For some things in life, there is a clear-cut, right or wrong answer. You define an apple as one thing and anyone in the world will think the same thing. But for other things like “success” and key account management, the answer isn’t as simple. Believe it or not, not every organization has the same definition of key account management.
It means something different to every manager and executive and the answers might surprise you. From the basic principles and day-to-day duties of a key account manager to the overall goal of the account management system, how you subconsciously define it could be very different than what the experts think about it.
So, what’s your definition of key account management and should you shift your perspective for better success? Let’s take a look at how we define it, along with some core principles to keep in mind and include in your definition.
How We Define It
At Kapta, we eat, sleep, and breathe key account management. It’s our everything and we’ve had the privilege to work with some of the best key account management teams in the business over the years. From our experience and the way that we do things here, we define it like this:
Helping you deliver win-win outcomes and maximum value to the customers that are most strategic to your business.
That’s our mission statement and you’ll notice that results and win-win outcomes are front and center. The reality is we don’t see key account management as just a system for maintaining your current position but instead is about delivering results first. When you deliver results over simple management, your most strategic accounts see you as the partner in their success. They can’t do it without you.
Do you think of key account management as moving the ball down the field, or is it more about doing the bare minimum to keep them through renewal season? If you answered the latter, you need to adjust your strategy if you want to compete with the other players in the market.
It’s All About the Win-Win
Results speak louder than words in key account management. Your customers deserve more than just promises and excuses. They chose to work with you because you have a track record of delivering results for your clients and have presented yourself as an expert in their industry. If you lose focus of driving wins for your most strategic accounts, then your key account management program will suffer.
Some people have a hard time visualizing this joint success. They’re too caught up in their own organization and start to see their customers are revenue generators rather than outspoken supporters. When you make your strategic customers happy and keep them happy for years in a row, they can become your best lead generating tool. Don’t underestimate the power of Customer Success and creating win-win outcomes, no matter how big or small they are.
A good way to shift into this perspective is to put your customer’s goals before your own. Get more specific in your meetings with them to uncover their hidden needs and worries and find a way to incorporate them into the account plan. With this sharp focus on their ultimate outcome, you’ll notice that the wins for your organization happen almost automatically along the way. Now that is what we call the ultimate win-win scenario.
You Need to Deliver Maximum Value
Another component of defining what key account management means to you is determining the maximum value for your customers and then delivering it. We only want to spend on premium products and services that deliver value and your services and product should bring as much value as possible to your clients. Finding this maximum value isn’t some sort of magic and you shouldn’t just hope you get lucky and have a product that matches your client’s expectations.
In our definition of key account management, we must work to determine what our clients define as their maximum value. Basically, you want to know what is their be-all, end-all goal along with what they look for in you to help them reach that goal. If you can uncover the answer to this, you can find a way to position your services as the answer to their needs and you’ll be able to deliver maximum value to them.
Delivering this maximum value should be efficient and seamless. If you feel like you have to work to find a reason that your clients should choose you over the competition, you need to evaluate how you’re positioning yourself and potentially how you feel about your products or services.
Know the Client
So, how do you get the answers to some of these most important questions? In key account management, we strongly believe that nothing can get done and you can’t build a strong relationship with your clients unless you pick up the phone and talk to them. Emails, texts, and chats are convenient, but this digital barrier is keeping you from getting to really know your client like the business partner they are.
For us, when it comes to becoming our clients’ trusted partners, we do as many personal calls as possible to develop a nearly unbreakable relationship. It all starts with the Voice of Customer (VOC) interview. This is essentially like a QBR except a lot more frequent, a whole lot more effective, and gets to the deep-rooted questions and answers that your competitors wouldn’t even think to ask about.
To be a Trusted Advisor and someone that your client considers as the partner in their success, you need to do more than just learn the basics of their business. To be the best, you need to know your client and their organization better than they know themselves. You need to have a solid understanding of their needs, goals, wants, fears, risks, and the 3 a.m. questions that keep them up at night. If you have a firm understanding of these things, then getting results for your customers will become almost automatic.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
In our view, the Pareto Principle, stating that 80% of results can be equated to 20% of inputs, is a core component of the definition of key account management. The entire management philosophy is based on the fact that your strategic accounts matter more than the rest of your clients. While you should care about every organization that chooses to use your services, your priorities need to be in order.
Let’s say you brought in $200K in revenue last month—$160K or 80% of that quite possibly came from only two of ten clients. With numbers like that, it’s crucial that you prioritize and put all of your time and energy into the clients that matter. This isn’t to say that you should neglect other accounts and avoid trying to grow them but rather understand who keeps your company rolling and who is merely providing a little boost.
How Do You Implement It?
If you don’t have a key account management culture or platform in place already, you’ll need to have a plan to implement it. Planning not only helps you and your team become adjusted to the new system, but it will ensure that the transition is smooth for your clients as well. Pulling off a smooth implementation of a key account management program is crucial to your success as you’ll need to deliver solutions and results smoothly as well.
We are firm believers in detailed account plans that account for a variety of things that could possibly happen. Although it might take more effort on your end, when you can plan things out fully for your accounts and for your organization, the results are astounding. Take the time to consider how you’re going to implement your KAM program at the start and how you’re going to implement your account plans so your customers can see the results you’ve promised.
Follow a Repeatable Methodology
We believe that there is an art and a science to being a good key account manager. The art component is in how you build relationships with your customers and weave results seemingly out of thin air. The science part, however, is where the results really come from, and determines how successful you really are in the long run. The secret is to follow a simple, repeatable methodology that practically guarantees that you’ll get to the goal post in the end.
Developing that methodology can take some time if you’re starting from scratch, but chances are you’ve already created one throughout your career. You know the things to say and things not to say. You have personal best practices that you live by. Consider all of them and any adjustments you can make. You must also be open to adjustments based on external information and other account management best practices and incorporate them into your own.
Create a Joint Success Plan
A key piece of our KAM definition is the idea of joint success. We aren’t focused on winning only for ourselves, but see ourselves as teammates striving to reach the same goal. When we win, our customers win, and when our customers win, we win. Joint success is a mindset that you need to maintain in all you do if you want to be the best strategic account manager.
Along with developing a mindset, you’ll want to create a joint success plan that highlights all of the duties and responsibilities of your role and how it will affect your client. Every client will be different and have different goals, but in the end, they likely all want the same thing, whether it’s revenue growth, new customer growth, or something else.
As our definition of key account management is primarily based on building a relationship, building trust with your clients goes right along with it. Without trust in a relationship, you have nothing, and you want your clients to trust you so you can have more deciding power and wiggle room with their account, and they’ll also be more forgiving if you ever make a mistake in the future.
To build that trust, we find that giving them a peek into your mindset and ideas for the future. Some account managers think that they have to protect their client’s account plans to surprise them, but the reality is, the more you can share the better. Let them know how much thought has gone into your process and how much you want to see their account succeed. Show off your results and let them know that you’re winning for them. By being transparent about your process and practices, you’ll be able to build trust with all of your accounts and claim the coveted title of Trusted Advisor.
Kapta is an all-in-one enterprise account management platform that enables account managers to drive more results with less technical effort. Instead of having to jump from program to program just to accomplish a simple task, Kapta puts it all in one place. This means that you’ll spend less time bogged down with your office technology and instead dedicating more time to your clients and their goals. Kapta is the ultimate relationship management platform with tools like Voice of Customer (VOC) Insights, account planning templates, health scores, and more right there for you to manage your accounts and see where you stand at a glance. If your goal is the strengthen your relationships and achieve even more win-win solutions, you need Kapta.