KAMCon, hosted by Kapta, is the premier Key Account Management conference that brings together top executives, leaders, and innovators in customer experience, client services, and account management. Taking place in Boulder, Colorado, the event kicked off Tuesday with presentations from a solid line-up of industry thinkers for an audience gathered from around the country, Canada, and as far away as England.
Here’s a recap of the day’s insights:
Vendor as ketchup? We’ll explain…
Kapta CEO Alex Raymond delivered the keynote address to introduce the overarching theme for the conference: how can account managers avoid being just another vendor? Sixty-eight percent of revenue comes from existing customers, which creates enormous potential for account teams to deepen relationships and provide more value. Alex illustrated the point with an anecdote: when Costco changed their much-hailed branded credit card contract from Amex to Visa in 2015, the Costco CEO explained the switch by saying that if he could find cheaper ketchup, he would. Since no account manager wants to feel like a bottle of ketchup — and a replaceable one, no less — it’s imperative to be a strategic partner to key accounts instead.
All-in with AI
Jim Dickie, managing partner of Sales Mastery and co-founder and independent research fellow for CSO Insights, discussed the implications of AI for key account management (KAM). Account managers spend the course of their careers on two core areas: the majority of their time on tedium—emails, CRM updates, other data entry, scheduling—and less time on what they were actually hired to do, which is to deepen customer relationships using their ingenuity. But AI is changing all of that by aggregating data around customer conversations and other interactions and then pinpointing where specific action should be taken. And rather than leaving the usual tedium to account teams, AI can plug into CRM and other workflow applications to handle scheduling, emailing, recording, and updating in real time. AI for KAM essentially augments what account managers are already doing and allows them to spend more time on ingenuity. Jim noted that because the technology is making fast inroads into all industries, the longer a company waits to harness AI, the harder it will be to catch up.
Coaching to success
ESG CEO Michael Harnum gave an energetic talk about how to effectively coach an account management team and improve performance. The market demands that business professionals “be better” than they are, but how does an account manager get the best from their team? Michael outlined four important principles: coachability, identifying problems, gap planning, and strength finding. Coachability is about understanding what kind of coaching each individual responds to and what in their mind makes for a great coach. Identifying problems, especially when it comes to sales forecasting, is important because it enables visibility into how well a team is performing and where more effort needs to be made. Gap planning involves developing a targeted, actionable plan to address gaps. Finally, strength finding ferrets out and more effectively uses the strengths of each individual so that the whole team might benefit and improve performance.
Effective engagement for the entire customer journey
Tom Murray, Senior Engagement Director for Pivotal Software, which helps clients deliver software infrastructure rapidly to customers, gave a rundown of the various tools, frameworks, and plans Pivotal’s engagement team uses to deepen and improve their relationships with clients. Central to all effort is Pivotal’s three-pronged approach to engagement throughout the customer journey: 1) intent-led (align all team members and stakeholders), 2) customer-centered (establish customer objectives and achievable deliverables along the way), and 3) outcomes-oriented (agree on outcomes and quantifiable metrics). Tom also stressed the importance of measuring progress for customers early on using scorecards and dashboards, especially at the outset when the sale closes.
Smarter Customer Feedback
Steve Bernstein, principal at Waypoint Group and author of Failure Sucks More for Your Customers Than for You, spoke to effective Voice of Customer delivery through better customer survey and feedback tactics. If a company is serious about the truth, response rates matter, not whether the feedback is positive or negative. So how account and customer success teams set up a feedback program determines the rate of response. Before the first question is asked, teams need to be prepared to know what to offer. What will be promised if the feedback is negative? Or if the feedback is great? By answering for the customer “What’s in it for me?” teams can encourage greater response rates and far better feedback. Steve also outlined two important processes when setting up the survey itself. First, determine the questions based on the business problem that needs to be understood through customers. Then vet the contact list to get to the most appropriate, role-based champions who can best answer specific questions and also connect customer success teams to other users to provide a depth of insight.
Change is gonna happen – now what?
Day One closed with a presentation by Kapta’s Customer Success Manager Lesley Poladsky, who discussed change management and how it applies not only to internal teams, but also to customers who are navigating sizable implementations. One insight Lesley shared is that perceived ability drives an individual or team’s level of intention. If an individual or team lacks both ability and intention, they probably won’t succeed when change inevitably arrives. For those who seem resistant or hesitant to change, it may be because they have a negative perception of their own ability to succeed. That’s why productive, successful change management derives from good communication, transparency, strategy, and follow-through.
Stay tuned for a recap of Day Two.