What Sets the Good Account Managers Apart from the Great Account Managers

There’s nothing wrong with being good – let’s get that out of the way first. But, there’s also no reason you should settle for “just good enough” when millions of dollars are on the line either. In the years we’ve been coaching and working in the key account management field, we’ve come to identify a few distinct attributes that separate the good KAMs from the great ones.

If you’re looking to step up your KAM game and do more for your clients, keep these six things in consideration and look for ways to implement these tips and tricks into your workflow.

A Personal Relationship that Goes Behind the Organization

No matter if you’re a key account manager or a manager at a burger shop, you want to be nice to your customers and build a good relationship with them. The difference in key account management is that the relationship goes far beyond the next sale and far beyond your organization.

Great key account managers will develop a relationship so strong with their clients that they might as well be an employee of their customer’s organization. If you look at the average account manager, you’ll notice that they’ll treat their clients as if they are doing them a favor, not the other way around.

Working with your clients from the mindset that your time is more valuable than theirs or that your company is more important to you than theirs can quickly stunt the growth of the relationship. Clients can notice, and the account manager will never really follow through on their promises because they don’t place enough value in the relationship.

But what if they were to pretend their client was their boss and what they said was final? For one, they’d be more likely to do what they ask and would expect higher from themselves while working with the account. This mindset can also produce greater results that benefit both parties.

Now, this isn’t to say that great account managers sell themselves out and will give huge price reductions and waste company resources to help one account. Instead, it’s more of a mindset and the idea of working for your client that can help you become more strategic and more effective in your daily work.

More Than the Minimum

As with many things in life, it’s possible to sit back, collect a paycheck, and get by doing just the bare minimum, but you’ll never reap the rewards of nourishing a rock-solid relationship with your customers. When your customers likely work with dozens of vendors, they start to seem replaceable.

Good key account managers might recognize this and will make sure that they always fulfill their customers’ requests, so they don’t drop the ball. Great account managers go a step further, with a proactive approach that “wows” their customers each and every day.

Understanding what you can do to go above and beyond will depend on your client, what their expectations already are, their industry, and how much time you have. Your account plan and VOC insights should paint a picture of what your clients expect of you, and all you need to do is turn the intensity up a notch.

In many cases, the little things can make a big difference in the end. For example, choosing to have a phone conversation with your customers three times a day at the minimum will add personality to your company, and they’ll see you as a person and not an email address.

Delivering things a day early impresses clients too although you should be mindful that you never stretch yourself too thin. The great account managers know that relationship building is a marathon and not a race. Do a little extra every day and your clients will notice and if they don’t, as long as you’re tracking your actions and tasks in your account plan, when it comes time for the QBR or next VOC interview, when they ask, “What have you done for me lately?” you have a laundry list of items to show them that will reaffirm your commitment to their success.

A Focus on Customer Outcomes

Great key account managers think past the next sale and focus on how their actions, suggestions, and solutions are helping drive positive outcomes for their accounts. It’s easy to get caught up thinking about your own organization and how you’re bringing in revenue for yourself, but if you have a focus on helping your clients first, the results will come for you too.

Good key account managers understand this, but when you look at their daily work, it’s obvious that they could do more to center their approach on their customer outcomes. They are often too caught up in the activities going around their office and putting themselves first. They work to better their position through new sales rather than thinking about how their overall relationship with clients is affected.

Great account managers, on the other hand, think of the customer first. They genuinely want their customers to succeed with their products and don’t recommend premium products unless they know for a fact that it will work. When they successfully pull this off, clients see them less like a glorified sales rep and more like an advisor that they can trust and come to with questions about their business.

When you can establish this trust, you’ll find that selling to existing key accounts is much easier and there is less back and forth trying to convince them that your product brings results. It can take time to develop this kind of trust even with clients that you’ve spent years with. Start small and focus on the baby steps first, and after a series of suggestions that provide tangible benefits for the client, they’ll be more open to your advice and premium features.

Understanding the Big Picture

It’s easy to get caught in the weeds in this job. Key account managers have to deal with a ton of daily stresses, and as the leader of the entire account management department, you’re the person that likely deals with basically every emergency, no matter how critical or unimportant it is.

Besides just dealing with emergencies in the office, juggling multiple accounts and multiple strategies using a variety of software applications can be a strain all in its own. If you feel like you struggle to see the forest through the trees, you might not need to be doing more, but actually doing less.

Sounds counterintuitive, right? When you consider the big picture, you can dedicate your time to more productive tasks with a clearer vision for how it will benefit the account rather than doing so much in a day that it seems like you’re just throwing meetings, schedules, tasks, and actions at the wall just to see what sticks.

The best key account managers will have a clearer understanding of the bigger picture of it all and can see how what they do today affects the account next quarter. This is essential for not only being productive but also adopting a proactive mindset that enables you to drive better results for your clients in the end.

When you take a step back and look at the bigger picture—how your client’s business affect your organization, how your business affects your client’s organization, what the industry is doing, etc.—you start to see where you need to improve and what areas of the account require your closest involvement now.

Looking Out for the Customer First

With the bigger picture in mind, the best key account managers will always put their customer and their client’s needs before the sale. While you definitely don’t want to ever give your products or services away for free, you don’t need to shove solutions (useful or not) in their faces at every opportunity.

Instead, you need to let the sales reps do their job and pretend that you’re more of an industry expert that does this work without a dollar incentive to speak of. Again, this isn’t true, but adapting this mindset can help you go from a good account manager to a great one.

Key account management isn’t a selfish line of work, yet far too often it can seem that way when account managers are jumping from client to client, ignoring the ones that don’t respond to their sales tactics and devoting their time only to the ones that do. In the end, this strategy never pays off for the company, and if they are a true strategic account, then they deserve your time regardless of when their last renewal was.

Putting the customer first will lead to more genuine results. Rather than trying to force a square peg through a round hole because it will make the company more money, you’ll know the exact piece that will fit the puzzle and solve the problem. It might not bring in as much revenue as the other solution, but in the long run, it’s the genuine results that will create the biggest waves within the account.

Start with the End in Mind

Finally, this is one that we’ve covered numerous times, but it’s an aspect of key account management that we can’t repeat enough. Starting with the end in mind is a lot like solving a maze by starting from the endpoint. It’s much easier to navigate the twists and turns if you know where the maze is going to eventually end up.

The same is true for account management. The best key account managers will obsess over their account plans and look for ways to fine-tune them so they can deliver results and get their accounts to their goals sooner. It’s this type of intensity that brings real results.

Starting with the end in mind allows you to plan points along the way where your product or services can come in handy. Rather than out of the blue pushing a premium service or an upgrade, you can plan the pitch and once they reach a particular milestone, suggest it to them as a genuine solution.

Focusing on the end goal of the account is also a practice that allows you to stay focused and undeterred by pitfalls or emergencies along the way. Goals are measurable and rather than being something that pops up that you need to take care of immediately, they are a marker to strive towards. Keeping the end in mind will keep you on task, and you’ll be more likely to exceed your client’s expectations – at least until you move the goal post.


While all key account managers are doing a service for the business world by focusing on relationship building and treating clients fairly, not everyone is the best at it – yet. The differences between good key account managers and great ones are pretty subtle, but they can mean the difference between millions in revenue growth.

So, where do you stand?

Overcoming the mental obstacles that are holding you back from serving your clients the best can seem tricky, but if you put these tips and ideas into practice, you’ll slowly build habits that can generate results practically automatically and when you’re using the right tools of the trade, you’ll have more time to focus on the important aspects of your role.

How Kapta Can Help

Kapta is a key account management platform designed specifically with the relationship in mind. Rather than bogging you down with more spreadsheets and complicated tables, Kapta offers an intuitive user interface that KAMs can use to easily track and manage important data related to their most important client. Easily create and edit Account Plans with the built-in templates, improve engagement through VOC Insights, and even track the account’s Overall Health Score all in one platform. To see how Kapta can help your KAM program, request your free demo today.

CEO at Kapta
Alex Raymond is the CEO of Kapta.