With Key Account Management (KAM) teams, earning and constantly adapting is key to making progress. It’s all about staying ahead of your competitors, which often requires new practices to be implemented to help you differentiate your company. To do it the right way, you need to coach your Account Manager (AM) in new changes so that they can help you spread these changes throughout the team.
There’s a lot of variance in how coaching can be done, but some practices will be more effective for KAM teams than others. Here are a few tips to help you start coaching your AM to lead a successful KAM team.
For coaching to work, you will need to set aside specific times and dates for it. You can’t just do it on the fly or try to fit it around a new schedule every week. Set the time that coaching sessions should happen and stick to it closely.
Because of the nature of the learning, it should be done regularly, at least once a week. Weekly coaching sessions give you the ability to follow up on the account manager’s progress more closely and to advance the new concepts at a proper pace. If you are less regular with your meetings, it’s easy to forget what’s been learned or what should have been accomplished during the time apart.
Be committed to the weekly meeting time. Do not push it aside to schedule other things or blow it off. Coaching is an essential part of making sure your KAM team is performing at their best. The missed opportunity cost of failing to coach can be high, even if performance isn’t suffering immediately. Teams that aren’t constantly learning cannot stay ahead of the competition forever.
Focus on Behaviors Instead of Results
Performance is a great basis for judging work, but when you’re coaching you need to focus on more than just the results the AM is providing. Results do not show the whole picture of any learning progress. For this coaching, it’s better to look at the development of excellent habits and the behaviors the AM is exhibiting.
Shaping behaviors and forming good habits will help to ensure the longevity of what’s learned. It’s simple enough to study hard and ace the material on a performance exam. Demonstrating a consistent practice of what’s been learned will be better proof that everything was understood and will be implemented as expected.
You are helping the AM to develop the kind of behaviors you’re looking for, rather than expecting them to get there on their own. So, it’s helpful for you to put the focus on adaptation of specific behaviors and development in the right direction rather than simply getting better results in measurable metrics.
Create an Agenda for Growth
Do not walk into coaching without a well laid out plan about how it should go. Ideally, you’ll have a general overview of development goals and intentions for learning and you will create short-term goals, progress metrics, and plans as you go. Doing this will help you check up on the progress you’ve been making from week to week as well as to plan for future steps forward.
You need to keep checking up to see if the AM has been implementing what you learn each week. This can be done through action items and take-aways with each session. Every time you meet, you should first go over what was learned last time and see if the action items have been done and if the take-aways are still fresh in their mind. At the close of every coaching session, create a new set of action items for the coming week and summarize the take-aways to help the AM remember more easily.
Track how well they are following through with action items set each week. The purpose of tracking these is no to judge them solely on performance, but to make sure that they’re doing things as they should be and understanding the lessons well.
Relate the Account Manager’s Success to the Company
It’s difficult to get anyone to change their ways, especially if they are already good at their job. But, if you can relate the changes to individual success it can help give the AM more incentive to make the necessary adaptations. Connect with the AM and try to understand their own personal goals, drive, motivators, and metrics for success. What makes them feel like they are successful? What are they looking to accomplish through this job?
Finding the answers to these questions will give you a valuable way to reach the AM on a more personal level. Rather than trying to motivate them to make changes based on the positive effects for the company, relate the company’s success to their own personal, individual success. Connect the dots for them to see how making some specific changes and adaptations will improve their progress towards their individual goals as well.
Don’t try to force their individual goals to fit perfectly with the company’s goals. Find a way that they genuinely connect. It’s easy to tell when something is forced or faked, but a genuine point of connection will be motivating for the AM.
Facilitate Excellent Communication
Never make assumptions. Always ask about anything you’re unsure of before you act on or communicate based on assumptions. Assuming you know something about the AM or that you’re understanding each other clearly is dangerous and can lead to a break in communication.
Always make sure that you’re acting on the facts given to you by the AM, not on assumptions you’ve made about them. To get facts, ask the right questions and actively listen to the answers. Start with a closed-ended question and follow-up with open-ended questions to get all the information you can about what you’ve asked. Actively listen and repeat back what you’ve understood from their answers to make sure it’s accurate to what they meant.
Above all, focus on getting the full story every time instead of settling for bits and pieces and trying to fill in the rest on your own. Even things that seem like small misunderstandings can hinder the progress of learning and can throw off the progress or lead them down the wrong track.
Beyond your own understanding, you also need to make sure the AM is understanding what you’re teaching as well. Make a point of asking them if they are understanding and having them summarize what you’ve taught to see if they are on the same page with you or not. This will increase the chances of them retaining the knowledge correctly over time.
These coaching strategies will help you improve the effectiveness of your KAM team coaching sessions and will help you get any changes implemented more quickly. Every organization is different, so tailor these tips to best fit your particular company if you want the best results.