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Your Key Account Management Tech Stack (and Tech Hacks)

There are 3 pillars to building a truly customer-centric Key Account Management (KAM) function: People, process, and technology. You hire talent with the focus and skill to build customer engagement, and you empower them with a clear internal process, supported and accelerated by the right technology.

One way to look at the ideal Key Account Management tech stack is chronologically, along the customer journey:

  • Tech to win business
  • Tech to keep and grow the business
  • Tech to communicate along the way

As we walk through our recommendations for each, we’ll keep in mind the 3 pillars above (people, process, technology) and explore ways in which tech can support and accelerate—but never replace—the people and process that make Key Account Management meaningful.

Tech to Win Business

In a perfect world, KAMs can focus on existing customers, working towards organic growth through long-term customer engagement. However, many KAMs do still participate in the pursuit of new business, which is fine—as long as it doesn’t detract from their ability to serve existing clients.

Whether it’s KAMs themselves or a different team working on new business, there are ways to do so that set everyone up for success—including the customer.

The best upstream fit for a strong Key Account Management function is ABM, or account-based marketing. Compared to traditional sales tactics, ABM works harder to find customers who can truly benefit from your products and services. ABM tailors marketing to meet customers where they are, both in terms of channel and message. By pushing your company to think about things from the customer’s POV, ABM inherently selects for strategic, best-fit accounts—and gets you into the right mindset for long-term engagement.

Since KAMs focus on keeping and growing accounts after the initial sale, their job is easier if the accounts coming to them have already been filtered for strategic fit. That’s why we think ABM and KAM are a powerhouse partnership: ABM to win the right customers; KAM to help them reach their full growth potential.

It’s worth noting that sales isn’t always upstream of Key Account Management; when it’s done well, KAM can be a driver of sales. For service firms who work with customers in a niche industry, winning business isn’t a question of sales or marketing technology at all. Customers generate RFPs, and send them out to a few select firms. In cases like this, the relationships KAMs have made in their careers follow them as they go, creating opportunities for major new business wins. And the value your firm has consistently demonstrated for clients is the reputation that earns you an invitation to the RFP table. As a leadership team, RFPs serve as another reminder that freeing up and supporting teams whose focus is existing customers is not only an organic growth strategy, but also a long-term strategy for winning new business.

Tech to Keep and Grow the Business

You’ve made the sale. Now what? Key account management is how you keep and grow the business, so the partnership can reach its full potential. Key account management builds engagement and drives impact, helping customers reach their biggest goals so you can reach your biggest goals, too.

The right KAM software is purpose-built to support the activities and behaviors that make KAMs successful:

  • Consistent client communication: Asking the right questions, building dynamic org charts and detailed profiles, and getting the strategic insights you need to place your customers in their own market. KAM software not only prompts the right dialogue, but also captures the output in a way that stays visible to cross-functional teams as they work on day-to-day deliverables—so key customer insights, goals, and expectations stay central to the planning and execution process.
  • Action-oriented account planning: Research and experience teach us that the number one way to build customer engagement is to make an impact on their business—and half of impact is “act.” KAM software has built-in methodologies that help you translate big ideas into actionable tasks, ensuring everything you do, big or small, ladders up to your customer’s goals.
  • Meaningful metrics: Your customers will want to see the value you create for them. KAM software pulls data from multiple sources to track KPIs and other customer success metrics in real time. And reporting tools make it easy to quickly pull the answers to any questions your customers have about progress and impact.

Strong KAM software is relatively new to the scene. For years, KAMs have pieced together ad-hoc solutions for their critical role: They’ll build incredible strategic PowerPoint decks—and then store them in a folder on the server where nobody sees them. They’ll build account plans in spreadsheets, burying the most important message (why are we doing this?) in a cell somewhere. They’ll spend an hour searching their email to find a single client comment.

KAM software doesn’t replace email or PowerPoint, but it does give KAMs and their teams a single source of truth for everything related to a client or project. Dashboards keep the who, what, why, and how of every account and deliverable clearly visible to the whole team, which makes it easier for KAMs to keep work on time, on budget, and, most importantly, on strategy.

Tech to Communicate

We think you can communicate effectively with 3 main tools: Slack for internal collaboration; Zoom for conference calls; email for clear and secure client communication.

Three is a magic number: It gives you the flexibility to harness the strengths of each platform without overwhelming your clients or internal teams. (Nobody wants to be checking 7 different applications all the time, or searching 7 different applications to find a client comment.)

When it comes to communication, there’s not a tech solution in the world that can solve for good judgement. You have to know when to stop emailing and pick up the phone. And you have to know when to put down the phone and go meet with your clients in person.

Remember, tech only works as a pillar of key account management. You have to consider its role in relation to process and people in order to make the most of your tech—and your time.

Tech is Not Enough: Process

In today’s world, there’s a tech platform for everything. (For example, “Yo” is an app whose sole functionality is to send your friends a message that says, “Yo.”) We are bombarded by tech solutions promising to make work more efficient, more effective, and more enjoyable. But do they really?

The answer is: Only sometimes. And only if they are implemented with the bigger picture in mind. Rather than just adding platform after platform to your tech stack, take a step back and ask yourself: What is our growth strategy? What is our process for getting there? Who are the people who will be using this and how does this help them? (Hint: If the software company itself is practicing good key account management, they should be able to help you answer these questions, and use their product in a way that brings real value to your organization.)

When tech exists not for its own sake, but as a complement to a clear internal process, it can be implemented and integrated in a way that lets it deliver on its promise: To make work more efficient, more effective, and even more enjoyable.

Tech is Not Enough: People

Even at its best—fully integrated with people and process, fully integrated with complementary platforms—no tech solution can replace the human element of customer engagement. Exceptional client management takes, among other things, experience, skill, judgement, diplomacy, rapport, time, and effort.

So while KAMs can and should expect technology to support their efforts, they shouldn’t expect it to replace them—and they should be wary of any tech platform that suggests otherwise. Good KAMs know when to meet with clients in person: Workshops, account reviews, presentations, critical conversations, and more. They use their tech tools to prepare, follow up, and implement output from these meetings—but they don’t send an email when they should show up in person instead.

Conclusion

At a high level, you can think about KAM as consisting of 3 pillars: People, process, and technology. And you can think about your technology as a set of solutions placed along different points in the customer journey: ABM to win business; KAM to keep and grow business; and a combination of Slack, Zoom, and email to communicate along the way.

Kapta is purpose-build KAM technology that integrates seamlessly not only with your tech stack, but also with your overall KAM process. Our coaches and services are designed to make sure you make the most of your tech investments, by assessing your overall approach to customer engagement and ensuring you have all the right tools in place (not just ours) to be successful.

To see how Kapta fits into your KAM tech stack and process, schedule your personalized demo today.

Your CRM is Not Enough: Why Companies are Using Dedicated KAM Software to Build Customer Engagement

In our line of work, we talk to all kinds of people, from all kinds of companies, all day long. And we see the same thing over and over again: Most companies are not as customer-centric as they think they are. We know because there are a few tell-tale signs:

  1. We ask about their account management approach, and they talk about sales or new business
  2. We ask about their customer’s goals, and they don’t know—or they tell us about their own goals instead
  3. We ask about account health, and they talk about pipeline

In short, most companies think they are customer-centric because they have customers and they don’t want to lose them. But they haven’t operationalized a business model that actually puts their customers first.

Meantime, the tools they’re using—particularly their CRM—reinforce existing behavioral norms. In contrast, dedicated KAM software prompts and reinforces behaviors that build strategic relationships with customers, helping you deliver on their growth goals. When you do, you achieve Trusted Advisor status, and your own growth follows.

Let’s take a closer look at why CRM isn’t enough to implement true customer-centricity, and why you need dedicated KAM software to support your people in this effort.

Transactional vs Strategic

We recently reviewed a detailed methodology for identifying Key Accounts. It starts with gathering all your accounts into a portfolio analysis, then applying a set of filters. One of the filters is this simple question: Is this a strategic relationship? Or a transactional one?

Strategic accounts are those with real growth potential. Maybe they’re a government entity, a large corporation, or a fast-growing company. Their needs are recurring and complex, and you know there’s more business to be had at that organization, both in terms of volume and diversity. In addition, what they need to succeed aligns with what you offer—in other words, your goals are compatible, and you’re both set up for a successful partnership.

A transactional account is one where they really only need one product or service from you, and there’s not much room to grow. There’s nothing wrong with transactional clients, especially if that’s your business model. And in that case, your CRM tool may be completely sufficient.

But the only way to fully unlock the potential of strategic customers is through skilled relationship management. Some companies call this Key Account Management (KAM); others call it Strategic Account Management (SAM). At firms like marketing agencies, where every account is a key account, they just call it account management or client management. For the sake of this post, we’ll call it KAM, and summarize it as a process designed to foster long-term, mutually successful partnerships with strategic clients. It’s also a process that requires purpose-built technology.

Generating Leads vs Building Relationships

Traditional CRMs are a sales tool at heart. They excel at tracking transactional behaviors, such as:

  • Lead and contact management
  • Sales opportunity management
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Billing
  • Issue resolution

For a sales team whose focus is drumming up new business, a CRM is a useful tool. However, for a key account management team whose focus is working closely with 1 or 2 high-value accounts, a CRM falls short.

Dedicated KAM software, in contrast, can help you:

  • Know your customers better: Uncover their goals, and put them front and center for cross-functional teams to reference
  • Act on their behalf: Build a detailed action plan to turn those goals into discrete action items
  • Measure what matters: Track specific, real-time progress against customer goals, while also gauging overall account health

And here’s the even better thing: when you know your customers, act on their behalf, and demonstrate value by measuring what matters to them, you’ll find yourself growing the business through contract renewals and SOW increases. Not only that, but your reputation as a partner will travel beyond your current clients, opening the door to new business. In other words, by focusing on key account management, and truly delivering for your clients, you’ll create compelling case studies for new business pitches, too.

Data vs Insights

Because of all the transactions it tracks, a CRM is a vast repository of numbers. But are they the numbers you need? Again, a customer-centric approach to key account management means everything you do, and therefore everything you measure, ladders up to a customer goal.

Whereas a CRM requires you to dig through multiple data sets to find the answers you’re looking for, Kapta organizes metrics and reporting around customer goals, so you’re only ever a few clicks away from a relevant, meaningful report that speaks directly to a particular client, account, or deliverable.

Quality vs Quantity

At the end of the day, customer engagement is about a dynamic, 2-way relationship in which both parties feel successful. It takes consistent, meaningful conversations and skillful relationship management. And while no software can track all the nuances of human interactions, KAM software is set up to prompt and support the kinds of behaviors that lead to strong relationships: Maintaining contact, asking the right questions, capturing the answers, and turning them into meaningful action items that you track diligently.

In contrast, CRM is designed to monitor more superficial customer touchpoints. There’s no clear way to track the quality of your interactions, including what you promised and how you plan to deliver.

Conclusion

If you truly want to put customers first, your CRM is not enough. Kapta is key account management software, guided by Our KAM Process, to help you operationalize a customer-centric mindset.

Schedule a personal demo today to talk through your current approach to customers, and how we can help you build strategic, insightful, quality relationships with customers who’ll stay with you for the long run.

CRM and Kapta: Making the Most of Both Platforms

Many of our customers use Salesforce and/or other CRM tools for generating new leads. As a result, we often hear the question: “Why Kapta? Why not just keep using my CRM?” We also see the corresponding Google search: “Kapta vs. CRM.”

But while it’s useful to compare CRM and Kapta platforms, we don’t actually in terms of “vs” here. We think in terms of “and.” Here’s why: Sales is one function in your organization; Key Account Management is another. They are complementary, but distinct. Therefore, they require complementary, but distinct tools.

In this blog post, we’ll explore:

  • How Key Account Management is distinct from sales
  • How Kapta is distinct from CRM
  • How to use both platforms in harmony

KAM and Sales: Different Roles

Speaking generally, sales is about driving growth by generating new leads and getting new customers. Key Account Management is about driving organic growth by building lasting engagement with existing customers. Both are about driving growth, and on some level, both are about “selling” your products or services to clients. However, the process and tone for each are very different.

In sales, your goal is to get the business. You’ll be asking yourself: Have they heard of you? Do they understand what you offer, why it’s valuable, and why they need you? Do they already work with a competitor? This pitch requires a specific set of messages, skills, and technology.

In Key Account Management, your goal is to keep and grow the business. Your clients have already signed on with you, so they know who you are and why they should invest in your products or services. Now you need to build on the relationship, making yourself indispensable so that as time goes on, your customer not only renews their contract with you, but also increases their scope of work.

KAM and Sales: Different Customers

How do you know which accounts are key accounts? Key accounts are those with particular financial or strategic important to your organization.

The Pareto Principle states that 80% of outcomes are generated by 20% of inputs. Applied to your organization, this means that a significant portion of your revenue comes from a small subset of high-value clients. If that’s not true for you—if every customer is worth more or less the same dollar amount—then Key Account Management is not for you. Stick with sales, and keep working your CRM for more leads.

If you do have a small number of high-value accounts that stand out for not only their current revenue, but also their potential to grow, then you need to approach these accounts differently than you would your other accounts. It doesn’t mean you ignore anyone. You just recognize the importance of certain accounts and allocate internal resources accordingly.

One final note: As you’re identifying Key Accounts in your organization, keep in mind that revenue isn’t the only factor. Sometimes a client isn’t generating a ton of income in the moment, but maybe their mission/vision/offering is a perfect strategic fit for where your own organization wants to go. Or maybe you see some real potential and want to stay on board for the long-term. Either way, think big picture with Key Account Management—it’s about the long game!

KAM and Sales: Different Tech

Part of growing business through Key Account Management is cross- and upselling. So, yes: A Key Account Manager is in some respects a salesperson. However, as a Key Account Manager, you should know your customers inside and out: What they’re trying to accomplish, what stands in their way, what they struggle with, and how you can help. The sales tone shifts as a result: You are offering an effective solution to a problem your client is facing vs attempting to sell them something.

In order to earn that kind of trust, Key Account Managers need tools built purposefully to help them do their jobs. While most sales and marketing teams have purpose-built technology supporting and accelerating their efforts, even the most advanced Key Account Managers are often working with a hodge-podge of Excel sheets, emails, CRM data, project management tools, and powerpoint decks on the server somewhere.

KAM and Sales: Different Targets

Here’s a subtle but critical difference between KAM and sales: How you generate internal growth goals. In sales, you might examine the market, the competition, your target customer, your price point, your sales staff capacity—a host of factors that help you determine how much you can reasonably expect to grow in a given quarter or fiscal year.

In KAM, everything goes back to the customer. You start by understanding your customer’s growth goals, and projecting your organic growth goals accordingly. This relies on a couple of key truths: (1) Return customers are more likely than new customers to purchase premium products and services, and (2) If you help someone grow, you essentially help them have more money to spend on you.

So for example, say your customer wants to increase revenue by 30% in the next fiscal year. Your job as a Key Account Manager is to help them achieve that growth so you can reasonably expect them to increase their spending with you to some proportional degree. Your organic growth goal as a Key Account Manager is current revenue + the value of premium add-ons or additional work you think they’ll sign on for once they’re satisfied with your work and enjoying more cash flow as a direct result of your partnership with them.

There’s a second layer of Key Account Management and its role in your organization’s overall financial health. Namely, the cost of losing an important client. Losing a client not only costs your organization the direct revenue from the account, but also the indirect costs of replacing that revenue. The intense pressure not to lose accounts, plus the pressure to grow them incrementally year over year, is something that distinguishes the role of Key Account Managers.

Kapta and CRM: Purpose-Built Tech for Different Teams

CRM is specifically designed to support sales teams as they generate new leads and win new business—and it’s a really effective tool. However, most CRMs lack the focus to “zoom in” on a particular customer or account, effectively tracking strategic goals throughout the entire engagement. That’s where Kapta comes in.

Just as CRM is purpose-built for sales teams, Kapta is purpose-built for Key Account Managers. Kapta supports KAMs as they get to know their clients, develop tailored action plans to help them reach their goals, and measure their success—both with respect to their client’s goals and their own. Kapta tracks what matters most to Key Account Managers: The health, engagement, and activity on a small set of accounts—or even, in some instances, a single account.

Working Together: KAM and Sales, Kapta and CRM

For some organizations, KAM is everything. Advertising agencies, for example, often have a short list of extremely high-dollar clients. In that case, every single account is a key account, and account management function is a well-established, high-functioning role. CRM often isn’t even in the tech stack.

In other organizations, KAM and sales work together. Sales generates new leads, and KAM takes over when one of those leads grows into a Key Account (one with particular strategic or financial importance within the organization). If that’s the case, there is space for both CRM and Kapta; in fact, Kapta syncs seamlessly with CRM to import account history and contact info, as well as automatically share updates between both platforms. This avoids double-entry and creates even more partnership between the sales and Key Account Management teams, maximizing both the new and organic growth approaches in your organization.

Conclusion: You Can Have Both

In general, there’s no need for sales to compete with KAM within an organization; both roles are important. Similarly, there’s no need for Kapta to “compete” with CRM—both tech platforms can serve an organization well.

Here’s a high-level summary of how each platform excels:

 

For more on optimizing Key Account Management through smart technology, click here. And to learn more about how Kapta supports KAM while integrating fully with your CRM, schedule a personal demo.