In an ideal world, accounts would grow on their own without any extra effort on your part. However, Key Account Managers (KAMs) have to put in a lot of effort to make sure their accounts grow! Account growth is the only way to achieve growth for your company through that account, so you need to do what it takes to ensure your accounts are experiencing growth. Some behaviors contribute to account growth more than others.
Understanding Your Customers and Their Market
Many of your customer accounts are probably willing to teach you specifics about their organization, but they don’t want to have to teach you everything. Showing up prepared and already knowledgeable about their industry and operations can do a lot to impress your customers.
You shouldn’t expect them to teach you everything about the market in general or their company. Instead, spend time researching and really trying to understand their company and the environment they work in. Coming to your customer with an understanding of what they do, how they do it, and where they operate will work in your favor to show your dedication to that account and your willingness to work hard. It will also help you hit the ground running instead of wasting time getting up to speed.
Accounts can only grow by expanding from their current state. If you do not fully understand where your customers are now, it will be difficult to help them get further along. You need to first learn everything you can about your customers beforehand to help speed up the account growth by starting off stronger.
Think Outside the Box
Growth can sometimes be achieved in a formulaic and predictable way, but it’s better to find opportunities no one else is taking advantage of and seek profits from that. This requires some creative thinking to see untapped opportunities. Thinking outside the box means looking at the way things are already done and finding out a new way to do it.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to help grow your customer’s account. Even small changes can make a huge difference if they’re made wisely and at the right time. Pay attention to the data and look for gaps in the market that your customers could be filling. Help them to fill these gaps and you will have assisted them in growing their own business. In most cases, customer revenue growth will lead to your account with them growing, especially if you are responsible for the revenue growth in any way.
Cast a Vision
KAMs absolutely must be visionary people. But more than that, KAMs should be able to paint their vision for others to catch it as well. This can be difficult, because it’s not always easy to express your vision in words and ideas that will make sense to someone else. However, you can’t expect growth if you don’t know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there.
Vision is not something replaceable that your accounts can do without. It’s a vital part of account growth, so it should also be an essential part of your job as a KAM. You need to be able to create a vision and communicate it to others you are working with, especially your customers.
Put Your Vision into Action
Once you make your vision known, your job isn’t done. As the KAM, you also need to create a plan of action to reach that vision. Growth happens when you work consistently towards a specific goal. If you don’t have a plan to follow, it will be difficult to maintain consistent progress. Account plans are your way to make a vision into a reality.
Account plans help you and your customer stay on the same page and work together for growth. It will keep you both accountable to one another and will give you milestones to check your progress as you go. Vision will take you much farther when you have a plan on how to make it happen, step by step.
Action is the bridge between what you have and what you want. When it comes to customer growth, action will take your partnership from where it is now to where you want it to be in the future. The goals laid out in the account plan should be mutually beneficial to both you and the customer in order to drive growth for both parties as you reach the goals.
Ask the Right Questions
When you’re talking with customers, you shouldn’t just focus on questions that will give you the basic information without any context. Make sure you’re getting as much as possible out of a conversation with your customers by using the right questions. Skip the basic questions (because you should have researched the basics beforehand!) and go deeper to find out what’s behind each move, decision, or strategy your customers talk about.
Ask questions about why they want to do something in particular to find out the motives behind their actions. Motives will point straight to customer goals, giving you an excellent glimpse into what they’re really hoping to achieve, even if they’re not entirely sure how to put it to words themselves. Ask more in depth questions about the what, where, why, who, and how instead of being content with what’s directly shared with you. Learn as much as you can and prove that you’re invested in their success.
Bring Up the Numbers
KAMs do not necessarily have people singing their praises, so sometimes the onus is on the KAM to make sure the positive impacts of a partnership are being seen. Your customers may not be willing to increase their accounts with you if they’re not seeing the impact you’re having on their own growth first. You need to make sure you’re bringing up the positive impact to give it the screen time it deserves.
It’s not about pointing out positives without looking at anything else, or about trying to demonstrate your own value above all else. But, you do need to remind your customers that you’re making forward progress. The middle ground between starting and reaching goals can look like stagnation or failure, so it’s your job to make sure it’s understood that progress is being made.
KAMs need to find the right mix to drive their accounts towards growth. These characteristics are important for KAMs and should not be ignored. Because of the importance of account growth, KAMs must learn to adapt the behaviors necessary to drive stronger growth. Otherwise, success might be harder to reach.