When it’s time to do a performance review for your key account managers, there are lots of factors to consider. After all, key account management isn’t sales, so it’s not enough to look at quotas. KAM reviews should probe beyond the numbers, understanding the processes and relationships behind them. And KAM reviews should look beyond the short term; Key Account Managers are stewards of the customer relationship, and their job is to facilitate long-term, strategic partnerships that bring stability and growth to your organization over time.
Evaluating their effectiveness takes a broad approach, rooted in a shared vision for success; namely: Deep customer engagement and strong account health. And while there certainly are good metrics to help guide your conversation, your review should be ultimately both quantitative and qualitative. Consider evaluating:
- Customer results as well as internal results
- Leading indicators as well as lagging indicators
- Relationships as well as revenue
Key Account Management is about putting customers first. In order for your KAMs to do so consistently, they need to be supported by an internal culture, across your entire organization, that also prioritizes customers.
Practically speaking, this manifests a couple of ways in a performance review: The first is getting direct customer feedback as part of a comprehensive evaluation. We’ll talk about that more later. The second is looking just as much at customer KPIs as you do at internal metrics of success.
Start by looking at how well your team—led by the key account manager whose performance you’re reviewing—is helping customers achieve their stated objectives. A tool like Kapta gives you a single dashboard from which to access customer goals and objectives, as well as KPIs.
If your KAM and their team have recently helped the client increase their revenue or market penetration, or otherwise achieve their stated goals, that’s a huge plus for your KAM—even if the customer’s achievements haven’t yet translated to more internal revenue. Be patient, and remember: key account management is a long game. Putting customers first pays off—but sometimes it pays off a month, a quarter, or a year down the road. And sometimes it pays off just as much in reputation and referrals throughout your industry as it does in increased revenue with one customer.
Let’s look at the reverse scenario. Say the KAM and their team are upselling clients left and right, but upon closer inspection, they are not following through by helping clients move the needle on their stated objectives. This is definitely a red flag. Over time, if clients don’t see value from the partnership, they’ll move on, and your short-term gains will convert to long-term losses. Consider talking more about this in a review—what’s not working, and why not? How might your KAM course-correct to keep the client engaged for the long term?
Remember: Key Account Management puts customers first. That means a performance review of KAMs has to do the same. Keep that in mind as you proceed.
Revenue and retention are certainly important metrics for evaluating KAM performance—but they’re lagging indicators, and therefore not only thing you should consider in your review. Retention and revenue are also affected by many factors outside your KAM’s control.
The balance here is not to avoid all lagging indicators, but simply to add leading indicators to your evaluation. These often take the form of process checks—how well are your KAMs following your internal KAM Process?
Kapta tracks the upstream activities we know key account managers need to do in order to build strong relationships; namely: Knowing what the customer is trying to achieve; Acting to make it happen; and Measuring client results. One quick glance at Kapta can tell you how often and how meaningfully your KAM is making client contact; how strategically and methodically they’re building action plans; how closely they’re tracking on time and budget; and how well they’ve performed for your customer.
If your KAM is consistently and effectively doing these things, they are likely doing their job well, even if it hasn’t been their biggest quarter—or year—in terms of revenue. If the relationship is strong and the lines of communication are open, the potential for growth is there—especially the growth potential your KAM can control. Use your performance review to look at the process behind the numbers just as much as you look at the numbers themselves.
And be honest with yourself: Is there a clear process for your KAMs to follow? If you find yourself struggling to define what you’re measuring against, in terms of approach, that might be an indicator your organization as a whole needs to assess and clarify its own KAM process. The success of your key account managers is ultimately a big part of the success of your company, so set them up for success by dedicating resources to Key Account Management. This includes taking the time to establish a clear process as well as investing in purpose-built tools to support them along the way.
While we strongly encourage looking beyond quarterly or even annual revenue, it’s of course reasonable to look at those numbers as part of a broader review. After all, strong key account management is designed to support organic growth. If your account manager is consistently renewing and upselling contracts, that’s a great sign. If, over time, their accounts are consistently underperforming, that’s a red flag.
While you’re looking revenue, it’s also important to look at margins, as these can help indicate how effectively your KAMs are running any given account. Project managers and the team as a whole certainly play a role here, but account managers are the ones working directly with the client. If they are constantly absorbing costs or reducing rates, look at the reason. Is it because clients aren’t satisfied?
It doesn’t do much good to continually renew or upsell a client, only to go over budget on every deliverable and end up swallowing costs. Or to constantly offer discounts just to keep customers hanging on. This is where your KAM’s deeper client communication skills come into play—if they’re just pandering, you’re not profiting, and that demands intervention.
When it comes to customer satisfaction, there’s a great resource out there: The customer.
As the supervisor of a key account manager, you are a leader within the KAM function at your organization; on some level, you are just as invested in and responsible for customer engagement as the people who report to you. Ask yourself: When was the last time you made a personal connection with your KAM’s customers? If it’s been a while, that’s understandable: It’s your team’s job to run the day-to-day. But think of a performance review as an excellent opportunity to sit down with your KAM’s customers and solicit direct feedback. How well is your team meeting their needs? How satisfied are they with the level of service they get from your company? How much value do they get from working with their key account manager?
In many ways, your key account managers report to your customers as much as they report to you. Sitting down with those customers to get direct feedback on KAM performance offers valuable insight you might not have a chance to see day-to-day; it also gives you a chance to strengthen the relationship by demonstrating how much you, as part of your company’s leadership team, value that client and their business. And finally, it models the exact behavior you want to see from your KAMs: Direct client contact, with plenty of opportunity for feedback and course-correction.
There’s a common theme running through this post, and that’s this: To effectively evaluate a key account manager, you have to look comprehensively at their performance, taking into consideration more than the numbers on a piece of paper. Getting sidetracked by numbers—especially short-term quotas—can lead you astray in either direction. At the end of the day, you’re evaluating relationship strength, client satisfaction, and customer engagement—and none of these things can be measured by numbers alone.
Kapta can be an excellent tool for managers, helping to frame and guide a productive performance review. Kapta gives you great insight into how well your key account managers are helping customers achieve their goals; how often KAMs are communicating with customers; and how healthy the overall account is, independent of short-term losses or gains. Kapta also provides Our KAM Process, which can help establish and define the approach you want your KAMs to take with customers, so you have a framework for performance—and performance reviews.
To see how Kapta supports managers in their performance reviews, schedule a personal demo today.