There is a universe of over 500,000 account managers in the U.S. today, according to our analysis of job titles on LinkedIn. They are firefighters for their customers, quarterbacks of their customer-facing teams, and the unsung heroes of company.
Account Managers are on the front line of customer satisfaction, adoption, and renewals. No matter what the product or service, all B2B companies benefit from longer-term, stable and productive customer relationships. The job of the Account Manager is to make sure the customer is getting value from their product or service and that they are inclined to continue to do business with the company.
Account Managers love to deliver win-win outcomes to their customers. They don’t get all the glory of the new sales team, but they often carry bigger quotas and have to deliver as much revenue in a quarter as a new sales rep delivers in an entire year.
Yet today, Account Managers work without the purpose-built technology tools that their peers in sales and marketing use on a daily basis. For example, sales teams have CRM software, lead generation tools, automatic dialing services to call prospects, and email tracking tools. Marketing teams have marketing automation platforms, content management systems, social media dashboards, and data cleansing tools.
Account Managers, despite managing over 70% of a typical company’s revenue, don’t have software designed to make their jobs easier. Instead, they pull together ad-hoc combinations of CRM, spreadsheets, word documents, checklists, and emails to try to manage their customer accounts. Instead of a “single pane of glass” through which to view all of their customer interactions, they have six or more systems, none of which are designed with their needs in mind.
Powering your Key Account Relationships
Good news for Account Managers everywhere: there’s a new category of software tools emerging that are specifically designed to help manage customers beyond the initial sales. Key Account Management Software, like Kapta, allows Account Managers to do what they do best – build relationships and solve problems for their customers – while automating the rest.
Think of Key Account Management Software as CRM for Account Managers with a real focus on “Relationship.” If there’s one thing that Account Managers are masters of, it’s building strong relationships with their customers. KAM software provides visibility into the relationship dynamics, suggests ways to strengthen key relationships, and shows a holistic view of complex, multi-team, multi-stakeholder dynamics.
Focus on the Accounts that Matter Most
KAM is based on the premise that a small number of customers (typically less than 20 percent) drive a disproportionately large amount of revenue and profits for the company (at least 80 percent). Keeping and growing a key account can be worth ten or more small customers in terms of revenue and potential revenue.
The whole idea is to focus on what matters most: developing your strategic accounts. This means building relationships with buyers inside your strategic accounts, deeply understanding their goals and objectives, and aligning your capabilities to what they are trying to achieve. Think of it as joint success: your job as an Account Manager is to make your customer successful, which will in turn bring you success.
How do you deliver on joint success and bring true win-wins to your customers? First, by truly understanding what your customers are trying to achieve and how you can help them. How well do you understand the corporate objectives and personal goals of your customers? And, how well aligned are your products or services to help them achieve success?
Once you understand your customer’s goals, KAM helps you track and manage them in a central place, so everyone inside the company hears the voice of the customer firsthand. Imagine a single repository that contains all of your customers’ goals and objectives – so you can understand not only what they are trying to achieve today, but also their future plans, concerns, and risks. Imagine the insights that would provide to your organization.
Tracking and managing customer goals isn’t enough. You have to show your customer that you are taking action to help them achieve them. Joint success isn’t just about information; it’s about the specific actions that both sides are going to take to achieve success. KAM is about building plans in collaboration with your customers and showing them that 1) you understand what they are doing, and 2) you are the right partner for them.
That’s where you start to unlock the holy grail of being a “trusted advisor”. You are no longer just another vendor; you are a true partner your customer can rely on to provide value day in and day out.
Finally, once you have shared your action plans with your customer, create a mutual accountability dashboard that clearly shows who’s doing what. Remember, in all significant business relationships, both sides have a lot riding on the success of the project. Hold your customer accountable for their part of the work, too.
KAM is relationship-based
Key Account Management means that your whole company is customer-centric and committed to successful customer outcomes. The most critical element here is the relationship. How well do you know the customer stakeholders? Do you understand their buying and decision-making dynamics? Can you identify the personal goals and motivations of various team members?
KAM keeps you focused on the relationships so you can build an accurate picture of your customer. Relationships require nurturing and support; this isn’t a one-time activity. For you to become a true trusted advisor, you have to invest in relationships and manage them over time. Situations change, people leave, new competitors emerge – it’s up to the Account Manager to stay up to date.
Key Account Management vs. Customer Success
If Key Account Management is about your most important customers and becoming a strategic partner to them, there’s another emerging field called “Customer Success” with a different focus. Customer Success uses buzzwords like “scale,” “big data,” and “machine learning” to bring a different approach.
Customer Success is primarily based on the needs of subscription-based SaaS business models. For those companies, a large number of low-touch customers need uniform processes and attention to onboard and value from the SaaS product. As a result, a number of software providers have emerged to help SaaS companies solve that problem.
Customer Success solutions rely on analytics to determine which customers are the best users of your SaaS product and who is most likely to renew their subscription. They use “rules engines” to send emails to customers based on certain criteria. This is in direct contrast to KAM where we know that your large customers want personalized service and that a machine can’t do an Account Manager’s job.
Key Account Management brings transparency and collaboration to your strategic customer relationships. You have a strong connection with your customer, and as a result, you have to deliver on your promises. That means setting clear expectations and being collaborative with customers as you work toward joint success.
Your value will be clear to your customers, so you won’t need to fear the dreaded “What have you done for me lately?” conversation. The flip side is that you customers will know your plans and capabilities and have high expectations of your team.
Trust is built on mutual understanding, respect, and strong communication. There are now resources available to help them work even more effectively toward building stronger, longer-lasting relationships with your most valuable customers.
Kapta is on a mission to help the unsung heroes of Account Management take their game to the next level. Take a tour of our software and to see if Key Account Management is right for you.