The Evolution of Key Account Management Practices

Key account management (KAM) has changed. Have you adjusted your approach?

What started out as glad-handing and entertaining has evolved into expectations of a trusted advisor partnership. In fact, customers who receive measurable results stay 6 times longer.

Failure to change by falling short of this retention requirement can have a significant impact on customer lifetime value, advocacy, profitability, growth, and your bottom line.

How, specifically has the key account management practice changed over the years, and what does it take to succeed in today’s volatile market?

How Key Account Management Has Changed

It is thought that key account management is based on Peter Drucker’s modern management theory which posits the importance of proactivity instead of reactivity. He was also a proponent of customer-centricity where the customer decides what’s important.

In the early days of key account management, it was all about the relationship. Entertaining customers by taking them out for dinner, and drinks, buying them gifts, and developing friendships with them.

When that wasn’t sufficient to satisfy customers, account managers became an information source. They spewed information about their products, and services, and shared tips and tricks to help customers solve their problems. Unfortunately, these account managers didn’t know how to listen effectively and didn’t identify their clients’ needs, goals, challenges, or priorities. Instead, they focused on overcoming client objections, never recognizing the concerns or questions customers intended them to be.

Customers grew tired of knowledgeable account managers who didn’t understand what their client’s primary goals were. This led account managers to become problem solvers who practiced consultative selling methods. They completed a thorough discovery process and then pitched solutions to their clients. Unfortunately, the account manager’s focus was still on their own goals and priorities such as meeting quota and driving revenue.

Today’s successful key account manager is a business partner, encompassing the main elements of what they previously were, plus helping customers receive value by achieving their desired outcomes by using your product or service.

KAM Success Today

The bar is high, with customer retention hinging on continuous value delivery. When customers cease to receive measurable outcomes, they are at the greatest risk of churn.

Successful account management means increased revenue, profits, and customer retention. Research shows that organizations with the best account management programs see significantly better growth. They are:

  • 3.1 times more likely to increase key account revenue by 20% or more
  • 3.4 times more likely to boost profits by 20% or more

However, 87% of companies don’t see these benefits because they haven’t established a key account management strategy and lack organizational support. Top performers are 2.5 times more likely to have an effective process for building account plans.

Achieving KAM success starts with a well-defined process and a toolkit designed to optimize team productivity.

A Process

Key account management is complex involving many elements. Guide your account managers through a repeatable cycle, like Our KAM Process™. This serves as a roadmap that enables reps to continuously move forward with each client without hesitation, never missing a step. Your team is then able to focus on the tasks at hand instead of slowing progress to consider what’s next.

An effective process includes steps that allow account managers to Know, Act, and Measure clients, hence the acronym KAM. These recurring steps include:

  • Know: This involves gathering essential information and data to understand their organization as well as their challenges, goals, priorities, and preferences.
  • Act: The knowledge and insights discovered during the know phase are leveraged to create an account plan to achieve customer goals. This plan includes activities, tasks, and milestones and designates the customer’s preferred means of measuring goal achievement.
  • Measure: This essential step is where progress toward measurable customer outcomes is tracked and assessed. Plan adjustments and course corrections are made to continue advancing toward the goal. It’s crucial to report progress or goal achievement to clients throughout the process so they know what is being accomplished.

A KAM Toolkit

There are many tools successful account managers wield throughout the KAM process.

Streamlining activities and boosting efficiency, this toolkit includes:

Interactive Org Chart and Client Profiles: Enable account managers to build a robust picture of the client’s organization and individual contributors while easily identifying gaps in their knowledge to be explored.

Voice of Customer and SWOT Tools: These tools simplify and support the ongoing discovery process for a deeper understanding of the customer as the market and organizational needs change.

Customizable Account Plan Templates: Guide account managers and their team through the account planning process, allowing them to focus on the strategic elements of creating a complete account plan without reinventing the wheel each time or omitting a detail.

Collaboration Hub: A central place to store all account insights, communications, documents, and account plans where all stakeholders who engage with the customer can share essential details in their workflow without distraction. This enables all team members easy access to up-to-date client information each time they interact with them for a consistent message and experience.

Customer Metrics Dashboards: Metrics always at the ready without running reports allow account managers and their team to easily track progress toward client goal attainment and course correct as needed. This data also helps account managers proactively recognize risks, to address them before they become unmanageable.

Account Health Score At-a-Glance: Another essential measurement account managers should always have handy is an account health score. This facilitates easy risk management, customer satisfaction monitoring, and identification of accounts requiring attention.

Whitespace Analysis: Simplify the identification of expansion, cross-sell, and upsell opportunities by providing account managers with an easily accessible whitespace analysis tool to boost revenue growth.

QBR Management Tools and Automations: Quarterly business reviews (QBRs) are valuable opportunities to engage with the customer. Streamline the minutia of QBR preparation by providing account managers with a set of essential tools and automations giving them time for strategic preparation. This pays dividends in the long term by enabling account managers to become trusted advisors to clients.

Easy Reporting Tools for Clients and C-Suite: Account managers juggle a multitude of tasks and priorities constantly. Arm them with easy reporting tools to facilitate providing crucial updates to customers and internal executives without missing a beat.


Key account management has evolved. Failing to change your approach means missing out on valuable growth, profits, and retention benefits.

Enable your account managers to continuously identify and drive measurable results for VIP clients. Establish a well-defined repeatable process and arm your team with a robust toolkit.

Ready to get started? Schedule time with a team member to see how Kapta can help with the process and a complete toolkit for successful key account management success.