The Impact of the Account Lead Role

As discussed in previous blogs, talent is a driving force of success in a Professional Services (PS) organization, whether embedded into a larger product organization or standalone.  Therefore, clearly defined roles and responsibilities for such high-value talent becomes critical.  In this blog, we will touch on a handful of key PS roles but focus on one of the most crucial – and most overlooked – roles: The Account Lead.

In a team-based environment, roles help define the responsibilities and decisions rights at a particular client, in a particular engagement, at a particular point in time.  Roles always exist – so, it is important to be explicit about them.

Key Roles Overview

  1. Account Lead – Owns the overall strategy and coordination of engaging the client; Establishes and grows the client relationship at an executive level.
  1. Sales Lead – Provides and executes selling strategy and process at a specific account; Identifies (with Account Lead and Delivery Lead) and pursues the appropriate pull-through/up-sell opportunities.
  2. Delivery Lead – Ensures the effective planning and execution of projects & engagement; Typically serves as the Subject Matter Expert during sales pursuits.
  3. Delivery Consultant(s) – Manages or completes assigned project work at the direction of the Delivery Lead.

Key Considerations for PS Roles

  • Different job titles may fill a particular role for different opportunities based on the specific client circumstances, availability, pull-through opportunity, etc.
  • Role assignments may change in the course of a pursuit, but the decision to do so should be explicitly communicated amongst the team involved.
  • One individual may fill more than one role at a given time for a given client or opportunity.
  • Defining roles and updating the team as roles change is the responsibility of the entire team.

Exploring the Role of an Account Lead

Let’s breakdown the Account Lead (also occasionally referred to as “Client Lead”) into the two parts of the definition above:

  • Developing the account strategy – the Account Lead is responsible for determining the short-term and long-term goals of an account. In other blogs and whitepapers, we have referred to Account Journeys (the sequence of pre-planned deals at a given account) and Account Plans (the actionable set of steps to lead accounts on a deliberate journey) – the Account Lead is responsible for creating the journey and plan based on the high-level strategy.
  • Growing the Relationship – Although heavily supported by sales and delivery resources, the Account Lead is also ultimately responsible for executing the strategy. They should be focused on becoming a Trusted Advisor to the account, which provides the ability to grow the relationship and provide enhanced value.  This individual should build a close working relationship with the executive buyer(s) at the account; staying informed of any current engagements so they can represent the current status and value of the engagement and identifying opportunities to provide additional support to the account.

Unlike the other PS roles, the individual chosen to play this role should remain consistent throughout the entire account lifecycle. This role needs to be the explicit responsibility of one individual.  A common challenge that we see in PS organizations is that they are aware of the need for this role but allow the responsibilities to become disaggregated, spreading ownership across different members of team at different points in time.  This usually leads to inconsistencies in the way an account is managed, confusion from the client’s point-of-view, and ultimately the lack of ability to truly maintain a close partnership.

Despite that, the other PS roles  also have an important part to play in supporting the Account Lead and driving the account plan.  The Sales Lead owns securing the next deal, with strategic guidance and direction from the Account Lead. The Delivery Lead ensures that each engagement delivers on the promise and provides value to the client, while keeping the Account Lead informed and involved.  Furthermore, the Account Lead should join – and play a role in – sales meetings and delivery report-out meetings to maintain a presence with the client.

In our next blog, we will discuss the characteristics of a best-in-class Account Lead that enable them to effectively perform their role at and with the client.

Written by: Jackie McMann

Jackie McMann is a Senior Manager at McMann & Ransford with extensive experience working with Fortune 500 clients to transform their business models, develop differentiated portfolios, and inject best practices into professional services.


Customer Intimacy Overview

In this Customer Intimacy Overview, M&R Partners, Mark Slotnik and Dean McMann, walk through the three primary business models – low cost, innovation, and customer intimacy. They discuss which lever can be used to create permanent differentiation and solve meaningful problems at the client.

Professional Services Talent

A Professional Service (PS) group for a company can be viewed like the special forces in the military.  The special forces have a specialized and significantly different mission and therefore are organized, staffed, and deployed differently than the rest of the military. However, they must be integrated into the larger military’s actions to fulfill their role.  Similarly, the PS organization, while embedded into the broader organizational strategy, has its own distinct mission.  This blog outlines the various attributes that make PS unique from the rest of the company.

PS talent performs at the client.  There is no other group in a corporation that performs its job literally at the client, working intimately with client personnel (in the same room often).  Further, PS teams meet with executives educating them on the initiative’s challenges and adjustment, thereby developing a different type of relationship with client personnel and executives.  When done well, PS can form a Trusted Advisor relationship with their client executives.

We cannot stress enough the pressure that PS feels by being at the client, and therefore being evaluated constantly.  PS also has the challenge of providing random walk-in availability for questions, problems, creative sessions, advice/encouragement, and out-of-scope requests.  PS people must deal with all of these situations live while meeting predetermined deadlines for their assignments.  Therefore, PS talent needs to know how to bring order to an unscripted day.  Furthermore, they must outperform the client’s personnel in doing the work, in thinking clearly, in organizing chaos, and driving to results.

The good news is that this situation develops deep long-term relations based upon the trust that is created working side by side and the reliance on the PS person/team to help in a variety of situations.  This improves the client’s propensity to buy products and services.  In addition, it can positively impact pricing discussions.  Like the special forces, the PS group must perform their role in an exemplary way – a topic we will explore in-depth in a future blog post.

Let us take a moment and compare PS to a few of the other roles in the company.

Sales – Sales plays a unique role in the business.  They maintain good relationships, but vastly different relationships with the client than PS, and their interactions with executives in the client are less frequent.  First, these relationships are limited to specific objectives – understood by both the client and the salesperson – and a specific deal at a time.  Further, sales does not perform work in front of the client as PS does.  Finally, PS must answer questions live and replan or adjust on-the-fly, where sales often can go back and gain approval for requests during negotiations.

Executive relationships – We were working with a CEO of a Fortune 100 company, and he shared with us that he maintained intimacy with the CEOs of all their top clients.  We attended several meetings with he and the client CEOs and then interviewed the client CEOs the day after the meetings.  We discovered that the client CEOs were happy to meet with the Fortune 100 CEO to gain an understanding of his views and to push for concessions in negotiations.

We probed to determine the level of communication between the Fortune 100 CEO and the client CEOs between meetings – have you reached out to him for advice, has he contacted you and shared some insight that might help your company, etc.? The answer was a resounding “no”. While there was mutual respect between the CEOs, the relationships lacked real intimacy, and therefore a Trusted Advisor relationship was not created.

Product Service Teams – Product Service Teams occasionally work at the client or can be with the same large client often, but they are not working upon programs that require the same level of intimate work nor executive access and influence.


In future posts we will explore the organizational structure of PS, the skills required of PS people, and what is like to live in a project-based environment.

Written by: Dean McMann

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About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.

Up Your Organization’s Annual Planning Game

Using Segmentation as a Measuring Stick

How does your organization do annual planning or establish its targets and goals for the next year? Is it a top-down percentage growth with a target margin threshold? Is it business unit specific and bottom-up using this year’s run-rate, current account opportunities, recurring revenue projections, and more? Every organization does annual planning a bit differently, but for most organizations, there is an element of reflecting on the past as well as setting intentions for the future. Almost all companies can agree that to determine where one needs to go, they must first have a clear view of their current position.

So, what metrics are typically relied upon during this reflection and goal setting process?

Understandably, companies often default to financials as baseline indicators for organizational health and performance. While financials tell a strong story about operations, efficiency, and growth, they may veil the story behind a company’s strategic performance. Following a volatile, unpredictable year, market shifts forced numerous companies into unprecedented territory. Though many companies prevailed financially, successfully adapting to the changes presented, some adjusted at the sake of their long-term strategies. They moved away from their core where to play and how to play approaches to pursue short-term revenue. This may have worked temporarily, and for some, this may have charted a new (permanent) strategic direction, but most organizations are beginning to find their way back to their old strategies as we get into this new year.

Finding the path back to their strategic core requires reflection and analysis; account and market segmentation is underutilized for this purpose but is an effective tool that provides both while offering insights and establishing a baseline from which an organization can build a strong future.

The snapshot of a company’s account and market segmentation is the manifestation of its strategy. It gives a company a view of where and how it is playing so it can better answer the question: is reality aligned to the strategy?

Account Segmentation

The goal of account segmentation is to evaluate a company’s current customer base to see the current size and offer penetration at each of its accounts to identify opportunities to better deploy resources to make a greater impact on those accounts most important to the organization today.  Many organizations have defined goals and have designed a strategy to help them penetrate, become more impactful in, and upsell to what they believe are their top account types. Through account segmentation, however, many find that their current focus is misaligned with their overarching strategy – and the top accounts are not the ones the organization is most focused on maintaining.

Market Segmentation

Market segmentation leverages market demographic data to organize the market of potential buyers into groupings based on perceived value to an organization. In other words, market segmentation can help inform what a company’s strategy should be. Where in the market can an organization capitalize on the greatest growth and value? Answering this question will help companies understand who they should be selling to, and therefore, what they should be selling.

The Power of Account and Market Segmentation in Tandem

While both account and market segmentation provide strong insights independently, the combination of the two provides a holistic picture of the company’s strategy. For example, organizations often believe their largest accounts (account segments) are their “best” accounts, rather than also evaluating how saturated those accounts are and how much growth is available (market segments). This belief gets an organization by for a while, but eventually it becomes difficult to hit double-digit growth goals when you continue tapping on the same well.  By the time organizations realize this organically, offer strategy and resource investments are no longer directed at the portions of the market that now need the most growth and investment. By looking at the account and market segments together, and their trends over time, companies are better able to understand and prioritize the accounts that are most important to them, now and in the future, and build strategies accordingly. It causes leaders to ask the following critical questions:

  1. Do we have the correct strategy in place?
  2. Has my organization committed to our strategy?
  3. Is our current situation a product of our approach or a product of the market?
  4. How should we shift our investments and focus to better support our desired strategy?

Once these questions are answered, companies can ensure their plans are realistic, their efforts are focused on achieving their strategic objectives, and they have a non-financial baseline to measure future decisions against.


Written by: Anthony Paluska

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About the Author: Anthony Paluska is a Partner at McMann & Ransford with experience helping organizations overcome commoditization by developing stronger, more intimate, relationships with their customers. He has leveraged his management consulting, problem-solving, and change management skills to support 15+ Fortune 1000 organizations, across a multitude of industries.

Three Signs that Suggest It is Time for a Portfolio Review

As we have discussed in the first two blogs in our series, a solutions portfolio is the embodiment of a company’s where to play and how to act strategies that involves cross-business initiatives and investments. Because a portfolio is dynamic and multifaceted, companies often overlook key indicators that tell them to focus their attention on the portfolio. In this blog, we share some of the common situations that should trigger organizations to immediately refocus their efforts on a portfolio analysis.

  1. The organization is embarking on a strategic effort to become more outcomes-oriented.

Being outcomes-focused is a strategic repositioning of an organization with the guiding light being ‘how do we maximize the value we drive to our customers & how do we make sure our market knows it?’.  This leads to product/service enhancements, marketing and sales changes, and often to restructuring to more closely align the customer-facing aspects of the business.  However, oftentimes, organizations do all of this to achieve the overarching strategy, without first going through the formal exercise of evaluating their portfolio from a high-level in its ability to achieve outcomes that their key markets truly care about. Building an ideal state outcomes-focused portfolio requires a distinct sequence of decisions.

  1. The first step is to develop a robust and coherent segment definition.
  2. With where to play and act clearly understood, companies must then define the segment-specific portfolio strategy to answer what the portfolio will address and solve for that segment.
  3. Finally, companies should determine how their current solutions fit the market segment strategy. This will unveil portfolio gaps and encourage the prioritization of new solution design to complete the puzzle required to solve customers’ key challenges or opportunities. This may result in some high-value PS on the front end that is designed to pull-through much larger purchases.

By identifying the unique challenges and opportunities that key markets are facing and aligning them with solutions, companies will drive the outcomes that their customers care about. At that point, the other ‘transformational’ activities can then begin with a much clearer end goal in mind.

  1. Margins are continuing to erode on a core set of products across the entire business.

For organizations that find themselves in a situation where they are facing competition and commoditization, it is time to evaluate the product lifecycle and rethink the portfolio through the lens of ‘how has my market evolved?’.  Eroding margins may indicate that a product is nearing the end of its lifecycle, and rather than pouring resources into attempts to make the product more profitable, less costly, or more relevant, organizations may need to move on from the particular product segment entirely. Though the notion of retiring a cornerstone solution may cause initial fear, organizations that hope to differentiate themselves in highly competitive markets must make decisions for the good of the whole portfolio and long-term organizational strategy. Doing so is always a difficult decision, and must not be done without the appropriate historic analysis and future modeling of where the portfolio has been, what that product’s role was in the portfolio, and what the role of that solution is in the future state.

  1. There is a disconnect between what is being sold and the organization’s strategy.

Strategic impact should be a key criteria that dictates portfolio investment decisions and when organizations find themselves faced with the above scenario, even if they are currently very successful, the constant challenge of living at an organizational cross-road leads to disjointed investments and a declining outlook.  Strategic portfolio management is about making tradeoffs that align with and drive the strategic objectives. For example, if a primary goal of an organization’s strategy is to grow share of wallet at existing accounts, but the organization’s solutions revolve around legacy products, there will likely be a constant struggle to achieve the desired strategic outcomes. Growing wallet share will require the addition of value-added solutions focused on generating customer intimacy.  While the solution itself may not point to an explicit issue, aligning the portfolio and strategy at a high-level will reveal the strategic disconnect that may ultimately limit the organization from achieving its objectives and will inform the key actions required to align the portfolio with the strategic goals, without abandoning what is working well today.

These common symptoms, among others, emphasize the need for effective portfolio management. Understanding and identifying the key indicators of portfolio problems is the first step to fixing these issues and building a more strategic, outcomes-oriented portfolio.

Written by: Anthony Paluska

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About the Author: Anthony Paluska is a Partner at McMann & Ransford with experience helping organizations overcome commoditization by developing stronger, more intimate, relationships with their customers. He has leveraged his management consulting, problem-solving, and change management skills to support 15+ Fortune 1000 organizations, across a multitude of industries.

Defining the Role of Portfolio Manager

In the last blog in this series, we introduced three challenges companies face that are often symptomatic of poor solutions’ portfolio management. In this blog, we want to delve into the first challenge in more detail – a striking majority of organizations lack a dedicated resource who is responsible for owning the portfolio for the entire organization – and provide insight on the critical role of a Solutions Portfolio Manager.

Most companies have numerous ongoing solution development efforts and initiatives spread across different departments and business units, each pursuing their own objectives. While generally speaking, initiatives can exist in harmony, solutions are also often competing with one another – for resources, internal and market mindshare, etc. – or even overlapping. Challenges arise when there is disconnect in the business and a lack of portfolio governance and overall management to determine what solutions should be prioritized, what efforts can be combined, and what should be delayed.

Unfortunately, despite the proven ability of the Portfolio Manager role to drive outcomes for organizations, only 50% have a dedicated Service Portfolio Management team[i]. Solutions that are in high alignment with companies’ overall goals and strategies have a 15% higher success rate of meeting said goal[ii], as well as an increased rate of staying within budgets and being delivered on-time.  For many organizations, the responsibilities of a Portfolio Manager are doled out among different executives and spread across others throughout the organization; true company/portfolio alignment requires a dedicated resource or team of resources who are aware of all initiatives and own the portfolio decisions. The solutions’ portfolio is critical to organizational success. Therefore, the role of Solutions Portfolio Manager is best not filled by a consortium and entails a number of key responsibilities:

Maintaining Market Awareness and Alignment

This role is responsible for gaining a deeper understanding of the different target markets by sourcing expertise, so it can help define the markets to target, the buying personas that should be engaged, and what those markets and buyers need.  In order to accomplish this, the Portfolio Manager must work to facilitate feedback by engaging different teams, including account executives, sales solution architects, strategic marketing, sales specialists, and services delivery teams.  Through these regularly scheduled feedback meetings, the Portfolio Manager can proactively evaluate initiatives through the big picture lens of market strategy to anticipate changes and challenges before they arise.

Understanding the Solution Lifecycle

Another responsibility of the Portfolio Manager is to consistently evaluate the lifecycle for each solution to know when to retire a solution from the portfolio.  Every product and service has a lifecycle, from the conception of the idea to the eventual discontinuation.  The Portfolio Manager should ensure that time and resources are being funneled to high-priority solutions. By making strategic decisions around when to retire a solution, the Portfolio Manager can reserve critical resources for other timely investments that are more aligned with current and future market needs.

Prioritizing and Approving New Products, Services, and Solutions

In organizations that excel at this, for any new offer to go to market, it must be directly approved by the Portfolio Manager at various tollgates that give a go/no-go decision for each stage of it being developed, marketed, sold and sold at scale.  This ensures that every new addition to the portfolio stays aligned with the organizational strategy and objectives and fits into the organization’s point of view of the future marketplace. A Portfolio Manager facilitates conversations between business units, functions, etc. to understand solutions and their potential impact on the portfolio and broader organizational goals. This process is often formalized through request forms and regular meetings. Making strategic decisions requires the Portfolio Manager to integrate information from the market and across all parts of the business to evaluate the solution based on a set of predefined, weighted criteria. For example, a solution’s strategic impact, market attractiveness, investment requirements, and sales and delivery potential.  The role’s primary responsibility is ensuring that individual solutions, and the portfolio as a whole, help the organization get closer to the customer and support the organization’s broader strategic and financial objectives.

With the role of the Portfolio Manager defined, we can dig deeper into understand why companies struggle to identify the symptoms of poor portfolio management. The next blog in the series will explore how to identify and address underlying portfolio issues.



Written by: Anthony Paluska

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About the Author: Anthony Paluska is a Partner at McMann & Ransford with experience helping organizations overcome commoditization by developing stronger, more intimate, relationships with their customers. He has leveraged his management consulting, problem-solving, and change management skills to support 15+ Fortune 1000 organizations, across a multitude of industries.

Maximizing the Value of The Solutions Portfolio

What is a portfolio and why is it important?

The definition of the word “portfolio” varies greatly based on context, but for this blog series, the word portfolio will not refer to a suite of technology offerings, a financial portfolio, or a static snapshot of a company’s products and services.  Rather, we will use portfolio to refer to a solutions portfolio – the strategic way in which a company invests in and delivers a mix of products and services to drive value for the buyers and markets it serves and help it achieve its larger goals. Portfolio defines how your organization is going to fulfill the market’s needs and is informed by the markets you want to play in, the buyer personas you want to engage, and what those markets & buyers need.

Persistent Portfolio Challenges

While most organizations acknowledge portfolio’s strategic role in defining “where to play” and “where to act,” we consistently see organizations use portfolio as a catch-all and as the end result of market sizing and R&D. A failure to analyze market-back information, identify opportunities and align them with their strategies inhibit companies from maximizing their portfolio’s impact. Rather than building a list of existing products and services, companies must avoid constraining themselves to their current capabilities and solution set and understand what their portfolio must include to serve as the linkage between the value and outcomes you provide to a client.

When looking at a solutions portfolio in this way, it becomes clear that many of the problems that companies face today are symptomatic of poor solutions portfolio management. Companies’ struggle with portfolio often manifests in three main problems.

  1. Organizations lack a dedicated resource who is responsible for solving this problem.
  2. A solutions portfolio is inherently complex and difficult to manage.
  3. Organizational symptoms don’t explicitly point to portfolio challenges, therefore, organizations continue to operate, unaware of the portfolio-related issues they are facing.

Now is the time to focus on your solutions portfolio. These Portfolio-related challenges have been exposed and exacerbated by recent market volatility. The arrival of COVID-19 has flipped markets on their head and changed company’s strategies and long-term goals in unprecedented ways.  Companies in almost all industries experienced some pandemic-induced market change, and the question now is how to respond.  Inevitably, some companies will make changes to their objectives and strategies without altering the critical engine for achieving their desired outcomes: their solutions portfolios. Others will complete overhaul of their solutions portfolios but will fail to align it with the organizational strategy and objectives.

The rest of this blog series will discuss these challenges in more detail and how to combat them to build a solutions portfolio that addresses the market’s needs, capitalizes on opportunities, and continuously drives outcomes.

When evaluating an organization’s portfolio, it is important to consider the following questions:

  1.  Does my portfolio align to my current goals and objectives?
  2. Do the products and services in my portfolio align to my strategy?
  3. Understanding the market, should I adjust my portfolio strategy to better meet my goals and objectives?

In order to achieve a company’s long-term goals, the company must align the solutions portfolio to the company’s current goals and objectives.  For companies that offer a wide range of products and services, occasionally old solutions will work against the company’s newer goals.  Combatting this problem requires organizations to understand the product lifecycle.  Not every product lasts forever, and a company must take the time to evaluate if a product is no longer beneficial to the company.  Companies must also consider how solutions support the broader strategy.  A company that hopes to penetrate a new market through rebranding itself and providing a new service, but still offers the same services that it did 20 years ago, can confuse buyers and work against the company’s strategy.

After evaluating goals and objectives, the product lifecycle, and company strategy, decisions must be made.  If there are old services nearing the end of their product life cycle, remove them from the solutions portfolio.  If the products and services within the portfolio are strong, it might be time to reevaluate the company strategy and the current goals and objectives.  These questions help companies understand just how important solutions portfolios can be, and it isn’t hard to imagine the constant headaches that can arise if the solutions within a portfolio are butting heads with long term goals.


Written by: Anthony Paluska

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About the Author: Anthony Paluska is a Partner at McMann & Ransford with experience helping organizations overcome commoditization by developing stronger, more intimate, relationships with their customers. He has leveraged his management consulting, problem-solving, and change management skills to support 15+ Fortune 1000 organizations, across a multitude of industries.

The Future State Business Model: Managing Through Account Journeys

As mentioned in earlier blogs, B2B companies in mature markets must manage complex businesses in order to grow and sustain reasonable margins. We believe the best way to view the business is through the lens of market segment needs and share of wallet. This is because of the “law of intimacy” – if you are solving the problems your customers care about, they are more likely to purchase your more commoditized products and services with less concern of price. In addition, your portfolio mix at the account level will provide greater margins. If you offer higher-end services (e.g., specific targeted software), the margin mix will improve. Therefore, account (or market segment) portfolio matters a great deal. Furthermore, how that portfolio performs and drives account journeys becomes paramount.
This idea is not controversial, but it does fly in the face of many companies currently trying to become or, at least, portray themselves as software companies or XaaS companies. In general, we applaud a growing percent of revenue from these sources, but we believe it is only one part of your account (market segment) portfolio. If Xaas or software revenue is taken in isolation, it is just a short-term step in the company extending its commoditized products.
Let’s take a closer look at Account (Market Segment) Journeys. First, why do we group Accounts and Market Segments together? Well, often many issues are shared across a market segment – these shared priorities are likely the rationale for grouping accounts together in a segment – but certain accounts (e.g., large key customers) have their own unique priorities that should be taken into consideration as well.

Account Journeys can be thought of as the sequence of pre-planned deals at a given account. In the visual above, the blue circles represent the products and services you intend to provide to a given account over time. Revenue is indicated by size of the shape and the “Line of Safety” highlights the offers that are most relevant to top-level executives. Also, it should be noted that Account Journeys are distinct from an offer journey or Service Chain, which are specific to a single transaction or solution.
The Account Journey must take into account three key things:
1. Developing an Intimate Partnership – This is accomplished by working with the account on the topics that matter to key executives. These are usually (but not exclusively) advisory projects developed with the segment’s needs in mind and, therefore, do not necessarily need to relate directly to your core products or services. This concept can be challenging to those accustomed to leveraging advisory services purely as “wrap around services” that are explicitly connected to core products and services.
2. Sequencing the Revenue Drivers (harvesting) – This is focused on driving significant revenue through your core product and services. These revenue drivers should be phased in after intimacy is established, because they can be sold more easily once you have worked with the executive team as a problem solver. This “halo effect” provided by intimacy opens the door for the account to see you as a partner, rather than just a vendor. In addition, creating Service Chains to pull-through your core solutions will also allow for quicker results (for more details, read our blog series on Service Chains).
3. Renewing Intimacy with Accounts – This mostly pertains to staying relevant between buying cycles and/or improving a damaged account relationship. The actual tactics function similarly to the “Developing an Intimate Partnership” mentioned earlier – i.e., working on the things that matter to the most to the account and continuously providing value.
A well-structured Account Journey should lead to closing larger deals, in addition to a more impactful relationship with an account. It allows you to meet the needs of your key customers, while fulfilling your desire to become a single sourced provider of your core products and services.

Written by: Dean McMann

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About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.

Complex Business: The Future State Business Model

Stop Chasing the Silver Bullet to Maintain Simplicity

We have two conflicting pressures in business today.  The first is the need for companies to be successful managing a complex business model – products, software, services, and professional services – in different segments and markets. The second is leaders’ interest and comfort with simpler businesses.

Today’s business leaders matured in straight-forward business structures. For example, we sell copiers and service them.  You can see the pull toward a single business model today in companies that want to become a software company or XaaS business. These companies are hoping to find a silver bullet that will allow them to return to growth and simplicity.

For a moment, let us suspend this silver bullet mentality by viewing the world from a “share of wallet” and “most valuable accounts” point-of-view and letting that drive our future state business model.  At the 30000-foot level, this is widely accepted and understood. Everyone wants to do more with their key accounts and/or important segments.  They want to drive intimacy and create more value for customers.  Many companies have achieved sporadic success with this approach, like Xerox did when it introduced “managing print cost”.  But few (if any) are breaking through, viewing and, therefore, managing their businesses this way.  Do they understand how to create an integrated portfolio that works across an account journey to stay relevant and intimate? Are they able to drive more value for the account and value for themselves?

Accenture is an example of a company that is working in this way. They understand how to maximize their business in key accounts with target account values and impact. Their ability to operate this way is likely because they grew out of an advisory company that understood how to stay relevant.  But, for the most part, the significant B2B companies are failing at this, causing many of them to stagnate or even lose ground.  How many great companies have faded away?

Let’s take a deeper look at managing a complex business. Because companies grew a certain way (i.e., they had a breakthrough product that allowed them to build critical mass), therefore their muscle memory is all about that model.  Their profits may have moved from the product to the related services, but it is still the same basic business model.

To truly get a view of their business, they should look at their offerings against the current and future key account business spend, strategy, challenges, and opportunities.  The first challenge to understand is the following:

Do we truly understand our key customers’ businesses? This understanding goes beyond what we sell to the market and its related impact. If we understood the key customers’ businesses, we might see how insignificant we are to the most important customers; that is why we often deal with purchasing instead of with top executives.

We recently had a client that wanted to understand their opportunity in a segment of their market – small and mid-size banks/financial institutions.  The client did well with large financial institutions, but they struggled with small and mid-size banks/ financial institutions. This small and mid-size banking segment is in a quandary of how to compete with larger financial institutions and new entrants to the business – competitors that do not have the expense of physical locations.  The market does know what to do about technology, what their branch strategy should be, or how to convince the tech-savvy generations to work with them. In short, this segment needed a partner to lead them and provide tech in a whole different way – to be their true partner and provide the guidance to allow them to survive. But, instead of stepping up to change the whole paradigm of the relationships, our client decided they wanted to be a software company. Though they have billions in revenue from non-software sales, they are seeking a simple business model that they can understand and, therefore, operate.  Someone will take that market and provide the kind of relationship that is needed.

Again, a place to start is by viewing a segment or key account the way they view themselves, and then organizing around how to become indispensable to that segment or account.  This is out of most organization’s comfort zones.  A simple tool to use is Account Journey maps. Where are we trying to get an account to buy? Where do we make money today and in the future?  How do we get so involved and intertwined with accounts that they become the sole source for that product or service?

To accomplish this, companies have to become true problem solvers (including helping customers to take advantage of opportunities).  They must work at the executive level on the topics that truly matter to the customer or segment.  They must connect those services to their broader account journey map and have products and services to offer across the continuum.

In future blogs, we will take this concept through its components and discuss why companies must become true problem solvers of executive-level challenges and how to get there.

Written by: Dean McMann

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About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.

How to Play – The Financial Value of Categorizing Accounts

In this blog series, we will begin discussing the important issue of how to play – how to organize the go-to-market assets to address different account categories and different business models – hardware products, software products, services, professional services, outsourcing etc. The goal of a “how to play” model is improving the ability of the portfolio to drive greater revenue/margin more easily.

Clear financial objectives must be created for each type of account.  Creating achievable financial goals require more than just applying a growth rate to historic performance in each market.  Doing so effectively depends on having a deep understanding of the customers in a given market’s core business, current market dynamics/pressures, and the market’s key strategic issues and initiatives. In addition, clarifying financial objectives requires the mastery of managing multiple business models, service lines, and offerings and determining where they fit in an account and its journey.

Category 1 (Strategic)High-value accounts where you make your money – What percentage of revenue should come from your largest/best/most strategic accounts? This should be a significant percentage (~60%) of the revenue generated from this account category.  If not, then that points to a challenge of getting meaningful share of wallet – this is both a portfolio problem and a leadership challenge to work with customer journeys, not sales transactions.

Category 2 (Key)Accounts with high growth potential – The next category includes accounts that look like our largest/ best/ most strategic accounts but aren’t providing the financial value that they should or could.  These Key accounts are the primary growth accounts.  Included in this group should be your competitors’ key accounts – it is always fun to take away the best accounts from competitors.  The target percentage for these growth accounts does not go directly into the annual plan but does give you clarity on what should/could be happening.  Additionally, as your business matures and you develop the ability to manage multiple business models, your confidence in growing and/or penetrating these accounts will improve; therefore, your ability to predict outcomes improves.

Category 3 (Core) Accounts that can be managed with a low-cost service model – For the next account category, we suggest analyzing where you can move to a more self-serve relationship.  Service models for these accounts reduce onsite visits and may include leveraging a community consulting model to maintain intimacy, using inside sales to contact accounts, etc.  These accounts are attractive when you can lower the service cost and improve the margins.  If served in a cost-effective manner, what can you expect to yield from this type of account?

Category 4 (Small)The conundrum accounts – Finally, for accounts that are not strategic and do not have a low-cost service model, we suggest conducting a strict analysis of their value and how best to serve them.  This usually results in a combination of the strategic account journey approach and the low-cost service approach.  Also, are there account categories that do not currently exist but could in the future? These may be an important input into planning in the future. If you can be effective at adding more high-value accounts, then the percentage of the accounts that fall into this category dwindles as they either “move up” or are weeded out over time.

In the next blog we will discuss account journeys.

Written by: Dean McMann

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About the Author: Dean McMann is a Founding Partner at McMann & Ransford with 35+ years of experience in consulting and professional services.  He is a sought-after expert and speaker on topics of: B2B differentiation, professional services best practices, and overcoming commoditization.  In addition to his extensive experience in the Professional Services space, Dean also serves on the board of various non-profit organizations.