Chief Marketing Officer at DemandFarm
As Key Account Management practices head towards a virtual direction, technology takes the center stage. Account Managers and Sales Leaders have to accommodate changing customer trends and expectations. DemandFarm’s Dr. Karthik Nagendra – Chief Marketing Officer had a one-on-one conversation with Jennifer Smith-Byers – VP Client Services, from TaskUs on the journey to Digital Key Account Management. The following sections cover some of the inputs from the discussion about the factors, challenges and advantages that arise from transitioning into a digital era of Key Account Management.
Increasing Revenues from Key Accounts is the need of the hour!
In the post-pandemic digital age, the main priority for organizations has been increasing the revenue from their key accounts. ‘Digital’ is at the core of all functions and that has invariably transmitted to the B2B space and Key Account Management as well.
For Jenny Smith-Byers, “Any company that’s able to secure large accounts need to continue to foster those accounts not only in order to grow them, but also to maintain them and those are key to our success.”
Continued growth as a business involves retaining key accounts since that is where most of the revenue for an organization comes from. Large accounts are very complex and to ensure continuing business from them requires a strategic approach to handling those accounts. Traditionally, account plans were created once a year and were reviewed across the executive team in the account or product side. But now-a-days, plans change very quickly. When PPTs and Excel Sheets were the norm before, updates were also irregular.
Digital Account Planning tools these days, however, encourage us to view Key Account Management as a dynamic rather than a static process.
Factors to consider when making a shift to digital key account management tool
- Ensure you are at the right maturity level
- Have the discipline to fully leverage a tool
- Executive buy-in across the organization to ensure adoption
- Need to keep a dynamic planning approach
- Choose the right champions to drive transformation
- Ability to integrate into your existing tools
- Ensure you get the right training and support across the organization
- Choose the right partner to advocate for you and help you build strategic relationships as you use the digital tool
Checklist: How to Select the Ideal Digital Account Planning Tool
With any kind of transformation within an organization, there are a bunch of challenges to be encountered. When shifting to Digital Key Account Management as well, there are a few hurdles to overcome.
1) Client Face Time
Think about the impact on customer/client face time & ensure more internal steps or processes aren’t being added is a major concern. This could pull away the account team from spending valuable time building relationships.
Integration into other business tools used by your organization, particularly financial tools. You need to be able to get real-time updates of where you’re at in terms of revenue tracking against your plan and budget for the year.
3) Getting the right early adopters
It takes time to change things if one is used to a way of doing things. To show the value of adopting a new digital ecosystem and setting aside time to get everything set up is a challenge.
How does one go about championing a change to Digital Key Account Management?
For Jenny, there are three main criteria that go into championing the change to Digital KAM.
1) Aligning with your organization:
Existing tools, and language used in the daily life of the organization might be different from the standard. So ensuring that the requirements were aligned before implementing was crucial. Aligning with previously existing systems also reduced naysayers when it comes to adoption of a new digital Key Account Management tool.
2) Getting a team of ‘Advocates’:
Having a team of beta testers or advocates who have tried out the tool will make it easier to roll it out to the entire organization. Any sort of issues can be cleared up in the trial stages and these super users will act as champions to help others get trained in shifting to a digital key account management practice.
3) Support from Senior Leadership:
Support from senior leadership is critical for efficient change management to ensure that transition to a digital ecosystem runs smoothly.
Advantages of taking a digital approach to Key Account Management
For Jenny, 5 huge advantages stand out from adopting a digital KAM framework for Account Planning.
There is consistency and straightforwardness when it comes to updating account plans. A real understanding of the client, their relationships, who the buyers are and what drives their decisions is available easily.
To be able to quickly adjust account plans is a huge benefit of digital KAM tools. It becomes easier to fit what your client is doing and the innovation that comes with a digital KAM tool also makes account plans more effective. For Jenny, having a digital tool simplifies a lot of processes and someone new coming to the organization can pick up an account quickly as it is already established.
“For me it was a kind of AHA moment. We had a new Chief Operating Officer who joined the company and we wanted to introduce him to the key accounts across the organization. We didn’t didn’t do anything other than leverage DemandFarm. We used the Grandstand feature, walked them through the accounts – these are key people we meet with; these are our strengths, opportunities, threats, weaknesses; these are the areas we’re going after… We used everything in the tool and there was no extra prep. There wasn’t anything that caused us to spend a lot of extra time preparing charts for a new executive,” says Jenny.
3) Strategic thinking about Client Relationships
Having an integrated, simple approach gives rise to a step-by-step flow thinking or strategic thinking about client relationships. Aligning focus and building on growth opportunities then gets standardized for every account owner without compromising on the flexibility that comes from adopting a digital tool for account planning. This gives space to shift strategy in case of any changes.
4) Increased collaboration:
“Selling is not a solo sport, it’s really a team sport,” is Jenny’s maxim when it comes to sales!
Digital Key Account Management ensures that the entire organization is there to support you due to the increased collaboration it brings with it. Keeping all the data, information and insights accessible in one place bridges gaps between different sales teams and account teams.
5) Whitespace Opportunities:
Additionally, knowing where their white spaces are and what are the action plans for going after them are also improved. In a complex organization, interactions with clients can be broken down. And you get better knowledge about buying centers.
Change management is an important part of Digital Key Account Management. Executive Buy-In to drive the change internally, early adopters and champions along with integration into other existing tools form a vital part of the shift to digital key account management. Check out more on this in the complete episode of The Shift Podcast.