2.D.1 Product/service and application knowledge

Rationale

It is generally not possible for key account managers to be product specialists and know everything about the supplierā€™s products or services that the customer may want to know, simply because the range and number of products sold to a key customer can be huge. Equally, knowing nothing about products and their applications it is not acceptable: key account managers need to know enough to hold sensible conversations with the customer, to pick up on opportunities and to know when to call in a product specialist.

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Competency requirement

Knowledge of own companyā€™s range

  • Is aware of the supplierā€™s total product/service offering, including that of other business units.
  • Understands how the supplierā€™s products/services from other business units are viewed by the customer.
  • Understands the full range and the structure of the business unitā€™s product/services and how they fit together.
  • Understands the supplierā€™s offering of product/service support and other services.
  • Keeps up-to-date with new introductions and modifications and deletions.

Features and benefits

  • Knows key features of all the supplierā€™s products and significant limitations.
  • Converts key features into benefits.
  • Understands how benefits are of value to the customer and formulates coherent value propositions.
  • Makes suitable and appealing product/service recommendations to the customer.

Product application and performance

  • Understands the role of the supplierā€™s products and services in the customerā€™s processes and/or offering.
  • Finds opportunities to observe products/services in use.
  • Understands how products/services are used by the customer.
  • Is aware of key elements of product/service performance and how that impacts their use.
  • Appreciates and articulates how the supplierā€™s support services can improve performance.

Competitorsā€™ product/service offering

  • Is aware of competitorsā€™ product/service offering.
  • Appreciates position of both full range and specialist competitors.
  • Compares ranges and understands strong areas and gaps in each.
  • Understands and articulates relative product/service strengths and weaknesses in feature and benefit terms.
  • Keeps up-to-date on competitor prices and promotions.

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Examples of relevant theory

Features versus benefits

Competitor analysis

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Evidence

Document describing how you keep up to date with your companyā€™s products and services and any participation in relevant formal training. You could also submit, as supporting evidence, product/service feature to benefit analyses, competitor product/service analyses, site visits to customers to view product/services in use, not excluding other tangible evidence.

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Some sources

Papers and articles

Books

Kotler and Armstrong, ā€˜Principles of Marketingā€™, 2015, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK

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2.D.2 Selling

Rationale

Selling is a skill required of all key account managers, although it is not where most of their time is spent. At certain critical points selling becomes very important to secure a supply contract, but a lot of the time the key account managerā€™s job is to optimize the flow through that contract, once agreed. Selling skills are widely applicable and desirable beyond product/service sales, to include concepts and new initiatives.

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Competency requirement

Understanding the customerā€™s buying process

  • Understands the customerā€™s buying strategy, demands and constraints
  • Understands, prepares for and complies with the customerā€™s tendering and contract process, its steps and typical lead times.
  • Identifies the roles of key managers involved in the buying process and builds relationships with them.
  • Positively influences the tender/RFQ (request for quotation) and buying process for the supplier, and preferably for the customer too.
  • Develops offers aligned with the customerā€™s expectations and requirements.
  • Logs and tracks anticipated sales opportunities.

Sales meeting preparation

  • Identifies desired meeting attendees and gains their commitment to attendance.
  • Plans meeting dates, venues and agendas with sufficient notice.
  • Identifies the customerā€™s likely meeting objectives and issues.
  • Determines what the customer should buy and sales meeting objectives.
  • Identifies likely questions and objections along with their answers
  • Sets clear and manageable meeting agendas

Conduct of sales meetings

  • Manages progress of meetings: opens, agrees agenda and outcomes, manages the agenda and ends on time with agreed action.
  • Asks questions to identify customer needs and opportunities.
  • Uses a variety of types of question and understands when to use them, e.g. when exploring, clarifying, confirming etc.
  • Listens and allows time for others to express their views.
  • Structures the sales presentation logically and presents concepts clearly and concisely.
  • Communicates relevant benefits effectively for the customer and key managers.
  • Knows when and how to close and achieves sales targets.

Follow-up

  • Confirms post-meeting action for the customer and colleagues.
  • Completes internal records.
  • Plans post-meeting activity, completes actions to time and chases up othersā€™ tasks.
  • Keeps customer informed of progress.
  • Analyses why the business was won/not won and learns from it.

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Examples of relevant theory
  • Opportunity matrix analysis
  • Features to benefits
  • Questioning process
  • Presentation format

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Evidence

Document describing sales situations with sales strategies and action, reflecting on alternative approaches and including any formal training and outcomes. Additional evidence may include sales plans and targets, account of the customerā€™s buying process, sales proposition, sales meeting records and more.

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Some sources

Papers and articles

Books

Jobber and Lancaster, ā€˜Selling and Sales Managementā€™, (9th Edition), 2012, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK

Baily, Farmer, Crocker, Jessop and Jones, ā€˜Procurement, Principles & Managementā€™ (11th Ed.), 2015, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK

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2.D.3 Business development

Rationale

Key account managers are not just reactive ā€˜farmersā€™ of a key account: they need to develop business within the customer, which may be to introduce products and services that the customer does not currently buy from the supplier, or may be to penetrate a new part of the customerā€™s business, maybe another site, division or country. Business development in KAM may also involve winning a new customer that has been qualified by the supplier as having the potential to be a key account, and needs to be treated like a key account from the start.

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Competency requirement

New products/services

  • Identifies products/services within the supplierā€™s range not yet bought by the key customer.
  • Explores the buying process for the new product/service and buying decision-making unit (DMU).
  • Uses existing relationships to build new relationships with DMU members.
  • Analyses opportunities and why needs are currently satisfied by a competitor or alternative product, or left unsatisfied.
  • Builds benefits cases and quantifies them.
  • Creates opportunities to present selected benefits to key decisionā€“makers.
  • Expands range of products/services sold to the customer.

New customer business units

  • Identifies sites and business units within the customer not currently buying from the supplier.
  • Uses existing relationships to gain introductions to contacts on other sites.
  • Explores the similarities and differences in the buying process and buying decision-making unit at the new site
  • Builds relationships with key contacts and gains information about situation, strategy, needs etc.
  • Analyses opportunities and why needs are currently satisfied by a competitor, alternative product, or left unsatisfied.
  • Builds benefits cases and quantifies them.
  • Creates opportunities to present selected benefits to key decisionā€“makers.
  • Expands number of the customerā€™s business units/sites buying from the supplier.

New potential key customer

  • Researches customer and customer marketplace in depth.
  • Develops strategic plan for customer acquisition/development and chooses a few ā€˜leadā€™ propositions deemed to be of most potential interest to the customer.
  • Builds propositions unique to customer based on customer research.
  • Identifies appropriate point of entry to the customer organisation and specific contacts.
  • Arranges opportunity to meet contacts and persists without pestering.
  • Holds exploratory meetings and asks questions focused on exchanging information, rather than selling.
  • Expands initial range of contacts, builds relationships and establishes buying process.
  • Modifies benefits case according to information gained and presents when the customer is ready.
  • Recognises the length of process of accepting a new supplier and maintains resilience, persistence, curiosity and patience.

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Examples of relevant theory
  • Buying cycles and decision-making units
  • Buying strategies and Kraljic matrix.
  • Key account categorization matrix
  • Customer benefits and value

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Evidence

Document demonstrating a systematic approach to expanding business through new products/services, new customer sites or new potential key accounts, plus any formal training in business development. Evidence may include, for example, an analysis of what or where the key customer buys or does not buy, reviews of specific customer buying processes or cycles, strategic plan for developing a new key account, meeting reports.

Ā 

Some sources

Papers and articles

Books

Farrington andĀ Lysons, ā€˜Purchasing and Supply Chain Managementā€™, 2012, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK.

Baily, Farmer, Crocker, Jessop and Jones, ā€˜Procurement, Principles & Managementā€™ (11th Ed.), 2015, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK

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