Classic triangle “Sales-PM-Account” in an interactive agency

    Hi, Habr. In this article, I wanted to discuss options for organizing an effective scheme for managers to interact with a company developing Internet projects. The problem is as old as the world and in a crisis has become even more relevant. The topic under discussion is very extensive, therefore, a number of simplifications (assumptions) are made in the model under consideration.

    These considerations are mainly based on many years of experience working with ADV / web-engineering . Over the years of work and at different stages of the company’s development, we have tried almost all the schemes of organization of the “triangle”.

    Description of the roles of the “triangle”, area of ​​responsibility

    It is worth noting that we are talking about roles here. The specific organization scheme of the “triangle” may imply the combination of several roles in one manager.

    The Sales . Sales Manager. He is responsible for sales of projects on incoming requests - first contact, preparation and presentation of proposals and estimates, conclusion of a contract. Sometimes it is also engaged in the development of “cold” contacts - that is, it searches for customers independently (or through channels such as large RAs, system integrators, etc.).

    PM . Project manager. He is responsible for the production of the project, controls the timing-price-quality. He leads the project team as part of the production of the project, solves production issues with representatives of the customer.

    The Account . Account Manager. Provides customer service, develops strategic relations with the client, responds to complaints, tries to make him comfortable and easy at the entire stage of the client’s existence. As a rule, motivated to sell projects and services to existing customers. In many ways, the account role is intermediate between PM and Sales.


    To understand the problem, you need to understand the motivation that moves the representative of each of the roles in his work.

    Sales is focused on the sale of a specific project. It is not so important for him what will happen at the production stage, it is important for him to sell. Therefore, Sales is often inclined to lower the estimated cost (it’s easier to sell) and promise the mountains of gold to the client. What is often very dissatisfied with PM.

    PM is motivated by the quality production of the project. Since he is responsible for the quality and labor costs of the project, he is always inclined to raise the estimated cost (so there are less risks) and promise the client a minimum (since he will be responsible for his promises). It is not very important for him what will happen after the completion of the project, his task is to bring the project to its logical conclusion.

    Accountmotivated to organize for his client the most comfortable space within the company. In fact, the account should be the representative of the customer on the side of the studio and act in his interests. The account should turn loyalty and good relations with its customer into repeated orders of the company's projects and services - this is the ultimate goal. The account is motivated to reduce the estimated cost (it’s easier to sell, and the client is satisfied) and is not motivated to promise the golden mountains (then it will still be worse, but it will still work with the client).


    In addition to motivation, all roles significantly differ in the format and rhythm of activity, which also needs to be taken into account. Sales

    activity is as unstable as possible and its interaction with the client is of the shortest duration. The sale cycle is the shortest stage. Sold - not sold. Also, Sales has the most risks - in the process, it is at the forefront, and most of the product it produces is not in demand (simply because there are much fewer projects sold than not sold). Not all people are able to work in such a torn mode, you need to have a certain inclination for this. PM activities

    measured by the project cycle. The manager has one or several projects in production, and he is aimed at the effective implementation of each individual project. PM considers time intervals in the context of the project and its stages. Thus, PM “runs” the middle distance - in his field of vision is the project (the duration is longer than the sale stage, but less than the entire life cycle of the client in the company).

    Accountworks in the longest phase. He has a client with whom he will be together on the whole cycle of his presence in the company. His tasks are more strategic (development of relations, organization of a comfortable stay of the client). The activity of the account should be systematic and well organized. But he is focused, ultimately, on the repeated sales of projects or services to his customers, do not forget this.

    Options for organizing the “triangle”

    Since there are only three roles, you can consider all the options for combining them, evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

    1. Sales & PM & Account “All in One”

    A classic option for the first stage of development of a small company. Resources are not enough to hire several specialists, so the company has one manager of all trades. As a rule, he is also the CEO and the center of competence within the company.


    If the manager managed to sell the project, then the client liked it. He continues to lead it and interacts with the client, which eliminates the problem of changing the contact person after the sale.


    Strong internal conflict “Sales-PM” due to different motivation and different goals. The manager is a single entry point for the client, so the inevitably occurring small shoals at the production stage are projected by the client onto strategic relationships. With the growth of incoming requests and projects in the production manager is simply not enough for everything.

    2. Sales + PM & Account

    As a rule, this model is the next in the development of the company. The most conflicting roles of PM and Sales are divided, thus solving the internal conflict. Sales is engaged in net sales, its task is to attract new customers to the company.

    The main task of PM & Account is still the production of projects. The function of developing relations with a client is more likely to be a burden.


    With competent PM & Account specialists who are responsible for their work, this scheme allows you to work efficiently for a long time and has a large margin of safety.

    PM & Account is a carrier of knowledge on both the client and the projects - he is always aware of what is happening.


    Due to the fact that Sales is a separate manager, there is a problem of transferring the project, so PM & Account has to be involved in the early stages of the presale. From the point of view of Sales, the minus is the lack of responsibility for their actions, there is a temptation to “promise the client with three boxes”, because then he will still mess with this production.

    With an increase in the number of regular customers (for example, 15 people are assigned to a person, and he has 3 projects in production, and he focuses on projects), they begin to fall out of sight and stagnate without further development of relations, which negatively affects the company’s business.

    As in the previous scheme, small shoals arise during the production of the project, and customer dissatisfaction is projected onto strategic relationships (since the same manager deals with them).

    * I can say that the company ADV / web-engineering has existed in such a paradigm of organization of the "triangle" for more than 8 years. But this was possible only thanks to the very high competence and responsibility of employees in PM & Account posts.

    3. Account + Sales & PM “Clinical”

    This is a very strange option, which we consider only for completeness. The motivations of PM and Sales are diametrically opposite, so combining them in one person with a separate account is simply pointless. In practice, fortunately, I have never encountered such an option.

    4. Sales & Account + PM

    In this scheme, Account is merged with Sales, and PM becomes a dedicated role. This allows you to localize customer sales interaction in one person, and production directly in another. Such a scheme is typical for fairly large companies in which there are a sufficient number of regular customers and a large volume of projects in production.


    There is no problem of transferring the project (client) and knowledge on it. The manager who sold the first project to the client continues to work with him further. Sales & Account is the entry point for the client for all services of the company.

    The ultimate goal of both Sales and Account is sales, which allows you to localize this task within one person. The same scheme allows you to stabilize the "discrete nature" of Sales due to the constant and well-predicted volume of orders from regular customers.


    Sales and Account have a different rhythm of activity, there is an internal conflict. Sales has many inboxes that quickly end with a “hang up”, a small interaction cycle, and Account has regular customers with whom it is necessary to carefully build relationships.

    * At the time of writing this material, ADV uses just such a scheme for work.

    5. Account + Sales + PM “Swan, Cancer and Pike”

    It would seem that the scheme with the maximum “division of labor” should be as efficient and ideal as possible for a large company. However, everything is not so simple.

    The advantage of such a scheme is that managers perform “pure” roles, which negates all human internal conflicts.

    There are more drawbacks:

    One of the important problems is the transfer of the project - the client often has a shock when he likes Sales and is replaced by two contact persons at the beginning of work, disappears from view. This requires PM and Sales to be included in the early stages of the presale.

    The presence of three people on each project introduces a certain confusion into the interaction and often turns into a “dance with tambourines” around the client, when no one understands what is happening, centers of competence are lost. Obviously, management within the framework of such a scheme is more difficult to organize.

    In addition, practice has shown that there are quite a few “narrow specialists” in the market who can get along in the same role (this applies to a lesser extent to PM, to a greater extent to Sales and Account), which makes it difficult to find them.

    * We existed within the framework of such a scheme for less than a year and changed it to the “Account & Sales + PM” scheme that showed (for us, everything is individually) great efficiency.


    The topic is very extensive, and, as I noticed at the very beginning, a number of simplifications are made in the model under consideration. For example, in most large companies there is an additional role of “support manager”, which also has its own subtleties, and this role can be combined with others (or not), turning the “triangle” into a “square”. In addition, if the company has formed a line of diversified products, we can talk about including the “Product Manager” role in the scheme.

    It is also worth noting that each scheme requires its own approach to hiring specialists, since a person who shows himself well in one layout of roles will almost certainly be less effective in combining others.

    Thank you for your attention, I hope this material has contributed to useful thoughts ;)

    Andrey Terekhov

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