Contact mapping is one of the critical activities of most management jobs, but it’s especially critical for Key Account Management. Because of the strong and individualized goal focus practiced in Key Account Management, you need to be able to map out relationships with key accounts to get the most benefit out of the partnership.
Key Account relationship mapping is similar to other types of relationship mapping, but it must be done thoroughly and with a dual focus on your key account’s goals and your own.
Begin with a Goal Focus
You cannot start to accurately map out a key account relationship until you understand the goals of both sides. Your organization’s goals should be clear to you, but you also have to understand the key account’s goals. This should be established when you are beginning to develop the strategic partnership, so you can work towards situations that are mutually beneficial.
Because each key account is different, you should have different goals and maps for each one. It’s also best to have separate maps for each goal, whether they involve the same people or not. This way, you can keep track of everything that’s happening or needs to happen more clearly.
Include Everyone – Then Downsize
When you’re creating a key account relationship map, you need to be thorough. List everyone that’s in any way related to the partnership and specific goal. Don’t be afraid to list too many people, because you can always trim the list down a bit later in the process. This is a better way of making sure you don’t leave out potentially important contacts on either side.
Record the name, position, and importance of the person. Answer these questions:
- How are they related to the goal or partnership?
- What role do they play in the organization?
- Are they for or against the partnership?
- How do they feel about you and your organization?
- What are their personal goals?
- Are they a decision maker or influencer?
- How do they like communicating? (i.e. Short and direct or detailed explanations)
- What are your opinions about them?
- Are there things you need from them?
It may seem like an extensive list of questions, but the truth is that as a Key Account Manager your job is to get up-to-date information and use it to form a strong partnership. You need the right data to be able to succeed in connecting with your key accounts properly. Understanding these things about your key account contacts and your own organizational contacts will make a big difference in how well you work.
Plan the Effects of Seeking Goals
Each relationship map is meant to help you understand how to get from where you are to the goals laid out in the beginning of the process. In the process of creating that map, you need to know how each action to pursue a goal will affect those involved in the map.
Think about the outcomes of reaching milestones towards your set goals, then plan how those actions will affect your key account and your own organization. People will be affected differently by your goals, and planning ahead helps you stay one step ahead of their potential reactions or concerns. Knowing how others are affected lets you approach each person with greater understanding.
Consider the Negative and Positive
Don’t just think about success, but also consider the possibility of negative reactions by someone in your map, failure to reach goals, or efforts to work against the partnership. It is never right to assume that there will be smooth sailing with every key account. You will be wise to prepare and map out the possible effects to and from each contact if things don’t go well.
This doesn’t mean you should plan to fail. But, it means you need to be prepared if failure does happen by knowing what to expect. Not everyone in your organization or your key account’s company will be onboard with or supportive of the partnership. If one of the unsupportive people actively works against it, there are chances for negative outcomes or failure from your actions.
You need to prepare for how to handle failure and do damage control. If you don’t plan it out now, you won’t be ready to handle negative situations well when they do happen. A good map for handling damage control is going to guide you and your team to making better decisions in crucial moments. It will also help you plan better to avoid the worst-case scenarios, since you will most likely have thought about them and listed them ahead of time.
The other side to consider is how your failure or even your success in reaching goals will affect those on your key account relationship map. Failure has more obvious consequences, but sometimes success in one area can have negative effects for specific people or departments.
Start Early and Continue Updating
Stepping into a strategic partnership is complicated process with many required steps for success. By creating a relationship map early on, you’re helping to get your bearings before things get too complex. A solid relationship map helps you consider all the relevant inputs in your partnership so you can approach and respond to each one appropriately from the start. You need to understand your key account thoroughly, and a relationship map will help with that from the very beginning.
But, just as with every other Key Account Management process, you shouldn’t stop working with your key account relationship map once you’ve made the first draft. Update it when you get new information about one of your contacts, if someone’s status changes, or if a role is replaced or switched. Keeping your relationship map up to date is the best way to keep track of the key account’s organizational structure and the true strength of your partnership with them.
Creating a key account relationship map can be a lot of work. But, once it’s done, it’s an invaluable tool to promote growth of that key account. It will help you as the Key Account Manager, but it will also help your team to get more information they may need about your key account contacts when you delegate tasks to them. If you are promoted or replaced, you will be setting up a fantastic transition for the one coming in to replace you.
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.