Key account management relationships
So you are in a key account management review meeting, going over the year's plan with the global accounts team and the business heads. During the meeting, it emerges that your key account planning could fall short this year. As a senior key account manager, you present the reasons -
- Team Churn in the Key Accounts, followed by
- Organization restructuring in the accounts.
All present go into a 'thinking' mode, only to be interrupted by the CEO, who steps into the meeting to exchange pleasantries.
"Hey, what's going on?"
You say, "Boss, unexpected organization development issues at my account could jeopardize this year's goals.
"Pop came the question, only CEOs ask."
OK. So how are we doing in terms of our relationships with this account? And how does this relationship scale with time and corporate actions?"
The question didn't surprise. For you, yourself have been looking for account planning solutions since the time people issues have been surfacing at the key account.
Key Account Management Relationships are the core
As we see in the example above, key account managers can make significant gains by taking good care of their relationships at the key accounts. Surprisingly, it does not get the necessary attention until confronted by a dire situation. It is ironic because sound strategic account management is supposed to anticipate such issues and propose proactive remedial measures. Gaps, when discovered, could be both - strategic and transactional.
Such gaps are identified because the key account management strategy missed considering such factors in the overall strategy. It does happen that while collaborating with the key account for value creation, teams from the key account side tend to discount disruptions that could emerge from their side. It is natural for key accounts to be more cautious about their suppliers. An established Key account management process driven using systems and structure can very well address such limitations.
At times, the hunting nature of the business at supplier organizations also tends to impact the focus on relationships within key accounts.
These are mostly operational issues that are discovered only when they happen. The reasons could range from incorrectly updating the CRM to not documenting minutes from the last meeting.
Identifying, addressing and testing these gaps will enable key account management driven businesses to leverage relationships better. Eventually, this could help better value creation and confront challenges when they crop up.
Questions to Ask
If you are an account planning driven business that has witnessed situations where depreciation in relationships (for reasons whatsoever) has compromised business goals, the following questions are a good place to start.
Who are the people who count in the Key Account?
- Status - Can you connect each name and role back to the existing client relationship?
- Budget - What budgets does each person at the key account control?
- Decision Makers - What specific areas of the decision-making process does each person participate in?
- Power Equation - Who is a champion, gatekeeper, influencer, detractor orally?
- Influence - What internal stakeholders or networks can be activated to develop or nurture the right relationships?
What are the relationship dynamics amongst the team members at the Key Accounts?
Capturing the who's who in the key accounts is ok. It is indispensable to push further. Key account management teams don't stop at that. They go further and capture the intensity of the relationships that exist within the key account teams.
Ask yourself -
- Are you able to bring a real-time, flexible, and responsive approach to managing multiple stakeholders?
- How to map and track people and their ever-shifting connections, motivations, dispensations, and affinities?
- Are you set up to have custom-made contact plans that can evolve with the relationship dynamics?
- Can these changes be captured formally and reflect throughout the system to all internal stakeholders?
Actionable insights from the above relationships require the presence of context. Context would help set the agenda at all times.
- Big Picture - Can you connect the roles and titles to the bigger picture of the account relationship?
- Are you set up to create value in the customer’s context and not just in your own comfort zone?
- Quick View - Do you have an easy and convenient way to view these networks of context and spot opportunities for value creation?
Key account relationships should outlive the KAMs and all the members that constitute the strategic account planning teams. Therefore, it is critical to building accounts and people's knowledge into the system so all internal stakeholders are tuned in and can do their part seamlessly. The key questions to ask are as under.
- Time - How much time and effort is spent on making - in real-time, and as productively as possible - the right information and context available to internal stakeholders?
- Institutionalising - How safe you are from attrition and losing control of valuable relationships because of people's changes?
- Process - How easy is it for you to capture the right information into the system as a part of the process
What can technology do for this web of Relationships?
Technology holds the power to automate many manual tasks. Thus, freeing up time the KAMs time to 'think'. Manual management of vital relationships with a spreadsheet or notebook is not just inefficient, it's also a risk. It only makes key account management vulnerable. Are any of your relationships being managed manually? Do you then face the following limitations?
- Missed Opportunities - Are you missing opportunities due to a lack of visibility or ability to connect people to the business context?
- Single View - Can your tool help connect the dots across all the variables and show both - the big picture and the micro-picture, based on the need?
How many of these 15+ questions on account relationships can your current key account management strategy answer with confidence? Should there be more questions that need to be addressed? Should we also look beyond relationships into the realm of product/services, market, and training? Early in the year, DemandFarm launched an Org Chart Software as part of the Account planner offers. It answers all the above questions with style and grace.