Understand what Key Accounts are and how having a Key Account Management system can help your agency retain strategic clients
Implementing and developing the Key Account culture within your agency can be difficult initially and will take a lot of dedication. But, without a doubt, it is something that is well worth investing in if you want to remain competitive in an increasingly complex scenario.
A key account, or key account, is a company account that has great relevance to the business. In general, more than just selling a product or providing a service is at stake. Key accounts, or KA, differ largely by the level of trust invested in the relationship between company and consumer. The key account manager is the person responsible for the KAs at the agency.
Are Key Accounts only those that generate a lot of revenue for the agency?
There is often confusion that key accounts are just customers that generate a lot of revenue for the company. In reality, a KA may not mean any direct revenue and still be an account that generates a lot of business, whether through direct referral of customers or access to new markets , for example. Therefore, definitions and ways of dealing with KA change over time and vary in different markets.
For this relationship to be beneficial, profitable and long-term, it is necessary to understand that the way to manage strategic accounts is different from a normal customer. The management of KA is called Key Account Management, or by the acronym KAM. Depending on the size of the company and the complexity of the operation, the management of key accounts can be done by a professional, a team or even a department.
Managing your Key Accounts helps a lot in prioritizing your efforts. One of the main difficulties reported by our business partner partners (SMEs) is knowing which team’s efforts will bring greater results for the agency’s objectives in the medium and long term. Once you have identified your main customers and the clarity of what efforts are needed, your day-to-day life becomes more fluid and productive.
However, if there is no framework for this, KAM can start to be done as a process. Thus, you can begin to validate the need (and effectiveness) of this type of look inside your operation even before investing in new hires. You can start by ranking accounts by strategic importance.
Sorting the strategic accounts
It is possible that there are several customers in your current portfolio. They all have a consumer relationship with their agency. However, key accounts are those that you could classify as business partners, not just customers. For this dynamic to work, it is necessary to see your customer as someone you want to develop, as this development will make your product or service even more successful with the customer. An example of this is the Results Digitais Partnership Program, a win-win relationship through which we help agencies and marketing consultants grow.
Thus, you will be able to create a scale to identify the level of importance of each customer in your business. The classification can be by channel, such as: partner, retail customer, or distributor, as well as relationship depth, with numbers from 1 to 5, with 1 being strictly a consumer and 5 being your most strategic business partner.
From this segmentation, you will be able to develop service processes for each type of customer, dedicating more time and resources to the accounts that will really lead your business to more results.
Understand the characteristics of your Key Accounts
Another key aspect is knowing what to expect from your key accounts. The classification of your accounts can have different origins. However, it is essential to be clear on why that key account is a strategic partner for your business.
The amount can be drawn from the direct monthly revenue generated by the partner (eg number of contracted services, monthly fee / managed MRR). Through this investment, you can have the security of expanding your operations and planning long term with this capital. Therefore, this customer becomes strategic and deserves differentiated importance.
Knowing that the customer is key, you need to know its structure. Different companies result in different structures. Therefore, a scalable standard account service model can be extremely difficult to implement for key accounts. Despite this, you should not use it as an excuse for not needing to structure processes, as they will ensure the quality, agility and reliability of your contacts.
In order for the contacts to be effective and of quality, you need to understand who the people involved in this type of service are and what their roles are. So you can get the best results and deliver more value to every touchpoint.
Knowing that João da Silva is the owner, but that Joaquim Neto, his Marketing Manager, is the main influencer in making the purchase decision, can save the renewal of a large contract, for example. It is also important to know that Paulo Souza, Product Manager, tends to have very busy Wednesdays and that the best day for contacts will be on Thursday mornings, when he arrives earlier, after dropping his daughters off at school.
What is the profile of a Key Account Manager
As we’ve already seen, KA are of superior importance within your company, so they need special attention. Therefore, it is important that the manager of this relationship is someone with different characteristics than a traditional salesperson/service. Here in Brazil, it is common to call the person responsible for managing KAs only by key account.
Bearing in mind that the relationship is not just a buy-sell relationship or an evolution of the funnel, the key account profile is something of a hybrid between salesperson, after-sales, and customer success manager. As it is very strategic and ends up requiring greater investment, it is very common for the agency’s owner to play this role. However, even if this is your case, if you want to grow, you need to plan to acquire someone you trust to take on this demand.
The KA or key-account manager needs to have superior knowledge of what you sell, not only know what you offer but must understand how this applies in the context of KA, its market, day-to-day problems and specifics. Thus, the customer will have a perception of superior value. The key account, in the context of agencies, can help a lot in the conquest and retention of large customers, not only selling separate services that can be replaced by a lower quote but delivering systemic improvements with advantages for both.
Communication is a fundamental skill.
Also fundamental to KA is the ability to communicate very well. As the strategy with the client is long-term, this professional will have many meetings and contact points, such as fairs, events, and training courses to work on maintaining this relationship. It is very common to play a consultative role and proactively follow up with the customer so that they are aware of any opportunity for new service offerings or partnerships.
Communication with the customer takes place on several levels. Therefore, the key account must be ready to speak comfortably from the most operational employee to the company’s C-level, helping to influence decisions and speeding up problem-solving. In addition, having a diversified knowledge of general issues and current affairs can lead KA to have better results with more types of clients, which means that there are professionals from the most varied backgrounds to be successful in this area.
Having a key account manager will not change your agency’s results overnight. Think of this transition as a marathon, with a few steps to take so you don’t throw money – and important customers – in the trash. You need to prepare.
But if you take the challenge seriously, you will certainly be better prepared to have better, more engaged and profitable customers over time. Remember: this relationship must be a two-way street.