KAMCon 2023: Building a Key Account Management Success Strategy

Are you satisfied with your current key account management (KAM) practice or are there changes you want to make?

If so, do you have a strategy to successfully achieve these changes?

Regardless of where you are on your journey, you likely have things that you want to change or improve. But change is hard, and it takes time and consistent effort.

Our very own Jennifer Pinter, Senior Engagement Manager at Kapta, discussed this topic in a presentation at KAMCom 2023 titled, “Building a KAM Success Strategy.” She talked about change management, developing your KAM Success Strategy, and how to achieve maximum impact.

“No great change or anything worth doing is achieved overnight or without effort,” Jennifer said, “Change is hard. It’s all those small steps that we commit to every day that equal success. Don’t beat yourself up about where you’re at. Do what you can and commit to it every day.”

Although as few as 30% of change management efforts succeed, you can boost your success rate by focusing on the human element of change and taking the following steps:

  • Know where you’re starting and understand the related issues.
  • Establish clear and attainable objectives for what you want to achieve and why.
  • Create a plan to achieve your goals.
  • Determine how you will gauge progress. Otherwise, you risk giving up because you don’t think you’re advancing toward your goal even when you are.

Now, let’s take steps to prepare to create a KAM success strategy.

Know Where You’re Starting

Every success strategy is unique to the individual or organization, so start by assessing where you are before deciding what behavior you want to change. Jennifer gave us several ways to gauge our starting points.

Begin by taking a few minutes to think about your current account management practice from an individual or an organization perspective. Consider these three prompts as you answer this question:

1. I have no strategy. I go where the fire is burning. This means my email’s going off, my phone’s ringing, and my day is in the driver’s seat. I am not in the driver’s seat.

“That’s okay,” Jennifer noted, “Some people are there. Acknowledging it is important.”

2. I attempt a strategy and I have it somewhat dialed in, but I want to expand on that. I could do better and there are areas I can improve on.

3. I am amazing. I have it all dialed in, but I still want to adjust it.

Next, consider where you stand in comparison to the KAM Maturity Model and the Seven Deadly Sins of Key Account Management. Both of these will help you identify what you are doing well and areas requiring improvement.

The third reference Jennifer suggests we consider is the common pain points that most account management teams struggle with:

  1. Competing demands. This is often caused by too many accounts per account manager, leading to being overwhelmed and struggling to get everything done.
  2. Being reactive instead of proactive. This is a common challenge.
  3. Not having a process. You’re building it all from scratch. You have no idea what to do when something happens, you’re wearing a lot of hats.
  4. Lack of purpose-built technology. You’re doing things in your notepad on your Smartsheets and Google Docs, in Salesforce, or another tool, that may not be designed for what you’re trying to do.

These are the four most common pain points that we hear in talking to customers all over the world. This is not a US problem or an industry-specific problem. This is literally everywhere.

Create Change with a KAM Success Strategy

Now that you know where you are starting and have an idea of where you want to go, it’s time to start building your success strategy. This strategy gives you a framework that brings organization and predictability to your day.

Some things you can include in your success strategy include:

Playbooks. These are the steps that you need to complete in the most common situations, like when something happens with a customer, and you have a relationship recovery situation. Document the steps that will be helpful in that situation. If you don’t have a tool like Kapta, where you can create playbooks, you can use Excel. Don’t let the tool stop you from doing the behavior. Use what you have right now. Make some playbooks, and create some steps to make your lives easier, especially if you have a lot of work. You don’t want to be thinking about this every time the situation comes up.

Disciplined time management. Be in control of your day. Make time for the things that are important and don’t keep pushing off the things that you know you need to do because they’re not enjoyable or because you find them hard.

Ruthless prioritization. It’s okay to say yes, and I commit to completing something by next Friday instead of today. Allow yourself the capacity to prioritize your work and commit to realistic response times accordingly.

Technology. Where can you streamline? Where can you create some efficiency? Whatever you’re doing, make it easier on yourself.

Maximize Your Results

Jennifer offered five tips to help you get the most out of your strategy and to help with managing behavior changes.

1. Clarity is power. Do you know where you’re at, where you’re going, what your customer needs, and what you need? Spend 10 minutes in the morning reflecting on what you need to get done today that’s going to have the most impact on transforming your customer outcomes.  Then, if you end your day and only get one thing done, identify what would make you the most satisfied as a human so you can prioritize and complete it. Get clarity on that each day, each week, and each month. That can really help you, especially if you have too much to do.

2. Progress over perfection. Look back at where you came from. Don’t let perfection prevent you from celebrating progress. Choose goals that are attainable, start where you’re at, and start small. Then give yourself some credit when you make progress.

3. Learn from your peers. KAM is a team sport. Consider hosting office hours. A lot of our customers have been successful in adopting change and changing their behaviors by having internal office hours as they’re rolling out a new process. This enables everybody to collaborate, communicate, ask questions, and solve problems.

4. Avoid context switching. Every time you lose your focus and stop doing whatever you’re doing, you are context-switching. This causes you to lose 9.5 minutes of productive workflow. So, if you feel like you never have enough time, this will give you more productive time in your day.

A simple way to do this is by setting your phone on “do not disturb” mode to prevent notifications from constantly distracting you when you are working. Then plan times when you can check and respond to emails and phone messages. You can also experiment with productivity techniques, like the Pomodoro method, to see what works best for you to boost your productivity.

5. Budget time. People set out to do these new initiatives, but they don’t designate the time in their schedule. If we don’t budget the time, we are not going to just magically find the time. In terms of change management, if you don’t put the time on your calendar to focus on the initiative, it’s not going to happen.

Then, group similar tasks and consider how your brain works when scheduling time to work on specific projects. If you tend to get tired in the afternoon and find it hard to focus, do things that are easier. And plan to do the things you find more challenging when you’re able to best focus.

Take these ideas and leverage them to determine where you need to make changes and to successfully change your behaviors. Then revisit and revise your success strategy on a routine basis to best meet your evolving needs.

Need additional ways to improve your KAM success? Register for KAMGenius PLUS. The next cohort starts on October 12th.

CEO at Kapta
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.