System management is the backbone of creating standardized, replicable processes for excellent account management. Without those processes, managing key accounts turns into a game of intuition without structure. But by adding strategies and planning methods, businesses can see a substantive boost in performance.
In fact, according to HubSpot, “Key accounts are 60 to 70% likelier to close than new ones, plus spend 33% more on average." Key account management programs have a foundation of plans and technology so teams can focus more on building relationships. In this article, we'll explore how modern management styles developed and how software can help them develop even further.
Early Account Planning Methods
Peter Drucker was a revolutionary expert in management processes. He created the modern management theory that managers have a vital role as leaders for their teams. Managers should create collaborative environments that share power and encourage process improvement, which was a departure from management styles that focused on maintaining schedules and forcing employees to follow set paths and procedures. The core tenets of Drucker's management theory are:
- Treating every member of the team as an equal so everyone feels empowered to share ideas and take ownership of their work
- Increasing production and efficiency by creating objectives and action plans, which were then used to assess progress
- Open communication to allow for the sharing of ideas and strategies
- Creating an atmosphere that encouraged reasonable risk-taking and innovation
All of these elements lead to the creation of today's key account management (KAM) practices, but the second one is particularly vital. Key account management relies on excellent key account planning. Sales professionals and account managers need to compile information and create strategies and action plans to lead clients into satisfactory, profitable relationships with fewer delays and opt-outs.
Long-term KAM action plans are superior to creating and implementing plans around short-term goals that don't have any next steps. Key differences include the addition of loyalty and reward programs that encourage long-term customer retention, a focus on anticipating and being able to provide for clients' needs, and even transforming clients into brand ambassadors who refer new clients to your business and are clearly happy with the degree of service you provide.
Throughout the early stages of KAM processes — and even in many businesses today — account planning was incredibly manual, tedious, and inefficient. Account planning was always done from scratch, without a go-to template or procedure. Manual information-gathering processes also made it difficult to create in-depth customer profiles that lead to personalized strategies and account management. This lack of organization slowed the process, which both decreased overall customer satisfaction and got in the way of profitability.
How Technology Changed Account Planning Methods
Modern technology addresses many of these weaknesses by giving key account managers the tools they need to put Drucker's philosophy into practice. Software platforms specifically designed for KAM can help your team organize client details, maintain day-to-day or week-to-week communications, set organized goals, and more. Some of the specific ways online platforms help include:
- Decentralized and remotely accessible communication: Today's business relationships often require more accessibility than the standard 9-to-5 office environment, especially with remote work and WFH setups still remaining prominent. Software in the cloud lets your key account managers access client information and get real-time insights into the progress of their goods and service orders without delay. It also allows team members from different departments or the same team to regularly update client accounts with the latest details and insights.
- In-built formats and templates: The hardest part of creating an action plan or a strategy is getting started, and that includes the world of KAM. Helpful KAM software should always give your team a helpful template, layout, or landscape in which to organize information. Without that structure, your account managers can struggle with getting started and creating robust plans that meet your organization's long-term needs.
- Interactive goal-setting and to-do lists: By structuring timelines and tasks into both a long-term calendar and a daily or weekly to-do list, your account managers spend less time trying to figure out what to do next. You can also better address the next steps and optimize long-term strategies so they're always driving forward.
Those improvements in your KAM processes do more than make account management easier for your team. It also strengthens customer relationships and brings in more revenue. Three of the most important indirect benefits of updating your account planning methods include:
1. Reduced Acquisition Costs
Every lead and client you acquire costs money. Some leads are lost along the way to finalizing an agreement, and others undergo a prolonged back-and-forth. Updating your processes with a technology-backed action plan reduces those costs by streamlining the process and letting you more easily tap into data to choose the right strategies.
2. Improved Priority Relationships
Key accounts are crucial for your business. Anything that reduces the manual load on your account managers so they can focus on the relationship itself is a good investment.
3. Increased Upsells
Part of great account management is proactively solving problems for your clients with upsells, cross-sells, and suggestions that make their own goals easier to achieve. A better management platform gives you easier insight into their probably needs so you can make more sales.
Technology is the missing component to management philosophies because it enables account managers to focus on the human elements of strategy and relationships. KAM software makes it easier to gather and analyze information, select the right strategies based on previous account behaviors, and make every communication more valuable.
Choose KAM Software From Kapta
Closing more deals and retaining those relationships for years to come is the mark of a good key account management program. See how Kapta can help support your growth with our software by scheduling a consultation. You can also browse our resources for more insights into key account management.