Effective management strategies for key accounts are what separates the top salespeople from the bottom-dwellers. In this post, we share strategies to help salespeople get to and stay on top of the sales industry ladder.
In this article:
- What Key Account Management Is
7 Management Strategies to Help Win and Keep Your Most Important Accounts
What Key Account Management Is
Key account management, also called KAM, is the process of going after, winning, and keeping key accounts. This process involves identifying key accounts, winning their businesses over, and creating and sustaining a mutually beneficial relationship with them.
What is a Key Account? This refers to customer accounts that businesses manage separately from their regular customer accounts. They do so because key accounts contribute most of their sales revenues.
Companies implement key account management strategies on an organization-wide basis. However, salespeople are the ones who are most responsible for implementing them.
Because they’re the ones at the KAM frontlines, salespeople need to learn how to manage key accounts. Here are some things to keep in mind when it comes to managing key accounts.
1. Use a Key Account Management Strategy
As cliché, as it sounds, failing to plan is planning to fail. Formal key account management strategies are the opposite of that — they’re the plans salespeople make to avoid failure.
A formal key account management strategy removes much of the KAM guesswork. While there are no perfect key account strategies, well-prepared ones can maximize any salesperson’s chances of successfully managing key accounts.
If the company has a formal key account management strategy in place, the company has done half the job. Its salespeople only need to learn and implement the strategy.
For salespeople who sell their own products or services, they need to craft a KAM strategy. Key accounts are the lifeblood of any business and salespeople shouldn’t improvise as they do KAM.
2. Define What a Key Account Is
Unless salespeople have clear standards for classifying key accounts, each and every account is a “key” account. When that happens, there’ll be too many “key” accounts to manage.
When a salesperson handles too many key accounts, it can spread them too thin. In turn, this may prevent that person from managing key accounts well enough to satisfy and keep them.
That’s why even before identifying and going after key accounts, salespeople should know what makes for a key account. By having a clear set of standards, it will be much easier to accurately focus on real key accounts.
There are different ways to filter key accounts from ordinary ones, but the best guiding principle is the company’s objectives. Key accounts must be filtered through their strategic values, or their ability to help the company accomplish its goals.
Strategic value is often linked to financial value (e.g., annual business volume) with the company or net income contribution. However, strategic value may include other things, such as the ability to enter a new but very promising market, among others.
3. Choose a Few Accounts Only
When salespeople start implementing a key account management strategy, they should consider starting small. Why?
While key account management strategies are general approaches, implementing them requires a customized approach because every account has specific needs. This includes creating offers that are exclusive to key accounts.
Creating customized offers or packages for key accounts can be much more complicated and time consuming compared to regular accounts. By taking on too many accounts from the get-go, salespeople may get overwhelmed and fail to serve key accounts properly.
It’s better to start too small than to start too big. It’s much easier to add more key accounts over time than to remove them as time goes by.
4. Establish the Right Numbers
Salespeople won’t be able to manage things they can’t measure. Without numbers, it’s very hard or impossible for salespeople to objectively determine how good or bad they’re doing.
That’s why salespeople should establish and pay attention to the right numbers or metrics. Regardless of who establishes the metrics, numbers are crucial for key account management success.
The common metric used by many salespeople to evaluate their progress, or lack of it, is sales volume. However, there are times that sales volume isn’t the only crucial metric to use in key account management strategies.
Examples of other metrics salespeople can use to objectively monitor key account management performance include turnaround time and satisfaction rating.
5. Know Key Accounts Intimately and Touch Base Regularly
Key account management strategies are like romantic relationships. It’s because managing key accounts successfully involve the cultivation of intimate business relationships.
Unless customers feel that companies genuinely care for them and have their best interests at heart, they won’t do business. And if they already are, they will choose to sever ties.
Cultivating an intimate business relationship with key accounts starts with knowing them intimately. And to know customers intimately, salespeople must know how to be genuinely interested in their key accounts.
By being genuinely interested, it means salespeople should learn how to actively listen. This includes asking relevant questions to draw out important information about customers and putting themselves in their customers’ shoes.
And, like with any relationship, a salesperson should continue cultivating that relationship once it has started.
The term KAM, or key account management, implies an ongoing process or endeavor. Managing an account means continuous monitoring, serving, and selling, among other things.
Doing all these things require regular contact with key account customers. And because KAM requires an intimate relationship with accounts involved, salespeople must regularly meet up or touch base with their key account customers.
It doesn’t have to be always in person, though regularly meeting up with them face-to-face can be very helpful. At the very least, salespeople should call the key people who represent their key account customers to maintain business relationships.
6. Provide Solutions, Not Sell Products
A salesperson’s key accounts are highly likely to be their most highly-informed customers. As such, they’ll need to know some important principles for selling to such customers.
One of these principles is to focus on customers’ needs and wants — focus on providing solutions. Salespeople shouldn’t be hard-selling or pushing products to their customers’ faces.
Being highly-informed customers means they might not be easily persuaded by products and features. But since most people buy with their hearts and justify purchases with their minds, focusing on solutions to their concerns can be a good way to get to their hearts and convince them to transact.
Focusing on solutions means either:
1. Focusing on the benefits or the specific solutions to problems that the products or services’ features can provide
2. Enumerating the features side-by-side with how they can help solve customers’ problems.
When customers see in specific and even personal terms how a product or service can help them achieve their goals, it can be easier to convince them to continue patronizing the business.
7. Sharpen the Saw Continuously
KAM salespeople need to take initiatives to always learn new things that will help raise their game continuously.
This is because the kind of account management they do is highly specialized in nature and the accounts they handle are some of the most sought-after ones, regardless of the industry they’re in.
Competitors will never stop attempting to win KAM customers for their business, and if salespeople don’t continuously improve on their craft, they risk losing their KAM customers to their competitors.
Sales is one of the most competitive and cut-throat jobs any person can have, and a big chunk of any salesperson’s continued success comes with identifying, winning, and keeping key customer accounts. By consistently applying these KAM action steps, any salesperson can increase the odds of not just landing, but also keeping more key customer accounts.
What will you start doing to significantly improve the way you manage your key accounts? Let us know in the comments section below.