A How-To Guide to Relationship Mapping for Key Accounts

In key account management (KAM), relationships are everything. In fact, building and nurturing successful, long-term relationships is at the very heart of what key account managers do. Unfortunately, many key account managers fail to see how various relationships can help (or hinder) their ability to achieve greater success within their own companies and with their key accounts.

That’s why relationship mapping is an absolutely critical aspect of effective KAM. But, where do you begin?

First, it’s important to understand why relationship mapping is valuable in the first place. Relationship mapping allows you to clearly outline:

  • What you are looking to achieve and how you plan to achieve it
  • How you can leverage certain relationships to achieve your goals
  • Who can help or hurt your efforts and how
  • How people, both within your company and your client’s company, will be affected by your actions

Using this information, you can then develop a more effective strategy for achieving goals that will, ultimately, grow your business and strengthen ties with your key accounts.

Getting Started

To begin, write out exactly what you are trying to accomplish with your key accounts. How would you define success? What are your (and your customer’s) short and long-term goals? Create a separate map for each.

Mapping Relationships Within Your Organization

Starting with a single goal, create a box for the name of each person (or party) who might affect, or be affected by, the actions you take to achieve this goal. Be sure to include senior leaders, colleagues in your industry, peers in other departments, people to whom you report, and those who report to you directly.

For each person identified, write out his or her unique goals. Articulate how it would serve him or her if you succeeded or failed. Write out what you need from that person. How can he or she help you or hurt you? What is the best way to communicate with that person?

In addition, it’s important to honestly evaluate how each person feels about you and how you feel about them. Is there liking, respect, trust? Is there rivalry or dislike? Is he or she aware of your feelings?

By mapping out these interconnected relationships within your organization, you will have a clearer idea of how to approach projects with your key accounts and how best to get them done. There may be some surprising connections that you never thought about before.

Relationship Mapping for Your Key Accounts

On the client side, map out relationships among your direct contact, the key decision makers and influencers in their organization, and their C-Suite executives. Make a box with enough space for each person you know in your key account. Identify the role each person plays with respect to you and your account. One of the most important distinctions you should make is between the “the acquaintance,” “the contact person,” “the recommender or influencer,” and the “decision maker.”

You should try to map out how the people identified on your map relate to one another. Who answers to whom? What are the lines of communication among them? Look for the signs of internal rivalries or allegiances. Try to identify how your goals would influence the success or failure for each of the people on your map. Would he or she benefit or lose from your success? How could he or she help or hinder your efforts?

In the end, your relationship map should provide a clear picture of the network of stakeholders in a key account relationship that can be used to develop better account strategies.

Mapping Tools

No software or technology is going to do the hard work of actually understanding and assessing your key relationships. Relationship mapping is rooted in your mind and improved only through seasoned experience. However, key account management and relationship mapping tools can help you create more readable and manageable maps. The right tools allow you to streamline the relationship mapping process, as well as provide a structure for asking the right questions about each relationship and answering each question in a standardized and metrically meaningful way.

Your map will need regular revision as relationships and goals change, but with it, you can continuously and proactively find ways to build and nurture stronger ties with your most important and valued customers.




Curious to see how you can take your Key Account Management skills to the next level? Download this helpful ebook on how to create powerful engagement plans for your key accounts or sign up for a demo of Kapta.

CEO at Kapta
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.