Many companies who are struggling, ask us about key account management, also referred to as strategic account management. They ask what it is and how can it help them grow their sales and profitability. So we asked Brian Smith to provide a little more in-depth perspective on the topic and he has graciously agreed to write a series of articles for this blog.
Brian is a seasoned expert on leadership, sales and vendor management and overall in General Management. He leads the Key Account Management and Client Development program at York University’s Schulich School of Business in Toronto where he has taught over 5,000 professionals from across North America, Europe and Southeast Asia who have attended his seminars.
Brian has coached large multi-nationals and small clients in growing their businesses through Strategic Account Management, Improving Sales Effectiveness, Strategic Thinking Work-Outs and Ongoing Coaching. Through his extensive career, Brian has also held several Finance and Strategic Management Positions at General Electric and led the turnaround of Exide Electronics as Vice President & General Manager.
Key Account Management is a business strategy and process to earn trusted advisor status with strategic accounts. Successful key account management requires a process that can be executed in detail and followed up closely. The process is best documented in a joint business plan.
Understanding key account strategy and business priorities is essential for key account management success. It's really important to dig down and really understand what your client is facing day-to-day. Key account management is an excellent strategy to build competitive strength in key accounts. However, you need to do the work. Properly executed key account management puts competitors at a serious disadvantage when competing for new business with a supplier's key accounts. Key account management positions a key supplier to understand important growth opportunities well in advance of its competitors.
How Do You Implement It?
There are 2 key steps for implementing key account management in your organization. It may seem a simple process to get key account management rolling in your organization, but these two steps take a lot of effort and persuasion to get started on the right path. These are:
First of all you have to educate your organization on key account management. You have to get C-level executives committed to the strategy and process.
You need to appoint champions to lead the process and these can be people in different functions. A key account manager does not necessarily come from the sales side of the business. I've had situations where accounts have appointed an R&D Vice President or a functional person like a Manufacturing VP as the key account manager.
Key account management is a top priority strategy for long-term business success.