Key to Great Business – Key Account Management
Why is that? Why does it fail to give returns when it’s been termed as the ticket to success for many organisations? Well, it all actually boils down to the attitude and behavior of the individual managing the account - Key Account Manager (KAM).
How can one deliver a successful Key Account Program (KAP)?
Let’s try to understand the challenges first – understanding the factors behind the failure of the program at many organisations. You must have heard that great salespeople don’t always make great sales managers. That’s also true when organisations expect them to be great Key Account Managers. The reason why many KAPs fail is organisations’ expectations from their sales people to manage key accounts, which is a strategic disaster if the sales force is not provided the required training. Sales skills are vital, but not enough. To serve key accounts, apart from sales skills, a KAM needs to be adept in many more skill sets which are critical to drive the business. A successful KAM will have the following attributes:
- Understanding the customer: Like a good sales person, a KAM needs to demonstrate a good understanding of customer’s business. Understanding the dynamics of the market and keep them updated.
- Company Understanding: They need to understand their own business and key offerings that generates major revenue and profitability.
- Plan: Strategically plan their conversations with the customers to determine their priorities and offer them solutions accordingly.
- Portfolio: A KAM can contribute to company’s offering by creating solutions most required by the customers, since they are directly in conversation with the customers, they understand their psyche better.
- Engage: Value customers in a focused, engaging manner.
- Lead: Guide the team to its goals and orchestrate a coordinated approach to the account.
- Manage: Create account opportunities and territory plans.
- Collaborate: Leverage internal resources to find the best opportunities for the client.
So clearly, if you are relying on your sales people for KAM, without proper training, the program is bound to go south.
For KAMs, it’s critical to keep an eye on the changing market and have an acumen to understand how the change will affect your customers’ business, tell them factors that may contribute to their growth. That’s how you can create opportunities to upsell, and not just limit to management level. Your interpersonal skills and grasp of the business can also fetch you business from the C-suite. Executives will be willing to talk business with you only when they know you have a grip over the industry and can share insights which will be valuable for them. Research, thus, becomes a KRA for these managers.
As a KAM, one needs be ready with case studies to present to your clients and help them with suggestions and solutions. When you know your customer’s business inside-out, and demonstrate that knowledge, the customers come to trust you.
Other than the knowledge of the industry, a KAM should be up to date with their customers’ organisations policies and initiatives, as well. The changes in customer’s strategic initiatives can affect their buying cycle majorly. For a KAM, it’s important to understand these changes as they are accountable for many sales in an organisation at any given time.
Why case studies are important for KAMs?
The two prime reasons why case studies are important are:
1. You need to defend and justify to the customer the value of the solution you are proposing. 2. Sometimes you have to internally showcase a business case, on your customer’s behalf, as a part of research for them.
Most of the sales people aren’t very skilled when it comes to making business cases. The organisations do not provide them with required training to fill this gap. In general cases, they are given a template or reference documents to mime and fill in basic information. And, if we look at the broader picture here, people with analytical skills do not show interest in sales profile. Absence of this skill doesn't really affect the performance of a sales person, however, those responsible for KAPs, analytical and business case presentation skills are prerequisite, as they operate on a much higher level, in terms of interactions and the amount of sales they make. And, yet, their job doesn't end there. There are times when these managers need to adapt these business cases on the go, according to the customers situation, in a very short gap of time.
They need to be on their toes, with information on their fingertips. They never know when an opportunity may arise, and there always isn't much time to prepare a deck. In such scenarios, a KAM should have the data on top of his head to hold the conversation and convince the client.
Organisations need to build a dynamic culture to help KAM be comfortable with change. Make them understand the transient environment they are dealing in and how they can run with it. Extend right training from time to time from which they can learn skills that can be applied immediately.
Sales leaders should take it on themselves to nurture and create great KAMs. They need to invest in programs and tools to help the managers achieve their targets efficiently.