Survival Guide for New Key Account Managers

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About the episode

Ever feel like you’ve been thrown into the deep end of a new role? Feeling lost and unsure where to start? If you’re a new Key Account Manager (KAM), this episode is your lifeline. We’ll equip you with the essential strategies to navigate the initial challenges and launch your KAM career with confidence.

Key Takeaways

Be a News Hound

  • Immerse yourself in industry resources (publications, conferences, etc.) to stay up-to-date and establish yourself as a trusted advisor.
  • Resources mentioned:

Cultivate Depth, Not Just Breadth

Master the Art of Storytelling, Not Just a Spreadsheet

Embrace the Power of Collaboration

  • Build relationships with colleagues from other departments to gain internal support and expertise, not just compete with them.
  • Be proactive and intentional in building these connections.

Invest in Continuous Learning

Bonus Tips

  • Don’t stress about incomplete handovers. Focus on building relationships with clients and learning their needs.
  • Take initiative and introduce yourself to clients. Don’t wait for introductions from others.
  • Use ClickUp as a project management tool to stay organized and manage your workload.
  • Treat your boss like your “number one client” to understand their priorities and build a good working relationship.
  • Start with small wins in your first few months to build trust and pave the way for bigger successes.

Nail your first 90 days with these 30/60/90 Day Plans

Need a roadmap for success in your new key account management role?

  • Free: Excel template with 50+ actions to guide you through onboarding and probation.
  • Upgrade: Comprehensive Notion plan with step-by-step guidance, templates, and in-depth coverage for just $14.99.

Both options will help you:

  • Structure your first 3 months
  • Make a positive impression on your clients
  • Achieve early wins and build trust
Excel TemplateNotion Template

Episode Timestamps

  • Be a News Hound (01:25 – 03:31):
    • Importance of staying informed and establishing trust with clients.
  • Cultivate Depth, Not Just Breadth (04:15 – 04:40):
    • Focus on building strong relationships with key client stakeholders.
  • Master the Art of Storytelling (05:31 – 07:16):
    • Learn to convey data in a compelling way to influence decisions.
  • Embrace the Power of Collaboration (08:21 – 09:29):
    • Collaborate with colleagues for support and expertise.
  • Invest in Continuous Learning (11:32 – 12:45):
    • Continuously develop your skills for long-term success.

Bonus Tips and Timestamps:

  • Don’t worry about incomplete handovers, focus on building relationships (12:58).
  • Be proactive and introduce yourself to clients (14:04).
  • Use a project management tool like ClickUp to stay organized (14:37).
  • Build a good relationship with your manager by treating them as a key client (15:55).
  • Start with small wins to build confidence and momentum (17:09).

Quotes

Start small. Don't worry about the big swings... Look for the quick wins... These early successes are what are going to build trust, showcase your value, and pave the way for bigger wins

Don't stress about patchy handovers... Clients will appreciate it if you just say, 'Hey, I'm new. I just want to learn all about you.

Treat your boss like your number one client... Make sure your priorities are aligned with theirs

Episode transcript

Introduction

Welcome aboard, Rookie KAMs. This episode is your Survival Guide, a rocket pack to propel you past confusion and into the stratosphere of success. We’re going to talk about five launch pad ideas to help a key account manager out. Sit tight. I’m going to be right back.
 
Welcome back, heroes. It’s your favourite KAM coach, Warwick Brown. This is the KAM Club podcast, a show that’s dedicated to helping busy key account managers get results. Now look, if you’re new to key account management, I don’t envy you. I remember those days, and it was very overwhelming. There was lots to learn. It was something I had never really done before. In fact, I used to be in operations. I used to do more as a customer support, and eventually, I managed a team of customer support agents operations. Then I thought, you know what? I really want to be an account manager. I thought, how hard can it be? Well, listen.
Firstly, it was very difficult to get the job in the first place because people didn’t think as an operations manager, you could do account management.
Secondly, once I realised what was involved and I got the job, let me tell you, the learning curve. I can’t whistle. I’ve got braces, so it’s hard to whistle. Anyway, you know what I mean? I was going to go for, I insert the sound. That’s what I was going for. Yeah, the learning curve was steep, let me tell you.
Here’s five tips in no particular order, but I thought I’d just give you some quick wins to be able to help you really settle into the role quickly.
 

[00:01:25.100] Be a newshound.

Immerse yourself in the new landscape that’s relevant to your clients. Read industry publications, attend conferences, follow key influences on LinkedIn, join LinkedIn groups, slack channels, find communities where people are talking about key account management in your industry so that you can become a trusted source of news insights as well as learn about the profession. Keep up to date with the headlines, current events, industry trends, and that way you can proactively suggest solutions that are going to address your client’s pain points and help you position your ideas more clearly and also capitalise on those emerging opportunities. Now, one resource, or there’s a couple of resources. One is, check out all the management consulting firms, PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, all of them.
They have a lot of information about industry trends on various sectors that they cover. Also, there’s this new, well, it’s not a new app, it’s new to me, called Ground News. It’s quite affordable. I think it’s about $30 or $40 a year, but essentially, it is a news aggregate source. You can define the topics that you’re interested in, and what I love about it is it will curate all of the news headlines from around the world and also particularly from your country, depending on what you’ve set up in terms of your interests. But it’s balanced. It’s actually designed to help you realise your left, right, or centre leanings and to see where the coverage is on news topics so that you try and get a little bit more of a holistic view about your news intake and that you make your opinions on fair coverage instead of just a left-leaning paper or a right-wing leaning paper or just the same source all the time. I have found it quite interesting to see how the press reports on different events and different news items differently. It’s definitely helping me challenge the way that I look at current events and the way that I assess the impact of them and then translate that information into knowledge and action that I can share with my clients or just to help me be a better person.
Those definitely are some quick tips in terms of just getting up and running in terms of establishing your expertise and authority. Because new to the role is one thing, but also clients are looking to you to be a trusted advisor. They want you to have insights that are going to help them get better results faster, that are going to help them be more successful. That comes with you taking time to learn about your clients, your industry, and your profession. Now, you don’t have to be an academic, an analyst or a scientist, but read some headlines. Give yourself 20 minutes a day just to scour the web, take a course, read an article, listen to this podcast, whatever it might be. Don’t neglect that part of the role. It’s very important.
 

[00:04:15.310] Relationship dept, not just breadth

Second tip for newbies is to cultivate depth, not just breadth. Now, you’re going to have a bunch of accounts. You can very easily spread yourself very thin because a few accounts doesn’t mean a few people. My advice is to build out a relationship map and to start to plot who are the main people that I will get a bigger, what did I say, bigger return on investment from spending time with.
 
[00:04:40.380]
Those are the people that can make decisions. Those are the people that have budget free money to spend. Those are the people that sign contracts. Those are the people that are just influential who have opinions and aren’t afraid to share them and can skew a decision based on their input, even
if they’re not directly involved in the whole process. You want to make sure that the people you spend time with are going to help you grow an account, retain an account, or get things done. Start to build out your little relationship map. I’ve got an article. I’ll pop it in the show notes, tkcpodcast.com/037. There’s a template there as well. It’s really going to help you build strong relationships with relevant stakeholders within your client’s organisation, and not just the decision maker. This network is going to be invaluable for navigating internal politics and securing buy-in.
 

[00:05:31.080] Master storytelling

Number three for newbies, master the art of storytelling, not just a spreadsheet. There’s that expression, torture the data long enough, it’ll confess to anything. Data is important, yes, but it’s the whole story. You want to translate those numbers into compelling narratives that showcase the impact of your solution or that give evidence of what to do next, what that information means and how it influences what you want your client to do and why they should do it, and how does it resonate with them and impact their priorities and goals.
And data can then, if you think about it in those terms, really help you personalise your approach, it can help you tailor your recommendations, and it can help you pivot the message or fine-tune the message depending on who your audience is. The same data can help you tell a different but similar story to the CFO than you would to maybe the procurement director or to an end user. I think data is such an important thing for you to understand and get to grips with. Again, you don’t need to be an analyst. I have an article written about data for… God, I can’t remember the title of these articles because I’ve written so many of them. Anyway, it’s all about the five formulas, the five methodologies that you need to know in terms of… You know what? Let me look it up.
Here we go. It’s called a Simple Guide to Data Analysis for Key Account Managers. It’s all about how do you understand your client’s performance, identify trends and new opportunities, and how many things are there to know. There’s four basic techniques.
  • Relationship. That’s determining whether there is a link between two or more variables like ice cream sales and hot weather.
  • Composition, that’s the way that something is made up, like a hole or a mixture. For example, what type of queries generated support cases.
  • Distribution, so that is all the possible values data and how often they occur, like how often airlines fly on time.
  • Comparison, that’s the differences and similarities between data, for example, sales issue compared to last year.
That’s it. Those four things, if you get to know them well, those are the only techniques you need to know when it comes to data analysis. Then the whole article goes into presenting your data and doing storytelling and how to structure your narrative. I highly recommend to check that out, and it is available in the show notes, tkcpodcast.com/037.
Now, even if you’re a spreadsheet whiz and you love maths, that’s not the same as being able to tell a story with data. Being able to present it in an easy, clear way that convinces your clients to take action or convinces your internal colleagues that this is the logical next step. So make sure you practise the storytelling aspect of it as well. Anyway, let’s move on.
 

[00:08:21.860] Embrace collaboration

Number four in my tips for new key account managers is to embrace the power of collaboration.
It’s not competition. You’re not competing with your client. You’re You’re not competing with a colleague. You’re not competing with somebody in a different department. You’re all here to work together as parts of the engine, as harmoniously as you can to be able to get where you need to go. So build those bridges with other departments within your company. Make the first move. Don’t be shy. That’s one of the biggest things that I regret in my account management career. Too often, I’ve started a job and I’ve just done my own thing. I’ve not really spent enough time meeting internal stakeholders, learning about what they do, understanding where I fit in, asking them how I can make their lives easier, and figuring out how we can work together.
Even if we don’t work together, how can I just be an advocate for them and be a champion for them if I ever get the chance? I’m sure you’ve had those situations where you’ve been in a job for years, months, whatever, a long time, longer than the person that joined after you anyway, who seems to know everybody, who seems to be best friends with everybody, from the VP to the cleaner.
You’re like, How did they make that happen? Because they’re intentional, because they’re proactive, because they’re not just sitting at their desk or have their nose buried in their inbox. So make sure you make an effort. Honestly, when you’re new, that is going to be one of your super hours. If you can get started early and build those relationships from day one. The expertise within your internal network is going to be your secret weapon in crafting winning solutions for your clients, but also implementing them, making sure that they get done and that you continue to add additional value for your clients. Let’s take a break and hear from our sponsor, me.
Now, if you are a new key account manager starting a new role, it can be very daunting, can be very overwhelming. There is a lot to do. You want to make a good impression, you want to share Make old habits, and you want to be able to add value quickly and make sure that you succeed so that there is no doubt in the hiring manager’s mind that you are the perfect candidate for the role, and they are lucky to have you.
 

[00:10:27.280] 90-day success plan templates

Now, check out, I’ve got two resources for you. They’re both 30, 60, 90 day plans. The first is a free Excel template. It has something like 60 actions broken down into the 30, 60, 90 day blocks based on adding incremental value as you continue through your onboarding and make sure that at
the end of those three months, you nail your probationary period. But if you want to dig a bit deeper and you want to go really step by step and have a complete action plan with templates and a lot more coverage and a lot more detail, then check out my 30, 60, day Notion template, which took me about a week to put this together. It’s so detailed. I can guarantee you it is the most comprehensive 30, 60, 90 day success plan for key account managers you will find anywhere. So check that one out. Links are in the show notes. That Notion template is, I think, $14, 14.99, something like that, US dollars. So check that one out. Links in the show notes, tkcpodcast.com/037. Let’s get back to
the show.
 

[00:11:32.980] Invest in continuous learning

Now, my last tip for new key account managers, before I get into a few tactical things you might want to think about, is to invest in continuous learning.
Not just doing the job, but how do you become a better version of you.
It’s not just about diving in the deep end. You want to finesse your craft. You want to be a master of your craft. That means taking time to do a course or seek out a mentor or whatever it might be. Just take responsibility for your professional development. Be open to feedback, seek feedback, and be willing to adapt your approach based on new learnings and client experiences, because you don’t want to get to the end of those first few months and find out that you missed an opportunity to do things better or more successfully by taking advantage of learning or peer feedback or just self-reflection, whatever it is. But don’t skimp on this. Often, you’ll have access, if you’re in a big company, you’ll have access to often self-paced learning. You You can come join the KAM Club. There’s lots of workshops in there, 40 something workshops. You can check that out at thekamclub.com. But
whatever works for you, give yourself 30 minutes a week even just to reconnect with being the best you can be.
 

[00:12:45.670] Practical tips for Newbies

Now, here’s a few tactical tips I want to talk about. These are more of the broad strokes. Here are some tactical things, some things that I see come up all the time that I want you to think about if you’re new into key account management.
 

[00:12:58.630] Embrace your newness

First, embrace your newness, not handovers. Don’t stress about patchy handovers. Half the time, they’re crap. Half the time, even if they’re good, they’re incomplete. Often, the person that you’re replacing isn’t there. They’ve moved on to greener pastures. They’re not available for a thorough handover. Clients will appreciate it if you just say, Hey, I’m new. I just want to learn all about you. What are your priorities? What are your issues? How can I help? They’ll forgive what you lack in account knowledge for your your own curiosity and your eagerness to learn. So don’t stress about it. Don’t be like, Oh, I got to wait for a handover. Who cares? Go in there with a notepad and a bunch of great questions. That’s all you’re going to need to build those relationships. So don’t worry about handovers. If you get them, nice. That’s the icing on the cake, the cherry on the Sunday.
 

[00:13:47.700] Take the lead

Number two is take the lead. Don’t wait. You’re in charge of the relationship. You are guiding and leading that partnership with your clients internally and with your client stakeholders. Don’t Don’t be shy. Don’t be all like, Oh, I’m waiting for my manager to introduce me.
Oh, I’m waiting for the next business review, which is a couple of months away to meet them. Don’t sweat it. You’ll figure it out as you go. First thing I would do, send an introduction. Send a welcome email saying, Hey, I’m on board. Here’s my background. Highlight your skills and offer immediate support. Let them know you’re around, book a meeting if you want, show initiative, and tell them that you’ll be in touch to set up a former meeting when the time comes. That’s all you need to do. Then wait for your inbox to fill up with emails from your clients, welcoming you and filling in on the stuff that they need done, and you’re out of the gate.
 

[00:14:36.630] Get organised

Number three is to organise your world. So important because you’ve got lots of clients, lots of information. You’re learning about products, services, industries, so many moving parts when you’re taking on a new key account management role, especially if you’re new to key account management. That’s even more complicated. I recommend that you use ClickUp because information overload is real. It’s a free project management tool. You can capture your notes, you can do mind maps to connect ideas, you can track your tasks, it interacts with Outlook and Gmail and all that stuff.
It can be your memory bank and your learning tool rolled into one. I absolutely love it. Check out the link in the show notes, tkcpodcast.com/037. Now, also people will say, Oh, you got a CRM? That’s what the CRM is for. The CRM is not for your personal notes. It’s not for you to keep track of all the little things that are going on in your brain, all the bits and pieces of information that you come across. It’s not a project management tool. It’s not going to help you stay on track of everything that you promise to do for your clients, all of the things that you want to do for yourself. Whether it’s ClickUp, whether it’s something else, find a tool that works for you and be ruthless and diligent and disciplined in using it and keeping it up to date and taking full advantage of how those project management and note-taking apps can benefit you.
 

[00:15:55.680] Treat your boss like your number one client

My fourth tip is to treat your boss like your number one client. They control the paychecks, they control the juicy accounts, and they control your fate after the probation. So make sure your priorities are aligned with theirs.
Become their confidant. Now, you don’t have to like your boss, right? Your boss doesn’t have to be able to do your job. That’s not what they’re there for. They’re there to be a boss. But regardless of whether you think they’re incompetent fools, whether you think they’re frosty, whether you think they are the best things since slice bread, it’s immaterial. If you figure your boss out, you will be able to get what you need. And that, to me, is really your primary goal. Anything else beyond that is great. But at a baseline level, that’s what you should aspire for, certainly when you’re new. You can work on getting more from your boss later, but figure them out, figure out what’s important to them, figure out how you can help and reverse engineer that so that you’re not a thorn in their side, that you’re seen as somebody that’s a team player, that’s somebody that’s cooperative and works well and takes guidance and feedback and instruction and initiative. Don’t hover around your boss waiting for them to tell you what to do. Just say, Hey, boss, I’m all over it. Don’t worry, I got it sorted. Your life is going to be a whole lot easier.
 

[00:17:09.140] Start small

My last tip for key account management newbies is to start small. Don’t worry about the big swings. You can build that momentum. Look at the quick wins. Those are the things that you want to accomplish in your first few months. You want to look at resolving a minor issue. You want to provide a valuable report, or you want to set up regular communication, whatever they might be, and whether it’s internal and Or external, these early successes are what are going to build trust, that are going to showcase your value, and they’re going to pave the way for bigger wins and deeper collaboration down the road.
 

[00:17:41.240] Outro

All right, heroes. Well, that has been a wrap on this episode of the KAM Club podcast and five launch pad ideas for new key account managers, plus a few extra tactical tips as well thrown in for good measure. I’ve been your host, Warwick Brown. Don’t forget to check out the show notes, tkcpodcast.com/037. I’m going to see you as always, in a new episode real soon.
 

Meet Your Host

Warwick Brown, Founder and Instructor at the KAM Club

Warwick Brown

Host

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

I’m motivated by a desire to replace overwhelm with success, and through the KAM Club offer the perfect blend of tools, mindset, and hands-on experience to guide key account management professionals towards achieving their fullest potential. 

Join me on my mission to inspire and transform the world of key account management.

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