COO & Co-Founder, DemandFarm
B2B Key Accounts are typically large global enterprises, with interest across verticals, several lines of business, complex organizational structures, plenty of staff movement across geographies and entities and significant regulatory dynamics. So it’s obvious that the solutions offered to such Clients are equally complex, high value and typically medium to long run. While that kaleidoscopic level of complexity is mind-boggling in terms of management, it is also an indicator of the endless possibilities to build deeper and wider engagement with the Client…across verticals, across geographies, across buying units.
If a Client has made the cut to be listed as a Key Account and be managed by the elite Key Account Management Squad, then it’s assumed that they are either high performance- high potential Accounts or High- Potential- Low (current) value Accounts (that need developing).In this post, I’m focusing on the ‘High Potential’ piece of the equation. How do we unlock all that potential in our favor?
The visible potential and the invisible potential – i.e., both parts of the iceberg. If we lose a Key Account like that, it can unbalance the entire ship, even possibly sinking us. However, if we find a sustainable way to harness the potential it offers, of what lies above and beneath, then we are well on our way to winning with KAM.
Unlocking the true business potential of a Key Account involves being a good hunter (spotting available opportunities for revenue – the visible part of the iceberg) and a good farmer (nurturing white space opportunities for growth and value creation, till they are ripe for harvest- what lies beneath).
At DemandFarm, we call the latter Account Farming. Ok- with that said, the question is- how? What areas of Key Account Management play the biggest role in unlocking the business potential of Key Accounts? Here are some that come to my mind..I’d love to hear from you on others:
Now, this is my number 1 pick for factors impacting Account Farming. I’m referring specifically to people: who are the people that matter in this Account and how can our relationship mapping with them be leveraged for growth? Large B2B companies have matrix structures with complex, often complicated relationship networks. People move around hierarchically, geographically, across verticals and buying units, and sometimes even functionally. So what are the key focus areas?
- First, is knowing the right people in key roles, their formal and informal affiliations, a predisposition towards significant issues, hierarchy, etc.
- Second, it’s about connections – connecting the right stakeholders at the Client end and internally, leveraging the right relationships at the right time, for the right opportunity
- Third, it’s about investing in building and nurturing the right relationships at all levels- gatekeepers, influencers, and decision-makers included – for the mid to long term
- Finally, it’s about capturing all of that into a format available to all internal stakeholders. Leaving it in the Account Manager’s head makes you vulnerable, but it’s virtually impossible to keep tabs on all of this in real-time, without a technology enabler
This is a close second to Relationships. Winning with Key Accounts is all about client-centric intelligence and insights. So it’s important to address where the data comes from, what needs to be mined and how it needs to be managed.
But the secret sauce is qualifying the quantitative and quantifying the qualitative.
Remember that old saying – not everything that can be measured counts, and not everything that counts can be measured. In my eyes, knowing what to quantify and what to qualify is the secret to spotting business potential. It’s about having your eyes on the right metrics and building the right models to act on critical qualitative indicators. The right technology can make this process smoother. Even more important is enabling KAMs to leverage insights without spending inordinate time steeped in data. This involves:
- Leveraging data already available in other systems such as CRM to generate real insights – at DemandFarm we call it the Data consumption vs. data Creation approach. The former minimizes pressure on the KAM to be filling in forms and capturing data.
- Real-time data available in one format at one place with one click: shockingly, even today, much time that should be spent building relationships and doing strategic work is spent in housekeeping tasks like collating and formatting data from various sources, generating reports manually, etc.
How customer-centric we are is revealed in our Key Account Planning. And how customer-centric we determine how well we can unlock business potential.
There is no way to widen and deepen engagements with Key Accounts if we don’t plan with an eye on the entire landscape and white space – including everything about Client plans, pains, and opportunities, competitors, regulatory constraints, etc.
Opportunities for growth and value creation are uncovered if we know what the Client aspires to, and how they plan to get there. The process of Account Planning needs to go beyond the process of annual planning.
Strategic Account Management is a team sport – everyone needs to be on the same page to harness potential effectively. Lots of wheels need to be set in motion to capitalize on medium to long-term value creation opportunities. How well we are able to manage data to spot opportunities; building an internal business case to go after the right growth areas; setting clear expectations and buy-in from internal stakeholders; spending time on collaboration rather than clarifications and explanations, institutionalizing core key account management processes to avoid surprises and improve accountability – are all crucial indicators of a collaborative team. The right platform can make the process of collaboration seamless. Got some more you’d like to share?
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