1. Business and customer understanding

1.D.1 Knowledge of own company

Rationale

Perhaps it is not surprising that key account managers do not know everything about their company, given that some are very large and constantly adding to their business. However, the customer expects that the key account manager will fully understand their own company, and their reactions to such ignorance range from being simply unimpressed to frustration and irritation. Furthermore, leveraging and combining the capabilities of other parts of the supplier organisation can offer unique and really interesting value to the customer.

N.B. Knowledge of the supplier’s products/services is included in 2.D.1 Product/service and application knowledge, and day-to-day use of company systems in 3.D.1 IT and systems literacy.

 

Competency requirement

Infrastructure, organisation and people

  • Understands the full extent of the business, its divisions and locations.
  • Appreciates the activity of each division/location and how they work together.
  • Understands how the formal organisation affects its decisions and operation.
  • Acquires the company organogram and notes who has budget responsibility, participation in decision-making, specific concerns and expectations etc.
  • Knows who are the principal influencers and most powerful individuals in the supplier.
  • Responds to the needs of different departments, e.g. Operations, Finance, Customer Service, to get decisions for the customer.

Systems and processes

  • Understands the supplier’s value chain(s).
  • Understands the supplier’s current and potential capabilities and significant limitations.
  • Appreciates the guiding principles of the company’s systems and processes e.g. safety, speed, low cost.
  • Understands how the company makes different decisions.
  • Fully understands, works with and complies with sales and account management processes.
  • Understands the impact of the supplier’s systems and processes on the customer.

Company strategy

  • Understands and articulates company strategy.
  • Appreciates how company strategy impacts company decisions and actions.
  • Understands and articulates the company’s sales and marketing strategies, particularly in relation to key customers.
  • Aligns offers to customers with company strategy.
  • Contributes appropriately in strategy development as required.

Supplier’s marketplace

  • Identifies the marketplace(s) in which the supplier operates.
  • Understands the ranking and role of the company in each marketplace, e.g. manufacturer, distributor, retailer
  • Collects information on trends, issues and pressures in relevant marketplaces.
  • Understands the position and overall offer of the company’s key competitors.
  • Interprets market information to understand the supplier’s position in its business environment.

 

Examples of relevant theory
  • Organisational structures and organisational behaviour
  • Supply chains and operations
  • Value chains
  • Market analysis: market mapping, environment analysis, competitor analysis

 

Evidence

A document describing how the candidate has researched the supplier and kept that knowledge up-to-date; consequent conclusions; and any participation in relevant formal training such as induction and company training days. Admissible supporting evidence could include, for example, annotated company organograms, value chain analysis, description/analysis of activity at different locations, not excluding other tangible evidence.

 

Some sources
 

Papers and articles

Books

Christopher, ‘Logistics & Supply Chain Management’, 2016, Financial Times Prentice Hall, UK.

Kotler and Armstrong, ‘Principles of Marketing’, 2015, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK

Mullins, ‘Management and Organisational Behaviour’ (10th Ed.) 2013, Pearson, Harlow, UK.

Slack, Brandon-Jones and Johnston, ‘Operations Management’, 2013, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK

Tompkins, (2003).  No Boundaries: Break Through to Supply Chain Excellence, NC: Tompkins Press.

 

1.D.2 Customer organisation  

Rationale

Key account management is almost defined by the depth of knowledge of and interest in the customer. While understanding the customer’s business internally is absolutely essential, a thorough knowledge of the of the customer’s position in the marketplace is also critical.

NB Knowledge of the customer’s buying process is included in 2.D.2 Selling.

 

Competency requirement

Infrastructure, organisation and people

  • Understands the full extent of the customer and its various locations.
  • Appreciates the activity of each location and how they work together.
  • Understands how the customer makes different decisions and how the formal organisation affects decision-making.
  • Acquires customer organogram and builds and keeps up-to-date a database of contact details of relevant people in the customer organisation.
  • Collects and keeps job-related details of individuals, such as budget responsibility, participation in decision-making, specific concerns and expectations etc.
  • Knows who are the principal influencers and most powerful individuals in the customer.
  • Understands the concept of the decision-making unit and appreciates how to address its different members.

Systems and processes

  • Understands the customer’s value chain(s)
  • Appreciates the guiding principles of the customer’s systems and processes, e.g. safety, speed, low cost, and their implications.
  • Understands the impact of the customer’s systems and processes on interaction with the supplier.
  • Ensures supplier’s compliance with the customer’s systems and processes.
  • Acquires and absorbs customer literature, especially the Annual Report.

Customer’s product/service offering

  • Aware of the customer’s complete range offered to its customers.
  • Understands what part of the customers range or activity is relevant to the supplier, if not all, and the importance of that part to the customer.
  • Understands the customer’s overall brand values and aligns offers with them.
  • Understands the customer’s specific value proposition and actual performance of each product/activity that is relevant to the supplier.

Customer’s marketplace

  • Identifies the marketplace(s) in which the customer operates.
  • Identifies and understands the nature of the customer’s customer segments.
  • Understands the ranking and role of the customer in each marketplace relevant to the supplier.
  • Collects information from the customer on trends, issues and pressures in relevant marketplaces.
  • Understands the position and overall offer of the customer’s key competitors.
  • Interprets market information to understand the customer’s position in its business environment.

 

Examples of relevant theory
  • Organisational structures and organisational behaviour
  • Supply chains and operations
  • Value chains
  • Market analysis: market mapping, environment analysis, competitor analysis

 

Evidence

Document describing how you have researched the customer and what you have discovered, and any participation in relevant formal training. You could also submit, as supporting evidence, an analysis of the customer sales and your company’s relevance to it, an annotated customer organogram, customer contact database, analysis of activity at different locations, not excluding other tangible evidence.

 

Some sources

Papers and articles

Croom, ‘The strategic buyer: how emerging procurement strategies may support KAM/SAM relationships’, pp. 103-114, in ‘Handbook of Strategic Account Management: a comprehensive resource capital’ 2014 (Eds. Woodburn and Wilson), Wiley, Chichester, UK.

Books

Cheverton, ‘Key account management’, (6th Ed.) 2015, London, UK

Christopher, ‘Logistics & Supply Chain Management’, 2016, Financial Times Prentice Hall, UK.

Kotler and Armstrong, ‘Principles of Marketing’, 2015, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK

Mullins, ‘Management and Organisational Behaviour’ (10th Ed.) 2013, Pearson, Harlow, UK.

Slack, Brandon-Jones and Johnston, ‘Operations Management’, 2013, Pearson Education, Harlow, UK

Woodburn and McDonald, ‘Key Account Management: the definitive guide’, 2011 (3rd Ed.), Wiley, Chichester, UK.

Woodburn and McDonald, ‘El Management de las Cuentas Clave’, 2013 (3rd Ed.), Granica, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 

1.D.3 Customer plan 

Rationale

Strategic account plans are fundamental to the success of KAM. They should be forward-looking (minimum 3 years) based on a sound analysis of the past and anticipated future, internal and external. Without coherent, well-reasoned strategies for the individual customer, clearly articulated and captured in a comprehensive plan, the supplier organisation is unlikely to give the commitment and resources needed to make a difference to the customer. The first step in gaining commitment is an effective presentation of the plan.

 

Competency requirement

Collection of information

  • Understands the requirement for the plan’s scope and structure and the information needed to complete it.
  • Recognises genuine and relevant information versus misleading, wishful or irrelevant data.
  • Collects information from a range of sources in the customer and own organisation.
  • Understands who holds what data in both the customer and own organisation.
  • Displays curiosity and inquisitiveness in an appropriate way and asks justifiable, coherent and answerable questions.
  • Keeps information in a well-ordered and retrievable form.

Analysis and interpretation of data

  • Identifies trends, causes, responses and meaningful phenomena from numerical statistics and financial data.
  • Understands the nature, relevance and reliability of the information collected.
  • Presents interpretations comprehensible to others alongside raw data.
  • Populates established business analysis tools and frameworks with collected information.
  • Draws meaningful conclusions from analyses.

Production of plan

  • Identifies appropriate individuals to work with in developing the plan in the customer and own organisation.
  • Shares information with identified participants and involves them in an appropriate way.
  • Works with others to determine broad analysis, principles and targets in the plan.
  • Shares the draft plan with key individuals, accepts critiques and makes adjustments accordingly.
  • Writes a well-organised, readily comprehensible, realistically ambitious, succinct but self-explanatory plan covering at least the next 3 years.
  • Meets plan submission deadlines.

Plan presentation

  • Produces a brief but comprehensive executive summary.
  • Understands whose commitment to the plan is required and develops appropriate presentations for them.
  • Delivers effective presentations of the plan for internal audiences.
  • Anticipates reactions from audiences and prepares to manage them.
  • Understands the different constituencies involved in the customer and how best to present the plan to them.
  • Organises presentation occasions with the customer and delivers effective presentations of the plan to them.

 

Examples of relevant theory

Key account plan structure and content.

Constituents of successful KAM programs.

 

Evidence

Document describing how you have developed and presented a key account plan(s) and any participation in relevant formal training. You could also submit, as supporting evidence, an actual plan (treated in confidence), plan presentations, planning process organisation documents, and documented responses to plans, not excluding other tangible evidence.

 
Some sources

Papers and articles

McDonald and Woodburn, ‘Strategic account plans: their crucial role in strategic account management’, pp. 245-266 in ‘Handbook of Strategic Account Management: a comprehensive resource’, (Eds. Woodburn and Wilson), 2014, Wiley, Chichester, UK

Workman, Homburg and Jensen, ‘Intraorganizational Determinants of Key Account Management Effectiveness’, 2003, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. Volume 31, No. 1, pages 3-21

Books

Capon, ‘Key Account Management and Planning: The Comprehensive Handbook for Managing Your Company's Most Important Strategic Assets’, 2010, Free Press, USA

Lank (2005). Collaborative Advantage: Organisations Win by Working Together, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Ryals and McDonald, ‘Key Account Plans: The Practitioners Guide to Profitable Planning’, 2007, Butterworth Heinemann, Oxford, UK

Sieck, ‘Der strategische Key Account Plan’, 2015 (2nd Ed.), Books on Demand, Norderstedt, Germany

Woodburn and McDonald, ‘Key Account Management: the definitive guide’, 2011 (3rd Ed.), Wiley, Chichester, UK.

Woodburn and McDonald, ‘El Management de las Cuentas Clave’, 2013 (3rd Ed.), Granica, Buenos Aires, Argentina