Is Your Selection of Account Executives Based on an Outdated Model of Success?

by Oct 6, 2023Assessments, Sales Assessments

“The evolving aspects of an Outstanding Account Executive”

Can a top Account Executive of 20 years ago still be successful in today’s complex and competitive sales environment?  Are the same sales attributes of yesteryear still critical today? Do today’s Account Executives need to use their talents differently than before?   Do today’s Account Executives need to rely on other talents to be successful? The answer to all four of these questions is a simple “yes.”

With the advent of the digital revolution, social media and non-traditional revenue (among others) it is not surprising that a lot has influenced media sales over the last 20 years, yet Account Executives still need to consummate the sale.  Thus, in order to be successful; they still have to close, they must be motivated, they still have to initiate and secure relationships and have a strong work ethic.  Many of the best employ additional talents that contribute to their success.  In order for managers to recruit effectively, they must reshape how they select and manage sales talent. For the past 30 years, we’ve studied the characteristics/talents of some of the best Account Executives in the business.  This ongoing research signified the evolution of the sales success model from a needs based persuasive seller to a more sophisticated, innovative and strategic selling partner.

Yes, the best Account Executives are still ardent commitment seekers who utilize their knowledge to create informative and highly persuasive presentations.  SelectionLink researchers have found that the best Account Executives are now more apt to consider the long-term or strategic needs of the customer before engaging in the closing process.  Instead of simply focusing on the immediate close, they consider the myriad of future possibilities and opportunities of the customer. Rather than viewing the close as a single transaction, they think of it as an ever-evolving proactive proposition. They spend an inordinate amount of time projecting the future and creating longitudinal plans of the customers’ needs. Thus, their solutions must not only solve the immediate needs of the customer, but they must also be able to consider ongoing solutions to meet the ever changing needs and perspectives of their clientele.

The success model of an outstanding Account Executive has not radically changed so much, rather it has evolved due to market, product and organizational changes. This evolution is highlighted by an adaptation of a strategic (rather than immediate) sales approach, which allows the Account Executive to forecast the long-term needs and opportunities of the customer.  Let’s look at the basic core sales talents that still resonate within the very best Account Executives; they still need to close, be motivated, be focused and establish relationships with others. A sample of the basic or core talents that still describe current outstanding Account Executives are:

  1. Persuasion – Being rather competent in nature. The highly successful Account Executive tends to be very knowledgeable about their products, services and solutions. They draw upon their knowledge, information and deliver logical, highly persuasive presentations that are specifically directed toward the customers’ needs.
  2. Courage – Rather than incorporate a highly assertive or verbally tenacious sales posture, their courage is often aligned with the shear will of determination or persistence. They are not apt to back away from resistance or conflict.
  3. Achievement – They possess an unrelenting drive to achieve. They continually expect more and more from themselves and are rarely content with their performance.
  4. Focus – They are goal directed and have the ability to subscribe to realistic goals and stay on track over-time to achieve them. They always seem to know where they are and what they need to do next to further their own progress.
  5. Relator – They can initiate and cultivate trusting and open relationships, so as to convey care and concern throughout the customer experience. They are able to secure a viable “partnership” with the customers, as the customer recognizes their true desire to contribute to their success.

The prior success factors of Media Account Executives are still relevant today.  The evolution of the success model has brought additional trends to these standards of success.  Nowadays, the best Account Executives are likely to be more strategic and creative in how they work with their customers.  They factor the possible future needs of their customer with innovative solutions which separate them from the conventional approach.  To service future needs, relationships are even more critical than before. Some of these trends and subsequent talents that emerge when studying today’s successful Account Executives are:

  1. Stronger Motivation – Today, the competition is fierce, which demands the Account Executive to be more motivated, confident and hungry as ever. The primary motivational themes of Achiever, Competition and Ego will be more significant to move the Account Executive forward and face an ever increasing and diverse competition. Never being content and always driven to do more seems to resonate in the hearts and minds of today’s successful Account Executive. In addition, they will likely be able to find greater intrinsic value (Customer Values) in partnering and making a difference with their customers.
  2. Strategic Sales Approach – Successful Media Company’s and Account Executives are placing a greater emphasis on a long-term, strategic (Strategic Planning) view of their clientele. Rather than being focused only on the immediate needs of the customer, Account Executives must also forecast and unlock future needs. Thus, they need to adapt their sales solution(s) that not only impact the customer’s immediate need, but incorporate a long-term strategic sales plan that might require many different and unique solutions.  Without a successful strategy, the Account Executive will only be able to respond to the customer’s present needs, which automatically puts them behind the curve of the digital competition.
  3. Creativity – While creativity has always been a sought after talent, the ever increasing competition for the advertising dollar demands that Account Executives bring evermore unique and innovative solutions to their customers. Account Executives need to draw from a wide array of ideas and products and create new combinations of solutions for the customer. The Innovation theme measures the capacity of the Account Executive to think “outside the box” and break away from conventional approaches in their work.
  4. Adaptability – Some Account Executives lost their edge and could no longer compete, simply because they could not adapt with the new technology and methods that have changed media over the last 20 years. With the advent of technology and greater diverse competition, media companies have been changing their products/services, structure, sales techniques and approaches. Rather than ignoring or rejecting the changes that have occurred, today’s successful Account Executive needs to dispense of some of their prior ways of conducting business and enthusiastically accept new ideas, concepts and technology.
  5. Relationship – The ability to form strong, trusting relationships with customers is still a key ingredient to today’s successful Account Executive. Furthermore, Account Executives’ ability to initiate and develop mutually supportive internal relationships, has become of greater significance to their success.  They will need to create internal partnerships with key resource people (Market Managers, Digital/Web designers, other Account Executives) in order to maximize the customer’s advertising dollar.

The one constant that has held true over time is that most media sales organizations cannot afford to make a bad hire.  There is no room for mediocrity within a media sales force and each new Account Executive must have the potential to realize significant success.  It is more important than ever that sales managers understand the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate and determine whether:

  • They can close.
  • They are motivated.
  • They can build trusting relationships.
  • They can stay on track in the short and long term.

Yet this may not be enough, as today’s sales managers must also understand and consider whether the candidate:

  • Is versatile and can respond to an ever diverse and competitive market.
  • Is creative and will aspire to bring new ideas and innovation to meet the more complex needs of the customer.
  • Is strategic and can focus their solutions not to just solve immediate needs, but to project a long-term approach that will lend to a customer’s growth.

SelectionLink, Inc. has collectively 80+ years of experienced understanding, measuring and predicting the potential of outstanding sales candidates. We know that the success model of an outstanding Account Executive is not a static proposition, but a dynamic one.  We are committed to continue to study success and ensure that our selection interviews are current and up-to-date in helping our clients’ source, select and manage the best Account Executives for the future.