistently managed on a high quality level.

Who is responsible? 

Business development managers, account managers, field salespeople through to customer service, distribution and technical support

Level 1: Occasional or indirect clients 

At this level we need salespeople who are accountable for finding and closing sales in order to meet individual/team quota and company business objectives.

They will predominantly focus on new business in small to medium size client accounts and prospective accounts.

The mindset of a hunter and gatherer is often considered useful for such a role, as these client managers are constantly on the lookout for new business opportunities. They need to be agile, flexible and have a degree of endurance in a process that doesn’t stop. Good planning and self-management skills are vital not to exhaust yourself and your sources quickly in such a role.

Who is responsible?

Field salespeople, telephone and floor salespeople through to customer service, distribution and technical support.

If you want to build a solid pipeline of viable sales opportunities, develop viable relationships, and consistently win good business, then you need everyone in your business knowing where and how they support the sales effort.

Today, selling is a team sport.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is founder and CEO of www.barrett.com.au and www.salesessentials.comand has written 21 e-books and 500+ articles on the world of 21st century selling.

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Marcus Miller
Marcus Miller
4 years ago

I like the way you have explained by categorizing into different business problems. I think solutions to these problems ideally come from your product, client, your salesperson, your support team and your location.
Marcus Miller// Manager, http://www.enterprisemonkey.com.au