Hajo, tell us about how you came to be a Strategic Account Management Professional?
I grew up in a sales environment, working in our family business at school times. There I learned about the relevance of customer interactions, which made me study economics and especially marketing. After some years in a consultant company (focus on the acquisition of orders and positioning of that company) I entered large B2B customer sales in Siemens Nixdorf AG (IT). From there I moved to different positions at Siemens AG as Key Account Manager. You see – it started early.
What are the biggest obstacles you face in acquiring a deeper understanding of your strategic accounts?
Well, you need to understand customer processes, customer networks, and customers’ markets. That needs personal skills and capabilities.
In my opinion founding a KAM team in your company and creating an open team culture are the most difficult and energy-consuming topics to address especially in global and large B2B relations.
Software is eating the world & account management hasn’t escaped! Do you feel there is a need of having a specialized platform or software for strategic account management?
Sales as a function with product or industry expertise takes care of transactional business, what means focussing on short-term success and the opportunities in place. That differs from Key Account Management where you act long term as an expert for developing your top customer. Therefore you create a business plan as well as a relationship network between two large B2B organizations. Sales-tasks and Key Account Management tasks: different tasks for different platforms.
Will such tech solutions become ‘a must have’ for account managers and their leadership or do you feel it constitutes ‘a nice to have’ capability?
I think it already is a must have and all the leaders in Key Account Management I know already have such a solution – often a “home-made” Key Account Management solution as a supplement to their standard CRM-tool.
What is your one mantra for growing strategic client relationships?
You have to deeply understand your customer, its market, and its resulting needs. That’s a must to guide and support your customer best. And you need the top executive support in your own company for embracing the internal silos (businesses, regions, functions and more).
Would you like to share an interesting business book you have recently read and what was the key takeaway for you?
Well, Digitalization means disruptions in market and business models. One relevant consequence for Key Account Management is that Co-creation with customers is a more and more critical option to cover by a KAM. Here “The Co-creation edge” by Francis Gouillard and Bernard Quancard provides a comprehensive overview. A key takeaway is the importance of engaging the supplier’s ecosystems.
A big part of Key Account Management is internal selling!