In a recent poll, we asked industry peers what the most important trait of a successful national account manager was.
Typically, an account manager has to be the communication equivalent of the Panama Canal, between the supplier and the retailer. From one side you have to deal internally with an ocean of various departments; manufacturing, supply chain, marketing, finance etc. Then from the retailer side, you’re dealing with the national and regional buying teams, supply chain, online, finance etc.
This vast array of communication points is accompanied by a similarly vast array of week to week tasks which, if done well, can help to optimise performance. These range from forecasting demand, launching NPD, managing range reviews, negotiating with your buyer, budgeting, planning promotions, presenting growth opportunities etc. Upon this you can overlay seasonality-driven trading priorities, which vary depending upon which category you’re working on.
As such it can be a tremendously challenging juggling act. A great account manager must be a jack of all trades…and to be honest a master of most of them as well. An experienced account manager will know which plate needs spinning at which time to make sure everything remains sufficiently synchronised to encourage performance optimisation.
However, the COVID-19 situation, has thrown an account manager’s typically busy schedule into even more disarray. In my mind, there have been three key areas the best account managers will have focussed on during the last three months:
1- Forecasting- The ability to review the latest sales out data to forecast demand well and communicate this to your manufacturing and supply chain teams.
2- Prioritisation- The ability to prioritise which lines should be being focussed on to simultaneously maximise sales, without catastrophically running out of stock.
3- Use of data- This situation has been unprecedented. The only way to know how much you are going to sell of what, is not to look at past sales history, but to look at current sales out trends that are happening now. Good analysis of robust data, which can be in turn converted into positive and actionable insight, is invaluable.
There is however one area I haven’t mentioned, which funnily enough was the winner of our poll. With 49% of the votes, the overwhelming winner as to the most important trait for a successful account manager should have, was ‘Resilience’.
Never has there been a better time to test it.