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Abhijit Gangoli

Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer at DemandFarm

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    Key Account Management in CRM

    If you’re like most businesses, your customer relationship management (CRM) system is the backbone of your sales process. It’s where you track your leads, deals, and customer data.

    But what happens when you start to scale your business and land bigger customers?

    Suddenly, your CRM doesn’t seem so robust. In fact, it might even start to feel like a hindrance. That’s because most CRMs are not built for Key Account Management (KAM). If you are managing large, complex accounts, you need a CRM that is up to the task.

    Key Account Management vs. CRM: Are you doing enough for your Key Accounts?

    At the outset, Key Account Management (KAM) is seen as an extension of CRM. The end goal is to sell a product or service to a customer. However, they fundamentally differ in their approach to achieving the goal.

    There are a few key reasons why KAM is often seen as a more effective strategy than merely relying on your CRM.

    • First, KAM takes a more holistic view of the customer, seeing them as a partner in achieving mutual goals rather than simply a transactional relationship.
    • Second, KAM focuses on building long-term relationships with key customers, rather than trying to maximize short-term gains.
    • Finally, Key Account Managers are typically more highly trained and specialized, they are better equipped to deal with the complex needs of key accounts.

    What’s the difference between CRM & KAM?

     

    CRM software / system

     

    KAM software

     

    Objective

     

    Generating new leads for sales

     

    Identifying and building long-term relationships with existing customers

     

    Process

     

    Sales-driven

     

    Relationship-driven

     

    Approach

     

    Reactive

     

    Proactive

     

    Sales and marketing strategy

     

    One-size-fits-all approach

     

    Personalized strategies

     

    Success measure

     

    Based on the increase in top-line sales

     

    Based on the gradual increase of ROI over time

     

    Data Insights

     

    Insights generated from historical data

     

    Insights generated to anticipate future needs

     

    Value proposition

     

    Value creation for customer

     

    Value co-creation with customers

     

    data driven selling future

    Business Process and Approach

    CRM solutions are sales-driven. They are an important tool for business development to identify leads and nurture relationships throughout the sales funnel. All CRM solutions are devised around AIDA – Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action. It is a reactive process that is based on customer interactions across the sales funnel touchpoints.
    Whereas, Key Account Management solutions are relationship-driven. KAM helps an organization cultivate, nurture, and deepen its relationship with key accounts in the business. This helps to gain deeper insights into the customer’s domain, conditions, and hurdles, which helps source the unique assets that are needed. KAM is a proactive approach involving account management plans based on the future needs of the customer.

    A KAM strategy is typically more focused on large accounts or customers that have the potential to bring in a significant amount of revenue. On the contrary, a CRM strategy is more focused on maintaining and growing relationships with all customers, regardless of their size or potential revenue.

    The sales team at a company that uses KAM will be much more focused on developing a deep understanding of their key accounts and customizing their sales pitch and approach to each one. The marketing team, on the other hand, will be more focused on creating and managing customer relationships across a wide variety of channels.

     

    Hope is not a Strategy!

    Key Account Management is focused on building relationships with key customers and understanding their needs. CRM is focused on managing customer data and interactions.

    While a CRM is designed primarily for sales, key account management forces you to approach your data in a new way. KAM forces sales and marketing teams to unite around a common goal: building deep relationships with high-value accounts. This collaboration fosters a more comprehensive view of your customers that extends beyond just the sales team.

    Strength in Unity

    A key account should not be assigned to one employee. The KAM strategy often requires a more consultative and collaborative approach, as account managers work closely with their customers to understand their needs and develop custom solutions.

    This means that an account is not centralized, but rather distributed among various employees. This may seem counterintuitive to most companies, which have a sales rep assigned to all their customers. A KAM solution must facilitate collaboration across various teams (sales, marketing, tech, etc.).  

    Role of Management

    CRM solutions are geared toward sales reps and marketers. The process requires multiple levels of approval from decision-makers. The entire process can be automated to specify each approval step, share files, and deliver campaigns faster.

    On the other hand, Key Accounts are a top priority for CEOs and CSOs. Their involvement in Key Accounts is imperative at all levels, strategic, operational, and relational. They play a central role in defining key accounts, identifying customers, and allocating appropriate resources to their key accounts.

    Reporting and Insights

    There are some key differences between analytics in CRM and Key Account Management. In CRM, analytics is focused on understanding customer behavior and trends and using that information to improve customer experiences and how to best interact with them. KAM analytics is focused on understanding the key drivers of customer profitability and growth. KAM analytics is much more strategic, while CRM analytics is more operational.

    Both CRM and KAM are important for businesses, but they require different approaches to analytics. While your CRM software is great for centralizing your client data, it cannot help you with KAM functions or provide insight into the relationship. To prepare for success, you need a tool that seamlessly integrates with your workflows and empowers everyone involved in the sales process.

    With KAM software, you don’t just track how far you have come based on data from previous months. Historical data does not help drive new sales. However, understanding your current strategic path and how far you’ve gotten on it helps you look ahead and plan your opportunities, investments, and operations better.

    Process and Technology 

    There is a big difference in the technology used in KAM and CRM. KAM uses a lot of sophisticated tools and software to manage customer data and track customer behavior. CRM, on the other hand, uses more basic tools and software. It is also important to note that KAM requires a lot more training and experience to use effectively.

    Ensuring that your most valuable accounts aren’t getting lost in the chaos is essential—the CRM you choose must have the Sales Force Automation (SFA) capabilities to ensure that high-value accounts aren’t being neglected while also providing the necessary support and training for less experienced agents.

    Working with multiple data points and building a holistic picture of your client requires dedicated software. CRMs are great for managing customers, but not so great for managing high-priority accounts. That is because most CRMs are not designed to scale as your business grows. In other words, they do not account for the extra layers within your organization and the added complexity that comes with managing large clients/ accounts.

    Key Account Management Benefits – Why does it work?

    A Key Account Management software helps you keep everything organized and within reach for quick access. Sifting through endless databases to find what you need is almost impossible. The right KAM tool helps you create projections, track milestones and goals, and observe any hurdles or threats that may arise. Precise data tracking helps you retain your Key Accounts without losing them to competitors, meaning your long-term relationships stay intact with efficiency.

    Investing in the right KAM software helps you stay on track and manage these accounts with ease by collecting, saving, and processing precise information that helps you understand each and every Key Account. However, with an effective KAM software in place, it becomes easier for every user to manage and track the progress based on their individual requirements — where the software works for you.

    Ensuring that you have KAM software in place also enables you to increase your win rates over your competition. Bringing in bespoke KAM software also means that your Key Accounts are headed toward the ideal state of functioning with strategy and discipline-driven performance.

    An ideal KAM software:

    • Consolidates all the most important information for each Key Account
    • Ensures that access is full or restricted, tailored as per the user and the role
    • Enables predictions based on the insights generated from the collected data
    • Focuses on proactiveness of Key Account Managers as opposed to reactiveness
    • Brings real-time management of account metrics
    • Allows easy collaborations with external partners 
    • Tracks project developments, goals, relationship progress, etc
    • Gives notifications when action is needed
    • Reduces the risk of customers joining your competition

    Secret to Success is Implementation

    As your KAM program grows, so will your need for robust reporting and deep customer insights. A CRM built for sales and marketing automation can help provide the necessary contextual information to help agents better serve your key accounts.

    A KAM-friendly CRM gives you the tools you need to dive deeper into your customer accounts. This insight helps you identify potential business opportunities and develop a deeper, more lasting relationship with your client.

    Integration of CRM software with other systems, like KAM software, enables information flow between systems without compromising security. This means that you can use your CRM to collect and process data for key accounts that are not registered in your CRM. 

    For example, if a business has a list of contact details for its key accounts, but does not use a CRM, it would be difficult to track the performance of those key accounts. However, by using an integration between KAM and CRM software and tools, the business can bring the key accounts into their CRM. This means they’ll have access to all the important contact information, as well as all the other data already stored in their CRM, such as transactions and contacts with other non-key accounts. This will make it easier to track the progress of key accounts for the business and ensure that those key accounts are not neglected.

    For example, Salesforce is a better option because it helps you gather, save, and process information about your key accounts that can then be viewed and acted upon by the users who need it.

    Account planning in Salesforce CRM ensures that everyone involved in the sales process has access to the information they need about your key accounts. The sales representative can access the key account contact details and any other data about the account stored in the CRM. Meanwhile, your KAM dashboard will allow you to monitor the progress of your key accounts and see which activities have been completed for each key account. 

    Next-generation Key Account Management

    AI, ML Assisted Account Planning
    With the rise of next-generation technologies, Key Account Management has evolved. Today’s KAM solutions not only help you manage your key accounts but also help you engage with them in a personalized way.

    As tech continues to evolve, so will KAM software. Predictive and artificial intelligence will help custom KAM software truly shine, as the technology helps gather and analyze more data. This, in turn, will allow companies to deliver a personalized experience for their key accounts, giving them an edge over their competition.

    The future of KAM also involves the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to harvest more data and better understand business relationships. This will enable CRM professionals to develop a deeper understanding of their customers and create more targeted content, personalized messaging, and relevant offers.

    While most CRM professionals today have a general understanding of key account management (KAM), this foundational skillset is essential for maximizing business relationships that are established outside of customer contact. 

     

    Ready to discuss your Account Management Needs?

    About The Author

    Abhijit Gangoli

    Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer at DemandFarm

      Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer at DemandFarm, Abhijit Gangoli, is a seasoned entrepreneur with over two decades of experience in successfully building businesses in the Sales and Marketing domain for the B2B Tech industry. At DemandFarm, he focuses on business and sales strategy to drive growth and innovation in the company. His past venture, DemandShore, now a part of Spiceworks Ziff Davis, is an omnichannel B2B performance marketing company. At DemandShore, he also successfully conceptualized and launched martechadvisor.com - one of the leading digital media publications in the marketing technology space globally.