For tech solution providers, building relationships with your end client is essential. In this field, offering services that allow your team to function as a part of the client’s team can be the difference between a one-time project and a long-term client. This is where key account management (KAM), (also called strategic account management (SAM), becomes essential.
The sales cycle doesn’t end with conversion. Instead, making the deal is the beginning of a partnership that should continue to evolve. For your account management, this means understanding the client, their end customers, and their business needs. To stay one step ahead of the process, your team should be able to understand the client’s pain points, as well as your own offerings. This way, your team can proactively make recommendations that make sense for the client’s business goals.
In this role, your company’s sales metrics aren’t the only concern. You’re working to make sure that your end client sees continued growth and success. With a key account management framework, you can develop a process that extends beyond the basic renewals and possible opportunities to upsell services to existing clients. Instead, you’re concentrating on a true partnership between companies so that your team works as an extension of the client’s own IT Department.
What Is Key Account Management?
Key account management is a strategy to help you serve your most important clients. Through KAM, your goal is to manage and provide optimal services for these clients to help them succeed and exceed their benchmarks. At the same time, meeting the client’s goals helps your company increase profits. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between your organization and your client’s.
Key accounts spend a greater amount of money with your company, and they are often categorized as continual clients. These are accounts that your company serves regularly or in an ongoing capacity. Your key account managers need to prioritize these accounts, offer more care, and build excellent relationships. For tech companies, the key accounts often need more than a single account manager or contact person. There might be a team of different specialists from your company that work closely with this account.
Key account management best practices starts with a personalized approach. Each company is different, and your approach needs to consider their individual pain points, needs, and ways that your services can proactively help your client. Key accounts expect a higher level of leadership and care.
Many people use the term partnership here. You’re building a long-term relationship with these accounts that prioritizes growth for their business, as well as your own. However, the danger is in using the terms without offering a true level of partnership. A true partner shares both the risk and rewards.
Key Account Management Best Practices
Developing a key account management framework starts with assessing your current processes. If you haven’t been using a KAM framework in the past, you’re going to start by analyzing your current accounts to identify the key accounts that you should be focusing on. Not every account is going to be a key account.
Your KAM process will help you create new opportunities with existing clients. The KAM manager will cultivate relationships with these accounts by helping the end client reach their internal goals and developing initiatives and solutions that help the client prosper. The KAM manager position will be your client’s personal contact person or main contact person. They will know the client, their business, and their pain points intricately and provide optimal customer care.
Some key points to consider in optimizing your KAM framework in 2021:
- Assign the Right Strategic Account Managers to Your Key Accounts. Every account isn’t a key account and salespeople shouldn’t be working both in the function of sales and KAM. Your key account managers will be taking point with individual accounts that they manage and work with closely. The right manager will develop a good relationship with your account, understand their business intricately, and develop strategies to help that client flourish with your solutions.
- Develop a Set Process. While your KAM managers offer a high level of autonomy and creative problem-solving skills, they should still have a set process to work from. This ensures that no steps are missed and that each of your key accounts gets the highest level of care. For a key account, you need to coordinate everyone on the team with a customized management and account plan informed by the customer’s global organization and objectives. Tools may help with this, but the real key to success is that they are fully adopted throughout your organization and that everyone is trained to use them properly. These two factors alone can significantly improve your sales outcomes.
- Develop Strategies for Current Needs. Your account manager will work with the client to develop strategies and offer solutions that meet the client’s goals. These goals may vary, and the manager will be your point person to find out all the pertinent information, such as the time frame the client can expect to meet set benchmarks.
- Develop a Schedule of Meetings and Deliverables. Each account has their own needs so it’s important for your managers to set a schedule to meet their business needs in a proactive way. This might include monthly meetings to update them on progress. In a recent McKinsey Report, it was noted that not all of today’s key accounts expect the white-glove treatment all the time. Many prefer digital channels, as opposed to face-to-face or phone, across the customer decision journey. There is opportunity to optimize support with a mix of traditional and digital support.
- Analyze Performance and Provide Detailed Reporting. Your key accounts expect to see the value in your solutions. Managers should be analyzing data, monitoring the success in meeting KPIs, and providing detailed reports so that the client can easily see the performance.
The Difference Between Account Management and KAM?
One mistake some companies make in instituting a key account management strategy is in not organizing the clients well. Every account will not be a key account. You need to determine what the criteria is for your clients so that your account managers are not assigned more key accounts than they can adequately serve. Your key account management process will be far more time-consuming than standard accounts.
You need to set criteria to determine which accounts should be moved to key account management. The accounts that you’ll want to include might not currently be large scale accounts, but they may have the potential for large scale growth.
One thing you might consider when organizing your accounts into KAM include the annual revenue generated by the account. This is not the only criteria to move an account, but clients that spend more money with your organization often need more advanced care.
Projection for growth is another quality that is telling. A company that is projected to grow can be an excellent key account because you can help them grow through the strategic development of services and products to meet their needs. This positions you for continued loyalty as their organization thrives.
Shifting a customer to a key account relationship should benefit you and your customer. It’s important to know if they can work with you at the level of corporate strategy and are interested in long term development and expansion. Emissary Advisors provide account intelligence that can help you determine whether a current customer is a good candidate. Their input streamlines your account selection and avoids wasting time on accounts with little long-term potential.
Need Help Unlocking the Full Power of Your Key Account Management Strategy?
Selling technology solutions to other technology companies can be an intricate vertical to master. Emissary’s advisor network can help you gain valuable insights into your target accounts and develop the right strategy. Learn more on how Emissary helped a cloud storage company leverage a key account management strategy to close a large net-new opportunity in this case study..