Building & rolling out a KAM program
So you want to build a KAM program that is sure to achieve the goals set by management. It may seem like a formidable challenge, but it’s not actually that daunting. The secret is the methodology. Success is guaranteed if you follow a specific set of steps guided by strategic milestones, in order if possible.
The first of all these steps is to acknowledge a fact: each program is unique! To put together your own, you need to make sure that you’ve clearly identified all the ingredients and you’re sure of your ability to procure them. Your focus will initially be on internal buy-in, processes, management methods, or recruitment, depending on your goal and your starting point. The decision to construct a KAM program almost always arises from a desire to transform the business to help fulfill a strategic priority for the company.
You may want to drive innovation, improve your customer focus, break down internal silos, capitalize on the value of your customer portfolio, or support the shift to a new business model. Whatever the case may be, the first step is to align the KAM program with the company’s main challenges.
The program is a strategic initiative, so it’s vital that everyone understands it. At Halifax, we believe that two components will prove decisive in your efforts: actively listening to general management, via a series of interviews, for example, and holding regular meetings with progress updates to gain approval for the various aspects of the program.
GAIN AND GIVE SUPPORT
But the managers’ role isn’t just to rubber-stamp your progress! Unconditional support from members of management throughout the creation process will provide you with the legitimacy needed to see through any transformative initiative. Creating a KAM program represents a break with routine that can raise eyebrows or even stoke fears that can come back to bite you fairly quickly.
It’s a hurdle you need to overcome by getting your company’s board of directors involved very early on. You do so by setting up a sponsorship program that makes an impact from the development phase and continues to take shape as you go on.
TAKING A RATIONAL APPROACH THROUGH SEGMENTATION
Customer segmentation first truly operational step that requires massive involvement from all stakeholders at the company. Only in an ideal world could we define a Key Account Management program for all the company’s customers. Less is more when it comes to KAM, which involves allocating a large part of sales resources to a limited number of customers. There are some very powerful selection methods that can be implemented efficiently; the challenge is succeeding in convincing the staff that the approach is justified.
The best segmentation links customers’ actual potential with the value proposition your company can provide them. An approach based on customer business lines is often needed. in other words, if you haven’t already done so, you need to define the strategic segments for your company, the ones for which you have the best value proposition, and then pinpoint the customers in those segments.
Don’t be mistaken, pushback during this phase will mainly come from within. That’s where the backing of the board of directors and executive management are so vital!
SIX KEY POINTS FOR BUILDING YOUR KAM PROGRAM
Once you have selected the customers and secured the support of the company’s top executives, you need to get down the nuts and bolts of the program. The experts at Halifax have developed a six-point approach:
- Build the account strategy with an eye to gaining approval for strategic initiatives.
- Ensure that the resources allocated by those who manage local profit centers are in sync with the aims defined by the KAMs to succeed in their strategic initiatives.
- Select, coordinate and manage (functional or otherwise) the account team.
- Coordinate the selection, configuration and operation of business software, data and indicators to gauge performance and predict growth scenarios.
- Guarantee customer ownership or responsibility, i.e. the day-to-day management of customer relationships and satisfaction. These are the processes for internal escalation, interaction with other departments in the company, specific types of customer interaction, interaction with customer service centers (e.g. priority service for Gold, Silver and Bronze customers) including in local targeting in country operations or business units, communications with quality departments, etc.
- Ensure your senior management participates actively. This is a task that requires the KAMs to give the managers the tools, information and motivation needed to make a real contribution to strategic accounts whenever they can. These include the Executive Summary on customer strategy, the Sponsorship Plan detailing which customers are sponsored by which members of your board of directors, and the Customer Executive Brief with your sales arguments for the key account’s top management.
Each of these steps corresponds with different processes, which each have Key Performance Indicators that measure performance, speed of ramp-up, or the maturity of the KAM program and account team. These indicators have to be factual and help demonstrate the performance of the program and each account.
CASTING THE KAM PROGRAM
It is only at this stage, when the goals are clear and the processes are defined, that you can finally turn to casting the program. In every program, the Key Account Manager has a multi-faceted role. Your goal is clear: find the person who is an exact match for the program you have set up.
Do you need someone who can hunt down opportunities, foster customer relationships, or serve as a project director? It’s a question that doesn’t have any easy answers. You simply have to look at your objectives and gauge the levels needed for each of the fundamental characteristics of a KAM, who has to have the full package: leader, motivator, seller, planner, visionary and influencer.
Each of these intrinsic qualities needs to be complemented with the right set of technical skills. It will be your job to evaluate the skills of the current staff so that you know the type and scope of adjustments required in terms of internal transfers, training and new hires. Then you’ll be in the home stretch! After gaining management’s support, a portfolio of key accounts, methods, processes and tools, after setting up a well-honed team of KAMs, your program will be ready for launch. But your work doesn’t end there! Setting up a Key Account Management program is an undertaking often met with questions or even fears.
Customer-centric organizations are not that common in a world still dominated by technology- and location-based organizational methods. You will have to work on an ongoing basis to explain, convince, communicate and especially listen in your relations with all your colleagues, decision-makers and employees to take a continuous improvement approach, which is indispensable to the program’s success.
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