How KAMs Can Focus on the “Critical Few” for the Key Account Customer

Every key account manager (KAM) has a huge impact on corporate sales. Key accounts are crucial to a company’s overall sales units, annual revenue, and profitability. Long-term key account success demands the right strategy, and strategies demand focus.

Complete success demands not only on focus, but focus on the specific factors that contribute to that success. Focusing on the “critical few,” rather than the “urgent many,” is a primary responsibility of every key account manager.

Enabling that focus is a broader issue that involves the key account stakeholders, the key account manager, the KAM’s manager, and the managers of other departments on which the KAM must rely to fulfill their strategy.

Achieving Focus

Separating the “critical few” from the “urgent many,” so the KAM can establish and maintain the necessary focus, demands a clear understanding of the following things:

  • The key accounts, the account stakeholders and decision-makers, and their individual objectives
  • The key account manager’s purpose
  • How delivering the products and service will support the key account’s objectives
  • How the key account manager’s actions support or detract from that purpose
  • What support systems the KAM needs to fully and efficiently achieve their customers’ goals

The Key Account Manager’s Purpose

The key account manager manages the long-term relationship between their company and the key account by becoming a trusted partner. Continually strengthening relationships results in greater revenue and higher profitability over a longer period of time.

That increased revenue comes from proactively understanding the key account’s unique business objectives so well that the sales proposals practically generate themselves. The key account stakeholders and decision-makers must see those proposals as being so valuable in helping them to achieve their own goals that each proposal becomes the obvious choice. The other choices, as always, are to do nothing or buy from a competitor.

Building the business, developing personal relationships, and delivering value depend on both creating the strategy for each key account and having the internal systems to support the strategy to service those accounts. This, in turn, requires key account managers to communicate with, and be able to rely on, the different departments within their own company.

Understanding purpose and process is the key to achieving results. KAMs must focus on the right activities so they can achieve the right results for their clients. This means they must spend more time on the few critical actions than on anything else.

Things That Detract From Purpose and Focus

In theory, focusing on the purpose is obvious, but in practice, focus can dissipate, or evaporate altogether, for several reasons. One of them is human nature. Key account managers can fail to focus because they don’t actually understand their true purpose. Another is they lack the resources they need, and another major contributing factor is when their own company does not enable and encourage them to focus completely on furthering their client’s goals.

Some companies, usually by default, see key account managers as a cross between regular account managers and customer success specialists. In those situations, it is all too easy for key account managers to fall into a trap of playing a less strategic role and becoming more of a glorified support rep.

Even when the company fully understands the key account manager’s purpose, focus can dissipate because the KAM either does not have the necessary data or spends too much time collecting it. Time spent collecting data detracts from sharing it in meaningful formats for others to use. If others do not have that data, or cannot use it, the KAM usually ends up using it in a reactive (and less effective) way.

Activities That Support Purpose

Key account managers must effectively manage their time in order to successfully manage their accounts. Having stated the obvious, no one actually manages time; they simply manage what they do in the time they have.

What KAMs must do is focus on furthering the account relationship in order to generate more revenue and higher profit. They must test everything they do against their primary goals. They must continually ask themselves if what they are doing is the best use of their time. For example, they should keep saying to themselves, “How does this action…”

  1. Further and strengthen the key account relationship?
  2. Advance the sale?
  3. Provide the information I need to support 1) and 2) above?
  4. Solve or avoid a crucial problem for the account?
  5. Ensure I can delegate this current issue to a more appropriate department the next time the issue arises?
  6. Enable my manager to help me meet my own purpose more effectively in the future?

These questions result in KAMs staying focused on their primary purpose: to move the critical few KAM objectives forward. The questions also help to expose inefficiencies that their own managers can address. When their managers involve themselves in this way, the other departments know how to support the key account managers, rather than leaving them to support themselves.

The Take-Away

Successful KAMs stay true to their purpose because they understand it and they get the support they need so they can stay focused on their customers’ primary concerns. Managing key accounts is time-consuming, so KAMs must know what actions will make the biggest differences and have the greatest impact. They must keep saying to themselves, “How does this action…?”



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.