8th February, 2018, Amsterdam, hosted by the Netherlands Sales Management Association

Professor George Yip

GAM has been around for three decades. For 30 years, large global vendors have been keen to develop privileged relationships with global customers, based on the promise to seamlessly deliver a similar offer and experience across the globe. Professor George Yip of Imperial College London, one of the first GAM 'explorers', pointed out that although the definition of GAM can appear quite simple, engineering and implementing Global Account Management bears a lot of challenges, which are mostly related to the complexity of customer and vendor organisations.

Defining who are the Global Accounts and how many they are, allocating resources, deciding how to best organise the teams involved and how to manage the revenue recognition all of these are matters of debate and require clear decisions, which are never for ever. The history of GAM initiatives driven since the early 90s by large corporations such as IBM, HP, Siemens, Schneider Electric or DHL (and by many others) shows that the practice of GAM evolves and morphs with the global economy, with the evolution of technologies  and with the internal dynamics. Implementing GAM is a long-term play which requires both lasting effort and a high degree of adaptability.

Energetic discussion on the IMI case study

Contrary common belief, GAM is not only for large corporations: it is also very relevant for medium-size businesses, as demonstrated brilliantly by the two other speakers of the day. John Bailey, Head of Global Accounts at Hiab, and Alistair Taylor talking about his experience at IMI both explained how the implementation of GAM became a game changer and transformation factor for their global medium-size businesses.

In his case study of IMI, a manufacturer of mechanical, electronic and hydraulic equipment making an adequate but unexciting return, Alistair Taylor demonstrated how, when coupled with important supply changes, GKAM enabled the company to outperform its sector rivals. A new CEO adopted a set of challenging strategies to tackle how the world had changed since the company's heyday. The strategy was built upon five pillars; expanding the global footprint; developing a global purchasing capability, mergers and acquisitions; innovation and Key/Global Account Management. IMI very rapidly realised the absolute necessity to scale and pace the effort: to be ambitious but also patient and realistic.

Learning about Hiab's global offering

Bitter experience led the company to select global accounts that were customers whose expectations and needs were well in line with IMI's organisational and investment capabilities - which became a highly successful approach. 'Pilot rather than dive in ... and don't get into what you can't get out of' was one of Alistair's clearest messages!

Discussion groups dug into interesting questions on investment requirements for GAM relationships; competitor responses (often overlooked); and success defining skills for Global Account Managers, and came up with some unexpected and creative answers!

Hiab has a global manufacturing presence and serves customers across the globe. The company offers a broad range of on-road loading equipment and has achieved strong positions in its target market segments. Despite this, like in many other markets, the danger of commoditisation is very real, so in 2014 GKAM was introduced to counter the threat. The original focus was regional Key Accounts, extended to Global Accounts in 2015. Early wins and clearly strengthened relationships with a few carefully selected customers helped drive a broader acceptance of the initiative, past some initial internal reservations. 2016 and 2017 were years of acceleration and deepening of the initiative and, with the most engaged Global Key Accounts, the company was able to shift its positioning from product vendor to solution provider.

The maturing of the programme led to deeper collaboration across geographies, plus unification of the CRM system and focused effort on the development of GKAM skills also contributed to the consolidation of GAM. So in 2018, the initiative benefits from a strong acceptance within the organisation, as it offers a clear opportunity to grow revenue and profits faster. 

End of session panel discussion

Both John Bailey and Alistair Taylor insisted on the importance of finding the best possible people to drive KAM/GAM; to develop adequate individual and collective skills; and to communicate frequently on the GAM Programme. GAM activities must be driven so that, from the earliest stages, there is a tangible benefit for local organisations.

The challenges are the same for all organisations: patience and persistence are key

The format of the AKAM Conferences and Workshops allows participants to work on questions suggested by the speakers and to share views and experience. The profile, skills and capabilities of good Global Account Managers and the tactics to use to drive acceptance and develop collaboration were discussed in depth and with a lot of passion.

Olivier Rivière, Deputy Chairman, AKAM