Full-Cycle Account ExecutivesAug 07, 2023
Over the years B2B SaaS has transformed it's operational structure from what once was a full-cycle Account Executive who managed the entire customer relationship from start to finish, to what is now a highly fragmented operation that long reaped the benefits of extreme specialization which may soon be coming to an end for many companies.
Sales Development Representatives, Account Executives, Customer Success Managers, Account Managers, etc. These are roles which were created as the result of an industry having an abundance of growth capital which was spent with the intention of optimizing growth metrics, while often leaving behind the most important metrics in business, which are based in profit and customer satisfaction.
No B2B SaaS customer has ever been thankful for getting handed off to a new person (usually CSM) after their sales experience. Actually, no customer has ever been thankful for getting handed from an SDR to an AE, with the exception of finally reaching someone with actual product knowledge.
As we enter the realm of AI, AGI, and human replacement, we need to carefully consider how we downsize our human capital and allocate resources in ways that optimize for profit (efficiency) and customer satisfaction. One sure way to steer your operations toward both is to consider the full-cycle Account Executive role as a way of consolidating your highly specialized operation into a smaller cohort of AEs who manage the entire sales cycle and maintain and grow their own book of business (client list).
This allows for a reduction of teams and managers while enabling a more personable customer experience with fewer touch-points and hand-offs . This also speeds up your sales cycles, time to resolve customer issues, and renewal periods. With proper implementation of more automated customer resources and support tools, this transition becomes more realistic as your CSMs eventually have such few tasks to complete aside from renewals and occasional customer inquiries, making the need for an entirely separate team and department less necessary.
For some companies this solution may not make sense but a hybrid may. You may consider having AEs manage the first 13 months of each account, leaving them responsible for the most critical renewal point (the second year). This could allow you to reap the benefits of simplification while avoiding the downside of over-consolidating too many accounts onto a given AE. You may even consider some sort of discounted rate for transitioning senior customers into a more self-serve model after the point of knowing they have been well sold and intend to remain long-term customers. These details will be specific to each scenario but the notion of consolidating human responsibility in the customer lifecycle remains valid.
For many companies this course of evolution will happen naturally as a result of automating so many aspects of each of today's roles (SDR, AE, CSM), as at a certain point it will become obvious that reversing the operational specialization will make sense since given you'll have supplemented so much of the "busy-work" with AI/AGI or other automatons.
This should not be viewed as a downside for SDRs, AEs, or CSMs, and it shouldn't mean that entire teams of people are let go or fired. It should instead mean that the best people on each team have a secure future and can be transitioned into full-cycle Account Executives who deliver a more streamlined and personable experience to each customer they bring on.
When this transition officially takes place you can begin considering how to specialize your full-cycle AEs into different account types or segments, allowing for a more optimized experience tailored to the needs of unique customer sets and enabling AEs to focus on their own niche of the overall customer base, whether by vertical, company size, or geographical region for example.
If your brain ends up in a knot thinking through how to make this transition, my advice is to start with a clean slate and design the operational teams you need for your new "efficiency and experience based" org chart, and then back-fill those teams and roles from your existing org.
This is a much easier approach than trying to first think through the transitions since you will quickly get held up making the wrong considerations for each individual person rather than designing an org chart that makes sense for your business today, and making this mistake sets everyone up for failure anyway, so it's best to start with the org chart and then think of filling those roles with specific people afterwards.
If you need help modeling out different potential scenarios and/or implementing structural change to your company and org chart to best accommodate the fast changing landscape of B2B SaaS, book a consultation today and let's get started.
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