Key Account Management is about organizational alignment and a fundamental belief and need, that this is strategic way to succeed in your marketplace. Key Account Management is about empowerment and collaboration, both internally and externally with customers, supported by people, processes and technologies.
A deep understanding of your customers’ operation, their challenges and goals, will guide everything from identifying and prioritizing key accounts to developing programs that can grow long-term partnerships. It will also guide you internally to align the organization under common customer centric purposes.
The 4 Secret Ingredients of a Successful KAM Strategy
I have taken inspiration from Alain Carre, Director of Key Account Management Excellence, at MSD International GmbH, after he shared his thoughts at the recent Eyeforpharma conference in Barcelona (2017), because what he said was simply practical and demonstrated the core elements needed to achieve Key Account Management Excellence no matter which marketplace and what is the product offering. I have taken some creative license to present the four principles he shared.
- Align the mindset of the organisation to be one of a ‘matrix way of working’, and/or one of collaboration united under a north star.
- Leverage the talent within your teams and the uniqueness of your products to differentiate you from the competitors;
- Use strategically Key Account Managers (aka KAMs), along with relevant tools, to integrate a customer centricity approach across the organisation and the marketplace; and then
- Benchmark what you do with others and close the gaps as your progress towards Key Account Management excellence (which is worth noting, is to be measured in the eyes of the customers, not by you!)
It is a simple list of principles, which takes the complexity out of ‘what is Key Account Management’, and can be applied across borders.
Key Account Management and Organizational Alignment
In order to align an organisation, you require a few basics such as integrated job descriptions and metrics, so that each person has clarity about what their role and how they can contribute. They can understand what competencies and skills are required, and how they will be measured.
One key competency that is critical is good interpersonal skills. It will be their role to work across the organisation and across the complex healthcare stakeholders to achieve success.
Another way to align and unite the organisation is to have collaborative tools, such as a Key Account Management engagement methodology and planning tools that cross-functional teams can contribute to and then agree to execute. The critical success factor here is executive involvement and linked business outcomes that they too are measured upon.
Once you have internal alignment, and you know whom your key accounts are, develop an internal to external alignment – that is, map your company’s priorities to the key account’s priorities. Find the mutually beneficial areas where you can add value and help them solve their challenges.
Tools, processes and technologies are a natural part of the strategy. There are various models and methodologies you can use to do strategic account planning as a cross functional team. Just ensure you are measuring your engagement level, not simply activities, and on your dashboard, make visible your internal and external metrics and how they compare.
Make sure any data and qualitative feedback inspires action that is shared back with customers, so that you are truly working in partnership. Close the loop!
When benchmarking your Key Account Management competencies and skills, include a collaboration index. Identify where there are internal roadblocks to truly achieving synergistic Key Account Management excellence.
Key Account Management differs by marketplace, driven by the structure of the healthcare environment and decision-making processes. It requires a unique set of skills and organizational approach.
However, the fundamentals of Key Account Management do not differ across marketplaces, as it is about:
- the empowerment of KAMs,
- organizational alignment and
- a company willingness to work in partnership over the longer term with your key accounts
to resolve their challenges and assist them in achieving good health outcomes.
Remember, if you are a cricket fan, Key Account Management is a test match, not a one-dayer. If you are a runner, Key Account Management is a marathon, not a sprint. And if you are not a sports fan, then Key Account Management is a 5 year strategic plan, not a 1 year business plan. So your tactics may yield results over a longer time period, outside the standard 1 year brand planning or business planning cycle.
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