There are 3 pillars to building a truly customer-centric Key Account Management (KAM) function: People, process, and technology. You hire talent with the focus and skill to build customer engagement, and you empower them with a clear internal process, supported and accelerated by the right technology.
One way to look at the ideal Key Account Management tech stack is chronologically, along the customer journey:
- Tech to win business
- Tech to keep and grow the business
- Tech to communicate along the way
As we walk through our recommendations for each, we’ll keep in mind the 3 pillars above (people, process, technology) and explore ways in which tech can support and accelerate—but never replace—the people and process that make Key Account Management meaningful.
Tech to Win Business
In a perfect world, KAMs can focus on existing customers, working towards organic growth through long-term customer engagement. However, many KAMs do still participate in the pursuit of new business, which is fine—as long as it doesn’t detract from their ability to serve existing clients.
Whether it’s KAMs themselves or a different team working on new business, there are ways to do so that set everyone up for success—including the customer.
The best upstream fit for a strong Key Account Management function is ABM, or account-based marketing. Compared to traditional sales tactics, ABM works harder to find customers who can truly benefit from your products and services. ABM tailors marketing to meet customers where they are, both in terms of channel and message. By pushing your company to think about things from the customer’s POV, ABM inherently selects for strategic, best-fit accounts—and gets you into the right mindset for long-term engagement.
Since KAMs focus on keeping and growing accounts after the initial sale, their job is easier if the accounts coming to them have already been filtered for strategic fit. That’s why we think ABM and KAM are a powerhouse partnership: ABM to win the right customers; KAM to help them reach their full growth potential.
It’s worth noting that sales isn’t always upstream of Key Account Management; when it’s done well, KAM can be a driver of sales. For service firms who work with customers in a niche industry, winning business isn’t a question of sales or marketing technology at all. Customers generate RFPs, and send them out to a few select firms. In cases like this, the relationships KAMs have made in their careers follow them as they go, creating opportunities for major new business wins. And the value your firm has consistently demonstrated for clients is the reputation that earns you an invitation to the RFP table. As a leadership team, RFPs serve as another reminder that freeing up and supporting teams whose focus is existing customers is not only an organic growth strategy, but also a long-term strategy for winning new business.
Tech to Keep and Grow the Business
You’ve made the sale. Now what? Key account management is how you keep and grow the business, so the partnership can reach its full potential. Key account management builds engagement and drives impact, helping customers reach their biggest goals so you can reach your biggest goals, too.
The right KAM software is purpose-built to support the activities and behaviors that make KAMs successful:
- Consistent client communication: Asking the right questions, building dynamic org charts and detailed profiles, and getting the strategic insights you need to place your customers in their own market. KAM software not only prompts the right dialogue, but also captures the output in a way that stays visible to cross-functional teams as they work on day-to-day deliverables—so key customer insights, goals, and expectations stay central to the planning and execution process.
- Action-oriented account planning: Research and experience teach us that the number one way to build customer engagement is to make an impact on their business—and half of impact is “act.” KAM software has built-in methodologies that help you translate big ideas into actionable tasks, ensuring everything you do, big or small, ladders up to your customer’s goals.
- Meaningful metrics: Your customers will want to see the value you create for them. KAM software pulls data from multiple sources to track KPIs and other customer success metrics in real time. And reporting tools make it easy to quickly pull the answers to any questions your customers have about progress and impact.
Strong KAM software is relatively new to the scene. For years, KAMs have pieced together ad-hoc solutions for their critical role: They’ll build incredible strategic PowerPoint decks—and then store them in a folder on the server where nobody sees them. They’ll build account plans in spreadsheets, burying the most important message (why are we doing this?) in a cell somewhere. They’ll spend an hour searching their email to find a single client comment.
KAM software doesn’t replace email or PowerPoint, but it does give KAMs and their teams a single source of truth for everything related to a client or project. Dashboards keep the who, what, why, and how of every account and deliverable clearly visible to the whole team, which makes it easier for KAMs to keep work on time, on budget, and, most importantly, on strategy.
Tech to Communicate
We think you can communicate effectively with 3 main tools: Slack for internal collaboration; Zoom for conference calls; email for clear and secure client communication.
Three is a magic number: It gives you the flexibility to harness the strengths of each platform without overwhelming your clients or internal teams. (Nobody wants to be checking 7 different applications all the time, or searching 7 different applications to find a client comment.)
When it comes to communication, there’s not a tech solution in the world that can solve for good judgement. You have to know when to stop emailing and pick up the phone. And you have to know when to put down the phone and go meet with your clients in person.
Remember, tech only works as a pillar of key account management. You have to consider its role in relation to process and people in order to make the most of your tech—and your time.
Tech is Not Enough: Process
In today’s world, there’s a tech platform for everything. (For example, “Yo” is an app whose sole functionality is to send your friends a message that says, “Yo.”) We are bombarded by tech solutions promising to make work more efficient, more effective, and more enjoyable. But do they really?
The answer is: Only sometimes. And only if they are implemented with the bigger picture in mind. Rather than just adding platform after platform to your tech stack, take a step back and ask yourself: What is our growth strategy? What is our process for getting there? Who are the people who will be using this and how does this help them? (Hint: If the software company itself is practicing good key account management, they should be able to help you answer these questions, and use their product in a way that brings real value to your organization.)
When tech exists not for its own sake, but as a complement to a clear internal process, it can be implemented and integrated in a way that lets it deliver on its promise: To make work more efficient, more effective, and even more enjoyable.
Tech is Not Enough: People
Even at its best—fully integrated with people and process, fully integrated with complementary platforms—no tech solution can replace the human element of customer engagement. Exceptional client management takes, among other things, experience, skill, judgement, diplomacy, rapport, time, and effort.
So while KAMs can and should expect technology to support their efforts, they shouldn’t expect it to replace them—and they should be wary of any tech platform that suggests otherwise. Good KAMs know when to meet with clients in person: Workshops, account reviews, presentations, critical conversations, and more. They use their tech tools to prepare, follow up, and implement output from these meetings—but they don’t send an email when they should show up in person instead.
At a high level, you can think about KAM as consisting of 3 pillars: People, process, and technology. And you can think about your technology as a set of solutions placed along different points in the customer journey: ABM to win business; KAM to keep and grow business; and a combination of Slack, Zoom, and email to communicate along the way.
Kapta is purpose-build KAM technology that integrates seamlessly not only with your tech stack, but also with your overall KAM process. Our coaches and services are designed to make sure you make the most of your tech investments, by assessing your overall approach to customer engagement and ensuring you have all the right tools in place (not just ours) to be successful.
To see how Kapta fits into your KAM tech stack and process, schedule your personalized demo today.