role of key account manager

Key account managers are critical in ensuring a company’s success with their clients. As a key account manager, your job is to ensure that you are forming strong relationships that can benefit both parties long term. If you can close a sale and form strong relationships with your potential customers, you may have what it takes. Think you’re up for it? Here are the 6 skills you need to have if you want to be a successful key account manager. 

What Does a Key Account Manager Do?

A Key account manager (KAM) is a highly-skilled and personable individual that ensures your key account customers will stay loyal to your business. These employees are often one of the company’s most valuable investments, and as such are compensated well for their position. 

What Are Key Accounts?

Your company’s “Key Accounts” are clients that bring in the majority of your revenue. As the saying goes, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients, and it’s important to make sure those 20% are well taken care of in order to generate revenue long term. 

What Should a KAM be Focused on to Bring in Revenue? 

  • Current customers who are more likely to return and continue buying 
  • Customer retention promoting long term revenue 
  • Customize products to fit their customer’s needs 
  • Help create satisfied customers to bring in referrals

If you’ve been in the business industry for a while, it’s likely you have heard of an account manager, so let’s look at how a key account manager is different than a standard account manager. 

Key Account Manager vs Account Manager

Overall, key account managers have a lot more at stake than an account manager. They are designated to work with high revenue clients and are entrusted to build and maintain relationships with those clients. While both roles focus on post-sale relationships and bringing in repeat sales, the account manager is usually dealing with smaller amount of revenue than the key account manager. 

The account manager will generally treat every customer the same, while the KAM must know how to customize products for each customer based on their unique needs. Since the key accounts bring in a large portion of revenue, it’s important for the KAM to have a firm understanding of their customer’s company and offer products and services to fit those needs. 

The main difference between an account manager and a KAM boils down to responsibility. A KAM has a lot more to lose (and gain) than a traditional account manager. 

Also read Glossary of Sales Terms – The Ultimate Sales Encyclopedia

What It Takes To Be A Great Key Account Manager

If you are going to be a successful key account manager, it’s important to be knowledgeable, efficient, and a great communicator. Here are the 6 skills you should have in order to be successful in this role. 

1. Expert Communication

If you’re an expert communicator, you would make a great KAM. Anyone in this role needs to have a knack for both verbal and non-verbal communication and be able to interpret how the conversation is going. 

In addition to this, they must be confident in their company and demeanor, as they will often be working directly with other business executives. If your confidence or communication skills are lacking, it’s a good idea to improve them in order to be a successful KAM. 

2. Have Market Expertise

If you’re going to be a successful liaison between your major customers and your company, you will want to be sure that you have the knowledge needed in order to help your customers. Think about it this way, if you were purchasing a product and your main point of communication had no idea what you were talking about, would you continue to use that company? Probably not. 

Make sure to become a master of your industry and know the ins and outs of both your company and your clients in order to help keep these accounts long-term. Since key accounts are usually highly customized clients, it’s important to know what they are all about and be able to offer products that might better suit their needs. 

3. Be Able to Strategize 

Being able to effectively strategize is where a key account manager and an account manager differ. As an account manager, their role is tailored toward short term revenue. As a KAM, you will need to create strategies that promote long-term revenue and ensure that your customers are retained. Being able to identify mutually beneficial arrangements between your company and theirs is another critical component of strategizing. 

4. Effective Leaders 

KAMs are solid leaders within the company, and having these leadership skills is vital to creating and maintaining key accounts. It is important for individuals in these roles to create an environment of respect between both their company and their clients, and be able to envision different products and services for their clients. 

Learn more about SOCO’s Leadership Training

5. Negotiation Tactics 

Any successful KAM has honed their negotiation tactics and knows the ins and outs of closing a deal. This is an exceptionally important detail, as you will need to make sure that you are able to close deals that benefit both parties. In order to successfully negotiate with your client so that both of you are happy with the outcome, you will need to understand the importance of a properly timed offer or email, and when to push forward or fall back with a sale. Overall, negotiation is one of the most important qualities that a key account manager can have. 

Learn more about SOCO’S Negotiation Training

6. Demonstrate Value

Customers want to know that they are getting the best deal possible, so it’s important to be able to offer them a deal they can’t refuse (and ensure that they know they are getting the best deal possible). Statistically, customers who can sell on value by using your company are 25% more likely to be repeat customers. If you understand your industry and business, you will be able to effectively communicate the fact that the product you are offering is the best deal (and back it up with facts and statistics to drive your point home). 

Author Profile

Tom Abbott
Tom Abbott is the author of 'The SOHO Solution' and 'Social Selling' and the creator of the online sales training platform SOCO Academy. Sales leaders engage Tom for his proven solutions to building high performance sales teams that exceed targets and for motivational keynotes that energise their audiences.

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