The KAM Chameleon: How to Shift Strategies & Succeed Anywhere

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About the episode

Dive deep into the realm of key account management (KAM) across various industries in this enlightening episode. Discover whether KAM skills are universally applicable or if the secret to success lies in custom tailoring your approach. Along the journey, we uncover strategies, share anecdotes, and navigate the intricacies of adapting and thriving in any industry.

You'll Learn

  • 00:30 – The Universal KAM Question: Is key account management a one-size-fits-all skill set, or is adaptation necessary? We set the stage for a comprehensive discussion.

  • 01:15 – Core Similarities vs. Custom Strategies: Exploring the consistent elements of KAM that hold true across sectors and the strategic adaptations needed for different industries.

  • 02:05 – Industry Insights:

    • SaaS Sector (02:15): An inside look at the dynamic, fast-paced world of Software as a Service.
    • Manufacturing (02:45): Discover what key account managers need to focus on in the realm of manufacturing.
    • Pharmaceuticals (03:30): Insights from personal experiences, emphasizing regulatory compliance, knowledge, and strategy.
  • 04:50 – Adapting to Unfamiliar Terrains: Strategies for KAMs venturing into new industry landscapes to ensure a smooth transition and mastery.

  • 06:22 – 5 Tips for Tailoring your KAM Approach: Actionable advice on crafting your strategy, conducting industry research, and maintaining agility in market changes.

  • 11:39 – Addressing Listener Queries: Providing insights on navigating multiple industries, establishing your expertise, and mastering entirely new sectors.

Quotes

If you stumble across something interesting that you think is relevant and can spark a conversation with clients, share it. It doesn't always have to lead back to you selling something.

You don't have to be an expert, but you need to be able to at least stay on top of the headlines so that if you see something interesting, you can jump on it.

You don't want to be a one-size-fits-all vendor. The job of key account manager is to become a strategic partner, that trusted advisor. Invest time in understanding the unique dynamics of your client's industry.

Resources

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 In this episode

Episode transcript

Introduction

So, I often get asked, is key account management the same in every industry? Are the skills transferable? Well, yes and no. There are a few nuances to it that we want to consider, and today we are going to unravel that mystery. So, let’s talk about how key account management strategies might differ across industries and learn the secrets to unlocking success no matter what sector you call home.

Welcome back here to The KAM Club podcast, a show that is on a mission to help busy key account managers get results. I’m your favourite camp coach, Warwick Brown, and together we’re going to explore tips, tricks, and trends to help you grow client revenue, crush customer attention, and build a successful career in key account management.

[00:30] The Universal KAM Question

In Key Account Management, the skills that you have, the responsibilities that you have are generally transferable and consistent across industries. However, the strategies that you implement and how you approach your client base is different. That’s the distinction I want to get across here because I think it’s important if you are applying for a new role in a different industry, and that’s something that often we aspire to. We’ve had enough of the industry that we’re in and we’d like to shift gears and move into something new and exciting and fresh.

[01:15] Core Similarities vs. Custom Strategies

Or maybe you’ve landed that role already and are now thinking, Well, what’s my game plan? How do I approach this portfolio so that I get the most from it, so that I get the most account revenue growth and retention, as well as optimise the value for my clients? There are two real things to think about here. First is that you have your industry, your products, and services, and in the market that you operate in, the environment. And then you also have your clients, their individual requirements, their markets, their industries in the way that they work. And in account management, well, we need to bridge the gap between the two. And that’s where we need to be flexible. We need to do our research. We need to understand our clients. We need to build relationships. We need to build our account plans and be much more proactive in the way that we manage our portfolios.

[02:05] Industry Insights

Now, if you think about it, here’s some examples. In SaaS, a key account manager might be more focused on upselling and cross-selling additional features or modules. The fast-paced tech environment demands agility and responsiveness. On the other hand, if you’re in manufacturing, CAMs here need to ensure production efficiency, supply chain reliability, and quality control.

Let’s dig a bit deeper into pharmaceutical because at one point in my career, I was the pharmaceutical king when it came to account management. All my clients were pharmaceutical clients. Even though I wasn’t in pharmaceutical, I had to understand a lot about the way that they work because how I positioned my solutions and my services, and my strategies needed to be sensitive to their market, their industry, and the way that they work with their clients. For example, a pharmaceutical key account manager, if you’re working with pharmaceutical clients, you might need to think about, or in fact, let’s take a look at the position of if you are in pharmaceutical business. You work for Merck, for example. You’re going to have to be thinking about stringent regulatory compliance. The pharmaceutical industry is heavily regulated. There are lots of roles governing interactions with healthcare professionals, the way that you promote medications, you need to be able to navigate this complex regulatory landscape. As a key account manager, your strategy must be very heavily attached to what is going on in terms of rules, regulations, upcoming regulations, as well as those that are already implemented, codes of conduct, best practices, ethics, and all that stuff.

You probably need to know a little bit about clinical knowledge and education. Not super in-depth. You don’t have to be a physician yourself, but pharmaceutical cams often require a reasonable amount of clinical knowledge. They’ve got to understand the action of drugs, clinical trial data, medical guidelines, and all these sorts of things to be able to effectively communicate with healthcare professionals. You also have to figure ways to get access to these healthcare professionals? I mean, healthcare globally is under pressure, always has been, probably always will be. Not enough doctors, too many patients. They’re always busy. How are you going to get in front of these professionals, these doctors? As these pharmacists when they’re so busy? How do you get those one-on-one meetings, especially with the growth of things like telemedicine, where people are now doing phone calls. My GP, I’m able to do a lot of phone appointments. I don’t know even if they’re in the building anymore. Don’t really care. They give me good advice over the phone. The sales cycle can be really long in pharmaceutical sales. And renewals, upsells, all that stuff because there’s multiple stakeholders, there’s physicians, there’s pharmacies, there’s all sorts of things around how they place and adopt your products.

[04:50] Adapting to Unfamiliar Terrains

You’ve also got challenges around drug pricing and reimbursement because some things are on the national health scheme and subsidised by governments, others are not. How do you get reimbursement? What do the dynamics look like? How do things work with insurance companies? You can see all of these elements are going to inform your strategy as a key account manager, and those elements are going to be different from industry from industry to industry and from job to job. So instead of thinking, a key account manager, it’s the same across all industries, all the skills are transferable, so what? I could do it in any company. Truth is, yes, you could. However, you do need to invest a little bit of time and effort in understanding that industry and thinking about how you translate the skills and experience that you have and adapt that in a way that is going to create the most impact. What is the transformation that you’re going to help your clients achieve and how you get that transformation from idea to reality? That is how you’re going to adapt your strategies. And that’s where you need to be very specific about how you do that in the industry in which you operate and which your clients operate and how those two come together.

You don’t want to be a one-size-fits all vendor. The job of key account manager is to become a strategic partner, that trusted advisor. You want to build client satisfaction, drive longer-lasting relationships, and ultimately, that’s going to end up with more revenue for your organisation. This is really important if you’re going for job interviews because you need to be able to convince the hiring managers and the recruiters that despite your lack of industry experience or limited industry experience, you are more than capable of delivering an effective key account management strategy built along driving influential relationships, growing account revenue, and customer retention.

[06:22] 5 Tips for Tailoring Your Key Account Approach

Here are some quick tips that I think might get you on the path to developing customised key account strategies for your clients based on industry nuances.

  1. Number one is industry research. Invest time in understanding the unique dynamics of your client’s industry. There are lots of free resources available. One of my favourites is to go to the management consulting firms like KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, Oliver Wyman, all of those big ones because they all have different practise lines, they have different industries that they cover, and they will have very in-depth reports around trends, both current and emerging ideas around how to approach these challenges, all sorts of things, and it’s gold. You can use that borrowed expertise.
  2. Number two is to adapt your approach. Think about how you are going to address specific industry pain points. What are their goals? What are they looking to achieve broadly in that industry? What are some innovative ideas you can bring to your clients around trends that are coming from that industry? And what is your approach? What is the answer that you have for them? Even if it’s a small part that you play, you’re not looking to solve the whole problem. Each problem, each challenge has its own subset of many problems and many challenges. So, if you can just solve for one of those small pieces in that wider puzzle, your gold. That’s the beginning, the journey, the first step in making sure that you deliver value and get seen as that trusted partner because, hey, you’re identifying relevant problems and challenges and opportunities, and you are helping create the action plans to address them.
  3. Tip number three is to stay informed. It’s not enough to do research once and call it a day. Things are changing all the time across your own industry as well as your client’s industries, across those typical pillars that you used to do in university. You know what is it? Political, economic, social, What do you call legal, environmental, those core pillars, what’s changing in those areas in your client’s industry? Those are the things that you need to stay on top of.

    You don’t have to be an expert, but you need to be able to at least stay on top of the headlines so that if you see something interesting, you can jump on it. So, sign up for newsletters, follow Twitter feeds, follow clients and industry bodies on LinkedIn, watch YouTube videos, subscribe to their channels, and things like that. Those are great places to understand what’s happening.

    For example, one thing that I really love is the World Economic Forum on LinkedIn. Now, it has a lot of really interesting videos that are about inventions and game-changing solutions that are happening in the environment and really exciting, innovative, almost thrilling, some of these things. I’m just blown away by the advancement of technology, cleaning the oceans, getting water from thin air, divining water from the atmosphere. Mind-blowing. But it just lands in my feed. I find it quite entertaining, actually. But some of these things have actually been great conversation starters for me to reach out to my clients who are in similar industries or have got an interest in some of those things around some of their sustainability goals. I’ll be able to share that with and start conversations and learn more about what they’re doing and help apply what I can help them with to their situation

    So whatever it might be, I think make sure you’ve got some automation in place, some push notifications, some things that will just land in your inbox so you can stay on top of stuff. Plenty of newsletters and people and social media out there. Absolutely no excuse to stay informed.
  4. Step four is to network. Build relationships with industry peers to gain insights and best practices. So, build out your network. You may be in the pharmaceutical industry; you might be in manufacturing. Build your network of contacts in those industries, specifically your clients, specifically other industry bodies, and just leaders, thought leaders in that space, people covering that space from a news point of view. Build your networks, reach out to people so that you are able to gain insights from the ground floor. You have the perspective of doing research and reading reports and analysis. But if you overlay that with a few contacts in your network that actually have expertise in that area, you can drop them a quick call or a message just for some further insight or just to help you understand things a little bit better. What does that mean? Or am I reading this right? Utilise their knowledge to be able to help you apply it to your own situation and the information you’re gathering.
  5. The last one is to be adaptable. As always, kick out management needs to be flexible. You have to roll with the punches as well as guide. You have to be proactive. You have to be reactive as well. As the industry evolves, as things change, you need to be able to build in these contingencies to allow you to pivot your strategy. You don’t want to bet everything on black and find out that red comes up. If you can find a way to have those regular milestone markers in your strategy to review if things are going well, if things have changed, if there’s any new information that I need to incorporate or analyse to be able to make sure this strategy is still viable.

So, these are the main tips. Industry research, tell your approach, stay informed, build your network within your industry with peers to gain insights and best practises and be adaptable. Make sure you regularly review information so that you’re able to pivot your strategy.

[11:39] Addressing Listener Queries

Or what if my organisation serves multiple industries? And that’s not uncommon. That’s usually how I’ve worked in the past, and that’s absolutely fine and normal. But you need to be able to customise your approach for each industry segment because our goal is to show our clients how we’re relevant. They shouldn’t have to figure it out for themselves. We should be able to demonstrate that very easily for them and make it clear to them that we’re an integral part of their success.

How do I convince clients of my industry expertise? Well, you need to start to highlight that. Ask the right questions, build out a set of questions that speaks to the specific challenges, opportunities, situation that your clients are in, their industry. Start to share relevant case studies and success stories. It could be things that you’re doing in your own space because you have other clients that are also from that same industry, or because you are now subscribing to these industry updates, and you’ve done your research. If you stumble across something interesting that you think is relevant and can spark a conversation, then share it. It doesn’t always have to lead back to you trying to sell something.

 

If you’ve got interesting information, share it. I can guarantee you your clients are so busy; they often will not have the time to be doing the research and keeping up to date as you’ve been doing. And many, many, many, many times in my career, I’ve shared stuff with my clients, and it’s the first time they’re hearing about it.

And finally, the last question is, what if an industry is entirely new to me? Well, this comes up a lot because if you’re going for an interview, then typically that is one of the questions that is going to be asked by the recruiter. So have your game plan ready. Have your research plan already built out an action plan so that you can demonstrate to them. Then also, once you secure the job, implement it to be able to learn about that industry. Also, make sure that you reach out to colleagues internally. Don’t be shy to ask questions and admit that you don’t know something. In fact, if it’s an entirely new industry, people expect you not to know something. People will be raising eyebrows if you’re not asking questions because they’ll all know that your brand new to the industry, so they’ll wonder why you’re not reaching out to them for information. So don’t be shy in terms of seeking a mentor or talking to colleagues about what’s going on with your clients and ideas that you might have and run it past them for quality, for sense checking.

Outro

All right, heroes. Well, that is a wrap on this episode of The KAM Club podcast. You can find the show notes at tkcpodcast.com/034. You can also download my Complete Account Manager’s Guide to Client Research. It’s a 21-page guide with resources and checklists to help you get up to speed with your client’s industry or your own industry. Remember, take the time to learn, customise, and evolve your approach. Your clients will thank you with loyalty and growth, I promise you. I’m your host, Warwick Brown, and I will see you on the next episode real soon. Bye.

Meet Your Host

Warwick Brown, Founder and Instructor at the KAM Club

Warwick Brown

Host

Warwick Brown, with over 20 years of expertise as a Key Account Manager, founded The KAM Club – a unique community designed to empower and elevate the role of key account managers worldwide. 

Motivated by a desire to replace overwhelm with success, Warwick offers the perfect blend of tools, mindset, and hands-on experience to guide KAM professionals towards achieving their fullest potential. 

Join him on this mission to inspire and transform the world of key account management.

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The KAM Chameleon: How to Shift Strategies & Succeed Anywhere

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