Today’s article is focused on how to identify an “A” Player profile for an account manager. I recently interviewed Lloyd Wirshba, the Chief Commercial Officer for Convergys. Convergys is the largest business process outsource company for contact center services in the United States. With well over 130,000 contact center agents, they are a powerhouse for voice, chat, and more.
Lloyd and I followed SBI’s methodology to discuss how to determine the best profile for an account manager. Why is this important? “A” players generate 5x more revenue than “B” players and 10x more than “C” players.
If you are relying on the heroic efforts of a few, eventually, it will catch up to you and you will miss your number. Hiring “A” players starts with knowing what great looks like. Lloyd and I discuss the attributes and competencies in this article that buyers value in account management talent.
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Lloyd begins the interview by discussing the growth of his industry and the corresponding impact on the hiring profile. Lloyd ties the need for top talent in a B2B environment. His sales force needs A-Players who understand the dynamics of the industry and challenges impacting the buyers.
Below you will find a summary of my interview with Lloyd. This will provide you with robust guidance on developing an A-Player profile for account managers by using Convergys as an example.
Can you win solely by being in a growth industry with a great offering or is your success dependent on having A players on the team?
I’ve never seen a product, a service, a solution sell itself, especially when you’re selling in a B2B environment. I think perhaps Apple can claim that their iPhones sell themselves, but even they do advertising to achieve consumer awareness and create consumer demand. In the B2B space, such as what we do at Convergys where we sell our solutions and services to the largest companies, you need to have A players. You need to have people that completely understand the dynamics of the industry that your clients are participating in, the changes that are taking place in that industry, being aware of the important events that are in that industry and ensuring that you have an A team facing off against clients that have those expectations of you is critical.
B and C players are not going to be able to project the eminence that you want to portray to your customers and your prospects as you give them the confidence that they’re dealing with a player that can really add value to their business. Yes, your success is dependent by having A players.
Is growth for your company going to come from, and there’s three areas that I’d like you to focus on. The first is market expansion, and that’s simply explained in layman’s terms as high water’s going to raise all ships. Market exposure, which means you’re going to grow by gaining exposure to a new growth segment that you’re not in currently, or the classic one, which is market share gain, which means you’re going to take share from the competition. If you had to choose, or state what the drivers of your growth are going to be, is it one of those, all of those, none of those? Help the audience understand where the driver of growth is for you.
The strategy of Convergys has been to ensure that our growth is being generated by the three components that you mentioned, market expansion, market exposure, and market share gain. Let me talk about all three very quickly, Greg, in terms of how we play.
Market expansion, we completed an acquisition two years ago, to give us a broader footprint. We know that our clients that are increasingly multinational and global in nature and selling their products and services to their consumers in various countries beyond the US, and those of our clients in Europe are selling their products beyond the European market.
They want those services to be able to be sold and provided and solutions provided on a global basis. I mentioned before that we operate in the Philippines, India, Latin America. We need to expand our market to where our clients want to be and sure there’s, in our business, there’s a lot of labor arbitrage that comes into play in terms of how our clients are looking to optimize their costs to serve their customers, but there’s also opportunities in the customer care and customer servicing market to be able to provide so-called “follow the sun” type of servicing, and to deliver excellent value in the form of customer care to their customers.
On the market exposure front and gaining a strength in new growth segments, I would say that in the telecommunications companies and wireless companies and cable companies have been well known for years to use services like Convergys’ as part of their customer care solutions. I think that more and more new growth segments and new markets are coming into play. I would say healthcare is one that has very aggressively, certainly about the Affordable Care Act that was passed, and giving consumers more say in their healthcare needs, whether they be on exchange, off exchange, that has driven certainly growth in our business because of the demand for voice and chat agents to be able to handle those consumers’ needs.
Finally, on market share gain, many of our clients employ champion/challenger strategies. They may have some in-house servicing where they provide services to their customers calling in for inquiries and billing inquiries and disputes and so forth. Many of them have a blend between in-house and third party service providers like us, and there’s always an opportunity to have share awarded to us as they gain more confidence in our ability to perform or when it’s us up against one, two, three, sometimes greater than five or six, other service providers performing the same service. There’s that traditional champion/challenger effect going on where those that perform will be awarded more work. We absolutely gain share through winning based upon performance.
The reason I asked this question, because today’s subject is determining the best profile for an account manager, so what is this growth driver question, market expansion, exposure, market share gain, must do with that? If your strategy is based on expansion, as Lloyd’s is in part, your profile must reflect that. Who you’re going to hire across the globe needs to have a heavily regional approach. There might be things like language requirements. Those are going to make it into your hiring profile. Let’s look at market exposure, so in Lloyd’s case, they’re migrating … Well, not migrating, but adding to their foothold in traditional industries like telco and cable, to new segments like healthcare.
That may need to factor into your hiring profile. Is there a different profile for a sales rep/account manager in healthcare than there are in maybe financial services?
Lastly, when you think about market share gain, when you have clients that do a little in-house and a little with third party, does that need to be factored into your hiring profile? The point I’m trying to make with this is that what is the driver of growth for your company and then, how do I factor that into my hiring profile? If your profile doesn’t reflect that, you’re going to be out of alignment. You’re going to be hiring the wrong talent for the time. If the profile is completely lined up, then you’re hiring the right talent for the time.
Now, that’s my opinion as a consultant. Let’s get the practitioner’s opinion. Lloyd, let me ask you the question. You just answered that question very well, expansion, exposure, gain. How does that answer, how does it factor into your hiring profile?
We see eight billion contacts a year on behalf of all of our customers, so it’s a large amount of interactions and experiences that we deliver and from that experience, we’re able to A, understand what works, and B, understand what doesn’t work, and I think that putting together that team in terms of expertise across both the industry as well as the operational delivery of service really optimizes what we’re looking for, and so to answer your specific question about the hiring profile, if we have a gap in a particular team and a particular industry, then we will go out and look for people that have had experience in that industry. Ideally, it would be someone that had experience in that industry in an operating role, say in an in-house environment. That would be great. I think it’s also looking for people that have deep insight, understand what’s going on in the marketplace.
One of the first questions I always ask people when they’re coming for a job interview is how they have demonstrated that they’ve put themselves into challenging situations. That tells me a lot about how people approach the role and how they’re going to approach their clients because the best way to sell you are an expert the best way to sell is to ask questions and listen. Trying to ascertain that from perspective hires is always to get an understanding of how well they demonstrate that curiosity, question probing, and listening.
We are talking about an A-Player profile for an individual, but when you sell in a team approach, as Lloyd and his team does, it’s also the profile of the team. In Lloyd’s case, you want a blend of industry and operational experience to maximize value.
How does your hiring profile compare to three things – Your competitors, the industry standard, and probably most interesting, cross-industry best in class?
I think people that are attracted to work at Convergys in a business development and client management capacity, clearly want to work for a company that has muscle. Convergys has the resources, tools, and technology to be able to deliver outstanding service for our customers. There are many competitors in our space, but I think we clearly attract talent based by being the biggest.
There are many people that want to work in an environment that has a global footprint. We operate across the globe in different countries, providing services in many different languages. We have many clients that operate across the globe and sell to customers across the globe. The hiring profile is one that must look for people that either have had that kind of experience in a multinational company or certainly feel comfortable that they can operate well and be comfortable selling to customers that have that sort of footprint.
As far as what I’m looking for in people, I mentioned demonstrating curiosity before. If I have someone on my sales team and they’re not subscribing for instance, to Google News Alerts for their clients or their prospects, that’s certainly an indication that they’re not an A player. They need to be looking at the world from the inside out versus the outside in. This notion of being able to ascertain in a hiring situation that you are hiring people that view the world from the inside out instead of from the outside in is critical. There’s obviously ways that you can test for that to determine how people are demonstrating their broad lens.
You look for people that can demonstrate that they have a history of developing strategic partnerships. They need to foster a deep engagement with their clients, treat the relationships as non-transactional, more strategic, and much more solutions oriented, and always being able to demonstrate the value add in doing business with you and a disciplined approach rather than feeling that you’re just selling to them. The worst thing you can do is hire someone and your clients think, “Hey, this is the sales guy or gal walking in.” You want to make sure you hire the people that are viewed as the solutions person walking in and say, “I have the opportunity to do business with them.”
I want to highlight your answer about this concept of being outward in. Today we’re demonstrating how to build a hiring profile for an account manager and I’m trying to give you some advice on how to do that, and we’re using Lloyd as our lab rat here today, and he’s doing a great job. If you want to be outward in, you must bounce your profile up against your competitors. Why? If your profile looks just like your competitors, then you’ve commoditized yourself in the eyes of the customer. Compare your profile against the industry standard, and most industries have some standards in terms of, “This is the type of person that works in this industry,” and it’s easy to back into what that profile looks like across the industry.
The real differentiation comes when you bounce that hiring profile up against the profiles outside of your industry. How do other industries build profiles for the role of account manager or sales person or business development, what have you? If you do that, you’re really stress testing your profile, so I’d really encourage everybody to do that. Why? As I led off in the show, A players produce five times more than B players and 10 times more than C players, so yes, it’s a pain to go do all these things, but it’s worth it because the payoff is so great.
All right, let’s move to the next question. Has there been a change to the routes to market recently, and if so, did this come with a corresponding change in the hiring profile?
Expectations continue to rise and as a hiring manager you must be sure that you meet those expectations. Both in terms of what the person can deliver to, in this case, Convergys, but also what they will can deliver to clients and prospects to attract new business. I think that outside in view and being able to hire for the outside in view and ensure that the people that you’re bringing in are doing that, I think is critical. I’ll tell you another thing, just a tip of mine is that I like to hire people that it’s not their last job of their career, but people that have shown a path of increasing responsibility, increasing achievements, increasing success, and I’m always looking for people that one day can replace me and that’s just part of that A talent hiring profile.
If I don’t think a person can replace me one day in my role, whether it is someone a direct report, or two or three levels down, then I’m not so sure that I want to be going after that person. Hiring A Player talent is critical for success because your customers expect it, and your company needs it to continue its growth.
The reason I asked the question about it, a change to the route to market affects the hiring profile. People ask me, “Hey, when do I need to update my profile?” It’s not as often as you might think. One of the trigger event is if your route to market has changed. What is a route to market? It’s when you have a product or a service and it’s going to go through a channel to an end customer, and you always ask yourself the question, “Which product or service should I sell to which customer through which channel?” That’s product market fit, product channel fit, etc.
When that changes, sometimes it causes a change in the hiring profile. Here’s an obvious example to make my teaching point here. If your customers want to engage with you increasingly online, then the route to market is changing. Maybe if you’ve got a five-step sales process and the first three steps are handled online and step four is done on the phone and step five is face to face. Five years ago, all steps were face to face, all five steps, that’s a different hiring profile. You now need somebody who is a digital native, somebody who understands the advanced tools, somebody that can toggle between web assist selling, telephone selling, face to face selling, et cetera. That’s what I meant about that question.
Do the job profiles of your account managers reflect the profiles of the buyers inside the target accounts? Do you look like your customers?
Yes, if I’m selling for instance to a health care client then my representative must have a firm grip on what they do. The claims processing, understanding of the Affordable Care Act, the pharmacy benefit manager work process, the whole process of the healthcare system, providers, payers, pharmacy and so forth. If my rep doesn’t have this knowledge then they’re not going to succeed because the buyers will quickly see through that “Hey, you’re putting someone on that is a generalist” and probably won’t add the value that they’re seeking. Same holds true for the other industries that we service.
I think that the job profile of the account manager must reflect the buyer because you really can’t pull the wool over the eyes of the buyers. They have plenty of other companies to choose from, and so you really need to be able to demonstrate your eminence in the industry.
What attributes and competencies do your buyers value in your account management talent?
There’s no doubt that buyers value account managers that really understand their business and industry. More importantly, rather than just understanding it, understanding what the forces in the markets that they are operating in, and which forces are at play, where the disruptions going to take place, right? I mean, over the past number of years, what industry hasn’t been disrupted from music to lodging to transportation? Lots of technology that has and will continue to disrupt our clients’ businesses. Think about retail and the whole omnichannel experience where someone is either in a brick and mortar store, perhaps completes the purchase online, or starts online and completes the purchase elsewhere.
Having that seamless omnichannel experience is where everybody is driving. What’s important is that the account managers we put in front of our clients understand the challenges that our clients are facing today and being able to demonstrate that we understand not only the industry, not only the forces at play, but being able to offer innovation solutions.
Are your account managers best in class at these items that your buyers value? How do you determine that? They want your account managers to be deep industry experts and understand the market forces that are going on in their industry, so do you make sure your team is best in class at that, and if so, how?
Much of the growth comes from winning share from our competitors and winning share from the in-house customer support that is being provided by many of our clients. But I think that what’s important in terms of ensuring best in class is not only the hiring profile and asking the right probing questions during an interview for someone new, but also ongoing training and ensuring that there is continuous education. Both education that is fed to the account teams and sales people, but also education that people do on their own. I mentioned Google News Alerts earlier, just to ensure that when there’s a news event, shame on you if you are handling the AT&T as an account, for example, and you didn’t know about when they announced Direct TV acquisition. If your client had to tell you about it rather than you approaching the client right away and congratulating them on it. It’s really being attuned to what’s going on in the industry, taking the initiative, being aggressive, and ensuring that you’re continuously educating yourself.
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