association for key account management


AKAM’s 3rd Annual conference went ahead in spite of concerns about the covid-19 virus, generously hosted by Pfizer at its German Head Office in the heart of Berlin. In fact, the conference was well attended and, indeed, delegates were very positive about the content and the opportunity to network with like-minded people.

Alistair Taylor - AKAM Board MemberAlistair Taylor's session on account team effectiveness, particularly hit a nerve. There are still companies attempting KAM without supporting their key account managers (and therefore their key accounts) without a multi-function team in place, and thereby seriously compromising their chances of success. Such teams are generally led by key account managers (and arguably should be led by them), but in many cases they - and their organisations - need some serious education in how these teams should work.

Failure of the KAM programme is not often considered by suppliers setting out on such an initiative. By exposing his findings on situations where KAM has not been successful, Cedric Roesler caused a great deal of alarm among delegates and challenged them to examine whether their KAM programmes fell into any of his five failure scenarios. He showed what happens when KAM is not fully deployed and therefore, not surprisingly, does not deliver promised results. It may have sounded negative but in fact, it's a vital warning - identifying failure factors offers the opportunity to avoid or rectify them in time.

Online membership is new, now available for those who can't get to a meeting, at just €90pa. Programme Membership for corporates is up and running with a select group of companies who can explore and share best practice on KAM initiative development at the first Programme Directors Forum in May. Amanda Strawbridge of Pfizer USA was announced as Key Account Manager of the Year 2019. The judges said she was "a very worthy winner – a passionate key account manager who showed a joined-up approach and developed insight led value propositions." Key account managers were encouraged to start thinking about the great work they do and apply for the award in 2020 (we make entering very easy!)

Andrea Clatworthy, Head of Account Based Marketing, Fujitsu, has won numerous awards for ABM and its relative DBM (Deal-Based Marketing). She gave an invigorating presentation on the hot topic of the moment, simplifying the range of different definitions down to "Getting the right message to the right person at the right time". The data provided gave invaluable insight into how the way companies buy has changed and how ABM works, clarifying what is, for many people, still a controversial and confusing approach. But 57% of the buying journey is done before  Sales is involved and ABM/DBM can quadruple win rates. With results like this, ABM can't be ignored. Download Andrea's presentation to find out more about the process of ABM and some case studies of what Fujitsu has achieved with it.

Everyone talks about Value in KAM but, according to Diana Woodburn, it is a misunderstood, misused and abused term. Value should appear explicitly in strategic key account plans, where the value to supplier and customer should be perfectly clear and differentiated – which, in practice, it rarely is. Suppliers have multiple sources of value available to them through KAM, but generally limit the range of value they seek and focus almost exclusively on increasing sales, which may not be the most rewarding option. Value for customers may also legitimately be about saving cost or increasing their sales, and suppliers' Value Propositions should address any or all of these opportunities. Unfortunately, VPs are often missing, unappealing or incredible.

Almut Ringlben, Account Director and Florian Heidecke, Chief Client Officer of Namics AG were deliberately controversial in challenging delegates to consider the bipolar nature of KAM in many companies. They identified nine areas where two KAM approaches could be diametrically opposed to each other, and yet exist in the same organisation at the same time. It begs the question of whether suppliers need to resolve such differences and clarify, for both key account managers and customers, which they consider to be the right approach. For example, should a key account managers/supplier act like a 'prostitute' (doing whatever the customer asks) or a 'dominatrix' (doing what the key account manager considers best for the customer even if they've asked for something different)? But is bipolarity in KAM intrinsic or a failure of execution?

People love case studies and Nigel Jenkins described several, including a telecoms example in which his company had once been 17th in an industry-dominant customer's list of 17 suppliers and threatened with delisting. Fortunately most companies introducing KAM are not faced with such a dire situation - but it meant that the whole company swung round KAM and made it a success (over a period of years), while other organisations struggle with scepticism and debilitating ambivalence towards KAM. Nigel showed some of the well tried and tested tools he'd used in developing KAM in engineering companies.



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