Key account managers can run into a wall for multiple different reasons when it comes to strengthening client relationships. But a lot of the problems boil down to a lack of consistent structure, no access to the right tools, and not having an organization-wide focus on excellent client experiences above all else.
Oftentimes, as organizations try addressing their account management gaps, they find it difficult to implement real change. If this sounds like you, then your key account management teams may be in low to middle levels of the account management maturity model.
Keep reading to learn more about what a maturity model is, the different levels of the key account management maturity model, and how the right solution can make all the difference.
What Is a Maturity Model?
Maturity models are organizational and assessment tools that professionals can use to evaluate the current standing and capabilities of a team or individual. By comparing the characteristics of the group or person against the characteristics expressed at different tiers or levels of a maturity model, the evaluator can better understand the subject. They can also then determine what capabilities, training, or mindset the subject needs to reach the next stage of maturity in the model.
Maturity models provide a qualitative assessment. Rather than look at specific metrics such as the number of points of contact, monthly recurring revenue, or other important numbers, managers or other leaders can take a more structured look at the characteristics and less easily measurable behaviors of a team or individual professional. This is essential for complex roles where quantitative success doesn't provide enough insight or when a company is shifting to a mindset or mission.
Key account managers, in particular, benefit from being evaluated against a maturity model. It establishes a relatively linear path that expresses mindsets, goals, understandings, and less objectively measurable behaviors so both the evaluator and the subject can see the subject's current standing, ability to progress, and necessary steps.
Account planning processes today should focus primarily on the client experience. By prioritizing client success and proactively ensuring services are aligned with goals, objectives, and pain points, key account managers can more successfully retain clients and reach or exceed their quantitative metrics of professional success.
Implementing a Maturity Model for Account Planning
Because maturity models are based on holistic approaches and qualitative standards, implementing a maturity model can be difficult. Your team or specific individuals may not know what to expect, how to evaluate themselves against the expressed standards, or what attempts at growth may even look like. While it's easy to see when quantitative accomplishments fall short of key metrics and to create improvement plans or reasonable milestones to better reach different metrics, the same isn't true with a maturity model. Instead, it requires individuals and teams to take an honest look at their processes, organizational focus, and priorities to determine their current level and next steps.
Let's take a brief look at our account manager maturity model and how your KAMs can move from one stage to the next.
Level 1: Ad Hoc
At this level of the maturity model, there is very little structure, and workflows vary significantly from key account manager to key account manager — or even from client to client within the same professional's book of business. There is no workflow for account managers to follow during onboarding while building relationships, or during any other process. Not only does this level of disorganization make it harder for leadership to evaluate ongoing progress and next steps for improvement, but it also severely limits training for new account managers or account managers who want to improve.
This is the bottom level of the maturity model. To move onto the next level, the entire team and organization should be committed to changing the status quo. That doesn't necessarily mean there is a clear understanding or consensus on what changes to make, just a shared conviction that the status quo is no longer the right fit. Individuals can also move to the next level alone, depending on the nature of the organization.
Level 2: Awareness
At this level in the maturity model, there is some attempt at structure. There are documented processes, some formal meetings with little to no follow-up, and inconsistent customer experiences. While this is progress, adherence to structures and documentation is not maintained. KAMs focus more on the pipeline and sales, and communications are extremely siloed. Your team may use a CRM, but it's not leading to consistent or customer-focused efforts. Account managers may be trying to reach out to clients more substantively, but they're frustrated by mixed messages, limited software, and minimal support.
The leadership's mindset also matters. At Level 2, leaders are focused primarily on growth via new customers, sales and product-based training, and pushing sales through the pipeline.
To move onto the next level in the maturity model, everyone in and around the team needs to be more committed to creating the right infrastructure and using it more consistently.
Level 3: Repeatable
At this level, KAMs are following the procedures, but it can feel like people are going through the motions. There's a dedicated KAM platform with robust client notes and mostly successful adherence to norms and best practices. New hires are easier to train, and your team is generally seeing success.
But to move to the next level, account managers and everyone throughout the organization needs to believe that focusing on clients is their core competitive advantage.
Level 4: Predictable
Now, KAMs are proactively adapting to client needs, creating cross-departmental contacts within the organization to ensure success, and are building regular rapport with every client. Everyone, especially the client, benefits from closer relationships and alignment.
To reach the top of the maturity model, it's time to put the client at the center of everything.
Level 5: Activating
Here, every step of the client journey is mapped, designed for excellent experiences, and positions the client as a key stakeholder. As a result, your organization is creating multiple win-win scenarios instead of passively providing service.
Start Implementing Better Account Planning With Kapta
To reach the third, fourth, and fifth levels of the maturity model, processes, technology, and structure matter. Your KAMs need a versatile database that helps them plan future contact, organize their insights into the client organizations, and stay on top of developments. See how Kapta can keep up with your organization's growth and push it to new heights.