Key account management is more important than ever. The areas of highest growth in professional services are in multidisciplinary services—work that cuts across the traditional service lines most firms are organised around. Clients think that the range of capabilities a firm brings to bear plays a key role in its ability to deliver a better, more innovative solution. As a result, the quality of a firm’s account management, together with its breadth of capabilities and ability to innovate, are now three of the most important factors clients consider when deciding which firm to hire.
One of the many challenges this creates is how best to design solutions that meet clients’ needs: A big firm may have hundreds of different capabilities, and these are much harder to coordinate than a small number of overarching service lines. Step in—and step up—the account manager. Their role will change from often being—if we’re honest—a thinly disguised salesperson to someone who plays a pivotal role in understanding what a client is trying to do and “orchestrating” the firm’s capabilities to help. So where does thought leadership come in? Thought leadership helps both clients and account managers understand the capabilities a firm has and, even more importantly, how they can be applied to solve the challenges clients face. It also helps account managers channel good ideas and insights to clients in a digestible form: It’s effectively a window into a firm’s thinking. The best thought leadership also provides practical guidance about what clients need to do (although our research suggests that this is an area where much material fails to live up to expectations).
All this suggests that account managers and the people who write and promote thought leadership will need to work together. Our white paper on what clients expect from account management can be downloaded here for free.