Ensuring Success for your KAM Program

The term Key Accounts Management (KAM) is a widely misrepresented in corporate circles primarily because most people believe KAM to be an extension of the sales functions which it is not. In fact, KAM is one of those organizational changes in the past decades that have had a major impact on how B2B transactions are done. In a nutshell, KAM is a management approach adopted by selling companies to manage a portfolio of loyal accounts. Harvard Business Review defines Key Accounts Management as a process in which the Suppliers/Service Providers manage their relationship with strategically important customers by which the company reaps measurable benefits.

One must keep in mind that KAM is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways and needs to be implemented carefully. One good way is to start small and identify a handful of key accounts and develop an offer for them that separates key accounts from the rest. It is advisable to start small since it is easy to add key accounts rather than demoting them later. One must not give in to the temptation of including particular customers to the Key Accounts Program. Hence, one must be firm on the parameter than qualifies a customer to the Key Accounts Program.

Finding the right KA Manager is critical if you want the KAM program to be successful in the long run. Merely employing your best sales person as a KA Manager can be a huge blunder since KAM is not a sales technique but a change in the way people work and manage customers. Making your best sales guy a KA Manager is a huge mistake since not only do you shift your resources into a territory which they are uncomfortable with but you also lose out on your best sales force as a result. A KA Manager must act as a ‘Change Agent’ who does the work on customer’s behalf and sells the Idea throughout the organization on how to manage important customers’ of the company.

It has been observed over the years that the best KA Managers are not always the sales guys but also the technical ones such as project managers. Before selecting a Key Accounts Manager one must make sure he possesses the necessary skill-sets such as consultative selling, financial acumen and interpersonal skills. It is important to provide the KA Managers with regular and timely training to sharpen these skill-sets which would realize their full potential and derive maximum results.

The KA Manager must recognize the enormity of his/her position as the company entrusts with them it’s most valuable asset – The Key Customer. The KA Manager mostly works on large deals/clients and any hiccup in the relationship could mean huge losses for the company. Hence, a KA Manager needs to tread carefully and understand the importance of situation that he/she is dealing with.

Some key features of a successful KAM Program are that it is not static over time. New Benchmarks are set, additions to the Key Accounts list are made and in some cases, some accounts are removed who no longer satisfy the new benchmarks. Involvement of Top management is imperative towards the success of a KAM Program and Top Bosses or CEO’s must regularly visit key accounts.

A transition for a supplier from NO KAM to KAM needs to be deft, agile and incremental in nature. It won’t be easy but it would definitely be worth it.

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