After 10 years running Key Account Workshops and 25 years of doing Key Account Planning for my major accounts I can quite confidently say that Key Account Planning (KAP) for most organisations is a complete waste of effort unless senior leaders and sales leaders fully embrace, enable and add value to the process.
When leadership truly leads in the spirit of John Maxwell ie a leader Knows the Way, Goes the Way & Shows the Way, then KAP is incredibly successful and I am fortunate not to have only worked with such leaders but met many along the journey while running workshops for some of the worlds & Australia's best brands. The difference these leaders make and more importantly their leaders (leader of leaders) is both tangible in terms of account growth but also intangible in terms of their team morale and team contribution.
In most circumstances the intent starts out ok, the leader supports KAP initiatives and funds a workshop or pays for a CRM but then gets distracted by the busyness of business and soon the KAP program turns into being all about quantity not quality. This mostly occurs as leaders who didn't attend programs with their teams because of the "too factor" ie Too busy to attend, too senior to attend, too knowledgable (so don't want to embarrass others) start measuring the success of the KAP program by how many Key Account programs are sent to them monthly or quarterly. They rarely give them a passing glance and almost never provide any feedback, even that they were received and never add value back to the account team on how they can reduce red flags or make a connection to drive the business forward.
However when the opposite occurs it is a game changer. When the leader attends the workshop with his or her team, contributes to the session even if its kicking it off and returning for the action item review later in the day it makes a significant difference. Even better is when they embrace Key Account Management as a strategic pillar of their business and a major contributor to the business revenue model and track the Key Accounts in sales funnel meetings and regular operating meetings. The real difference however is when leaders add value to the process by scheduling time in advance to regularly review Key Account Plans, add comments, suggest actions and take action themselves when this needed. One client I worked with in Asia did all of the above and would schedule the last Friday each month to review the Key Account Plans for his region and provide feedback to his team. His value contribution was so immense that his team would compete to get their Key Account Plans in his diary for review. Take note I have seen leaders do this with and without CRM's!
What is important for leaders is you need to make this easy on yourselves. For example not every Account no matter how big it is deserves Key Account status. That doesn't mean you don't manage them but it does mean you do need to do segmentation so you don't get overwhelmed. The same goes for Opportunity reviews of deals in the sales funnel. One sales leader asked for Opportunity Plans for all Key Accounts as soon as they hit the top of the sales funnel and then wondered why the data was of low quality. We moved his request from top of the funnel to stage 3 out of 6 and boom! he had less plans to review and they were higher quality.
Key Account Management is about 5 critical factors:
1.Understand their Market, Strategy, Issues & Opportunities
2.Continually Build High Impact Relationships
3.Invest for Success in the Relationship
4.Drive Long Term Revenue Plans for Both Parties
5.Develop & Execute on well coordinated customer focused Action Plans
All of the above is very difficult to achieve without the endorsement, enablement and active participation of senior leaders being true leaders. After all know one cares how much you know as a leader until they know how much you care as a leader.
Rob is an Advisory Partner at Global Sales Performance Company Miller Heiman Group. He is a seven times Global Presidents Club Winner. He is the author of three books on Business Growth and has appeared on a number of TV, Radio and Media channels on the subject of top line business performance. Rob is a former world & state champion yachtsman, a passionate cyclist, motorsport follower and an advocate for Men's Health. Rob holds a Bachelor of Business and a Post Graduate in Applied Finance & Investment from RMIT University and the Securities Institute of Australia and is a certified coach in Leadership with the John Maxwell Team.