Key Account Management (KAM), according to a Harvard Business Review article, is not a sales technique. It is a radically different organizational process used by B2B suppliers to manage their relationships with strategically important customers. Establishing and incorporating the value proposition, a necessary and fundamental component of KAM, makes the biggest difference in key account management.
According to marketing consultant and writer, Peter Sandeen, in an article for Kissmetrics:
“The usual definition of value proposition is crippled. It describes it as ‘a promise of the value you can deliver.’ Value proposition, if you define it like that, is a decent—but incomplete—internal tool that can guide your decisions to the right general direction. But nothing more. A more useful definition of value proposition is “a believable collection of the most persuasive reasons people should notice you and take the action you are asking for.”
In today’s data-driven, internet-savvy world, being the best isn’t enough. Your accounts—especially your key accounts—should leap to the conclusion that you are the finest choice available to them. Unfortunately, most businesses fail to help their customers come to this realization. Instead, they rely on general promises, marketing jargon, and lists of product or service features, rather than making the customer directly aware of the solutions brought to the table, the guarantees fulfilled, and the excellent service delivered.
Communication is Key
When asked to name the top three skills they believed their subordinates need, 70 percent of the readers of CIO magazine listed communications as one of them. Communication is absolutely crucial to successful key account management. “Out of sight, out of mind” isn’t just a popular phrase, it is a rudimentary law of psychology, and in the context of KAM, communication plays an important role in making sure that your company’s value proposition remains in full view of your clients.
There are many articles on business communications, especially on how you can communicate effectively with people at work, whether they are customers, coworkers, or superiors. Most of the tips boil down to “listening.” Listen actively, don’t interrupt, use positive statements, anticipate questions and objections, and finally—but most importantly—keep the customer informed.
It is this last tip that can be used to the most advantage in key account management. Guiding a customer to the realization that your product made a significant impact in their business keeps your value proposition at the top of their mind.
Remind Customers Why They Need You
No one likes to have the “what have you done for me lately” conversation, but every customer is subject to this line of thinking, especially if you’re not actively reminding them why your product or service is of value to them.
It is the human tendency to get used to any situation, whether thrilling or painful, in a way that dulls your initial impression. Fast change, visible transformation, and frequent improvement is what every customer wants and expects. Encourage your customers to tell you, in their own words, how your product helped them meet a critical business goal or find a solution to an ongoing problem. If they can’t tell you, you’re not communicating your value proposition to them clearly or frequently enough.
In KAM, it is important to keep customers aware of what makes your company different and worth their attention. People can’t read your mind. Though you may be working hard behind the scenes, if you’re not keeping your key customers up-to-date about what you’re doing, they won’t understand just what an asset you are to their business’s success. Left to their own devices, they will simply get used to what you bring to the table, without fully realizing the value of your work.
Keeping your value proposition top of mind for your key accounts is an integral part of maintaining long-term, loyal relationships. You need to remind your key accounts what sets you apart from your competitors and understand how you can support and further their company’s strategies and goals. After all, if you don’t tell customers what makes you worth their attention and why you’re the best choice for their business, no one else will.
Curious to see how you can take your Key Account Management skills to the next level? Download this helpful ebook on how to create powerful engagement plans for your key accounts or sign up for a demo of Kapta.