Monday, October 15, 2012

The Balancing Act


After a few months of handling the project as an Account Manager, Nathan started thinking, is handling project all about making sure that all promises made are delivered and on time or is it just about handling the customer? Every now and then, he was with the customer, quelling all his concerns on our capabilities to deliver or explaining them about how we handle their requirements. All in all, assuaging customer’s concerns and calming them. If he was not with them, he was having discussions with the implementation team.
Sooner than later, he realised, as an Account Manager, his responsibilities were more towards the customer, even though he was still the employee of his organization and not the customer. He surely realised customer was the King and he was one of his subjects J

On one hand, his delivery team was after him for not being assertive enough to say No to the customer and his every growing list of requirements. And on the other hand, customer was chasing him to meet all their agreed expectations and that too on time.

The delivery team at times would chastise him with taunts too. They would simply question his capabilities to handle the customer. Their ratings of Nathan would squarely depend on him able to say “No” to the customer. They would simply say, you just go and say Yes to everything and now we don’t have anything to deliver that. They would not agree that to get this project, they too accepted some of the difficult requirements from the customer.

The customer would just chase him saying that you have already accepted the requirements and its all listed in the proposal. So, you need to deliver them. And only then the payments would be made. Very well knowing that payments are all linked to the delivery milestones, which if no met, would automatically delay the payments.

Poor Nathan was struggling between the customer and the delivery team, little realising that there was another angle to this fight. It was a love triangle or may be a hate triangle where he was struck to make himself a living. He continued struggling to meet the expectations of all the stakeholders, also trying to establish himself in the organization and showcasing his capabilities. And suddenly he got call from ABC, asking him an update on the project and the monies to be collected from the customer.

He gave ABC an exact update on the status and told him clearly that because of this fight on the requirements, the delivery will be late, and hence the payments. To this, ABC asked Nathan – “What do I answer Mr CEO. He won’t listen to these delays. Yours and my salary will be delayed. Imagine how it will be like to see your salary delayed”.

Nathan explained the problems, but to no avail. What he got in reply was – “Its your responsibility and hence, you have to get the payments”. Nathan was completely shaken at the angle of payments to this ensuing fight.

With each passing day with them, Nathan was going crazy at finding a solution to his challenges. He had to somehow placate the concerns of each party and establish himself in the organization.
After a much thought, he decided to arrange a discussion between the delivery team and the customer so that some common ground can be found and eventually the delivery can be made and he can get the payment. He spoke to them and struggled to get the two fighting teams to get to agree to a common schedule to discuss the status and key issues.

Even though, he had arranged this, Nathan knew, nothing was going to resolve in just one discussion. We would need at least 2-3 more to come to an agreement for everyone.
Finally, after 4 rounds of discussions and many rounds of emails, they discussed each and everything and agreed to a final list of requirements to which both the parties confirmed their concurrence.

Nathan was happy that some of his ideas worked. After, each common discussion, he spent long hours discussing everything with the delivery team and then next day presented the same to the customer. He would then take back the customer’s feedback to the delivery team. This way, he was able to get each party ready with the action points for the next round of discussion.

This gave Nathan a lot of confidence in himself and his capabilities. And he learnt, his work was all about setting and meeting the expectations, more with the customer and then with his internal teams.

He accepted that there would always be a tussle like this, as Sales Team would promise moon to the customer to be able to sell. And at the end, the organization may not be able to meet the deliverables in the agreed timelines. He may not want to lie; however, he is left with no choice but to act in a particular manner as everyone else does too. It is a competitive world and he has to meet his targets too. If he doesn't sell, he can’t justify his existence in the company. He also realized that Sales team is the engine of the company. It brings in revenues and growth for the organization and provides momentum and keeps the morale high for the entire organization.

Meanwhile, Nathan continued with his core responsibility to sell. He continued arranging meetings and product demos, however, nothing moved to a stage of getting a new deal.

On one hand, he continued to get going as an Account Manager; on the other, he struggled to move ahead as a Sales Manager. 
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