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Farewell to the Gunslingers?

There appears to have been a big change in the client management area.

Is Change Good?

In the past, the term “Account Manager” was a wide ranging one. While the duties might have varied between new business and ongoing issues, the reward schemes all focused on new business.

This appears to be changing. Partly due to FCA/FSA rules on TCF but partly because companies realise that profits will be made over time, only if the client’s business is retained. Our clients have dealt with this in many different ways. Some providers have split their sales teams into hunters and farmers, others have become very selective in the new business they pursue. The split between hunters and farmers is a model previously favoured by direct sales organisations who grew by poaching sales staff and their clients from other companies. This acknowledges the different skillsets required and perhaps also ensures different people are rewarded for appropriate behaviours.

Traditionally the hunters are the gunslingers. They carry big basic salaries and big bonuses if they can win the new business required before handing it off to the farmers. The farmers are typically more detail oriented and therefore better able to manage the day to day relationship, nurturing it, helping the client company to grow. They tend to earn good basic salaries with bonuses more closely aligned to behaviours and client retention than new business.

Longevity

Like in the Wild West, the gunslingers tend to move on fairly regularly, either because their job is done, or they are “run out of town”. It’s a stressful role with fantastic rewards for the top people, but nowhere to hide for the underperformer.

The farmers are the true relationship managers, nurturing the clients and building a deeper, meaningful relationship over time. These guys tend to move less frequently. In other companies they appear to have all but disposed of new business staff. At least one company has told us they will not even tender for big Corporate Schemes except for existing clients. This is a pragmatic view. New business is expensive to acquire and in the new fee driven regime, many clients will find a move hard to justify on cost grounds.