4. Organisational effectiveness
4.D.1 Personal organisation
Key account managers operate at the fulcrum of several different functions in the customer and in their own company, and need a good level of discipline and organisation to keep all these threads together. Customers often talk about the importance of ‘attention to detail’ in their key account manager, and have understandably little patience with errors and things that get forgotten. Key account managers can easily get overwhelmed by fire-fighting and operational issues, so they need to be clear about their role and then stick to it.
- Has a clear idea of the key account manager’s role and responsibilities and stays focused on them.
- Sets goals and monitors progress towards them.
- Prioritises tasks appropriately.
- Plans to optimise use of time and addresses tasks pro-actively.
- Takes action to address larger initiatives and longer term objectives as well as short-term, easy wins.
- Keeps up to date with necessary administration.
- Punctually attends meetings and appointments and respects others’ time.
- Anticipates common needs and is equipped for them.
- Listens and consults when needed and then makes reasonably considered decisions.
- Approaches problems calmly and objectively and often provides solutions.
- Expresses him/herself clearly and reasonably and controls negative reactions.
- Uses social media potentially open to business contacts carefully and to a standard acceptable to the supplier, anticipates and manages responses.
- Objectively identifies suitable targets for delegation.
- Establishes the opportunity for delegation with the individual and line manager.
- Keeps account team up-to-date with information relevant to the customer.
- Provides clear and timely briefings, including expectations.
- Trusts others to carry out delegated tasks but follows up at appropriate intervals.
- Shows recognition of the contribution of others.
- Prepares for and runs productive meetings in which everyone participates.
Examples of relevant theory
- Time management
Document describing how workload is managed and tasks prioritised and attendance at any formal training together with outcomes. Additional material may include goal and task lists, time plans, meeting agendas and activities.
Zeigler, ‘Getting Organised at Work: 24 Lessons to Set Goals, Establish Priorities, and Manage Your Time’, 2008, McGraw-Hill, USA
The job of a key account manager involves communication, day in, day out: it is the most time-consuming activity of all, so key account managers need to have particularly good communication skills.. Communicating for a key account manager is complex and involves a variety of ‘audiences’ within both the supplier and the customer organisations. Communication often fails unless this variety is acknowledged, through different content and different media.
- Sets objectives and develops plans for important and complex communications.
- Recognises the relevance of the needs and interests of different internal and customer ‘audiences’.
- Adapts communications for different audiences and addresses all who need to know in a timely manner.
- Uses a wide range of media, face-to-face, phone, video conferencing, email etc. selected to meet the message and the audience.
- Maintains confidentiality in restricted communications.
- Manages ‘bad news’ pro-actively.
- Establishes personal rapport with a variety of people.
- Listens to others and responds appropriately: understands when to talk and when to allow others space to talk.
- Speaks clearly and at an appropriate speed, neither too fast nor too slow.
- Organises thoughts before speaking and is readily understood.
- Recognises basic non-verbal communication (body language) and its implications.
- Deals with aggressive or confrontational styles.
- Has an acceptable command of language, vocabulary, grammar and spelling.
- Creates a logical flow through a document.
- Expresses concepts, analyses, conclusions etc clearly.
- Produces organised, structured reports of an appropriate length, neither too short nor too long.
- Writes formal communications like letters, proposals, contracts etc carefully and accurately.
- Writes businesslike emails to an acceptable standard, manages email traffic and guards against email ‘accidents’ e.g. ‘reply all’ mistakes.
- Sets objectives for presentations and creates appealing presentations with a logical flow.
- Creates attractive and interesting PowerPoint slides
- Delivers presentations clearly and confidently, facing the audience.
- Speaks direct to the audience with only occasional reference to notes, if at all.
- Takes interruptions and questions calmly and responds appropriately.
- Keeps to allotted time.
Examples of relevant theory
- Interpersonal communications
- Marketing communications
Document describing how you address the communication needs of the key account manager’s job and any formal training attended with outcomes, in presentation skills, for example. You may include, for example, reports and other documents you have written, presentations you developed, slides you have created.
Atkinson, ‘FT Essential Guide to Business Writing: How to Write to Engage, Persuade and Sell’, 2011, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK
Kotler and Armstrong, ‘Principles of Marketing’, 2015, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK.
4.D.3 Customer plan implementation
While having a plan for a key account is of fundamental importance in key account management, it is clearly of no use if it is not executed. Key account managers often find that it can be quite difficult to implement such a plan because it has cross-functional implications, and other functions may have their own agendas and may not be aligned with and willing to support it. The competencies required to implement a plan are different from those involved in writing it.
- Seeks and gains formal approval for the key account plan.
- Understands the cost and availability of internal resources.
- Identifies the resources required to fulfil the plan in terms of nature, source, quantity and timing.
- Seeks and gains agreement to supply requirements from resource ‘owners’ internally.
- Creates additional business cases to justify use of resources where needed.
- Seeks and gains commitment to supply necessary resources from resource ‘owners’ in the customer.
- Keeps records of resource consumed.
Alignment of operational resources
- Understands the agendas, needs and constraints of other functions.
- Adapts requirements to align as far as possible with other functions’ needs.
- Understands and complies with other functions’ processes.
- Provides clear and timely briefings to people working with the customer or on their behalf.
- Actively liaises with, shares information across and links together internal functions working for the customer and gives feedback.
- Facilitates relationships between complementary supplier and customer functions.
Alignment of action to plan
- Actively uses the plan as a blueprint for action and checks the relevance of activity.
- Develops an action plan to implement each strategy in the plan from the beginning, including preparing the ground politically.
- Sets realistic timetables for action.
- Develops detailed action plans for each quarter based on the plan.
- Completes action to schedule and ensures that others do too.
Measures and monitoring
- Includes metrics and targets in the plan to assess progress against implementation of specific strategies.
- Builds a set of metrics to monitor both input into the account and outcomes resulting from the input.
- Monitors action against timetable, analyses and learns from delays and shortfalls.
- Monitors results, analyses and learns from shortfalls.
- Reviews plan progress with colleagues and customer regularly.
- Takes timely action to respond to metrics showing performance below expectations.
Examples of relevant theory
- Organisational behaviour
Document describing how key account plans have been executed, obstacles to implementation and how they have been overcome, how you have worked with other functions and any formal training that increased your understanding of other functions. You may include reviews, performance reports, timetables etc with your response to them.
McDonald, Mouncey and Maklan, 'Marketing Value Metrics: A New Metrics Model to Measure Marketing Effectiveness' 2014
Genefke and McDonald (Eds) ‘Effective Collaboration: Managing the Obstacles to Success’ 2001
Mullins, ‘Management and Organisational Behaviour’ (10th Ed.) 2013, Pearson, Harlow, UK.
Christopher, ‘Logistics & Supply Chain Management’, 2016, Financial Times Prentice Hall, UK.
Slack, Brandon-Jones and Johnston, ‘Operations Management’, 2013, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK
Cheverton, ‘Key account management’, (6th Ed.) 2015, London, UK
Phelps, ‘Smart Business Metrics: Measure What Really Counts and Manage What Makes the Difference’, 2003, Financial Times Prentice Hall UK.