All business functions and levels need to be involved in the key account management process to ensure short-term and long-term success. This means that everybody needs to recognize that key account management is not a sales strategy; it is a business strategy. Various business functional operations must execute the promises made by key account managers and must be involved in setting the promises being made to strategic accounts. It's VERY important that the people on the shop floor, quality, distribution, finance and so on buy in to the whole program and participate in it actively. C-level executives must be committed to key account management as a long-term business strategy. Key account management is a process that maximizes the long-term business value of the most important customers.
Client retention is essential for double-digit growth and key account management is a top approach to retaining important clients for the long-term. Successfully implementing key account management with an important client can position an organization to be seen as a trusted business advisor.
How Do You Get Your Organization Involved in Key Account Management?
First of all, your organization has to understand the key success factors that your business can offer key accounts. It needs to invest the time to educate itself on key account management. Your organization needs to appoint key account champions to educate the people in all functional departments and lead the implementation process. If all business functions and levels are committed to key account management, it will differentiate your organization competitively.
How Can You, As a Sales Manager Do This?
Sales managers ask us all the time how do they do this, how can they rally support from all levels. One of the easiest ways we have found to start this is within your own sales meetings. Most, if not all sales managers hold regular sales meetings with their sales teams – at least quarterly. At these meetings, it is customary for territorial sales representatives to present their territory sales plans and updates on their top accounts. This sharing of what works, what isn't working and how are they managing their biggest accounts helps others on the sales team pick up different ideas and tips that they can use with their accounts. If you're having these meetings, why not invite key people from different functional departments and different levels to participate in these meetings also? If you pick them carefully enough, these are going to be the key people that can help you successfully grow your key accounts. For example, inviting the VP's and Directors of Operations, Quality, Customer Service, Distribution, Finance to participate in these meeting will provide them with a better understanding of what is going on with your key accounts and which accounts may have potential to become key accounts. Getting them involved in these discussions will be helpful in two ways: one - making them feel more invested in the success of your key accounts by understanding what they need to be successful and therefore growing your own revenue base and two - they may come up with some creative ideas that your sales team may not have thought they could offer to their key accounts that will help you grow the business. Having these people participate on an on-going basis will help them see how the key accounts progress and evolve and if their ideas are successful in gaining more business with these accounts, will only encourage them to think of more ways to help your key accounts out. Doesn't everyone want to be associated with a winning team? That's what you'll have - a winning team, top to bottom.
One more thing, it is very important to get all of the people in your company that need to understand the key accounts, out to see the key accounts facilities and meet with their counterparts. It is important to build those person-to-person relationships so that when a need is identified, the execution happens automatically.