If annual key account planning isn’t something that your company does, it might be time to think about whether it is something you could benefit from. You probably have an annual strategic planning policy already in place, which involves brainstorming and coming up with new ideas for the upcoming year. Why not extend this planning policy to include specific key account planning?
To start with, you might want to ask yourself how well you did with your key accounts last year and what changes you might want to make to the way in which you manage them this year. If you’re not sure how to go about doing this, here are a couple important questions to ask yourself regarding your key account planning.
Were Your Key Accounts Successful Last Year?
This should be the first question that any company asks itself, regarding its key accounts. In general, key accounts are considered key because they offer a large financial benefit. There may also be other reasons why the key accounts are considered key, such as the fact that the account has been with you for a long time, is a prestigious brand, or is allied to another financially beneficial account. Most of the time, however, there is some financial component to nurturing a key account.
So, you need to think about how successful your key accounts were in the previous year. Did you make as much money from that key account this past year? Does there seem to be an upward or a downward trend in the past five years?
If the account wasn’t financially successful, was there something that happened, either on your end or theirs, that caused it? Could it have been prevented? If the account was successful, can you attribute it to any particular action?
Take the time to reflect on both the successes and failures you saw in your key accounts last year. If you can hone in on the root causes, you will have a better understanding of what you’ve done well and what you can improve upon in the new year.
How Can You Provide Better Service to Your Key Accounts Next Year?
It’s easy to put key account maintenance on auto-pilot, especially after an account has been with you for a number of years. You may feel confident that they’re not going anywhere and turn your focus toward new account acquisition.
However, it’s a lot more important to make sure that your relationships with the key accounts you already have are strong, rather than to gain new ones. If your key accounts aren’t happy or successful, you need to take steps to provide the level of service they’re looking for. Worse yet, if you don’t even know if your key accounts are happy or successful, your key account managers may need to recalibrate their radar and focus on strengthening those relationships.
But whether your key accounts are happy or not, you need to take a long, hard look at the value of the service you provided in 2015.
Did your key account managers work with their accounts to develop a strategy for success? Did they create actionable steps to help them get there? Were your KAMs aware of any pain points or goals that their key accounts had? Were there regularly scheduled check-in calls or meetings to be sure key accounts were getting the service they needed? Most importantly, did your KAMs demonstrate the value of their service to key accounts? Did your key accounts feel like they were getting their money’s worth?
Certain things might be obvious. Maybe the account made a lot of money. That’s great! Maybe, on the other hand, there were some hiccups along the way that caused a key account to be dissatisfied or even leave. That too is good to know. When you understand what went right and what went wrong with your key accounts, you can take steps to remedy the situation.
Brainstorming Ways to Improve
The goal of your key account planning session should be to find ways in which you can improve your key account management program. Whether that means taking good strategies and making them great, or identifying problem areas and devising a plan to solve them, the brainstorming phase of your planning is crucial.
Sit down with your key account managers and gather everyone’s opinions about what could be improved. Don’t shut down or discredit anyone’s ideas, no matter how small they might be. A brainstorming session is supposed to be no holds barred. Everyone should feel comfortable pitching their ideas, without any fear of judgment.
This doesn’t mean that all the ideas from a brainstorming session have to be put into action. However, you can choose a few of them and include them in your improvement plan for 2016.
By including key account planning in your annual strategy session, you can expect to see your key account management improve, year after year. And ultimately, when you provide better service to your key accounts, your whole business will grow and thrive.