Any sales organisation worth its salt soon wrestles with the problem of key account management (KAM). Many invest money in KAM training, which is often little more than “advanced sales training”. As long as KAM training is seen only as ‘development’ for senior sales people, it is likely to fail. Five important dynamics contribute to this failure:
- Poor targeting. KAM involves a lot of work and by definition, not every account can be a key account. First and foremost, it is a resource prioritisation exercise. Having clear criteria for accounts to be on the list is a sine qua non.
- Key to both partners. Do your customers see the relationship as key? Looking through their eyes is highly illuminative. Our biggest account may still be an insignificant part of our customer’s business operations and all the effort in the world on our part is likely to be met with indifference on theirs.
- It’s an organisational NOT individual activity. KAM invariably involves alignment of internal processes and teams to follow a plan. KAM is therefore a team development exercise NOT solely an individual one – paying attention to internal co-ordination is a more significant challenge than training the KAM.
- Salesperson or Facilitator? The co-ordination of longer term programmes places the key account manager in the role of change agent, facilitator, internal champion. These skills are often missed in KAM training, which has a heavy customer orientated perspective.
- Wrong Measurement. KAM initiatives are often stillborn because measurement is short term and based on existing sales targeting. Defining a staged plan with clear milestones is often vital in key account development, which in the short term brings no immediate revenue gain. Having the skill to make a good plan and the discipline to execute and measure progress against plan is indispensible.
Good KAM development is therefore a mix of training and organisational development.