April 2017: Advancing performance through a blended learning programme
To drive sales and profits through Key Account Management, organisations seek to continually improve their skills in an effective way.
Depending on the complexity of what training and development needs to cover, the numbers of people involved, budgets, time frames and locations, a number of approaches can be applicable.
For one large global market leader, with multiple locations, we are currently delivering a ‘Blended learning’ programme.
Blended skills development provides a flexible, time and cost-effective approach to skills development that can be targeted at multiple locations and functions to propel successful account management.
With the client, we agreed various modules e.g. Account planning, relationship development and customer focused innovation.
Using video’s, produced through Brightbridge Consulting and by the organisations own leaders, tailored work-books, interactive on-line sessions encouraging group discussion and various e-shots to embed key techniques, a comprehensive programme is in flight.
The activities of the programme and related work actions are monitored and assessed by line managers to ensure that strong payback is achieved – i.e. more profits are being delivered and more opportunities created.
May 2017: Strategic Account Planning reveals opportunities and critical requirements
Brightbridge Consulting is working with a large industrial organisation involved with cranes and material handling for a wide range of sectors.
We are involved in developing a number of Strategic Account Plans for the organisations targeted customers in what have been deemed top priority market sectors.
Working closely with key account managers, commercial leaders and a number of functional heads in different countries has been an essential step revealing new insights.
From here we are jointly discovering new opportunities as well as critical requirements such as the need develop new relationships with identified key decision makers within the target customers.
June 2017: Thought Leadership: Securing key account growth in a competitive world
In association with the ‘KAM Group’, Alistair Taylor, Managing Partner at Brightbridge Consulting, has co-authored a thought leadership guide for leaders of Key Account Management programmes to increase share, margin and growth initiatives.
The paper captures a research project conducted over the last three years with a wide variety of companies in different sectors with aim of understanding:
- How should we best measure key account performance? We think there are three measures
- How effectively do companies define and differentiate their key account value offers? We believe the answer is ‘not very well’.
- Can we identify specific key account strategies? We think there are three clear strategies driven by the level of customer value available.
- What are the successful companies doing – can we tease out any common approaches? We have found four common traits.
The paper can be obtained pre-publication. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
The three greatest challenges to effective account planning
Investing time through account planning to deeply consider the key accounts position, market changes and the options for growth is, most would argue, by and large worthwhile. It should lead to proactive development of better – more profitable – relationships built on the broader consideration and improved selection of business development opportunities.
Its perhaps surprising then that over the years we’ve come into contact with many organisations, business leaders and key account managers who find the progress of account planning frustrating and of questionable value.
So once an organisation has decided to embark on key account or strategic account planning – a discipline we actively support – there are several barriers to watch out for and steer clear of. Here are three we’ve become aware of and have seen more than once.
- Drowning in the detail
Key account managers complain of the requirement to fill in endless templates, collecting so much detail that it becomes brain-aching to split the wood from the trees. Business leaders reviewing the account plans then become alarmed by the lack of clarity. An easy recommendation – well, less is often more.
Keep the document short and sharp. Ask your key account managers to use the knowledge that already exists and spend more time working on what needs to happen next rather than searching for the exact sales achieved last year in region 35. A few templates help but overdo it. Plans of 155 detailed power-point pages – yes we’ve seen one – make most of us want to go to s l…e…e……
- Don’t kill the mockingbird
Too many plans are flavour of the month …but within three sit in the bottom draw. The plan, if a good one, is best used and flexed as a ‘live’ shaper of activity. It doesn’t deserve to be consigned to the dusty bottom draw. When its encouraged to do its job, and is examined and explored regularly, it can set the tune for more productive, high value activity across the year.
- One woman- or mans – view
Many people in your organisation and network have touchpoints with the customer. They almost certainly have insights and ideas that an account manager working alone doesn’t fully see. The answers to questions on how we grow with the customer and what key things do we need to do differently might well be within your grasp. People in your customer, not surprisingly, will have a view too.
Some hardworking but somewhat misguided account managers try to create plans from their own ivory towers. Account planning should be a ‘team- game’, so involve others in creating the plan…and then make sure those that deal with the customer understand and are regularly updated on progress and change. Oh, and do test that your customer agrees with the main ideas. A little alignment goes a long way.
Professional Services and Storytelling – The hidden art of persuasion
We have been working with a UK based professional services organisation to help strengthen client relationships with their key account target customers.
Whilst the organisation held good relationships such customers were generally content with services from rival competitors. This was even true when clear benefits were available.
Observation quickly revealed that propositions and example case studies – showing positive financial benefits – were being presented to target customer senior decision makers in a structured, text book‘ way; whilst great numbers and logic such customers simply weren’t engaged.
Brightbridge has encouraged the organisation to use a different approach; the same case study materials but with storytelling techniques to build emotional as well as logical enagement.
Telling key customers not only what went well but what didn’t quite work, events that threatened success – and how hurdles were overcome – brings a sense of reality and enagement.
Rather than seeking to directly persuade the approach gently encourages listeners to persuade themselves. Its a rich discussion rather than a formal sell.
A few key account managers and partners involved with client relationships found this easy – but others didn‘t.
Practice, rehearsals and the resilience to employ storytelling again when early attempts were less than prefect has now resulted in a richer pipeline of qualified opportunities – with more to come.
A structured program of Strategic Account Management activities
Brightbridge Consulting has created a tailored program of frameworks, tool-kits and training materials to accelerate the roll-out of Strategic Account Management for a market leading global engineering company.
Initially the activities are being undertaken across the America’s (including Brazil, Mexico and US).
Modules include those for initial engagement in Strategic Account Management, approaches for account planning for larger and smaller targets, competitive strategies, delivering value and becoming the trusted advisor.
There is also series of activities for ‘Leaders’ of the account management programs including change management and strategic customer planning.
We look forward to working in partnership with this company to continue the excellent $ growth the program has delivered to date.
Key Account Management: Partnering with Procurement
Can key account managers and procurement leaders successful work cooperatively and creatively to find produce better outcomes for both parties?
This was one question considered at a recent gathering in Oslo, Norway of the Association of Key Account Management.
Brightbridge Consulting joined a group of 12 leading European practitioners, business leaders and academics to consider how procurement is evolving and to consider ‘what next?’.
Whilst recognising hurdles to value based relationships between key account suppliers and procurement teams, examples demonstrate significant benefits from earlier collaboration, risk management, innovation sourcing and blending customer and supplier relationship management.
For success collaboration requires mature relationships, talented people and clearly managed expectations. Take care!
Developing Customised Value Propositions
We’ve been working with a global leader in print supplies embedding a programme of activities to improve their key account management. Recently with the top team of ten national and global account managers we spent time developing more powerful value propositions. The opportunity to distil customer requirements, key benefits and points of valued differentiation from complex detail into easily communicated presentations was welcomed by all.
When we initially asked the account managers to present a ‘complex’ propositions in just 50 words many looked surprised. With a little work and support they all agreed ended up pleasantly that fewer words can deliver far greater impact – a pleasant surprise!
Impact and Differentiation: Marketing and Brand Communication
Marketing teams have a pivotal role to play in developing successful Strategic Account Management. Brightbridge ran sessions in the US with the marketing team of a leading global industrial company considering how to bring their brand to life – sparking awareness, fuelling engagement and propelling advocacy. Workshops were lively, ideas free flowing and outputs inspiring.
With clear differentiated brand values, brand attributes and a more confident ‘tone’ marketing communications to key customers and internal teams are about to become a whole lot more motivating, powerful and value creating. More to follow…
Resilience and the ‘Prize’
Key Account Management programmes rarely – if ever – run smoothly.
To successfully deliver substantial growth through Key Account Management requires investment and a steadfast commitment to engage in, and excel at, critical activities including customer intimacy, value management and customer focused innovation.
Companies start out with great expectations and intentions but find that when customer, market and internal complications hit they are tempted to ‘abandon ship’ – perhaps when the rewards are just over the horizon.
We recently caught up with the Strategic Accounts Director of a FTSE 250 client who had just won significant business with a customer who had been targeted for two years.
When we asked him ‘what proved the biggest hurdle?’ he said ‘internal nervousness’. After investing senior management time with the customer in two face to face meetings, without seeing immediate gains, he had been asked by senior colleagues to abandon efforts with the particular customer and focus elsewhere.
“But I could see we were making good progress – albeit more slowly that we’d hoped for – and I knew the size of the prize was large. I think we might have switched away from the opportunity but for two things. 1. The upfront opportunity scoping we developed – we could see an attractive prize, and 2. the knowledge we weren’t alone in facing this hurdle, which gave me a sense of resilience.”
The supplier is now positioned for further growth with this customer and the senior group are all delighted.
Key Account Management can deliver significant upsides but success requires champions to prevail when hurdles arise, patience and organisational resilience to cope with bumps in the road.