Most B2B companies would be devastated if they lost 5 of their top 10 accounts, but many have little-to-no process in place to manage them. Top accounts bring in larger amounts of predictable revenue than the rest, and extra efforts in the form of key account management need to be placed on them to ensure they don’t find a new business partner.
What is Key Account Management?
Key account management is the process of managing important customers, and when properly executed this practice offers significant benefits to a B2B organization, such as:
- Retaining a base of dependable, top-dollar accounts
- Increasing revenue by upselling opportunities within existing accounts
- Top accounts can be used as referrals to gain new business
7 Steps to a Successful Account Management Program
While a shift to key account management isn’t easy, the payoff can be enormous. Harvard Business Review wrote a useful article on the topic, and cited seven steps to success:
- Recognize that key account management is a organizational change, not a sales technique;
- Gain high-level sponsorship from the C-Suite;
- Appoint a champion to drive the key account management program;
- Carefully identify your key accounts;
- Appoint and train your Account Managers;
- Set the right metrics; and
- Benchmark and build.
An Extra Step...
An eighth step to success in our view is a key account plan, which outlines the major components of managing each account.
Account plans are the central hub of information to strategically assign roles and responsibilities to everyone who needs to be involved in any given account, from the Sales team to the CEO, and provide a roadmap to ensure the Account Managers covers the many bases they are responsible for.
An account plan functions best when it is built into a CRM system such as Salesforce for easier collaboration and real-time changes, but it can also be built out into a spreadsheet.
3 Things Your Account Plans May Be Missing
While most companies have some form of account planning in place, we find it’s often not formalized or consistent. If you already have installed some kind of account planning process in your organization, kick it to the next level by incorporating these three things in your account plans.
- Objectives & Key Results (OKRs)/Attack Plans: Attack plans assign ownership of actions that need to be completed in pursuit of achieving an objective. Responsibilities for actions need to be assigned to individuals who are involved in the key account management process, and each action should be given a due date. Through ongoing monitoring and attack plan status reports, the Account Manager ensures that all actions lead to desirable, quantifiable results.
- SWOT Analysis: The SWOT analysis analyzes the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of the customer, as well as the customer’s view of your company. These characteristics should then be gauged on a high, medium, or low level of priority to determine actions and areas of focus.
- Buying Process Mapped to Selling Process: Every customer buys differently, and to be successful the Account Manager needs to understand the account's unique buying process and who needs to be involved from both sides, customer and internal. From there, customer buying milestones and requirements should be mapped to your company’s selling process. If the processes don’t align, your selling process will need to be tweaked to work with theirs.
Build Your Own Account Management Process
If you don’t have a key account management process in place, or if you do but it needs work, Sales Result can assist. We’ve helped many of our clients implement key account management processes in their sales organizations with results including increased business from existing accounts, higher levels of quality references and referrals, and lowered operating costs by maintaining their installed base versus searching for new business.
To learn more, contact us for a 30-minute complimentary consultation and speak with a sales expert about your current process and areas for improvement.