10 Key Account Management Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making


About the episode

We’re delving into the world of key account management and uncovering the top 10 common mistakes that can hinder your success as a KAM. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, this episode is packed with valuable insights to take your key account management skills to the next level.  Whether you’re looking to avoid these common pitfalls or enhance your existing skills, this episode is a must-listen for anyone in the world of key account management. Let’s dive in and transform your approach to KAM!

You'll Learn

From neglecting relationships to failing to listen, we’re shining a spotlight on the pitfalls that many key account managers fall into. You’ll discover the importance of building strong relationships with key stakeholders within the client’s organization and why being proactive in identifying new business opportunities is crucial.

Communication is key, and we’ll explore how failing to effectively communicate with internal stakeholders about account statuses or potential issues can impact your success. Plus, we’ll discuss the delicate balance between being assertive and being too pushy when closing a sale, ensuring you maintain long-lasting relationships with your clients.

But that’s not all! We’ll dive into the importance of staying informed about emerging trends and technologies, as well as the art of truly understanding the problem before offering solutions. You’ll learn to set realistic expectations with clients, avoid making promises that cannot be kept, and gain a clear understanding of what makes an account profitable or not.

And let’s not forget the ultimate secret to success—putting the client’s needs first. We’ll discuss why being overly focused on your own goals and objectives can hinder your effectiveness as a key account manager.

Here are 10 common mistakes key account managers make:

  1. [01:42] Not building strong relationships with key stakeholders within the client’s organization.
  2. [02:44] Not being proactive in identifying new business opportunities.
  3. [03:31] Failing to communicate effectively with internal stakeholders regarding the status of accounts or potential issues that may arise.
  4. [04:34] Being too pushy or aggressive when trying to close a sale, which can damage relationships with clients over time.
  5. [05:22] Not taking enough initiative to learn about emerging trends or technologies that could benefit clients’ businesses.
  6. [06:14] Offering solutions before fully understanding the problem at hand
  7. [06:59] Making promises that cannot be kept due to limitations in resources or capabilities
  8. [07:38] Not having a clear understanding of why an account is profitable (or not).
  9. [08:37] Not properly setting expectations with clients around timelines and deliverables.
  10. [10:47] Being too focused on their own goals and objectives instead of the client’s needs.


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 In this episode

  • 15 Reasons Why You Might Be A Bad Account Manager .Bad key account managers fail to build business relationships and achieve results. But you can quickly improve with a little work and reflection. Discover fifteen things you should stop doing and what to start doing instead.
  • How Key Account Managers Can Overcome Internal Conflict. Key account managers need help from internal teams to get results for clients. But the path to cooperation is full of conflict. Listen to this episode of The KAM Club podcast to find out why and what to do about it.

⚠️ Key Account Managers, listen up! Learn the 10 most common mistakes that can derail your success. Gain valuable insights and practical tips to skyrocket your performance. Tune in now and become a KAM powerhouse!

Episode transcript

Hello, heroes, and welcome to The KAM Club podcast. This episode is all about the common mistakes that key account managers make, from neglecting relationships to failing to listen. We’re diving into the top ten pitfalls that can hinder your success as a key account manager. So whether you are a seasoned professional or just starting out, tune in and learn how to take your key account management skills to the next level. Let’s dive in.
I have already done an article called Are You a Bad Account Manager? 15 things that might indicate that you are.
So I thought I would just highlight and I want to point fingers. I don’t want to make you feel bad about yourself, but I thought I would highlight some of the things that you might inadvertently be doing that isn’t doing you any favours. Mistakes that you’re making, ways that you are approaching your role as a key account manager that are hindering your success instead of helping your success. So here are the ten that I see the most often. Not an exhaustive list by any means.
I’m not coming for you. This is not personal, but take it from it what you will. You may identify some of these traits in yourself, you may identify them in some colleagues and think that, that is the problem that they have. You haven’t been able to put your finger on it, but now you know. All right, so let’s jump into the ten common mistakes key account managers make.

[01:42] Number one, not building strong relationships with key stakeholders within the clients organisation.

Essentially putting all your relationship eggs in a single basket with a single contact. And you think, all right, well, I’ve got a good relationship with that one person. They do what we need to do, we’re getting things done, everything’s working, why bother meeting new people? Problem is, that person goes, everything falls over, puts massive risk on the relationship, also puts more pressure on you.

And also, you’re not really doing your client a service if you’re only limiting your relationships because you’re not finding out new problems, you’re not introducing yourself to stakeholders that might benefit from your experience and your solutions. So, yeah, that’s a common one that I see. And I’ve been very guilty of this in myself. Any of you have been listening for a while, you would have heard my stories, but the one that always go back to is, I had a client I worked with for four years. Do you know, I did not know who her manager was. Never met the person, didn’t even know their name. Big mistake. Anyway, let’s move on.

[02:44] Number two is to not be proactive in identifying new business opportunities. 

Account management is selling. Don’t forget, it’s not just service.
You need to be meeting new people, finding problems that need solving, and positioning your products and services as the solutions to those problems. Don’t just wait for your client to say, hey, we could do with your help on this. You need to go knock down some doors, bang on some windows, find people that need your help, and you need to be proactive about that. And that is a common mistake I see not being able to balance service with sales and focusing way too much on service and using that as an excuse or a distraction not to spend time developing a pipeline to upsell and cross sell your solutions.

[03:31] Number three of the mistakes that I see a lot is failing to communicate effectively with internal stakeholders.

Regarding things like the status of the accounts or potential issues that may arise.
Believe me, I’ve seen way too many key account managers, myself included, who act like lone wolves, who go about managing the client relationship all on their own. They make decisions, they make promises, they make commitments, all without talking to a single soul to see if it’s even possible. And naturally, that builds up resentment. That naturally leads to conflict and naturally leads to you potentially over promising and under delivering.
It’s important that you understand that it takes a Village People, as they say, and that you need the support of all your internal stakeholders. So find ways to keep them part of your team. Communicate, motivate, inspire. Make sure they feel like you’re all working together towards the common goal of helping your clients succeed.
Now, I do have another episode which dives into this a little bit further. Episode number five, which is all about how key account managers can overcome internal conflicts.

[04:34] Number four is being too pushy or aggressive when trying to close a sale.

That can damage the relationship with clients over time. And I get it. Often there’s external pressure. Now our boss is saying, you need to sell this much this quarter.

We’re all target driven, and we’re not always the best salespeople. We’re not doing it day in and day out. Like our colleagues in sales, we also are servicing the client day to day. So sometimes we can make a misstep, and sometimes that can be about being too pushy or aggressive. There’s an expression called commission breath when you’re so hungry for the sale that that’s all you care about.
So, yeah, be cautious about how you approach these new business or these upsell cross-sell opportunities, because it could come off as being salesy. Too much. We don’t want that. Okay, we’re at the halfway point.

[05:22] Number five of the mistakes I see is that key account managers don’t take enough initiative to learn about emerging trends or technologies that could benefit your clients business. 

It’s your job to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in your clients industry as well as your own to understand, intercept, and prevent build contingency plans for things that may come up in the future.
That’s what your clients rely on. That’s why they have a key account manager to make sure that if things go wrong or if there are things coming up, how can they make sure that they are not at a disadvantage or that they take advantage of a situation, if that may be the case? 
Whatever it is, devote some time to building up your industry knowledge and drawing the link between what’s happening and what that means for your client and what they should do. Very important. Don’t see enough of that.

[06:14] Number six is offering solutions before fully understanding the problem at hand. I call this jumping into solution mode. 

You hear a glimpse, a fraction of a sentence, and you’re already thinking, I know, I know the answer. I’ve come across this a million times before. You may do.
However, there are always nuances. There are always elements that are different for this client because they are not the same as the last client you did this with or you offered this solution to. So just listen, take your seat back. You don’t have to fill the silence. You don’t have to jump in.
You can let the client finish what they have to say, ask the right questions, go away and think about it, and then come back with a solution. Not jump in and go, don’t speak. I already know what you’re going to say. Here’s what I think you should do. Don’t do that.

[06:59] Number seven. A mistake I see all the time is to make promises that cannot be kept due to limitations in resources or capabilities.

This happens because you’re on the spot. Client wants something, you say, yes, I’ll deliver that by next week. Lo and behold, you haven’t spoken to anybody.
You haven’t checked with the product team or the service team or anybody else, in fact, that’s going to help you deliver that you’ve just agreed. And then ultimately, it’s not going to be done when you said it was going to be done or how you said it was going to be done. So don’t make that mistake before you commit to a client. Go back, think about the solution you want to implement cheque with all the people that you need to involve, and then let them know what they can expect and when and see if that suits them.

[07:38] The 8th mistake I see is just not having a clear understanding of why an account is profitable or not. 

Now, that’s obviously important because everything you deliver is built around what your clients pay you’re exchanging products and services for the fees that your clients pay you. Now, if they’re not paying you enough fees, how do you know what the right level of service is? If they’re paying you too much, are they paying you too little? Is what it costs you to deliver the service commensurate with what they pay? Simple supply, demand, profit and loss.
Basic economics and accounting. But really, knowing what are the inputs to a profitable account? What can you do to make your accounts more profitable? Doesn’t always mean increasing fees. It could mean reducing services or changing the way that things are delivered to be more efficient and effective.
Ergo, less deployment of resources, more profitable customers. Too much ago. So where are we at?

[08:37] Number nine. Not properly setting expectations with clients around timelines and deliverables.

Your time is limited. You’re looking after a bunch of accounts. You are not exclusively dedicated to a single customer. Many of you aren’t.
And even if you are, if you have, say, a global client or a massive big national customer that has a dedicated account manager, there are multiple stakeholders within that organisation and your own that need attention, that need things done. So you need to be clear with your client about what to expect. Don’t make them think everything is done instantly and immediately and as soon as they snap their fingers. Because what happens is when things don’t get delivered to those time frames, the clients get pissed off. I am a firm believer in creating a statement of work that identifies the key activities of an account manager and when those activities take place.
For example, quarterly, business reviews, the fact that they get them and then when they should get them. Oftentimes the data isn’t available until at least a month after the quarter ends. So a client that thinks they should get their quarterly, their Q1 review, their January to March review, the first week of April is unrealistic. They’re probably more likely going to get it at the last week of April or maybe even the first week of May. So knowing that up front helps them understand when they’re going to receive it and not chase you every quarter and thinking that it’s late, knowing that certain things in your platform don’t work as intended, or that there are nuances to it.
This happens all the time. With sales might say, oh yes, we have cost centre level reporting, no problem. But then when you go and run that cost centre level reporting, you find out that it doesn’t include PO numbers or that it’s truncated. So it only goes down to two levels of cost centre hierarchy, not three. Usually it’s not an issue, but you want to make sure your client knows that is the limitation, this is the expectation.
Making sure that those things don’t go from being something you need to explain to being an issue you need to resolve.

[10:47] And lucky last number ten is being too focused on your own goals and objectives instead of the client’s needs.

I see this all the time and with some respect, I understand it because as an organisation, you have quotas, you have targets, you have KPIs, you have your boss saying, Why haven’t you achieved this? Why haven’t you achieved that? You need to go do this, you need to go do that.
So there’s a lot of external pressure to focus on what’s good for your organisation. Sometimes what’s good for your organisation isn’t in your client’s best interest. And that can be a real challenge because you’re trying to promote something or push something or implement something that your client is going to resist. It also means that sometimes what you’re positioning is not relevant. 
So why even go there?
Why tell them about a product or a service that has nothing to do with them, that they’ll never use, that’s of no interest, will add no value to them? 
So I always say, put your client first, start with what’s important to your client. What are their priorities? What are they working on? Where is their focus right now?
And then just follow the string. Reverse engineer that back to where you fit in. A lot of times you do and you can help them, but there are times when you don’t and acknowledge when those times happen and go, you know what, I don’t fit into this right now. If you’re focused on that, I don’t have a part to play in that. So let’s just work on business as usual for now, whatever it might be.
But it’s so important to put your client first.
[12:09] Outro
So that is it, my friends. The ten common mistakes that key account managers make, I want to run through them real quick.
  1. Not building strong relationships with key stakeholders.
  2. Not being proactive in identifying business opportunities, sales versus service.
  3. Not communicating with your internal stakeholders and building that informal internal account team.
  4. Being too pushy or aggressive when it comes to closing a sale you don’t want commission breath.
  5. Not taking the initiative to learn about trends and figuring out what that means for your clients and how they could benefit or avoid risks anyway.
  6. Number six is offering solutions before you understand the problems jumping into solution mode.
  7. Number seven is making promises you can’t keep.
  8. Number eight is not really understanding why your clients are profitable.
  9. Number nine is to not properly set expectations for the clients.
  10. And number ten is putting yourself first, focusing on your own goals instead of your clients needs.
So thank you for joining me on this episode of the Cam Club podcast. I hope you enjoyed learning about the common mistakes key account managers make and gain some valuable insights that you can apply to your own work. Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast to stay up to date on all the latest episodes.
And if you got value from this episode. I would love it if you’d leave a review and let me know what you think. Thanks for tuning in and I’ll catch you on the next episode. Bye, heroes.

Meet Your Host

Warwick Brown, Founder and Instructor at the KAM Club

Warwick Brown


I was tired of hearing stories about great key account managers losing their way, left stuck and let down. 

I wanted to create a space where key account managers could thrive and be their best. To give them the right tools and mindset that gets results. And to eliminate overwhelm.

And so The KAM Club was born – the world’s most amazing community of key account managers. 

I’ve spent more than 20 years in the field as a key account manager. So I know what works, and what doesn’t. 

I’m now on mission to share the knowledge I’ve gained, to inspire and help key account managers everywhere reach their potential.

You can find me on YouTubeLinkedInmy blog and of course, The KAM Club podcast. 

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