Key Account Programs

How to build a world-class key account program

Why key account strategies fall short of expectations

Sales organizations devote substantial resources to growing business with their largest and most important accounts. But too often, driving this growth relies on highly skilled key account managers (KAMs). The challenges of growing and maintaining complex key account relationships cannot all be overcome by deploying skilled KAMs. For key accounts to achieve their full potential, it takes more.

Pie chart showing the percentage of sales revenue by channel. Field sales occupies 46 percent; key accounts occupies 33 percent; indirect occupies 11 percent; inside sales occupies 9 percent, and E-commerce occupies 1 percent.
One of our No. 1 challenges that Gartner helped us out with this year was assessing our account management team. We just recently conducted an account growth assessment, and that helped us identify and fill in skills gaps with our account management team to drive growth.

Brian Jacowitz

Vice President of Enterprise Sales, Black Box

Success is critical, and the stakes are high

Developing a successful key account management (KAM) program is critical for achieving revenue and growth objectives, but given the complexity surrounding these programs, this isn’t an easy task. Companies that fail to effectively execute KAM programs routinely face spiraling customization costs, business unit resistance and limited customer receptivity.

Bar charts showing comparison of sales cycle length and median number of accounts for key account managers and account managers.

Insights you can use

Gartner’s strategic account management insights, advice and tools help sales leaders align around the highest-impact drivers of success when it comes to designing a key account strategy.

Successful account management is easier said than done

Gartner research shows 84% of sales leaders report they completely rebuilt their key account program at least once in the past seven years due to underperformance. Our intuitive resources ensure your teams can execute on time, on budget, and at quality.

Bar graph displaying executive impatience: number of times key campaigns were rebuilt due to underperformance in the last seven years.
Pie chart showing results from the question "How would you rate your account planning process's effectiveness?" Moderately effective occupies 53 percent; slightly effective occupies 31 percent; very effective occupies 8 percent; not at all effective occupies 8 percent.

Account planning often becomes a sporadic, unfocused effort

Why do so many companies struggle to drive effective account planning? Because sellers often view it as a way to assist management with forecasting rather than a tool to support selling. The most successful sellers use account plans to structure a strategy for serving the account, and create value for the customer and supplier alike.

Pie chart showing results from the question "How would you rate your account planning process's effectiveness?" Moderately effective occupies 53 percent; slightly effective occupies 31 percent; very effective occupies 8 percent; not at all effective occupies 8 percent.

3 questions that ensure key account success

To say sales leaders are generally disappointed with key account program performance would be a huge understatement. But the solution to key account underperformance may not be what you think it is.

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How Gartner supports account management

Brian Jacowitz, Vice President of Enterprise Sales at Black Box, shares how Gartner supports him and his team through the account planning process.

Gartner topic experts

Gartner's sales experts support a range of activities around key account management. Meet a few of our leaders.

Scott Collins headshot

Scott Collins
VP, Advisory
Tom Cosgrove headshot

Tom Cosgrove
Sr Director, Advisory
Dave Egloff headshot

Dave Egloff
Sr Directory, Analyst
Danielle McKinley headshot

Danielle McKinley
Director, Advisory

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