The account manager position is mission critical to success in the landscape maintenance business. This position’s ability to retain and upsell clients sets the course for growth and profits. Where account managers are not successful, growth stalls and profits are reinvested in replacing business, rather than adding new revenue.
So where do the good ones come from? Surprisingly, a great many of the successful account managers we’ve met don’t have a background in the landscape industry. They’ve come from sales or customer service positions. While having technical expertise ads to credibility, it’s not the chief ingredient in cementing client relationships. Being likable, professional and honest; having good follow-up skills; taking a genuine interest in others; and practicing courtesy are character traits that have nothing to do with a set of technical skills.
Of course, many account managers with deep landscape backgrounds have these characteristics as well, but if I have a choice, I take character over technical expertise. Landscaping can be taught. (We learned it!)
What about developing this “softer side” of the business? For the most part, our industry develops account managers by giving them the title, a phone, a vehicle and wishing them well. Some may get a list of responsibilities and some may get a set of required deliverables. These lists answers the “what,” but not the “how” (much less the “why”).
Our industry offers a healthy stream of resources for development at the executive level, from educational forums to consulting; however, there’s not as much to choose from for the mid-level managers. As you make plans and budgets for the New Year, don’t neglect to plan some investment in the account manager position.
Don’t miss the Account Manager Master’s Series, being held by Envisor Consulting and Aspire Mobile Business Solutions in five cities across the country this winter. Landscape Management is the media sponsor of the seminar series.