Do's and Don'ts When Creating a Key Account Plan Template

Good relationships are the only way to hold onto hard-won customers and clients. While all of your client accounts should have strong, positive relationships, key accounts are the priority. As Gartner defines it, key account management is:

The process of planning and managing a mutually beneficial partnership between an organization and its most important customers. Key accounts are significant to an organization's sustainable, long-term growth and require a substantial investment of both time and resources.

So not only are key accounts incredibly important, they're incredibly costly. That sort of business-critical expense can't be based on human connection and an experienced account manager alone. Instead, everyone from your head of revenue to your account management new hires needs to know there's a plan. Here's how to create a key account template plan and navigate around some guiding do's and don'ts.

What Is a Key Account Plan Template?

A key account plan is your written strategy for guiding key clients from the most recent sale through a long, beneficial relationship of upsells, service, strategic solutions, and more. It outlines the broad strokes of what you and your team need to do to make the relationship successful for the next year, five years, and beyond. When you're creating a key account plan, you're following these steps:

  1. Account Overview: This is the basic contact information, pain points, and motivations of the client.
  2. Objectives: These are the insights you have to help you measure success throughout the account relationship.
  3. Solution: This outlines how your organization solves problems for the client.
  4. Action Plan: These are the steps you need to take to reach objectives and maintain a good relationship.
  5. Change Management: This helps you plan out if, when, and how you might make changes to the overall plan.

This overall structure makes up your template. You and your account managers need to create this same structural plan for every key account so they never feel neglected, become frustrated, or think your solutions aren't the right fit for their own business.

As you standardize the process you and your team will use to develop key account plans now and in the future, follow these do's and don't's to make sure the planning process is as beneficial and efficient as possible. This is crucial for helping your team manage their time and balance planning with maintaining their existing relationships.

Do — Create Repeatable Processes

Every key account is unique. They'll each have their own pain points and their own necessary processes for achieving long-term success. However, the basic structure of your key account plans should always be the same. That gives everyone the building blocks for starting and thinking about the new client relationship they're in charge of.

By breaking the key account planning process into the five stages outlined above, you can quickly cover your bases for the relationship and see how the client's unique needs deviate from other clients. 

Some of the benefits of a repeatable process include:

  • Less inertia at the start: Without even an outline to get your thoughts started, you can find yourself wasting minutes or hours trying to organize your thoughts. A template and a routine guide your thoughts, even if you need to add extra steps and sub-steps later.
  • Agreement across the team: The key account manager isn't the only one who needs to understand the plan. Managers, VPs, new hires, and even cross-departmental teams need to be able to know your plan at a glance. A consistent framework makes that possible.
  • Less turbulent turnover: Key account managers can feel irreplaceable. But processes protect your business. If one of your account managers leaves, a new account manager can step up to the plate.

Don't — Overcomplicate the Business Overview

The business overview should be broad. But it should also have a simple procedure. Simply record facts, contact details, and other notes as they come to mind. This should hit the highlights, not be pretty.

Do — Dive Deep Into Your Client's Needs

Spend time on the objectives. This is far more important than basic facts that anyone can look up. Instead, you want to focus your time and attention on really understanding what your client wants to achieve and how your company fits into that. To fill out this section, you need to:

  • Learn about your client's business
  • Understand what pain points and frustrations drove them to your business
  • Learn what their expectations are for your relationship

By the end of this section, you should understand your client's perspective and be able to operate more effectively on their behalf.

Don't — Forget Competitive Analysis

Now that you understand your client, it's time to understand their competitors. After all, most businesses are driven to improve because they notice a competitor doing something better than they are. You can use this motivation to see what those competitors did to have an edge on your client and how you can customize those processes in relation to your own business's services and offerings. 

Your job is to help your client improve, whether that's offering a comparable service to their competitors, streamlining a manual process that's getting in their way, or helping them figure out the best way to scale their business. So use their competitors to get a jumpstart.

Do — Identify Sales Risks

Key account management is all about building a strong relationship because the client has a unique value to their business. But that means losing the client is uniquely harmful to your business, either because it's bringing a large amount of revenue to the table, it's a well-connected player in a certain sector, or because a lot of resources were poured into securing the client in the first place.

So another aspect of key account management is risk mitigation. You need to solve problems before they become problems for the client. This includes presenting products in the best use case for your client, proactively identifying when your client may need change orders and adjustments, and reaching out to them so they aren't always the ones reaching out to you. All of this work maintains (even if it doesn't strengthen) the relationship.

Don't — Rush the Action Plan

As you're building out the action plan, try to assign a rough timeline to each step. You don't want to overwhelm the client at the beginning of the relationship with a bunch of to-dos, even if it's tempting to get the work off your list and get the account off to a running start. 

Instead, set expectations with yourself and the client so work can be done methodically and properly. Setting time expectations on the conservative side with new clients helps you maintain the golden maxim of business relationships: under-promise and over-deliver.

Improve Your Key Account Plan Template With Kapta

To really succeed with your key account plans, you need software that helps you organize the process. Our KAM software is built to help you build solid profiles of your clients, deeply understand their motivations, and organize your tasks so you can manage multiple accounts well. Contact us today to learn more or browse through our resources for even more account management insights.

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CEO at Kapta
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.