In Indianapolis, the month of May is dominated by one thing – The Greatest Spectacle in Racing – and I just realized that we have not posted a single race-themed posting this month. I am going to rectify that situation.
Drivers are the face of the racing world. This year's winning driver was fan-favorite Tony Kanaan, but everyone knows he didn't win it alone – it took an amazing effort by a top-notch team to get him in the winner's circle. If you stuck Tony in one of the last place cars, he would likely finish higher than last place, but there is no way he wins Indy.
Running a race is kind of like managing an account. The account manager is the face of effort. If we win with an account, the AM gets most of the focus. If we lose with an account, the AM gets most of the focus. However, we all know the account manager is not the only reason we win or lose. Just like success in racing, it takes a great team. To win, you need…
- Great ownership. A good team owner, just like a good CEO, will set the right vision, bring in the right people, and manage the company well to ensure quality and sustainability. What happens to the best drivers when they feel the team owner is failing to provide a successful environment for them? They leave and go to a new team. AMs are the same way. They know their success is partially dependent on the entire company and want to be sure they are in the right place to be successful.
- Great products. The best drivers are worthless without a car to drive. The best drivers are also smart enough to leave the car construction and adjustments to the professionals. In the same way, AMs know that their skills are useless unless the products are meeting customer needs. The old adage of a good salesman being able to "sell ice to Eskimos" is untrue. First, I'm from Alaska and know that Eskimos are all big consumers of modern refrigeration technology. Second, no sales person can sell something that the customer has no need for. They may be able to sell them more than they need or something that doesn't perfectly fit their need, but all sales starts with connecting a product to a need.
- Great strategy. The driver has a role in developing a race strategy and adapting that strategy during the race, but the crew chief and his team are the real owners of this process. They are keeping an eye on weather, fuel consumption, track temperature, tire wear, and dozens of other factors and then developing and modifying the strategy for the driver to execute. The best teams are the ones who can accumulate, synthesize, and take action on all this information to make the best decisions about when to pit, how hard to drive, when to draft, etc. And this is usually the difference between winning and losing. In business, these are the sales managers and, increasingly, the sales operations team who help put strategy in place for the AMs to execute on. This is also where predictive analytics and decision management come into play. Companies with the best sales conversion rates will increasingly be those who best utilize information to inform their customer-facing decisions.
- Great support. I've been in the pits and garage area before, and it is simply amazing to see all of the support personnel involved with one race car. Now think about all the people who aren't even there on race day but are integral to the car getting on the track – the people making and shipping parts, the tire manufacturers, the marketing team, the truck drivers, etc. Without a great operations and support staff, the driver wouldn't even make it to the track, much less win the race. Successful sales are the same way. In order for AMs to focus on selling and managing accounts, we need a lot of people taking care of everything else.
But guess what? Even with all these things in place, you still need a great driver to win. There's all sorts of debate about what makes a great driver, but a few non-negotiables are great reaction time and the ability to make the right decision in a nano-second. Similarly, AMs are asked to assimilate a lot of information about accounts, determine what things are important, what needs to be changed and managed, and make the right decisions at the right time. So, if you want to win the sales, make sure you have a great team in place.