Over the last few years, especially since the recession started to bite, there has been a significant increase in the demand for Key Account Management training. The majority of these enquiries and interest has not been for generic, off-the-shelf interventions, but rather for more specific, tailored programmes that address particular industry and sector needs. Sales organisations are looking at their customer engagement business model (either through choice or more increasingly through necessity) – to ensure not only do they win ‘good’ business, but they keep ‘good’ business.
The debate about sales strategy versus key account management strategy has been on the table for some time now. Many commercial businesses have recognised the issue and taken steps to address it – although many of these steps are more often transactional steps rather than transformational ones. The problem is organisational rather than functional and it takes considerable organisational will to develop a culture where finding good customers, winning good customers and keeping good customers is systematically institutionalised. Look at the potential issues between these three more closely:
- Finding good customers (Marketing)
- Winning good customers (Sales)
- Keeping good customers (Key Account Managers)
How closely does the understanding and trust between these three functions in your organisation work? Do they all have the same understanding of what a ‘good’ customer is? Do their respective approaches utilise the same language, philosophy and criteria – one brand – one message? Does the trust factor work both ways – do the sales people trust the account managers to get the most out of the relationship – and do the account managers trust the sales people to set up the relationship in a way that is most productive?
Recognising the need is only the starting point – sales teams need to the tools and methodology to analyse their customer engagement model, and then be able to clarify the vision of their strategic focus in order to mobilise and drive the cultural changes needed. This is not something that happens over night, and it is not something that can be bolted-on to an existing structure like adding an extra warehouse, for example. The real challenge is to get all three; marketing, sales and key account management – all completely aligned, so seamlessly that even the customers can’t see the joints.