Key Account Management

Implementing Strategic Account Management

Key account management insights

By their nature, key accounts are a top priority for CEOs and chief sales officers (CSOs). CSOs tend to double-down on key account growth by allocating more resources to their largest accounts, hoping that will help them attain a higher growth rate relative to other accounts. But this “biggest customers get the best resources” approach is failing.

Download our guide to:

  • Uncover the three common problems with key account management strategies
  • Identify the four shifts in principles required for improved returns
  • Build a roadmap to drive growth in the short term and long term

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Revamp your Key Account Management Strategy

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    Current key account strategies and approaches are falling short

    Our data reveals that this underperformance contributes to a frustrating cycle of key account program rebuilding. To escape this cycle, CSOs should transform their key account management programs from a sales-centric priority to an enterprise-driven approach encompassing selection and planning, key customer partnership calibration discussions, and performance-based re-tiering for mutual value.

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

    Key account management insights

    The challenges organizations continue to face reveal that traditional key account management principles are broken. CSOs need to transform the way key accounts are viewed and managed within the broader organization. Gartner identified the three big problems with key account strategies today. Our 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.

    Big Accounts Don’t Always Make the Best Key Accounts

    During key account selection, CSOs tend to designate their largest accounts as key accounts, and any factors beyond spend, such as strategic relevance or customer willingness to partner, take a lower priority. Account spend (current and future) and company size ranked among the three most important key account selection criteria.

    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.

    KAMs Cannot Do Everything on Their Own

    Given that key accounts are a crucial source of revenue and are often the largest customers, sales organizations understandably task their best people with managing them. On average, KAMs are responsible for seven to eight key accounts. These KAMs are expected to provide dedicated support to execute customer strategies by devoting a substantial amount of time coordinating within the supplier organization to garner internal resources and rally support.

    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.

    Key Account Resources Are Wasted

    Key accounts are not just the biggest accounts; they are also the biggest bets for disproportionate growth. Which is why CSOs devote their best resources to the biggest accounts, in addition to the best people. Organizations are willing to dedicate resources such as dedicated account managers, subject matter experts, senior executive access, business consulting and proprietary technology specifically to key accounts. But it’s important to note that each of these resources has an associated cost — not just the cost of providing the resource but also the opportunity cost of not investing that resource in another account.

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    Key account management case studies

    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
    Testimonial

    How does Gartner support key 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.

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