Matching key account managers with customers is critically important, says Clara Carter, Sales Director of Accord-UK, in a preview of her session for the workshop in Vilnius.
We asked Clara to share her views from many years of experience of KAM in the Pharma industry on how she gets the most from her key account managers, and she responded with choosing the title of her session ‘Right people, right role’. So we started with the obvious question,
Clara replied, "All too often Sales and account management are confused and combined as the same thing. Yes, they share many of the same characteristics. But while sales people primarily focus on prospecting and closing deals, an account manager never stops selling. Sales brings in the customers, and account managers nurture and helps the account grow.
"One analogy I heard in my early days was that the sales aspect was like 'hunting' and the account management element was like 'farming'. You need different skill sets in both roles based on what you want to achieve with the account and how you want it to grow. Both roles are targeted differently and will need different personalities and skill sets to support the various target achievement associated with the individual roles. You may start off with using one person to win the account and someone else to develop and grow the account moving forward."
"Is there", we asked, "a single best profile for key account managers to help you identify the best?" While there are competencies required by all key account managers, Clara didn't think that this was the right approach: she knows that different key account managers are required to create the best business with different customers. Each account has its own situation, characteristics, culture, needs and wants, and consequently responds differently to any given approach, positively or negatively.
You emphasise matching key account managers and customers together – how do you do that in practice?
Clara explained, "Matching key account managers and accounts is done through a variety of different means – we assess the maturity of the account, how transactional verses co-operative it is. We look at the personalities of our account contacts and who the key contacts are. We also use Insights Discovery Profiling which provides an insight for the account manager which can prove useful when you marry this up versus what the account requires to grow it.
"You can teach an account manager about your products and services but you can’t change their personality or what makes them “them”. Throughout my career I’ve witnessed the wrong account manager assigned to the wrong account – this has been the simplest thing to fix in order for the account to grow. Personality and behavioural fit with the account is more crucial than skill set – you can train the skill, you can’t change someone’s behaviours.
"We also ask the account what a good account manager looks like – until you know what they want/need, you may end up putting someone into the role that isn’t what the account wants or requires. Don’t assume that just because an account manager is good with one account they will be with all accounts they manage – you need to weigh up personality, fit, behaviours, account maturity, the account’s vision, values, culture and core objectives before you put an account manager into the role. I’ll explain more in my presentation on the practicalities of this."
What examples have you seen of poor matching between key account managers and customers, what happened?
Experience of mismatches can be painful, says Clara, "Poor matching of account managers verses the account can result in a mix of issues on both sides – usually it ends up with combined frustration around communication and what needs to be done. Ultimately the growth of the account suffers and the relationship stays at a transactional level and doesn’t progress to being cross functional.
"Just because someone has a track record of being a strong account manager with one account doesn’t translate to them being strong across all accounts – like people, accounts have different personalities, behaviours and needs. It’s important to assess and understand the maturity of the account, the personalities involved and what the core focus will be. The account’s vision, culture and values are also key in assessing the right fit.
"We’ve had account managers living in Scotland who manage accounts in Surrey. It may not sound logical, but when the behaviours, background and skill set of the account manager and the needs of the account marry up, sometimes it makes sense to not let logistics influence a decision and you do what’s right for the account and your business."
Thanks for the heads-up, Clara! We' re looking forward to the whole session on 17th May, together with Kristina Maiksteniene, ISM Executive School 'New key account managers: what tangled webs they weave!' (using your network) and Gintarė Bėtaitė of Amrop Executive Search on 'KAMs ahead of the game – WHO are they?' (is that you?) Go to Events/Next events to sign up for your place!