[00:00] – Introduction
Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to become a rock star key account manager. Well, get ready, because in this episode of The KAM Club Podcast, we are going to dive deep into the world of key account management and I’m going to be sharing the secrets to success. I’ll explore the essential skills, qualities and mindset that you need to thrive in this exciting role. And I’m going to challenge you to reflect on your own strengths and passions.
Together, you and me, we are going to unravel all the key traits that make a great account manager manager and help you figure out if you were born, if it’s your calling to be a key account manager. So sit tight. I’m going to be right back.
Now, this is a question I get asked quite a bit, “Would I be a good account manager? Do I have the right temperament? Do I have the right skills? Do I have the right personality? Do I have the right je ne sais quoi to be successful as a Key Account manager?
So let me begin by saying it takes all kinds.
You don’t have to be an extrovert, you don’t have to be a life of the party, you don’t have to be a super savvy sales negotiator, you don’t have to be a data scientist, you don’t need to be all of these things, master of all of these elements. But you do need certain things that are going to be critical in terms of being successful.
There are things about key account management that are just so not me that I have been very challenged. Like, for example, I’m very shy, I’m very introverted. I’ve learned over the years to address that and tackle that and manage that.
But being in a room full of people zaps me with A, it fills me with dread, B, it zaps me of energy. And I could think of nothing worse than having to entertain clients for, you know, drinks or dinner or something like that. That would just be a nightmare for me. But I do it and I do it well, and I have learned how to do it and I’ve learned how to do the small talk and I’ve learned how to engage and I’ve learned how to work a room. But it’s taken a long time.
So I think from the outset, if you want to be successful in Key Account management, you do have to have self awareness. You do have to take time and reflect on where you’re strong, where you need to develop and then actively take control of your self development, your learning, and grow. Learn as you go and challenge yourself.
So, with that said, let’s talk about what would make you what are the qualities of a successful account manager, what are the clues, what are the things that you need to have in place in your mind in terms of strengths, to think, all right, I’m ticking these boxes, this sounds like the job for me.
[02:53] – Relationship building
Number one is relationship.
I shouldn’t say number one, it’s not in any particular order, but I’m kicking off with relationship building because it does tend to be the foundation of everything, right? Successful key account managers really do excel at building and nurturing relationships. They have to have exceptional interpersonal skills, they’ve got to be able to actively listen, not just wait for their turn to speak, which is a struggle of mine. They need to be able to build trust and rapport. If you want to build long term partnerships and have customer loyalty, that is where you start.
So if you naturally enjoy building relationships and have a genuine interest in understanding and helping clients succeed, Key Account management could be a good fit for you. Now, like I said at the beginning, I didn’t come naturally to some of these skills, but I’ve been able to learn them over time. So if it’s not something you naturally enjoy, you certainly have to have an appetite for it, because without relationships, you’re not going to get very far.
[03:42] – Strategic thinking
Next, I think you need to have strategic thinking.
Key Account managers do have that sort of strategic mindset. They need to be able to link their customers objectives with their organisational goals and then they’ve kind of got to develop customised strategies that are going to help everybody win, help your clients succeed and help your company succeed.
And to do that, you need to analyse market trends, you need to identify growth opportunities and then you’ve got to sort of proactively address these challenges so that you can create value for your customers.
So if you like thinking beyond now, if you like thinking long term, if you like thinking about puzzles and problem solving, and you can connect dots and link business objectives with customer needs and create value, then, yeah, consider yourself a strategic thinker and on the right path to a successful career in key account management.
[04:31] – Communication skills
Communication skills absolutely essential.
Effective communication is a crucial trait for key account managers.
Crucial critical all the c’s. You need to be able to convey complex ideas, you need to be able to influence stakeholders, you need to negotiate win win outcomes. And exceptional communication skills are going to enable you to build consensus, persuade people, manage expectations and navigate some of those challenging conversations, because you often have to play the role of diplomat.
So if you possess excellent communication and influencing skills, it’s certainly a valuable asset in key account management. Again, like I said, and we’ll probably continue to say these are skills that you can learn.
I have put my foot in it so many times. As a key account manager, I’ve jeopardised many a relationship by just opening my big mouth. But every time I did, I learned from that mistake and I never repeated it. So that’s my challenge to you. If you’re thinking about key account management, if communication is not your natural strength, you can learn it, just be open to it.
[05:29] – Business acumen
Key Account managers need strong business acumen.
You need to be able to understand your clients industries, you need to understand their businesses, you need to be informed about market dynamics, industry trends, competitive landscapes. This is the kind of knowledge that you need that’s going to help you identify solutions that will align with your customers needs and it’s going to position you as that trusted advisor, somebody whose advice your clients seek out, somebody whose recommendations that they listen to and act upon. That’s why you need to develop your business acumen.
[05:58] – Problem solving abilities
You also need to have problem solving abilities.
Sort of linked to that strategic thinking. But you need to be able to analyse situations, identify challenges and of course then create the solutions and ideally innovative solutions. Things that your client hasn’t done before. Things, areas that they’re not really focused on, new opportunities that they can seize. Those are the things that you need to focus on.
But of course, the path is never smooth, it is filled with obstacles.
So you need to obviously proactively address those concerns. You need to intercept risk and you need to have contingency plans. So it’s quite a big piece of what you need to be able to accomplish. So if you are a natural problem solver, if you can get through a Sudoku or a Rubik’s Cube and you enjoy finding creative solutions, then maybe key account management is the job for you and you’d be good at it.
[06:45] – Collaboration and influencing skills
You also need to collaborate and influence.
Those are very important skills. Again, you can learn these over time, definitely. But Key Account managers need to work with internal and external stakeholders so within your own organisation, as well as within your clients organisation, and they need to engage across cross functional teams, they need to align resources, they need to provide exceptional customer experiences and they need to deliver all of this on time and as promised. So collaboration and influencing skills will help you navigate all of those complex organisational dynamics. They’re going to help you keep people accountable and drive those collaborative efforts.
So if you excel at sort of working with diverse teams, at building internal relationships, at being very politically astute and playing the corporate game, then key account management could be the job for you. And you’ll probably be very good at it because it’s certainly something that I have definitely struggled with. And I have learned over time that it was something that was more important than I gave it credit for.
Too often I thought doing a good job was enough, but at the expense of neglecting my internal networks and developing those relationships and just being clued up on who’s who in the zoo and learning about how to navigate those ever changing organisational hierarchies and dynamics.
[08:05] – Results orientated
Finally, you need to be results orientated.
You need to be motivated by achieving goals, you need to be into getting results, because you will have targets, you will have quotas, whether that’s revenue targets, whether that’s growth targets, whether that’s customer satisfaction targets.
You need to be able to thrive in a results orientated environment because you need to meet and exceed targets. And that is the very nature of key account management. Now, these traits all kind of work together. There’s some that you can develop and hone over time. Some might be a natural inclination, but these are definitely strong indicators of success in the role.
So let me just quickly recap where we got
- relationship building
- strategic thinking
- communication skills
- business acumen
- problem solving
- collaboration and influencing
- results orientation.
[08:50] Free key account management career development plan and courses
So check those out because I think that’s a great place to start if you want to get better at Key Account Management or you want to get into key account management, start working on some of those core competencies and skills.
[09:24] – The KAM Club
You might also want to check out The KAM Club
which is the world’s most amazing community of key account managers. I say that because it’s my community. I host that KAM club and I have put my heart and soul into it. And inside you’re going to find templates, guides, tutorials. You get some one to one coaching time with me as well, and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Something like 40 plus courses at the moment and it’s all available from $24.99 US a month. So check that one out too, if you’re really into sort of training and education.
[09:57] – The benefits of experience and mentorship
But beyond sort of official courses, communities like I have created other training programmes. Those are definitely helpful and those programmes are going to cover sort of those core topics and competencies that I’ve already mentioned, but some other ways you can kind of get into the key account management mindset and develop these skills.
Experience and mentorship.
Gaining practical experience in these areas is going to allow you to refine your skills and learn from real world scenarios, not this theoretical stuff or other people’s stories you’re going to learn as you go in real time.
So look for mentors in your own organisation, see if you can’t shadow some key account managers. Even if you are a key account manager, maybe just join one of your colleagues calls to learn how they do things. You can get some really amazing insights and some different ideas about how to improve or how to elevate your skills just by doing something like that. And it can certainly accelerate the learning process.
[10:47] – Why you must be a lifelong learner to succeed in KAM
You’ve got to be a lifelong learner.
You have to be a lifelong learner. If you are not focused on continuous learning and self improvement, that mindset, it’s going to be very challenging for you to keep up in the fast paced world of key account management. You have to actively seek opportunities to enhance your skills and knowledge.
Now, that could be reading industry publications, that could be attending conferences, that could be engaging in various professional development activities. This could be reading books, listening to podcasts like this one. Whatever it might be, keep that learning mindset keen and hungry.
[11:19] – The value of feedback and self-reflection
Feedback and reflection.
Great way of getting ideas, great way of seeing how others see you and learning from others about the way that you behave, the way that you approach situations, the way you could do things better. Beware—may not always be what you want to hear, but take it for what it is. If it’s a bit confronting, give it some time.
Reflect on where they were coming from and take the things that make sense to you to take and build on those. Actively seeking feedback. Reflecting on past experiences can really help identify areas for improvement and help guide your personal professional development efforts.
[11:55] – Outro
So that’s a wrap on this episode. Thank you so much for joining me on this sort of eye opening journey of self discovery and exploring the world of key account management. I hope I’ve ignited your curiosity even just a little bit and given you some valuable insights that will help you understand what it takes to excel in this exciting role.
I love key account management. Obviously, I wouldn’t have a podcast otherwise about it, so let me remind you that becoming a successful key account manager is not just about skills and experience, but also about embracing your unique strengths and passions. Because I promise you, with dedication and a commitment to ongoing improvement, you can acquire and strengthen any skills over time.
Now, if you’re eager to continue your journey of professional growth, how about subscribing to the podcast? You’re here already. You’re listening, so why not just hit subscribe? I’m going to share more insights to help you thrive in the world of key account management, and I hope you’re there to hear them.
All right, listen, thank you for tuning in and being a part of our podcast family. I appreciate you so much. And until the next episode, Heroes.
Bye for now.