The “Gone-Native” Account Director

What follows is another excerpt from my forthcoming volume on the way the enterprise sale appears from the inside:


“Gone native” is generally hated by Sales Directors because their traditional tools of control: the pipeline, the contact reports, the CRM systems, and, ultimately the target, are all pretty much incidental to the gone-native. Gone-Natives do what is required in order to keep their jobs, but are concerned primarily with becoming as close as possible to being an employee of the customer.

What are the behaviours of a gone-native Account Director then? Here are some observations I’ve made watching some of the best and brightest I could find.

Firstly, they’ll hardly ever see the resources they get assigned to make sales as their key asset. In fact, if they get more sales people assigned to them, they are just as likely to refuse than accept. They know that customer will come to them for help in any appropriate situation, because they are trusted. There’s no need to shove propositions down the customer’s throats in order to get new business. The Gone-Native Account Director is more likely to request resources which are ordinarily paid-for. They’ll fight tooth and nail to get them, too, because their number one priority is serving their friends, not making money from them. The internal challenges they face in doing so is likely to be shared with the customer, too, and the customer will probably be extremely sympathetic, rather than just bored with all the machinations their Account Director is going through. Friends, after all, look after each other and try to support each other through difficult situations.

Another sign of gone-native is when there are overly familiar personal relationships that develop, quite outside the normal professional ones. For example, if your Account Director is invited over to the homes of customers for social reasons, its a pretty fair bet you’ve got a gone-native on your hands. I have never seen this happen – ever- with an Account Director who plays relationships in order to optimise economic returns.  But it happens all the time with those who have a deep, and real, concern for their customer.

But the best sign of gone-native is when Account Directors start putting up walls inside your sales organisation to limit the amount of contact other sales resources have with their customer. There will be many excuses for this, but the real meat of the issue for the gone-native Account Director is that they’re embarrassed by the traditional sales approach. They have developed real, abiding friendships. They are doing genuine, partner-forming work. The last thing they need is for some senior person who focusses on economic returns banging around upsetting the applecart.

And upset it they will. It is so obvious to the customer when someone new shows up that has one thing on their mind: doing what they need to do to extract money. A gone native account director is right to be embarrassed. The fact that they allowed a genuine relationship to be abused by someone who has their own selfish interests at heart is mortifying.

2 Responses to“The “Gone-Native” Account Director”

  1. Sam
    June 18, 2010 at 12:45 pm #

    HAHAHAH – I think I know who you are referring to!
    Brilliant observations James, can't wait for the book 🙂

  2. June 18, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

    Yes, indeed. The person that inspired this particular piece is very well known to both of us.

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