Sales · Sales operations

How do you handle the handoff between AEs and and account management

Lucas Jaz

July 14th, 2016

We're having internal debate so wanted to understand how others handle or have handled the handoff between Account Executives (AEs) and account managers. In particular, when do you do it - after the client signs or before. If after, how do you make sure the AEs understand or are incentivized correctly as most I know are just ready to chase the next deal.

James Linden VP Business Solutions at Kochava

July 15th, 2016

Definitely one of my favorite topics to discuss within organizations.  Generally speaking I've often found the most success including the AM/client services team at the 90% stage of a deal closing.  It's critical for your new client to understand who they'll be working with and the types of service level they should expect. Moreover the AM/client services team can keep the sales team honest by making sure they are not promising deliverables that cannot be achieved.  A streamlined process should be implemented and used in a "rinse and repeat" manor so all sales executives and AM/customer service reps are well aware of the structure.   

Most sales executives I usually suggest ride off into the sunset after 6 months post closed deal.  If you've built a solid AM/customer service support team they should (A) be able to handle the account and (B) look for upsell opportunities.  Keep your sales executives hungry looking for the next whale vs. worrying about delivery on biz they've landed.

Bonnie Crater President and CEO at Full Circle Insights

July 15th, 2016

We try to have account manager participate in the later communications with the prospect so the transition is smooth between the two teams.  All notes about the account are recorded in Salesforce.  The AE schedules the kickoff call for the AM.  The AE makes the handoff on the customer kickoff call to the AM.  Our AEs are responsible for new business our AMs are responsible for retention. (in our case our AMs are the customer success team)  Hope this is helpful.

Paul Kesserwani Consulting and advising startups

July 15th, 2016

I agree with a combination of the answers above.

There are a lot of factors that impact when you should hire Account Managers, their role, and what the transition process from AE to AM should look like.

That said, my preference is introducing the Account Manager to the prospective client later in the sales cycle, but not necessarily waiting until the deal is closed. (Per Bonnie's comment)

The transition from AE to AM is very delicate. Each deal typically takes months to close, and in that time, the prospect gets more and more comfortable with their AE. The idea of exchanging that trusted comfortable relationship with a brand new one is stressful. Including an AM in the later stages of the deal eases the prospect (soon to be client) into the transition.

Greg Russak Advisor at

July 15th, 2016

In my experience, the transition from account executive to account manager happens after the sale.

Even in team selling, the sales person almost always will have primary ownership at least to the point that the prospect actually becomes a customer.

If you're big enough to have different people doing sales and account management as two separate functions, then I suggest that it may be in everyone's best interest to free up your AE to "chase the next deal" as quickly as possible.

A best practice I've used and would recommend for the handoff is for the AE to be responsible for scheduling a post-signature kickoff call or meeting. This is the AE's opportunity to formally introduce the new account "leader" (presumably the AM in your case) and anyone else who will be personally supporting the customer. It smooths the transition from AE to AM by ensuring that the customer doesn't feel like the AE just tossed them over the wall to someone else. It also tremendously helps to reduce customer and colleague confusion about who is guiding and nurturing the relationship now.

Greg Russak Advisor at

July 14th, 2016

I may not be reading your question correctly, but in organizations where I've been, SDRs were tasked with turning suspects into prospects - first-level qualifying and scheduling deeper dive with an AE - and AEs were tasked with turning prospects into customers - doing the individual needs discovery and analysis, matching needs to proposed solutions, doing the whole BANT thing, and ultimately closing the sale.

Hope this helps.

Markus Siebeneick Helping Dev & QA Teams Achieve CI/CD Through Test Automation at Sauce Labs

July 14th, 2016

Are the account managers tasked with retention, growth or adoption? Depending on your size, the sales guy should probably own both sales and account management until you are at probably 5M ARR at a minimum.

If you, do have two roles, you need to keep the following in mind in determining how the role will work. 

1) Does the AE get any credit if the AM upgrades an account?
If no, there is risk that the AE will deep discount to get a bigger deal upfront, which reduces potential upsell revenue or overall deal value from growing over time. 
2) Does the AE have any exposure if the customer churns or downgrades when it is in the AM's hands? If they have no exposure or it is minimal, the AE will write bad deals to get paid and leave it for the AM to deal with.

My opinion is that there is a hand off from AE to AM.  AE can get 50-75% credit for any up sells in the first 90 days by the AM, but also takes on 100% risk of any churn during the first 120 days.  If the customer is at risk for churn at the 120 day mark (due to a bad deal or customer never implementing), the AE should still have a % of risk equal to remainder of contract and 1 years future renewal possibility. 

Lucas Jaz

July 14th, 2016

Sorry I wrote that in haste - I meant AEs to account managers, not SDRs (although that's a different question) and I've changed it in the title.

Scott Landry VP, Global Customer Support at Akamai

July 25th, 2016

Another view which has helped me is looking at it through the customers's eyes, that will help you understand what is the right time to have the that initial AM touchpoint and like mentioned above have a strategy around what that is?  Every AM touchpoint in the customer journey (post and pre-sales) should have purpose and value. This will help take into account how much interaction you have on the AM/Customer success side.  e.g. If you r product is heavy on self service you may want an early entry to set up for success, if heavy on implementation it will become more organic since AM will be working with accounts and less need prior it sales.

RAMANI PATNAIK Business at Maa mangala costruction and R S A Enterprises

July 19th, 2016

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Scott Disrupting the Market Research Industry

July 24th, 2016

There's a few variables to consider depending on where you are in the evolution of your business (hunting, retention, up-sell), what the product is, price model and how much "touch" or knowledge transfer is involved. If there is a good deal of training, integration and interaction, I would get the AMs involved during the sales process and closer to the decision point. If an AM has a high client load (and low interaction), I think you are safe to get them involved after the signature.

If your hunters are getting to the point where an AM is needed, you need to set expectations with the AE about what happens to the client when they sign. They should sit with the AM to do a knowledge transfer and schedule a transition call with the client and the new AM. There may be some exceptions where you have some AEs who are a good fit with the client and it may make sense to keep them on the client. That may be an indication you have a good AM or farmer on your hands. 

Depending where you are in your evolution of the the business, client acquisition, retention, up-sell/cross-sell - if you're at an early stage of the business - hunters will be sufficient. When your hunters aren't spending much time with the clients (except for renewal time) or spending so much time with clients that they don't have much time to hunt, you should develop an AM team. Offer the AEs a chance to apply for an AM role. If you have some key accounts that are large and complex, you may need to look at having an account team which includes an AM and farmers. Setting out why you are doing this, expressing expectations and minimizing exceptions are key.