In the business world, specifically in project management, agile is an essential concept that companies across the globe use to maximize their efficiency and results. The primary principles of agile project management mean breaking a project into manageable phases, known as iterations.
What works well for manufacturers and software developers can also work for key account managers also. Today we’ll cover the basics of agile and how you can use it to build stronger relationships with key accounts while maximizing your outcomes.
Basics of Agile
The core principle of agile project management gets its start in the software world. Before agile, teams would work to improve their product in huge updates periodically. While on the surface this might have seemed like the correct way to accomplish this, in reality, by pushing out small updates on a regular basis, the team was up to date with the latest problems and needs of customers.
In the account management world, the goal is the same. Agile key account management means being as close to the customer as possible, staying aware of their changing needs and expectations. As you probably know, account plans are temporary, and while long-term goals and desired outcomes might remain the same, how you get there is different.
Agile account management will ensure that you are as efficient as possible in your work, pushing out small updates to customers in a sense, rather than only updating them in QBRs. This is also a core tenant of continuous relationship management, and it’s what separates you from just another vendor in your customer’s eyes.
A lot needs to happen behind the scenes before you can implement an agile program in your key account management department, however. It all starts with adopting an agile mindset that continuously learns and improves.
1) Start Small
The most important thing to keep in mind is the idea of starting small. You can’t simply flip a switch, and all of a sudden have an agile KAM program. Instead, you need to focus on the small steps it takes to get the program in place.
First, you should get the buy-in from the entire KAM team. Because agile management principles are different than traditional account management, adapting to a sudden change doesn’t go over well in most cases. Ease them into the program with an emphasis on the benefits it will provide their accounts such as increased visibility, less risk, and improved communication.
2) Constant Communication
A core principle of a successful agile account management program is improved communication with clients. Instead of only speaking with them once a month, or worse, exclusively during QBRs, you should talk to them on a weekly basis at the bare minimum. A lot can change in a month, and if you intend to follow an agile strategy closely, you should be aware of problems and needs as they occur.
You should also emphasize face-to-face communication as well. The goal is to shorten the time it takes to answer a question and vice versa. The sooner you have an answer, the sooner you can implement changes to your action plan.
3) Receive Feedback
A core tenant of agile management in the software world is receiving feedback from users about the latest updates and developing new tools and updates to meet their needs. Along with constant communication with key accounts, you should also seek feedback from the internal users of the agile account management program. Figure out what works in the new program and what needs adjustment.
The goal is to create a program that not only benefits your key accounts but is easy to use and makes your account managers’ working lives easier. If it’s not accomplishing either of those goals, you must find ways to adjust the program to keep everyone happy; otherwise, account managers might revert back to old practices.
5) Have a Plan
You shouldn’t jump in and simply proclaim, “We are an agile account management team now.” Instead, you need a plan that everyone on the KAM team can get behind and aligns itself with your customers’ goals. You should also ensure that it correlates with your existing technology and business requirements. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, and instead build your agile strategy around your current resources.
6) Stay Flexible
New programs take time to start generating positive results, and you’re bound to make missteps along the way. For this reason, you shouldn’t hold your first plan as the one and only way to use agile key account management. Instead, you should stay flexible and adjust it as your customer’s needs and your personal requirements change.
Agile is about remaining adaptable to changing times and focusing on the small steps it takes to reach your desired outcome. Apply these same principles to the agile key account management program itself too.
7) Process Drives Outcomes
If you follow the NBA at all, you’re probably aware of the Philadelphia 76’ers motto “Trust the process.” In a sense, if you stick to the plan and follow the same process day in and day out, eventually you’ll reach your desired outcome.
Your process will be different than another company’s, but an excellent agile account management process typically has a few of the following attributes:
8) Build Around Successful Outcomes
Achieving your customers’ desired outcomes is the priority of an agile account management program. Without this focus, your process will be less effective and might be a waste of time and resources.
While agile account management aims to achieve short-term objectives through different iterations, you shouldn’t lose sight of the ultimate end goal. To get there, you need to follow the process and avoid veering off course consistently.
10) Meets Internal Requirements
If your KAM team doesn’t like the process, they will look for ways to avoid using it. This is why it is crucial that during the planning phases you listen to internal feedback and make adjustments as necessary, so the program is usable and intuitive to internal needs.
Agile project management is a staple in the business world and can be the efficiency-booster your KAM team needs. Start small and emphasize customer outcomes and the benefits they’ll receive from the plan. You might run into challenges at first, but after you launch the program, following the process should be seamless.
Want to dive deeper into account management strategy and tools? Check out our new account management training that will walk you through the important but often overlooked foundations, and the best tools and techniques to use within your accounts.