How to Overcome Barriers to Change When Implementing a Key Account Management Strategy

Change is scary. Every individual working at an organization can come up with his or her own list of “reasons not to” because there is comfort in continuing to do what has always been done. However, we must remember that change is a form of opportunity. It’s a necessary shift that contains the seeds of innovation, evolution, insight, and progress.

Implementing a Key Account Management (KAM) strategy in your organization can be met with pushback. You’ll need to tread carefully and cultivate buy-in to ensure good results. When your team understands the value of change, they can become your best allies rather than a barrier. So, what is the most effective approach to framing this change as an opportunity?

Establish the Value of Key Account Management

Change takes considerable effort. As the one responsible for ushering in the new KAM program, you have to be the program’s champion. It’s up to you to demonstrate to your team, employees, and peers that KAM is worth the trouble. Here are three main strategies for winning them over:

Focus on Added Value

Make sure you turn the focus of the KAM discussion towards the value that a KAM strategy offers. First, acknowledge that people’s concerns are valid, and acknowledge the effort that implementing a new strategy will take. Then, shift the focus to what can be gained through that effort. Take time to brainstorm WHY the change is beneficial to your organization in particular. Specifics are more convincing than generalities.

Emphasize Benefits for Each Individual

It’s one thing to speak to organizational-level gains, but individuals also need to understand how a new system will improve their day, their month, or their year. Discuss the pain points for different people on your team and elucidate how a new system might help address those struggles. This level of dialogue can improve team dynamics and morale in general, while cultivating support for a new KAM program. Again, it’s best to be specific.

Quantify the ROI

Data can help you get your point across better than words alone, especially when you’re talking with influencers, management, or executives. Quantify the value of KAM for your organization. Since the KAM system has yet to be implemented, you will need to focus on potential outcomes, but this can be very helpful for persuading the type of person who says, “Numbers don’t lie.”

Embracing Change Management

It’s important for you to acknowledge that most people in the organization will be opposed to changing, even if they understand the value a new system could bring. Thus, you are not only managing the shift to a new KAM program, you are managing the organization’s response to that shift. You are tasked with quelling people’s discouragement, fears, and disinterest.
Simply providing the tools for success is not enough if your team does not pick up those tools. This is where change management comes in. Using the right methods, you can help to peacefully and wholeheartedly usher in change, avoiding the all-too-frequent outcome of sporadic, non-committal implementation.

Strategies for Overcoming Barriers to Change

There are many different ways to practice change management, but these are some of the best ways to help bring in a new KAM strategy:

1. Be Proactive

Don’t wait until you can see problems to address them. Practice thinking ahead about what issue might arise next, and have solutions ready for when they do occur. Practice this often. If you can anticipate most of the stumbling blocks your team will face, you will strengthen the team’s faith in your ability to lead.

2. Get Needed Buy-In

This should go without saying, but buy-in isn’t just something you get from top executives. Buy-in from all levels of your organization is key. When team leaders, department managers, and influencers understand and support the mission, they will set a tone that garners more and more organization-wide support for change. Seek out the influencers in your organization and work hard to win their commitment to your plan.

3. Practice Transparency

Don’t keep secrets. Be open about your plans, and be open about where and why uncertainty exists within those plans. If you can’t lay out everything for everyone due to a level of uncertainty, make sure to be clear about the next steps forward. Secretive decisions and actions will breed nervousness and distrust.

4. Facilitate Staff Changes and Training

Actively combat the notion that everyone is “on their own” in handling the challenges that come with change. Listen to your organization’s employees to get a sense of how well people understand what the new strategy involves and how they fit into the big picture. Promote a sense of security and trust by facilitating the necessary training for the new KAM strategy. Encourage open communication about training to make sure you are covering all your bases, and remember it’s better to over-train than under-train. If new skills are needed, provide avenues for employees to fully equip themselves. This will be key for retention during the transition.

5. Honor the Fear, but Appeal to Reason

Resistance to change is a knee-jerk reaction to the uncertainty that comes along with anything new. That said, most people are willing to listen to reason, and you can assuage some fears with information. You need to honor the initial, fearful reactions you are likely to encounter and work to bring people into a more comfortable understanding of what’s happening and how it relates to them.

6. Own the Change

Own the change as your own personal mission. This isn’t intended to encourage the exclusion of others, but simply as a reminder that you cannot expect anyone to champion the project as much as you will. Your passion for the transition to KAM will be motivational others, and that’s what will build momentum. Without that commitment from you, others are unlikely to take up the cause.

7. Encourage Others to Own the Change

Everyone needs to feel like they have a valuable role to play in the new KAM system. If they feel they are going to thrive in the new organizational environment, they become invested in it. KAM is an all-encompassing strategy, so it’s important for each person to realize that they have a part to play. Explicitly address how each person adds value to the function of the system to boost morale and excitement for changes that are unfolding.

8. Err towards Over-Communicating

Authentic communication builds trust and understanding, both of which alleviate tension and resistance. Explaining something isn’t the same thing as communicating, so take the time to encourage dialogue between and within groups in order to make sure everyone is heard during the system change. It’s better to communicate too much rather than too little, so err on the side of additional check-ins and updates to keep worry and resentment at bay.

9. Acknowledge Company Culture

Every organization has its own unique company culture. You need to recognize the culture in your organization and accommodate it however necessary. Trying to implement large changes without accounting for company culture may hurt the chances of the changes sticking.

10. Allow a Buffer for Unexpected Events

Life rarely goes exactly according to plan, so account for that fact whilst making your plan. Flexibility is an asset for accomplishing any goal, because there are variables you won’t be able to measure at the outset. Add buffer room for mistakes, setbacks, and unforeseen opportunities. This is going to help you stay on track, even when an element of chaos enters the picture. Remember “the plan” does not actually have to happen exactly as planned to achieve the desired outcome. Flexibility keeps retention rates higher, because it gives your team the time and space they need.

Reinforcing Changes and Decisions

Part of being the champion for a Key Account Management program is working to reinforce the benefits of the new system after the changes have started to take place. It’s not enough to outline the program’s value in the beginning and leave it alone. You should always circle back to the reasons for change, the anticipated outcomes, and the latest progress updates. Building key account manager skills is a positive thing, so reinforce the positive message regularly once you’ve started implementing the new KAM program.

Talk often about the long-term benefits (individual and otherwise) and acknowledge what has already been accomplished. As the KAM champion, focusing on the individual and organization-wide goals that can be met through this change helps motivate the team to overcome the frustrating aspects of the overhaul.

Organizational changes are never easy, but with an effective change management strategy in place, it will be easier for you to help your organization implement a KAM system. For more information on how Kapta can help you implement your Key Account Management program, check out our consulting and services offerings.




CEO at Kapta
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.