Adviser skillsets: Hunter or farmer? They are both crucial in next year's target planning

The division between salespeople and account managers is not helpful

It’s that time of year again – no I’m not talking about office parties, shopping and general merriment. It’s the time that budgets and targets are being set for the coming year.

No-one can doubt the challenges facing insurers and brokers next year. The market is being squeezed from all angles and customers will be more bullish than ever in wanting more bang for their buck. Competition is tough and client loyalty severely tested. Like it or not – there are clients who will move their business at the drop of a hat for a cheaper, (even if not better value) deal – and ‘churn’ of commission deals is a tempting route for intermediaries seeing their margins under real threat.

Any wise manager will submit a cautious projection for the coming year, knowing that the financial director will add another 20% for good measure. But who do you rely on to deliver the magic numbers you are hoping for? Should you heavily incentivise your hunter-gatherers as they forage in the wilds of the health insurance vista, fighting off dinosaurs and new kids in the block as they seek to conquer a mammoth or even find a few new juicy berries? Or do you nurture and encourage the farmers, diligently attending their increasingly demanding clients and protecting them from competitive invaders.

The short answer is, of course both the hunter and farmer are vital links in the growth formula. And let’s not forget the support staff too – our business is about detail and the number-crunchers and report-binders all have their part to play.

Division between salespeople and account managers is not helpful. Every time an account manager negotiates a renewal they should view it as a new business pitch – complacency is the enemy of client relationships. Likewise – a salesperson should not just be about new business – they need to really understand the operational processes involved in managing a client and need to work closely with their account management colleagues. Resentment between these two disciplines is common, especially when salespeople enjoy big bonuses for large wins as an account manager goes unrecognised for the daily grind of keeping a demanding client happy and engaged and maintain core business.

A comment I found online – Account management is a job created to pay less than a salesperson would get if they hung onto the account after they closed the deal’ – is hopefully an outdated view and there is now much more overlap between the roles.

So as this is the season of goodwill – account managers and your sales colleagues – play nicely and here’s to a successful and harmonious 2012!

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