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Account Growth: Why the Account Manager Matters

Account Growth: Why the Account Manager Matters

by Ed O'Boyle and Jennifer Robison

Story Highlights

  • Mergers and acquisitions create growth, but it's unsustainable
  • See organic growth by properly hiring, developing and supporting account managers
  • Carefully consider account managers when moving toward an agile model

In a volatile economy, global organizations are under mounting pressure to find sustainable topline growth. Leaders have worked tirelessly to secure an edge. They have done mergers, made acquisitions and are now chasing agility. None of that guarantees consistent organic growth, though.

Gallup analysis indicates that focusing on account managers and empowering their teams' customer centricity can lead to the growth that leaders have been searching for.

To optimize current accounts:

  1. Select the right account managers and develop them well. Great account managers have an innate ability to manage people and build the relationships needed to seize new business. It's in their nature to align with potential customers, identify what they need and find ways to deliver it. Coaching to that talent enhances it and makes it more effective, but it is innate and can't be taught -- only selected for and coached.
  2. Use the right analytics. The internet killed asymmetric information, so all playing fields are level. Account managers need a judicious perspective of the market before they launch into it. Pinpoint qualitative and quantitative customer analytics to help account managers spot the potential for organic growth and craft exactly the solutions that customers need -- including solutions customers don't even know they need.
  3. Engage managers and teams. The only way to innovate is to differentiate, and the best differentiator is engagement. Engaged account managers simply work harder to get new business. They are so psychologically committed to their company and team that they're driven to seek out -- not wait to be told about -- potential solutions for their customers. And their engagement spreads throughout their team, empowering customer centricity as a team culture and value.

The Agile Angle

All of those strategies can be amplified by leaning hard on agility. An agile structure empowers talented, engaged account managers to put their energy toward customers and makes better use of the data that account managers need to outflank competitors. But a Gallup analysis of agility in U.S. and European businesses found that only a small percentage of companies have the cultural requisites that permit true agility.

As a result, they lack the customer centricity, flat hierarchy and ability to solve problems fast that give account managers the autonomy to capitalize on opportunity.

Custom Graphic. Agility Index Among U.S., France, Germany, Spain and the U.K.

Gallup analytics give leaders a blueprint for incorporating agile structures successfully, and it's smart to adapt them to account managers. In brief:

  • Speed is important, but so is quality. When an action affects customers, account managers must be held responsible for upholding the organization's quality standards.
  • Structural barriers impede progress, so account managers need to be trusted to make decisions on their own. If leaders can't trust account managers, either their risk management process needs adjusting or their selection process does.
  • Fear of failure inhibits innovation. Account managers need to be able to express their thoughts and opinions, or they'll become conditioned to the status quo -- and the status quo is limited organic growth.
  • Workplace cultures that put data on what customers value at the center of all business processes incentivize communication and collaboration, and better position account managers to solve customer problems.

Most companies aren't truly agile yet, and most CHROs and business development VPs aren't waiting to get there. They're implementing agile practices as best they can, where they can. They'll acquire customers faster -- and capture the investors, market avenues and brand ambassadors that follow organic growth -- if they capitalize on their account managers better.

They know, as everyone does, that stalling is disastrous in this business environment. Everybody wants agile and everybody is doing an M&A, but they are ultimately subservient to the most desirable outcome of organic growth.

No one thinks it's easy. But Gallup's strategies equip account managers to spot and capture organic growth opportunities, even in cultures that aren't agile yet.

Gallup can help you attract and retain the best with an analytics-based hiring strategy:


Ed O'Boyle is the Global Workplace and Marketplace Practice Leader and an Executive Consultant at Gallup.

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