Listening More - A Critical Skill

The 3 critical skills required to be a great Technical Account Manager

A Technical Account Manager is someone who works for an IT company or MSP and is responsible for looking after the client as far as the relationship goes. They need to understand the client’s problems from a technical and business perspective and be able to translate those problems into solutions which the IT company can deliver. 

Typically, those solutions will be presented in the form of a proposal which will be presented to the board or management of the client. They will liaise with Technical Architect’s and write a proposal and fully costed quotation outlining the exact solution required to fix the identified problems in the client’s business. 

By the way, check out our job listing portal for the latest IT jobs in Western Australia if job hunting for a Technical Account Manager position and similar.

3 qualities a Technical Account Manager should have

The top three qualities a Technical Account Manager needs to have to be successful are: 

  1. The ability to actively listen to the client 
  2. Enough technical knowledge to be able to apply IT solutions to business problems  
  3. Business acumen 

So let’s unpack that a bit more. 

Active listening

Firstly being an active listener. There’s a fantastic chapter in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey about active listening and I thoroughly recommend that book and particularly the chapter on active listening. This skill is not taught in schools and typically not taught to us by our parents and yet it’s one of the most important skills that we can use in life and in business. Business is about solving people’s problems and to effectively solve someone’s problems you have to know not only what that problem is but also be able to convince the client that you fully understand the problem and can empathize with the pain, frustration and the other feelings associated with that problem.  

The only way to do this is to engage in active listening and reflection techniques. Some of those techniques include asking the right questions, pinpointing the exact feelings that the client is talking about and being able to identify that feeling with words. Reflecting to the client without judgment as to the position that this problem puts them in and how and why they arrived at this point.  

Technical knowledge

When it comes to technical knowledge, the key requirement here is to have enough technical knowledge to understand common solutions to business problems within IT but also to be able to have enough technical credibility such that when you’re talking to the IT manager or the person responsible for IT in a business, you can talk at their level. They will get frustrated if they feel they must overly dumb things down for you to understand. Firstly, the technical knowledge is required to understand the client’s IT environment and technical problems. Then the ability to articulate the technical benefits of one proposed solution above another and associated costs is the critical skill. 

Business acumen

And finally, business acumen. That’s the ability to understand the way businesses operate. This includes: 

  • How and why the business exists and how it makes money  
  • What problems the business solves and what makes it profitable 
  • Typical processes within departments and how departments connect to each other  

An understanding of the business context will always help to understand the technical or business problems that the company might be facing and how information technology can help solve those problems.  

The Technical Account Manager is a perfect blend between a relationship manager which manages the relationship with the client as well as a technical person who understands the technical solutions to business problems. If you don’t want to go heavily down the technical route in terms of being very hands-on with computer servers, routers, switches or even cutting code, then the Technical Account Manager role might be the perfect one for you. It takes you off the tools and into a relationship management role yet still allows you to be valued for your technical knowledge. You’ll keep your mind busy with technical things (which is probably why you went into IT in the first place) but your key deliverable will be the quality of the relationship you maintain with the clients you serve.

Are there any other qualities you think critical requirements for Technical Account Managers? 

Comment below or on Linkedin or Twitter, I’d love to hear from you. 

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