Customer expectations are at an all-time high – being an order-taker won’t cut it these days. In the same breath, poor customer service in this role will have customers high-tailing it off to a competitor. Customers want a trusted advisor who can walk with them in lock-step as they navigate their business needs. A Key Account Manager (AM) is that person.
A Key AM plays a critical strategic role focused on managing and expanding relationships with a company’s most valuable customers, also known as key accounts. They serve as the primary point of contact and liaison between the company and key clients.
Their core mission is to maximize sales opportunities and revenue growth from these key accounts while ensuring continued loyalty and business – it’s no small feat.
Key Account Manager Job Functions
Key account managers have a diverse set of responsibilities focused on maintaining solid relationships and driving growth within their book of key accounts – all of which rely on the foundation of an Other-CenteredⓇ mindset. Learning this radical customer-centric process is not easy, but it is simple, and the payoff is clear. Other-centered sellers outperform their peers by an average of 44%.
A core function of the role is strategic planning and setting targeted growth objectives for each key account. Blanket KPIs are only the starting point – Key AMs must deeply understand their customers’ organizations, challenges, priorities, and goals to establish critical metrics.
Ultimately, key account managers need to look beyond what they think they know and focus on serving through understanding to get the depth of insight required to create effective growth strategies.
If you’re on a video call with a key customer, there’s a good chance they’ve got a whiteboard behind their head or off the side of their office. Written on it is what they want for their business and what they have to do to get there. So, what exactly does it say? Serving key accounts could be easier if we knew. But most of the time we don’t, and if we do, it may only be a small piece of the larger puzzle. We might only have a clear understanding of a small number of goals that the customer has explicitly stated. The most effective account managers uncover the remaining unstated goals to go deeper and wider with key accounts.
Less of “me” and more of “we.”
Key AMs are in it for the long haul. They are typically on the most high-value accounts and have made it there because they’ve put in the work to build trust and confidence.
Top account managers focus on building trust and credibility as strategic advisors to the customer executive team. They build strong C-level relationships to engage as a peer, rather than “just another rep,” in high-level discussions and decision-making – even when their product is uninvolved.
Trusted advisors have the opportunity to provide insights and advice to inform the customer’s strategy and planning. They can also act as an advocate, representing the customer’s interests, and earn the customer’s loyalty and retention this way.
A vital function of the Key AM is navigating the large and ever-changing accounts in their book of business. Complex organization dynamics and decision-making processes of large enterprise accounts add to the challenge. Communication skills and robust strategic account blueprints are paramount in this role.
Key accounts often have convoluted organizational structures with multiple divisions, global operations, and matrixed reporting lines. There can be a web of stakeholders and influencers involved in any buying decision.
As a navigator, Key AMs must have a great relational map that can help connect the dots when decisions are being made. On average, seven people are involved in the decision-making process. Understanding the account's decision process and power structure is equally important. Who provides input? Who controls the budget? Who determines technical standards? Who gives the final sign-off? Misunderstanding anyone's role can slow or diminish trust.
Equipped with a detailed relational map and decision architecture understanding, Key AMs can effectively navigate complicated accounts, influence stakeholders, and connect the essential dots to drive purchase processes forward. This navigation skill separates the exceptional Key AMs from the average and is derived from a foundation of service.
The Importance of Key Account Management TrainingTraditional sales training doesn’t fit the bill with today's customer expectations. They’re transactional and short-term focused, and they can undermine trust with key accounts that build the foundation for long-term partnerships.
On the flip side, account management training focuses on just that…management. Rarely does it touch on the necessity of becoming a trusted advisor who can lead conversations and get wider and deeper into accounts. Key accounts are 60-70% more likely to spend compared to a new account, and failing to perform well as a Key AM can leave that money on the table.
Key AMs need development in areas like:
- Fostering an Other-Centered mindset that prioritizes customer needs
- Engaging as a peer advisor with poise and leadership skills
- Navigating complex organizational dynamics and decision processes
- Consultative approach to solving strategic business problems, not just selling products
- Building an analytical acumen to operate as a strategic business advisor
Within key accounts, Key AMs also need a deeper understanding of how to map and actualize total account opportunity – something that is lacking across the board.
The ASLAN framework for Total Account Opportunity mapping and actualization is a five-step process that helps AMs identify, prioritize, and capture all potential revenue that can be generated from a customer. It starts with an Account Blueprint framework and then equips Account Managers to build the four essential maps: Opportunity Map, Relational Map, Insight Map, and Value Map.
With robust training under their belts, Key AMs are prepared to go the extra mile for their customers. Well-rounded and service-minded Key AMs are worth their weight in gold.
Strategic Account Management Training With ASLAN
As customer expectations rise, Key Account Managers must be ready to answer the call as trusted advisors and strategic partners. While traditional sales training doesn’t provide the desperately needed relationship focus, other options are available.
At ASLAN, we know that we take a drastically different approach to account management. The simple fact is that when the customer is prioritized, and the sale becomes a byproduct of the relationship, trust can be built, and everyone wins.
We’re here to help Key AMs shift their mindset and serve their customers at the highest level. If that sounds like something your team could benefit from, please reach out. We’re here to serve, and we’d love to learn more about your team, and their challenges, and see where we can help.