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Key Account Management for B2B Clients 101

Anna
Anna
Apr 19, 2022
14 Min read
Key Account Management for B2B Clients 101

All B2B businesses rely heavily on strong client management for success. In order to keep a steady flow of sales, your company must focus on key accounts and the management strategy that goes into providing quality customer service. While key accounts may vary based on your company’s size and the products offered, it is important to understand the basics before implementing these tactics. High-value clients are crucial to a business’s success. Your team needs to be ready for the commitment that comes along with key account management.

Identifying your key accounts is merely the first step in key account management strategies. Your sales department should be aware of these clients and have a plan to ensure lasting relationships. From there, multiple departments collaborate and implement strategic account management practices.

Keep reading, or use the links below to jump ahead in this guide:

What is Key Account Management?

Understanding how to plan management strategies for important accounts means you need to identify who these customers are. A key account is simply one of your company’s most valuable clients. 

A few factors can help you determine which accounts should be considered your most valuable. To start, any client that generates a large percentage of your revenue will be a huge player in your business’s overall success. Key accounts are also those who continuously refer new prospects or help give credibility to your organization through strong reviews and feedback.

Start by analyzing a list of your current customers. Value is subjective to your organization, so make sure to tailor this to your company’s mission. Examining the number of recurring sales, lifetime value, level of influence, and shared goals can help differentiate between your clients.

Key Account Management (KAM) is the process of creating long-lasting relationships with high-value clients. This means prioritizing the future rather than merely looking at short-term gains. Broader goals like collaboration and strong support efforts are required to successfully nurture these accounts.

To implement this management style, your current sales process needs to be evaluated. While long-term relationships with customers are the goal of most B2B companies, key account management is not always the best use of resources.

Your product needs to have the potential for upsells or bundling of services. Resources will need to be put toward these efforts, and your team will need to be able to take on these additional expenses. 

If short transactional sales that involve little interaction between salespeople and prospects are common, then key account management won’t make a difference for your team.

Formulating a Successful Key Account Management Strategy

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Once you have determined that key account management is a good fit for your company, you will need a plan for implementation. Starting off, sales staff need to be aware of the different tactics they will use. Instead of focusing on specific opportunities, like landing a one-time deal, employees will work to strengthen ties and align with the goals of long-term customers. 

61% of companies believe “training in strategic account management” can enable them to enjoy greater revenue, profit, and customer satisfaction. By taking the time to understand and teach best practices for account management, your business will be able to enjoy the rewards of these strategies.

Make Personal Connections with High Value Clients

Strategic account management requires in-depth knowledge of your customers and their business operations. Familiarize yourself with their industry, business structure, and financial plans. These insights make it possible for your sales team to customize product pitches and add-ons, providing added value to your priority customers.

Becoming acquainted with each account will help your team stay proactive. Instead of waiting to hear from these clients, work hard to anticipate their needs. You will need to stay up-to-date on industry trends and changes within the customer’s company. 

As your services and products evolve, make sure to relay this information to your clients. Chances are, your customers are not spending time doing research on your services once they have made a purchase. By announcing any changes that may benefit their business, you can boost trust in the relationship.

Within a few years of implementing a key account management strategy, customer satisfaction can increase by more than 20%, while simultaneously resulting in revenue generation and profit growth of more than 15%. Making personal connections as early as possible with these clients will help ensure a successful implementation for maximum return on investment (ROI).

Create Customer-Specific Product Plans and Benefits

Long-term clients want to feel like your services are actively making a difference within their organization. Make sure your offers continue to encourage upsells or repeat sales based on the needs of each account. By tailoring your services to meet specific needs, the relationship can be elevated from buyer and seller to business partners.

Acknowledge the “whole” rather than parts of your customer’s vision. Key account management looks at the big picture to help support customers. Having a strong understanding of how your services can fit into the daily workflow of a client’s organization helps promote confidence in both parties during interactions. 

Do not be afraid to collaborate directly with these accounts. You want to be seen as a valuable partner rather than a third-party vendor. Discuss specific actions with clients as you develop strategies, and listen closely to any feedback that is offered. 

Strengthen the Leadership Skills of Account Managers

Managing high-value accounts requires time and resources, as well as strong leaders to drive the operation. Multiple departments will be involved in this process. Managers will need organization and communication skills for things to run smoothly. 

There are continuous moving parts throughout strategic account management. Coordination and lots of planning will be necessary to execute long-term and short-term goals. 

In addition, constant analysis of outcomes is important. The takeaways from each action in the relationship will help when developing future strategies. The ability to quickly analyze and present business cases will prove invaluable during client conversations.

Developing clear action plans will help keep your team members on track. Take a step-by-step approach with any goals that are created. 

Follow through on anything offered to your key accounts. That may seem like a no-brainer, but trust is gained each time your organization delivers on a promise.

How to Identify Relationship Clients

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Not every customer is going to be a key account. Even when using strategic account management practices, there will still be one-off clients or relationships that never develop past a transactional stage.

Since key account management requires the allotment of additional resources, it is important to be mindful when assigning this label. Clients always have the potential to grow into a key account, but it is hard to demote an account once it has reached this level. 

Make sure you don’t overwork your team by promoting key accounts for nonqualified customers. Practice restraint before assigning account managers to every business that has ever purchased your product.

Other than evaluating the list of current customers and their status, it is important to identify leads that may turn into high-value clients. Nurturing lasting relationships from the beginning stages can help gain customer trust and boost your reputation.

This means being able to understand the difference between singular transactions and potential partnerships

Revenue is an important factor, and clients that generate significant sales numbers can easily be short-listed for key account positions. However, there are other characteristics to take into consideration.

  • First, analyze the ratio of revenue to cost of each current customer. 
  • Determine if there is any potential to expand. 
  • Evaluate product fit within each existing relationship. 
  • Recognize opportunities to upsell or create unique offers that can push clients toward high value status.

Properly identify which accounts will be able to act as strategic partners to your business. Your company is heavily investing in the relationship, so there needs to be more than just monetary gain at stake.

You will want to be aware of the connections and industry reputation of each key account. These should be clients who will refer you to their networks and offer positive reviews. 

Since each account acts as a partnership, their reputation can affect yours. It is important to align with customers who share similar missions and goals.

Key Account Management and the Demand for Digital Analytics

Digital and artificial intelligence analytics have become a major game-changer within B2B account management practices. As technology continues to advance, businesses have become savvier in their decision-making processes. There is a waning desire for constant human outreach along with a shift toward more digital support.

By integrating your tech stack with these key accounts, your team should be able to provide the best experience to high-stakes accounts. Instead of having sales reps reach out for problem-solving, accounts want to see easy ways to access information through automated systems.

Develop account-based marketing plans and keep track of their implementation through automated software. Target your key accounts through personalized messaging across social media, web pages, and email campaigns.

Since your team will be familiar with the personality and specific needs of each key account, targeted marketing is even easier to achieve. Using Leadboxer, your team can integrate email platforms for campaigns alongside web tracking and data analytics to successfully reach out to high-value clients.

Personalized emails have five to six times higher open rates. By combining account-based marketing with key account management, your company will start to see higher ROI on outreach.

Using technology to handle marketing outreach and data analysis allows your team to reallocate resources to other efforts within the account

Without having to dedicate manpower to these processes, managers are able to focus on the long-term plan by letting technology drive data collection efforts.

While digital analysis is crucial to successful key account management, your team needs to be trained to use it properly. Technology should be seen as a priority rather than an add-on to departments. If employees voice concerns about the implementation of this software, make sure to remind them of best practices and provide training as necessary.

Large customer accounts can be difficult to manage. There are often several decision-makers involved, with your services being used across multiple departments.

Digital analytics help your account managers uncover opportunities for growth within these large organizations. Up-to-date data sets help keep your teams informed on the latest changes with clients. This allows managers to explore up-selling and cross-selling options and encourages timely outreach.

Key Account Management Vs. Global Account Management

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At some point, large clients with international ties surpass key account status and require additional resources to expand the relationship. Global account management is the next step for these customers. Evolving to this stage will involve the negotiation of prices at the country level, offering worldwide support, and understanding the global procurement strategy of these clients.

The duties of a global account manager include developing customer relationships with worldwide branches and tracking revenue potential. Successful implementation of global account management should strengthen the customer relationship and provide a significant competitive advantage to your business.

In contrast to standard key account management, global account management is layered over national sales efforts. This requires strong ties with global customers and their internal stakeholders to ensure quality service.

Global account management is a hefty investment and needs to make sense for your business before it is implemented. Accounts with global potential have a few key characteristics to meet before reaching this level.

  1. Earnings potential is crucial. The cost of management needs to be worth the ROI for global customers. These clients should have high international activity, rather than those with only a few businesses outside of their base country.
  2. There should be a strategic importance to take on this level of management. These should be significant revenue producing clients, and they should be able to create new connections for your business at the worldwide level.
  3. An established close relationship is necessary to take on global account management. These clients should stem from key accounts who are ready for this amount of commitment.

Best Practices for Strategic Key Account Management

To ensure your strategic account management program is functioning at full capacity, there are certain best practices that should be implemented. Your company should be focusing on increasing customer loyalty, uncovering new growth opportunities, and driving innovation within your sales and marketing teams.

Assign Dedicated Managers to Key Accounts

For successful management, leaders need to be separate from the sales department. This individual will serve as the liaison between the client and the company. They will be the ones to delegate tasks among departments and handle all client interactions. 

Managers should be well-versed in each key account’s company mission and able to communicate how your organization’s current services and products will directly assist in fulfilling the client’s needs.

The reason for separating account management and sales is to increase overall productivity and strengthen key relationships. Sales focus on short-term deals that push leads through the pipeline, as well as increase immediate revenue.

Your account manager takes on a broader role to ensure customer satisfaction. A dedicated leader will be analytical and personable with the ability to communicate with high-level stakeholders. 

By allocating team leads to oversee these accounts, your company encourages lasting relationships to generate higher revenue across several years.

Encourage Smooth Transition Between Departments

Since building trust is the main component in key account management, hand-off from sales is crucial. There should be a formal process between your departments to keep directions clear. These accounts should be strategically organized within your system to avoid any slip-ups.

Transitioning from sales to a key account is a big deal. Clients should be excited about the opportunity, and your team should be ready to set aside extra resources to handle the switch. Your duties as a company will expand as customers are moved to this higher level, and it is crucial to stay on top of the process.

Communication of these contact changes is extremely important for your client. Update them throughout the process to make sure they have accurate information. 

Set expectations and create touchpoints. This will help avoid any tension within the relationship as they undergo this transition with your team.

Create Customer Profiles and Conduct Needs Assessments

It is the duty of the account manager to become an expert on each of their clients. This requires an in-depth analysis of the customer’s goals and initiatives. Keep track of important stakeholders and get to know the decision-makers. 

Understand industry trends and keep tabs on what is happening with your customers’ competition. As their needs change, your account manager should adjust and anticipate ways your company can help.

Within each customer’s profile, your account managers should conduct a needs assessment. Use date to discover any pain points. Find the areas where your goals align for simultaneous progress.

The ultimate focus should be on long-term goals for this client. As needs are assessed, managers should look toward a one to the three-year timeline for strategy development.

Draft Strategy Proposals

After building out your client profiles, a strategy should be developed for each account. This will act as a roadmap for the next few years, and the finalized version should be shared with the customer.

The proposal should include creative solutions to any problems your account currently faces, potential partnerships with other companies, and resource requirements. Long-term goals should be shown with specific short-term benchmarks to accurately track progress.

Not only does this proposal serve as a guideline for account management, but it demonstrates the team’s dedication to the key account. These relationships will continue to develop as your account managers share continued updates with the customer.

Set Communication Standards

Establishing a routine for regular communication will help keep the account fresh. Outlining a schedule encourages expectations for the customer and helps monitor how the account is progressing.

Plan touchpoints, send out recurring meeting invites, and consistently follow up. This provides ample opportunity for client feedback and helps address any necessary changes in a timely manner. Successful key account management happens when your company and the customer remain on the same page.

Staying on schedule will help keep your team up to date on each account’s needs. Clear communication allows customers to reach out with questions and mention any future needs as they arise. 

Regularly Evaluate Performance

Setting key performance indicators (KPIs) will help measure progress on each account. Since there will be multiple departments working on these projects, including sales and marketing, KPIs establish benchmarks for success.

Monitoring performance keeps accounts on track. This also allows managers to evaluate how high-value clients are fulfilling any obligations to your company. Key account management provides mutual long-term benefits to the supplier and buyer. 

It is important to evaluate these relationships on their internal and external initiatives. This will help your team act on any opportunities for growth as they arise while continually optimizing strategies for high ROI.

Don’t be afraid to reassess if current actions start to lose value for one side or the other. The goal should be to pivot as needed to keep the relationship beneficial for all involved.

Key Takeaways on Key Account Management

Starting key account management practices is a huge undertaking, but it comes with big rewards when handled correctly. Allocating resources, keeping departments informed on changes, and communicating clearly with these accounts is crucial to properly establish these accounts.

Customer satisfaction and improved services remain a top priority for your business. Key accounts require specialized products and collaboration to make sure the services offered provide the most benefits. As the needs of accounts change, your products should be adapted to best serve the client. 

Utilizing automation and data analysis can help free up resources. Digital and artificial intelligence (AI) software is starting to play a huge role in the success of account management. Make sure your team is prepared with an up-to-date tech stack and the proper training for correct usage.

Use Leadboxer to start integrating your tech stack with key account management today, by clicking here for a free trial.