5 Ways to Weather a Recession with Key Account Management

Here’s a radical thought: Recessions don’t change anything.

Okay, okay. Here’s a more nuanced take: Recessions don’t fundamentally change best practices for customer engagement—they just raise the stakes. Whereas before, you might be able to get away with lackluster customer engagement, a recession puts you at even greater risk of churn.

Key accounts have always been your strongest asset; now, they’re indispensable. Existing customers have always accounted for 70% of revenue on average; now, they’re closer to 90%. Investing in customer engagement has always been important; now, it’s do or die.

So how do you double down on your existing accounts to weather this storm and lay the foundation for ongoing growth and stability?

  1. Do your homework. Are you on your heels or on the ball?
  2. Update your strategy. Do your daily activities reflect your objectives?
  3. Check in with customers. How have things changed for them?
  4. Gut-check your tech stack. Do you have the right tools?
  5. Keep calm and deliver on. Stick to the plan and show your results.

1) Do Your Homework

2020 has impacted different industries in different ways. As you start to evolve your own strategy and/or offerings, do a quick 4Cs update: Category, Competition, Customer, Company.

Category: Avoid sweeping generalizations and do the deep dive to understand how the pandemic and recession have changed the specific market(s) in which you—and your customers—operate. Consider regulatory changes, the election cycle, emerging trends, disruptive tech, and more.

Competition: Keep an eye on your competitors. How have they adapted their messaging and service offerings to the current climate? How are they anticipating customer needs (or not)? It’s always important to understand what your customers are hearing before you join the conversation.

Customer: More on this below, but make sure you’re checking in regularly to see how their challenges and strategies are evolving as time goes on.

Company: Do a self-evaluation. How are your people? How are your systems? Don’t underestimate the toll this year has taken on everyone. And if you’ve had to do layoffs, be honest about how this affects your ability to deliver for clients. Where can you prioritize and deprioritize to focus more limited resources?

2) Update Your Strategy

Take your 4Cs homework and apply it to your strategy. How do things change—or not?

For example, you may have started the year gung-ho about new business development. Your current accounts were running smoothly, pockets were full, and you were ready to expand into a new market. Now what? Does your expansion plan still hold water?

Many companies are finding it harder than ever to sign new business—especially profitable new business. So before you get tunnel vision about chasing new logos, look closely at your current customers to see how you can stabilize and grow the business you already have. Remember: Change is expensive. It’s expensive for you to earn new business with new customers and it’s expensive for your customers to switch providers. Make it worth everyone’s while to invest in the current relationship.

Strategy updates should be internal and external. While you’re re-evaluating your internal strategy, help your key accounts do the same. Apply the 4Cs analysis to their business. Do everything you can to help them feel like they’re ahead of the curve and you’ll make yourself indispensable throughout the crisis—and beyond.

3) Check in with Customers

Just because we’re socially distancing doesn’t mean you need to be distant. It’s important to maintain contact with your key customers—but it’s even more important to add value when you do. With Zoom fatigue settling in, and many people feeling overwhelmed by life in general, it’s not okay to ask your customers to join a video call just so you can check the box and say you’ve contacted them. You have to give them something valuable to dig into.

There are plenty of ways to do that. You could help them update their SWOT. You could engage them in a meaningful voice of customer (VOC) dialogue. You can present ongoing category and competitive analysis, along with proactive ideas for ensuring their own success in a difficult time. You’ve already done the homework; now show your customers what you’ve learned, and how it applies to them.

As you engage with customers, make sure you know who you need to talk to, and why. Take this moment also to update your customer org charts. Things may have shifted for your clients in the crisis, and you want to make sure you know who’s doing what in the new normal.

C-suite relationships are more important now than ever. This is another example of how recessions don’t fundamentally change best practices—they just raise the stakes. C-suite relationships are always important to key account management; but now, if leadership doesn’t understand your value, they may be asking their staff to cut costs—and you could be the first to go.

4) Gut-check Your Tech Stack

As you gear up to double down on key account management, ask yourself: Is your tech stack designed to help you do that? If you’re heavily reliant on CRMs, you won’t have the support you need to dig deep into existing client relationships. CRMs are optimized for transactions, not engagement. And it takes engagement to stay relevant to your customers in a recession.

Crisis is an opportunity for change. If your current tech stack feels too transactional, now is the time to look for purpose-built solutions for key account management, so you can maximize the value of the relationships you already have, and set yourself up for ongoing organic growth after the crisis has settled.

5) Keep Calm and Deliver On

You’ve done your homework. You’ve pressure tested your strategy—and helped your customers do the same. You’ve aligned your tech stack to your needs. You’ve made necessary adjustments to the account plan. In short, you’ve done the thinking and the re-thinking. Now it’s time to do.

Delivery is always important, even when times are good. But now, if you’re not delivering, you’re putting yourself at high risk of churn. The good news is that the nature of strong account planning and delivery hasn’t changed: You still begin with strategic objectives; you still break them down into meaningful milestones, tactics, and action items. You still track progress. You still demonstrate impact. And you still make space to celebrate wins along the way.

Don’t forget that last part: It’s never been more important to celebrate success—for your team and for your customers. It’s been a tough year, and we can all use some good news right now. When your team accomplishes something, pause and give credit where it’s due. When your customers accomplish something, do the same.


Recessions don’t fundamentally change the way we do business. Everything we’ve outlined above is important for customer engagement, all the time, full stop. But recessions do raise the stakes, and they erase your room for error.

Key account management is the solution. KAM helps you double down on the relationships you already have, stabilizing and growing those accounts even in the face of an economic downturn. To learn more about how Kapta can support you in a recession and beyond, schedule your demo today.

CEO at Kapta
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.