Defying the Odds: Coaching Your Account Team to Success

Being in charge of an account team isn’t a job that just anyone can do. Your ability to lead and inspire others to perform is why you’re in your role and why you’re an asset to your organization. But today’s market can be brutally unforgiving. The market doesn’t care who you are. As organizations and other business professionals become crippled by the challenges they face, you as an account manager have to think, act, and lead differently if you’re going to survive.


To hit your numbers and prove your team’s value to the organization, you need to be able to coach your team to success. At KAMCon 2018, Michael Harnum, CEO of ESG, shared some indispensable advice to help lead your team to victory.


Put me in, coach

The first rule is that there is no one-size-fits-all coaching model. Sales and account management are still human-driven; that means contending with different personalities, character traits, and communication styles and trying to form something coherent and cooperative out of them. Just like a basketball team is made up of people with different skills and levels of talent, so is an account team.


But it’s on you to make sure the team is functioning together and performing at the top of their game. So here are four principles of coaching that you can apply today to achieve optimal results:



When someone is coachable, they have an energy about them. They are the one at practice (or in the team meeting) when no one else wants to be there. They are motivated when others aren’t. Finding and zeroing in on the individuals with palpable energy makes your job as their coach easier.


Another way to determine coachability is to ask questions: Who are your favorite coaches and why? How did you perform better with that coach? Have you ever had an ineffective coach? Use their answers to learn from them. Coaching isn’t a one-way street; it’s a give-and-take, a deep discernment of qualities and characteristics that require you to be flexible and adaptable.


Finally, give a mock exercise to see how they respond to coaching and feedback on the spot. If a person is coachable in an interview, they’ll likely be coachable on the job.


Identifying problems

It doesn’t do you any good as a coach if you don’t know how your team is currently performing and where they’re supposed to be. The value of timely, clean data — visibility into performance — cannot be overstated when it comes to forecasting. When you’re certain of your quota along with all the challenges your team might be facing in reaching that quota, then you know exactly what to tackle.


Pacing is key. Without fail, look at the numbers every week during the quarter. Identify the problems in hitting your goals. Then encourage transfer of ownership; that is, finding the one (or two) people who can own the solution to the problem, the person who has the right information to make something happen.


Just as important is staying connected to customer goals. Make sure the team doesn’t lose sight of why you’re doing what you’re doing and what you’re driving toward.


Gap planning

Not every problem is avoidable. At times there will be gaps between targets and actual performance. The best way to deal with it is to create a plan that’s specific to the gap.


Start with a verb and end with a date. If you ask a team member what they’re going to do, and they say “call” all their deals, what does this really mean? Call whom and by when and to what ends? A plan needs to be as specific and measurable as possible. So instead, you could say to your team member: Place a call and send an email to all your deals in 48 hours and make sure to have some answer from everyone within seven days.


Then, check in and keep checking in. Make transparency a rule. Also make necessary adjustments if the plan can’t be completed by the decided-upon date. Reasonableness is a necessary part of coaching. The point is not to get hung up on the details, but to simply keep everyone moving forward.


Strength finding

At a certain point in anyone’s career, people become pretty good at things, or they find they’re happier doing some things than others. Finding those strengths and aligning them with business objectives is one of the most powerful and productive steps you can take as a coach.


Shift the conversation with your team members away from the negative (what they’re not doing well enough) and toward the positive (what they bring to the table). Let the employee lead the conversation and shed light on their own skills, talents, and areas of joy.


By seeking to understand, you are able to coach with emotional intelligence and to increase trust in the relationships you have with your employees. Then, you can create a personal development plan for each team member that maximizes productivity (people perform better when they’re doing what they’re really good at) and identifies and corrects any role mismatches.


More than just coaching, it’s a mental shift

In business, no one can afford to be caught flat-footed. But when there’s a challenge, the question to ask yourself as an account manager is: do I turn away, or do I turn in? The answer is: turn in.


By making yourself part of the solution and encouraging each member of your team to play for the next person — rather than for themselves — this actually creates more space for each individual to shine and for success to flourish.


Key Account Management Specialist at Kapta
Lesley is a Key Account Management Specialist at Kapta.