Is Your Key Account Management Effective?

1186 reads

If your answer is No, you are part of the majority. Most firms do not succeed in profitably growing large global customers through key account management (KAM).



A largish Indian IT services company struggled with managing big customers for several years. They made their sales people key account managers without reorganising the software delivery organisation.



The firm was unable to respond effectively to customers’ expectation that software delivery teams in India and in customer locations work as one.
 
What customers want



Global customers demand uniform products, services, and quality in all locations where they operate. Many of them want co-creation of products and services.
 
Serving them requires vendors to conform their practices to customers’, carry out R&D and product development, and weave a complex supply chain network across plants, sales, marketing, and logistics.



A question of focus



While attempting to serve large accounts, some firms avoid shedding small customers. It not only increases cost of selling, it distracts and diverts key resources from priorities.
 
An Indian company responded to the long tail of small customers by progressively docking them. Account managers and delivery teams were better able to pay attention to customers that mattered. In the next two years revenue from top ten accounts powered the firm’s growth. Selling cost dropped and operating margins improved steadily.



A large engineering company created a KAM organisation while business units continued to engage with customers through their sales engineers. The company did not clarify roles for the two teams. As a result, account managers were reduced to managing customer appointments, obtaining market and competitor data, and negotiating commercial terms. Top management unfortunately did not actively engage to resolve conflicts between the two sales teams.



Not only was the firm unable to engage large customers effectively, account managers became disheartened.



Does KAM work? 



A research reported in the April 2002 issue of Journal of Marketing notes that firms that did not follow KAM, or followed an unstructured methodology performed poorly compared to those that practised any form of KAM. Firms that performed best on KAM effectiveness as well as organisation level profitability showed a few interesting traits.



They extensively used cross-functional teams to deal with and co-ordinate customer centric activities. Their top management was deeply involved and formalised the management of key accounts. Key account managers had access to both top management and non-sales resources such as R&D, plants, product development teams, legal, and commercial managers.



The lynchpin 



It is hard to make KAM work because it is complex and requires people to collaborate. Very few companies have been genuinely successful at it. It has taken some of them dogged determination and several years of experimentation. HP created 26 global accounts in 1993. By 1996 they had increased the number to 250, only to slash it to 95 a year later. Over the years they have ironed out the wrinkles. IBM is another very successful practitioner.



Not all clients need to be key accounts. They should be hand picked on the strength of opportunity and the supplier’s ability to profitably grow wallet share. It is absolutely vital that top management be deeply involved in monitoring the effectiveness of KAM, to engage with customers and enable internal teams.



Reference:

* A Configurational Perspective on Key Account Management, Journal of Marketing, April 2002.
* Managing Global Accounts. HBR, September 2002.




 

Trending

118
vnbhattacharya's picture

NARCOS and the game beyond the game

A critical aspect of strategic thinking is the ability to determine one's strategy in the game at hand by anticipating games in the future. It is especially important to foresee games that may be spawned by playing the game one is offered now.Such
96
sethgodin's picture

Big crew/little crew

Software projects work better with small teams. On the other hand, it makes sense to have multiple teams of workers if you're paving a patch of highly trafficked highway. Three reasons: Coordination Learning Ramp up time As we learned from... 
87
johnsullivan's picture

You’ll Soon Need a Digital Labor Specialist and a Workforce Shaper

Not all your employees will be replaced by robots, but it’s highly likely they’ll be working side-by-side with an automated device at some point in their careers. As intelligent automation becomes more common in the workplace, businesses are
79
mashable's picture

These extremely good Google Maps features that everyone definitely wanted are finally sort of available

For all of you who've been holding your breath this past month, it's finally time to exhale: On Tuesday, Google rolled out some of the hotly anticipated new Maps features the company announced in May. And by "rolled out," we mean "some people
145
johnsullivan's picture

Ready or Not Here Comes Generation Thumb

Talking about millennials in the workforce is so yesterday. Time now to start preparing for Gen Z, or, as Chad Norman calls them, Generation Thumb. This is the generation born after the turn of the century. They’ve never known a...
146
harvardbusinessreview's picture

When India Killed Off Cash Overnight

Bhaskar Chakravorti, the dean of global business at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, analyzes the economic impact of India’s unprecedented demonetization move in 2016. With no advance warning, India pulled the two largest banknotes from
124
sethgodin's picture

The jerk fallacy

There’s a common misperception, particularly in media, business and politics, that being a jerk is a necessary ingredient on the way to becoming and staying successful. But there’s no data to support this. Sure, some people succeed despite being
183
johnsullivan's picture

New to the Profession of Recruiting? Time to Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

If you’re a seasoned and successful recruiter, chances are you have fine-tuned your skills over the years by going through a gauntlet of stressful, maddening, or even downright demoralizing work days. Most of my fellow recruiters and sourcing
200
cryptocurrency's picture

Jack Ma: Bitcoin Bubble is Real and Blockchain is the Future

 Jack Ma Bitcoin Bubble: Yet another well-known figure has come forward to express his thoughts on the cryptocurrency sector. The figure, who is Jack Ma, spoke specifically of Bitcoin (BTC) — and his thoughts weren’t exactly in favor of