The upcoming year will be challenging for account managers and customers alike. We’re surrounded by so much uncertainty with shifting markets and an unpredictable economy causing businesses to respond by doing more with less. Consequently, account managers are caught in something we refer to as “the big squeeze,” experiencing both internal and external pressures.
For account managers, this means that team dynamics are different, portfolios are growing, and teams are shrinking through attrition or layoffs with a hiring freeze in place. Yet, expectations are higher than ever with retention being a top priority for many companies to protect and grow through upsells and cross-sells. The kicker is that the people inside your company still don’t understand what it is that account management teams do.
Our customers are under the same pressure, dealing with requirements to get results with fewer resources than they were expecting and in an uncertain economy. They are under stress and overwhelmed. Being strapped for time, they’ll be more difficult to engage than in previous years.
This scenario is frustrating because we want to show up and be doing great work, but we’re resource-constrained. So, being smart and strategic in your key account management (KAM) practice is going to be crucial. This means we need to rethink how we’re supporting our customers with a larger portfolio and carefully prioritize how our time is best spent as account managers. But how do we do this?
How to Succeed in The Evolving KAM Landscape
The following adjustments to your KAM program will help account managers effectively and efficiently support and retain expanding portfolios with fewer resources.
1. Focus on the customer’s goals and outcomes
Know what customers care about and totally orient yourself around the things they consider to be most important. This means challenging your assumptions about how they perceive value, how they define a job well done, and what their priorities are. Then aligning with what the customer cares about today.
So, make sure you understand the value that the customer cares about and are delivering it. If you don’t do that, the customers aren’t going to trust you, won’t want to work with you, and will buy less or churn.
2. Increase Internal KAM Function Visibility
It’s a problem that many people in your company don’t understand what the KAM function does.
So, share what the account management team is doing and how you’re contributing to the profitability of the company by hitting your goals. Stand up for yourselves and educate internal stakeholders on the value your team brings to the table and the importance of what you do.
Tell them what you’re doing and showcase how you are helping customers. If you do that, people will start to see the value you and your team are providing and realize that account managers are the unsung heroes of many businesses.
3. Collaborate Internally and Externally
There are multiple departments supporting your customers. It’s common that one department doesn’t know what the other departments are doing with the customer. So, collaborate and communicate across all the internal teams supporting the customer to streamline operations and drive better outcomes.
It’s also important to collaborate externally with your customers. Instead of assuming what they need and thinking that you’re delivering it. Ask them what they need, what their goals are, what’s going to be most effective for them, and build that partnership.
You can do this by asking Voice of Customer (VOC) or radically authentic discovery questions of your customer. If you have limited time with a customer, asking a purposeful question is an excellent way to kick off that time. This is how you can test your assumptions, validate them, and confirm that you’re on the right track.
4. Create Strategic Plans
When you identify a growth opportunity or a risk, create strategic plans to drive customer outcomes or to overcome risks. Have a framework for the planning process, a place to gather all the relevant data, and a process for establishing the plan.
5. Evangelize Internally on Behalf of the Customer
You need to be the number one champion of your customers. Communicate the customer’s needs, goals, and priorities. Then advocate on their behalf to garner resources to implement strategic plans for retention and growth. This helps your organization focus on driving customer outcomes and retaining VIP customers.
Do More With Less
How do you make these adjustments when you’re tasked with doing more with less?
Teams that have a structured process in place, like our KAM process™, are handling these issues a bit better because they can focus on their strategic initiatives more easily.
That’s because it gives them a common vocabulary and a roadmap to keep everyone on track. Plus, it involves agreeing on what it means to be an account manager and how you intend to engage with your existing customers to make them successful.
If you don’t have a well-defined process, you are setting yourself up for failure in the long term and taking on too much risk as well as creating a terrible customer experience. That’s old thinking supported by old technology.
Then we’re seeing great companies get out of the CRM box with an all-in-one platform for account managers. It consolidates everything in one place instead of a disjointed makeshift solution that hampers your account managers’ productivity and effectiveness.
They capture all key account information in one central location that’s accessible to all departments supporting these accounts. This includes detailed voice of customer insights to deeply understand the drivers of the customers’ values and what they care most about. This facilitates us evangelizing on their behalf internally to build support and gather the resources that we need to achieve customer outcomes.
This makes it possible to see all customer information in one place, identify any gaps, and confirm you’re taking aligned actions to help drive measurable outcomes. Tracking progress, adjusting plans, and collaborating internally and externally becomes easier too because it’s visible to all departments involved in supporting the customer.
Plus, everyone in the company starts to understand what account managers do when they have access to a shared KAM platform and become more involved in the process.
Adapt to The Evolving KAM Landscape
Continued uncertainty in the market and economy has caused companies to do more with less. This puts a lot of pressure on account managers who are managing growing portfolios of key accounts with fewer resources with retention and growth being top priorities.
We’ve offered five adjustments you should make to successfully navigate what we have dubbed “the big squeeze.” This means focusing on the customer’s goals and outcomes, increasing internal KAM function visibility, collaborating internally and externally, creating strategic plans, and evangelizing internally on behalf of the customer.
You can facilitate these adjustments by establishing a well-defined account management process and leveraging an all-in-one KAM platform to enable your team to do more with less.
See how Kapta can help your KAM team do more with less. Schedule a demo today.