There are two ways to fail at managing your most important accounts. The first is management by chance, which involves no control, no plan. You can’t explain why you have won the business or forecast how long your success will last.

At the other extreme is account management by formula. With this method, everything is documented, controlled and decided. This approach is fine, but leaves no room for flexibility, common sense or clients’ special circumstances.

For proper account management, we need a method that is simple, strong, disciplined and creative. In short, we need to think like artists.

  1. Discipline. Artists need discipline. Think of the discipline of a dancer or singer: They know they work best when they create within the confines of their artistic discipline. A poet follows certain rules of rhyme and structure, and a painter knows the rules of color and line.
  2. Practice. Every artist expects to practice. The painter sketches, trying different compositions, actors rehearse until the words come out perfectly. A dancer works at the bar to keep fit and to perfect every movement, and a musician plays the piece over and over again. The performance often looks easy to us, but we know that a tremendous amount of work has gone into it.
  3. Creativity. Discipline and practice alone will not make an outstanding artist. There needs to be a spark, something special that allows the artist to see what many others miss and to communicate his or her understanding powerfully and clearly. The artist allows us to see and hear things in a unique way.

Managing your major accounts requires all three components. Discipline helps us follow the plan, be self-controlled. Practice means that we do not expect to be perfect overnight. (We think and plan and prepare for every important “performance.”) Creativity allows us to change the past, to find new ways to solve problems and to win new opportunities.

If you try to think of managing your major accounts as an art form, you can avoid the twin dangers of working too randomly and of working too rigidly.

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Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant and chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates. For more information and tips from Jonathan, visit http://www.topsalesworld.com/, or go to his blog at http://www.thejfblogit.co.uk/.