Key Account Management is far more than just selling products to big customers. It involves dealing with customers who have a strategic role to play in the growth of an organization. When talking about enabling Key Account Management, the most significant role is undeniably played by the Account Manager. He is the one who ensures that the client’s needs and expectations are met by the business. The Key Account Managers are responsible for maintaining and expanding relationships with significant clients. They work in close association with various business departments, and thus maintain and develop the strategic relationships with the Key Accounts.
In short, they play the role of a strategy builder!
Though it is a difficult task to summarize the objectives Key Account Managers have, there are some definitive goals that they needs to achieve.
These Account Managers not only manage key accounts, but also maintain a long term relationship with them and help in vying white space opportunities. They play a critical role in new business pitches as well as are responsible for the effective on-boarding of new clients. Another key responsibility is to develop and achieve sales through the direct sales channel.
While focusing on developing existing clients, along with generating new business, they also need to write business plans for all present and opportunity tender business.
Account Managers in charge of key accounts need to act as the key interface between the customer and all significant divisions. Hence a candidate having prior experience in Account Management or Territory Sales is the one with the right profile. The ideal candidate must have strong account planning and relationship mapping skills. Additionally, an experience of managing major national accounts at head office level should be a great asset for a person handling such a critical position.
In terms of educational qualifications, these Account Managers must ideally have a degree in management in sales and other relevant field. A bachelor’s degree in Sales, Business Management, Communications, Marketing, Customer Relationship Management, Business Administration or any other related field should be good for such a candidate. An equivalent of the same in working experience is also adequate.
The vital role of a Key Account Manager inside your organization is to develop and foster loyal, long-lasting relationships with each of your key customers. They position themselves as a committed resource for the key accounts. They are dedicated to help them and give solution to their problems. They also help them in realizing their business goals, and thus attain success.
They need to ensure continued satisfaction and success of the clients who have been on boarded by the sales team. Hence there are several critical responsibilities associated with this role.
A Key Account Manager needs to develop trust relationships with a portfolio of major clients, make sure that they do not turn to competition. They need to acquire a deep understanding of key customer needs and requirements.
The relationship between the Key Accounts and existing customers can only expand by continuously proposing solutions that meet the objectives of these clients.
They also need to serve as the link of communication between key customers and internal teams. It needs to be ensured that the correct products and services are delivered to customers and that too in a timely manner. This also entails resolving of any issues and problems which the customers face and deal with complaints. All this helps in maintaining trust.
Preparing regular reports of progress and forecasting for the use of internal and external stakeholders using key account metrics, is yet another very important responsibility of the Key Account Manager.
And then not to forget, that another critical responsibility of a person in this role is to generate new sales that will turn into long-lasting relationships.
For the above listed roles and responsibilities, there is more that a right candidate needs than just the right qualification and experience.
Excellent communication skills are a major requirement of this position. The Key Account Manager is needs to consistently address the consumer concerns and offer clear and concise responses to their queries. Where communication is ambiguous or vague, consumers feel unfulfilled. Hence both excellent written and verbal communication skills are a must.
The Key Account Manager must also have critical account manager skills in planning and operational analytics practices. Proficiency in financial analysis is an added skill for a person on this profile.
A committed and goal oriented individual, with a positive can-do attitude, able to work in a fast-paced environment is the need of the hour. An individual who is able to accommodate difficult consumers, work in a fast-paced and highly competitive environment, adaptable to change, and shows composure under stress and uncertainty is the one who will have an excellent career path in this field.
Being successful with Strategic Account Management needs a significant amount of time to implement correctly. There could be lot of challenges in the road, but in the end, it is worth it.
Key Account Managers may take time to develop trust with their client and colleagues, but with time they are sure to prove themselves as asset to the organization.