2nd November 2017, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland

Response to AKAM’s 1st Annual Conference was overwhelmingly positive - so much so that 95% of delegates would attend another AKAM meeting (74% definitely and 21% probably)! Fifty delegates, split almost equally between key account managers and KAM programme directors and others, listened to practitioners and academic/expert speakers sharing their experience of KAM in different companies, and learned more about the principles and tools that underpin practice. Half the delegates were already members, and 90% of the other half said they were likely to join AKAM after the day!

Rainer Schroeder, Global Account Manager ABB Semiconductors (based in Germany), insisted that a ‘lone wolf’ approach to the KAM job is bound to fail in a complex environment. The Global Account Manager, as director of the orchestra, must be able to form a virtual team to work with him/her and be very specific on the contribution and tasks expected from each team member. In return, all team members must be treated as equals and receive a regular flow of information.

 Many industrial firms have moved from products to offering bundled products and services, redefining the notion of     customer value, which is no longer about fulfilling predefined needs but exploring issues with the customer and  defining the best answer. Professor Jakob Rehme (Linköping University, Sweden) explained how this approach requires a major change in terms of Account and Key Account Management, from selling to collaboration. He also demonstrated how compliance with sustainability-related criteria has become a key component of how the buying company evaluates the solutions acquired from suppliers.

AKAM has made great strides forward during 2017. The AKAM website now has a unique body of resources to support members seeking timely help with their KAM initiatives. Richard Ilsley, AKAM Board Member, described the growing AKAM network, progress with the AKAM Diploma, and launched the Key Account Managers of the Year Awards (large companies and SMEs). Conor O’Maley, Regional VP SMB at SalesForce in Ireland, presented the framework of processes, tools and behaviours used to manage their sales team. Their Account Management is based on combining a high focus on sales and a good customer experience to generate the customer’s loyalty. He focused on sales management and sales efficiency which, although they are not the critical issues in KAM, was still of great interest to delegates.

Feedback from the March meeting requested a session on KAM frameworks and processes, presented here by Diana Woodburn, AKAM Chairman. She offered wide range of devices, most of which act first as diagnostics and then as decision-support tools and management action guides that convert into processes. Frameworks demonstrated included customer selection/categorisation, through risk assessment to key account prioritisation processes.

At Dublin Airport KAM is driven not by single Key Account Managers but by a team of Key Account Managers, each of them being an expert of his/her field and coordinating a complex set of interactions with their counterparts on the airline side. Edel Redmond, Head of B2B Marketing, emphasised the importance of clarity in roles and tasks as well as efficient sharing of information, based on simple processes and tools. Dublin Airport’s engagement with airlines to develop new routes and grow traffic has a major impact on the local economy.

For Marco Reijntjens from Tenacity Europe in the Netherlands value lies at the centre of retention in service businesses. As services are intangible, their value depends more on the customer’s perception than does the value of products. The perception of value erodes with time unless the supplier is very vigilant in creatively renewing it the eyes of their customer. A change of key personnel in the customer can represent a danger point, and suppliers need to work rapidly to establish their future value as well as their current offer – failure at this stage has proved painful for some companies!

Delegates gave us a rich list of KAM topics they'd like AKAM to address, so we have plenty to work on at future meetings.

Olivier Rivière, Deputy Chairman