How to get a Diploma in KAM
Gaining a Diploma in KAM (by experience)
AKAM's reason for existence is the improvement of practice in Key Account Management, both in terms of the ways in which companies execute KAM, and also in the professionalisation of key account managers. To be successful in KAM, organisations need to have the right approach and the right people to follow it. Now there is a qualification for key account managers that can be recognised across companies and regions, by employers and their HR managers. This is how it works and what you need to do to gain a Diploma in KAM (by experience).
NB: To gain a Diploma in KAM (by study) you should contact us or a college certified by AKAM as covering the required competencies, which will explain the process.
The Diploma by experience is designed for those who have been working as a key account manager and covers the essential competencies required by any key account manager. To gain a Diploma the candidate must demonstrate sufficient ability in 12 competences across a range of activities (see Diploma competencies in detail for a breakdown):
- Market and customer understanding
- Sales and business development
- General management and business acumen
- Organisational effectiveness
- Relationships and interaction
AKAM recognises that understanding and competency can be gained in more than one way, through ‘learning by doing’ while fulfilling the role of key account manager; by observing and exchanging experience with peers and managers in KAM; by formal learning opportunities like courses and conferences; and by self-study and research. However, candidates will have to demonstrate an awareness and understanding of theory as well as practice in each of the competency areas. The AKAM qualification scheme also allows key account managers to draw on formal training from different sources, different participating universities, in-house programmes or other training providers.
Presenting your competencies for the Diploma in Key Account Management
Applicants for the Diploma in Key Account Management will be asked to submit a written portfolio of performance as evidence of what they have learned and implemented in key account management through their experience of practice and understanding of relevant theory.
This document is intended to offer the experience of other key account managers who have applied for the Diploma, to give you the fullest possible understanding of what you are likely to encounter in the process. This describes how to tackle an application for the Diploma (by experience), although if you have not studied or had any KAM training, you will need to do some reading.
(NB Gaining a Diploma (by study) has a slightly different configuration and is achieved through a recognised participating educational institution.)
If you are a practitioner key account manager who has not received any formal training in KAM or similar areas recently, the chances are that you don't do much structured writing. So the first skill you need to relearn is how to write a clear account of a competency. This may feel strange and uncomfortable initially, but you should recognise that this is simply a consequence of being out of practice. It is really nothing to do with your competency in KAM. Nevertheless, it needs to be overcome, but you should find that the more you write, the easier it will get.
Writing to a structure
The format in which you present your competencies is not proscribed. However, the assessor will use the elements of the competency, as described under Competency requirement in 'Diploma competencies in detail' on the website, as criteria against which your competency will be judged. You will make the process easier for them and for yourself, and therefore less effortful and more likely to succeed if you use these elements/criteria as a structure for presenting your competency. It is also a good checklist for you, to make sure you have not missed anything relevant. You may write up your competency in a different way, but it may then be more difficult to identify the required competencies.
Your submission needs to be reflective and demonstrate a level of knowledge and understanding of appropriate theory. Therefore your account should not simply be an action log of ‘I did X’ and ‘I did Y‘. You need to outline the situation, identify some theory that is relevant to the situation, then say what you did/how you responded and show why that was an appropriate thing to do (or inappropriate) in relation to the theory you have chosen to cite.
You can shorten your explanation/description of your competency if you can send some ‘evidence’ with it. That may be a pre-existing example of your work that demonstrates competency, e.g. if the competency is Customer plan - Analysis and interpretation of data; Production of plan; and Plan presentation, then if you can send in an actual plan, it may itself demonstrate large parts of that competency. Similarly, other competencies may be supported by, e.g. maps of customer decision making units, presentations, spreadsheets etc, provided you produced them. (NB All material will be kept confidential to selected AKAM Board members/assessors and deleted after evaluation.) Proof of having completed an appropriate training course to a satisfactory level can also be used as evidence.
If you do not have competency in a certain area because it has not been part of your job, don't make it up, the pass mark is not 100%.
If you acted inappropriately (i.e. incompetently) in a particular situation, you can still claim competency in that area if you now understand what you should have done differently and why, and can explain that.
Don't underestimate the value of good theory: besides, you would not expect a serious qualification in any profession to be gained without any knowledge of underlying theory. Incorporating theory into your submission involves selecting a relevant concept, model or principle. If you have not received any training in KAM and related areas you will need to do some reading. You will find a lot of what you need in broad-based KAM books, marketing textbooks (marketing to a segment of one company) and organisational structure and behaviour textbooks. Some other books and papers are listed in 'Diploma competencies in detail' on the website. You should not just ‘cut and paste’ an author’s quote into your competency evidence, and you don’t need a long explanation in your text – you do not have to teach the assessor what you are talking about – but you do need to link the concept with your work and show how it has been understood and applied.
Using the AKAM briefing
We think we have been as clear as possible in describing the components of each competency in 'Diploma competencies in detail' on the website. In addition to the competency elements/criteria, that page contains advisory notes to help you think about how to write up your competency - they are not sections you need to include specifically.
- Rationale: gives you some background on why this competency is important in KAM.
- Examples of relevant theory: is by no means exhaustive, but does give a few theoretical concepts you could incorporate in your submission.
- Evidence: the general nature of evidence is described above in ‘Demonstrating competency’. In addition, ‘Diploma competencies in detail’ contains some suggestions on what kind of evidence might be relevant to each competency – again, these are thought starters, not an exclusive list.
- Some sources: by no means exhaustive and currently mostly in English, but gives you an idea of where to look.
Support to get started
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to register as a Diploma applicant and ask any questions you may have about the process. AKAM will provide you with a tutor/mentor for your first competency as part of your registration fee (see below), to guide you through the process of getting your account of your competency down on paper, and that may include hints and tips on how to express yourself in writing. You choose the competency for which you will get the support: it is a good idea to choose one of your strengths to start with while you are learning the approach, as it is better to take on any you may find more difficult when you are familiar with the process.
When complete, this competency should be submitted to AKAM and assessed, to make sure that everyone is agreed that you know how to proceed with the rest.
Continuing to completion
After that, we advise you to write up one competency at a time, rather than tackling several simultaneously, but it’s up to you how you go about it. There are 5 activity areas broken down into 13 competencies in total (see below), from which you are asked to submit 12, i.e. you can drop one of your choice. That may be an area in which you have not had the opportunity to gain competency, or where you would have more difficulty in demonstrating your competency.
It’s also for you to decide whether you feel clear about how to write up the rest of the competencies on your own or, if you would like some on-going support through the process, you can work with a mentor. You can choose someone you know who understands KAM well, but you should still make sure that they are fully acquainted with the criteria and process as described on the website in order to guide you through the process. If you do not know anyone suitable, AKAM can provide you with a choice of experts with appropriate qualifications and/or experience who could help you, probably via email and telephone feedback. AKAM will recommend an appropriate rate for this work, but the arrangement will be made direct between you and the tutor, and neither of you are bound by these rates.
- Up to 6 hours of mentor support: €450. Further mentor support, in blocks of up to 3 hours: €225.
When you have completed a submission, please get it signed by someone who knows your work, who may or may not be your line manager, just to say it is substantially true, i.e. not a pack of lies, rather like witnessing a signature. They are not being asked to judge your competency, so no special training or briefing is required.
Submitting your competencies
You can submit your remaining 11 competencies all together, or in two tranches (although there is a slightly higher cost for that). You may prefer to do that if, for example, you have completed half of more but then have a significant pause before you can complete the others, but you can just keep them until you have them all.
You should send your submissions to email@example.com with a file name for each competency that includes your name and the competency title. As far as possible, include any additional pieces of evidence as appendices in the same documents, or otherwise make sure they are clearly named to identify the competency to which they belong. If you wish to post any other material, email firstname.lastname@example.org first to check which address is appropriate.
You may submit other documents, e.g. key account plans, internal reports, other material used in a key account relationship, as part of your evidence. If you have attended a course and are claiming that your attendance and consequent activities required as part of the coursework are part of your evidence, you should submit course documentation (e.g. presentations, handouts, assignment briefings) together with the signature of the course tutor or your line manager to confirm that you attended the course and successfully completed the required tasks.
AKAM will appoint an assessor who will agree whether or not your evidence fulfils the requirements for passing each competency area. If the evidence of the level of knowledge is judged insufficient, the candidate will receive an indication of what is lacking and will be allowed to resubmit at a later date. Finally, you must pass 12 of the 13 competencies.
Before the qualification is awarded, you will also be asked to participate in a ‘viva’ (oral conversation) conducted over the internet by two members of the AKAM Board. It may cover any of the competencies you have submitted, and will also check that you are the originator of the evidence you have offered.
The Diploma will not be graded: you are only required to pass. Your name will then be entered into the AKAM register of qualified key account managers, and you will receive a Diploma certificate listing the competencies you have passed, signed by the Chairman of AKAM.
Including mentoring to completion of 1st competency €150
Complete submission of further 11 competencies: €850
Minimum further 5 competencies: €550
To submit remaining competencies, further: €500
Competencies not passed on first submission, 1/2: €250
6 or more: €600
AKAM Key Account Manager Diploma competencies
See ‘Diploma competencies in detail’ for further information.
1. Business and customer understanding
1.D.1 Knowledge of own company
1.D.2 Customer organisation
1.D.3 Customer plan
2. Sales and business development
2.D.1 Product/service and application knowledge
2.D.3 Business development
3. General management and business acumen
3.D.1 IT and system/process literacy
3.D.2 Costing and pricing
4. Organisational effectiveness
4.D.1 Personal organisation
4.D.3 Customer plan implementation
5. Relationships and interaction
5.D.1 Customer relationships
5.D.2 Internal relationships