Developing key account plans is the foundation of successful account management, but actually implementing those plans is what Key Account Management (KAM) is all about. Designing and deploying processes for getting the entire company behind the execution of account plans plays a critical role in the success of account management strategy.
Whether you call them plays, playbooks, operating procedures, or, simply, business processes, the actions that are required to ensure you’re making good on your account plans are where the rubber meets the road. A plan is all well and good, but if you don’t have the discipline and guidance behind it to actually make it a reality, it’s just a nice document. While we’ve already gone into more detail regarding a few of these processes, the purpose of this article is to outline the full array of processes that come into play in key account management.
Processes vary in scope
These account management processes can be divided into three buckets. The three areas are Strategic, Execution, and Transactional. The scope - that is, the people who are involved and how often the processes are employed - starts narrow and expands with each area. For example, the strategic processes involve fewer players and happen less frequently, whereas the transactional processes involve a much larger number of teammates and happen regularly.
Let’s take a closer look at each.
People involved: The KAM and the Executive team
Frequency employed: Mostly quarterly or annually; with a few ad hoc
The strategic processes are smallest in scope. They involve the fewest people and are typically carried out quarterly to annually. Examples of typical processes that fit into this bucket include:
- Defining and refining the selection criteria for key accounts
- Managing clients in and out of the customer portfolio
- Strategic planning both with and without the client
- Developing and refining the templates and process for building out business reviews and account plans
- Allocation of time, money, and people
- Risk assessment
- Organizing the organization (setting organizational structure)
Some of the above processes are more critical and will happen earlier in your lifecycle than others
People involved: The KAM team
Frequency employed: Range from weekly to quarterly
The execution processes represent the bulk of the KAM’s day-to-day and week-to-week activities. While they are typically carried out by the KAM, herself, they must be designed at the whole KAM team level. Examples of typical processes that fit into this bucket include:
- Continuously analyzing key accounts
- Developing relationships
- This might include defining relationship stages and targets, as well as activities typically employed by the account managers to nurture and grow their client relationships.
- Selling, negotiating, and pricing (discovering and designing opportunities)
- What are the policies and framework for upsells, negotiations, and pricing new offerings?
- Developing and creating products and services that fit the customer or group of key accounts
- Training, adoption, and engagement activities
- Developing customer advocacy and evangelism
People involved: The KAM and the rest of the organization
Frequency employed: Daily to monthly
The transactional processes represent those that mostly happen outside of or in conjunction with the KAM team and others throughout the organization. These are the critical cross-team processes that ensure the effective delivery of your products and services to your customers. Examples of typical processes that fit into this bucket include:
- What does the sales process look like, especially, the critical hand-offs between teams?
- How do customers receive, pay, and inquire about their bills?
- Onboarding (and managing other projects)
- How does the implementation process look? Who is involved? What activities does it entail? What are the criteria for project completion?
- How does the customer go about getting assistance? What are the resources available? How do items get prioritized?
- Once the customer has implemented your product or service, how do they learn about changes? Who is responsible for this communication?
- Servicing the customer
- What other services do you offer? Each should have defined guidelines to the extent possible.
- Building and delivering the product
- How do you decide what to build? How are your clients involved? How do you communicate these decisions and changes with them?
You may notice that many of the processes in the transactional category correspond closely to the journey map of a customer's experience. To be sure each of these should be represented in your journey map and will require more detailed guidelines. The benefit of detailing out these processes is threefold. 1) It's much easier to scale your team. 2) You ensure a much smoother and more consistent experience for your customers. 3) You can set expectations for your customers.
Tying it all together
As is clear from the lists above, there are many, many processes involved when it comes to delivering on your account plans. It should also be clear that this isn't something you can implement overnight. In reality, designing and rolling out a key account management practice is a years long endeavor. What's more, it's a journey that will continue to evolve. Using the above framework for thinking about the processes needed should help surface areas most deserving of your focus, as well as some you may not have considered.