Key Accounts underperforming?

“Despite that analytical approaches are valuable in every department, most of the people with analytical skills tend to not apply for sales roles.”


We all can agree that sometimes key accounts can be expensive to maintain and even less profitable than smaller accounts. Organizations prefer to increase its costs and reduce its margins just for the sake to serve their best customers and also, of course, to increase volume.

Effectively, maintaining key accounts is complicated and occasionally seen as a necessary evil that every organization have to keep, but the truth is that without them, salespeople functionality would be eventually in a dormant state and the account manager role would not have a significant impact in the development of campaigns. In fact, key account programs have been designed to serve a company’s top customers and to organize around sales team in different regions so as to meet the clients’ needs with the purpose to increase profit, hence an ongoing process. However, sales leaders may ask themselves frequently: why those programs are not performing in the expected way? An endless paradox in the sales world.

There are several pros and cons when is about managing a key account. For example, when a key account is global, it is beneficial to have one primary key account manager (KAM) as will keep the buyer up to date with global pricing or product standards. Yet, local buyers can be affected as decisions would be made globally. Also, in the negotiation stage, account managers tend to focus in expanding the business and reducing the pricing with the intention to increase volume disregarding that the sales team maybe affected afterwards for not delivering results. Additionally, above of the KAM, structural impediments can delay any operational or financial decision and below, resources are limited, leaving the KAM in a burdensome situation when an important decision has to be addressed.

Commonly, organizations have the tendency to hire the most experienced sales people as account managers assuming that they can fulfill the requirements and match the profile for the position, but do always salespeople have the qualities to become account managers? If this is the case, we can assume that salespeople would eventually have the qualities to also become sales managers, a premise that I believe some leaders should review.

Although, salespeople have market knowledge, power of persuasion, collaborative skills and so on, they do not necessarily possess the additional competences to manage accounts and therefore, a possible fail may occur when they are asked to perform in a strategic level. Undoubtedly, there are exceptions to the rule, but the clincher is to maximize performance and reduce risk. A tipping point in the recruitment process that some organizations carefully take into consideration.

Therefore, in order to overcome this challenges, companies need to pinpoint some key critical behaviors for KAM in the selection process. Further, additionally of the above-mentioned skills, organizations need account managers who have valuable insight of the customer’s market such as growth drivers and profitability because customers, and specially executives, appreciate sharing ideas with someone knowledgeable of its market and therefore earn permanent access to the c-suite. Besides, someone with market knowledge, can elaborate business cases on-the-spot in case there is a changing situation like an unexpected meeting or a market fluctuation.

In conclusion, choosing the apt key account managers for key accounts, companies should not have the need to utilize additional resources or reduce pricing to customers as competent KAMs would fill the gap of those who did not deliver expected results.


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