Key account managers share a love-hate relationship with key account management methodologies. Ironic, isn’t it?Often, I have heard KAM purists say that the best Key Account Management is to understand customer’s strategic goals and find ways of helping them achieve that.
The Key account managers aren’t amused and retort, ‘You know what is the strategic goal of my customer? They want to rationalize the number of vendors to half this year. The remaining vendors have to find ways of saving at least 25% of the price. Another classical KAM theory advice is, ‘You must “co-create” value with customers.
An Account Manager from a plastic molding company heard this at a conference.
*Later during coffee break*
"Oh yeah ‘co-create’ b**l sh*t.”
One of his customers wants to convert many engine parts from metal to plastic. But refused to spend jointly on developing the prototype and mold. The best he could get was supplying fixed volumes for the first year if prototyping is successful.
He knows that in the second year, he has to compete for the price with other vendors. So much for ‘co-creation’. It is foolish to broad-brush key account management. KAM in different industries like enterprise SaaS, plastic molding, IT Services, and commodity steel will be different.
I think we should begin by making KAM methodologies simpler. The theorists and coaches have gone too deep and far to differentiate one methodology from the other. Therefore many are utopian and not practical anymore. It partially explains why key account managers hate to follow them to the ‘T’.
Utopian Key Account Management
For example, other days I came across a relationship map template where every customer contact was to be tagged with 5 parameters.
- Personality Type
- Your Relationship
Each of these parameters has 5+ options to choose from. This is over and above hygiene attributes - name, title, department, location, reports to, reporters, budget controlled, opportunities….. Is it realistic to get this data for even 3 dozen contacts in an account? Even if you get it who will document this? Even if one does, who will update this data every quarter?Come on, be a sport.
This is an example of only ‘Contact Relationship’. These coaches/ theorists have complicated and made unrealistic all other elements of KAM like Account Planning templates and Account Segmentation. On the other extreme, KAM practitioners (Account Managers) have left it to ‘Heroes’ or serendipity. Basically relying on that individual with good relationships and domain knowledge to manage the account. Or leave it to chance - being there at the right time, with the right people, and with a solution that fits NOW.
Ideally, strategic account management stakeholders should strive to strike a balance. Account manager comfort has to be balanced with account priorities with account planning being right there at the top.Perhaps, the time has come for us to go back to KISS for KAM. Keep It Simple, Stupid. Here is how to keep it simple. You just have to read my strategic account management process blog.