Key Account Management–Selling Successfully with Strategy

Laura Piana
Communication and interaction skills

If your customers feel well looked after, they will remain loyal to your company in the long term. How does it work? With strategic sales (key account management)! In the following we will tell you what it's all about, what goals you can achieve with it, how it differs from operational sales and why it offers great advantages in the age of new work!

Definition: What does "key account management" actually mean?

Strategic sales–key account management–is a subsection of customer management. The task of the key account manager is to deal intensively and exclusively with those customers who make a particularly large contribution to a company's earnings. In order to decide which customers these are, factors such as sales and profits, sales potential, relationships of the clientele to other potential customers or companies, and position on the market are examined more closely. Key account managers manage the systematic development of a strategic partnership with these key accounts.

Advantages of strategic sales

Good strategic support gives your company a competitive edge, facilitates long-term customer loyalty, and maximizes value creation for both partners. So it's not just about making a big one-time deal, but about building a positive and preferably long-term relationship with key customers. That leads to generating revenue with much less effort compared to acquiring new customers. You should therefore show interest in your customers and your relationship with them in every stage of customer contact, listen to them carefully, be open to their wishes and suggestions, and occasionally treat them to something nice. You can learn more about how to build sustainable and good relationships with your customers in our e⁠-⁠training "Building Relationships in Sales".

Tasks of a key account manager

  • Key account management involves various sub-steps:

  • Identifying and analyzing regular customers

  • Planing a strategic partnership

  • Deriving strategy

  • Defining products, services and considerations

  • Determining the necessary tasks and internal support

  • Defining the roll-out strategy

  • Controlling

Strategic vs. operational approach–what is the difference?

In sales, a distinction is made between a strategic and an operational approach. Both areas involve different tasks and also differ in their objectives. Operational sales is about keeping the day-to-day business running–recruiting customers, conducting and evaluating customer meetings, and handling customer inquiries and complaints in a timely manner. The focus is therefore on classic sales measures. The main focus here is on short-term customer service. Strategic sales, or key account management, on the other hand, focuses on long-term customer care and customer loyalty. Planning, conscious coordination and good organization are therefore essential for strategic sales.

While talent and the right gut feeling are the most important factors in operational sales, a targeted approach is required on the strategic level: a systematic strategy. Strategic partnerships require specific planning on how to build an intense personal relationship. Customers and suppliers regularly exchange information or carry out joint projects in research, development and/or marketing. Both partners invest a lot and are interested in achieving a lot together.

Efficient planning is key

The two key questions in key account management are:

  1. Which customers should you focus on because you can expect high returns?

  2. How can you optimize your sales approach so that all expensive, time-consuming and personnel-intensive efforts are reduced or, ideally, avoided altogether?

Key account management is all about being strategic as well as effective and efficient. What does that mean in concrete terms? You should think carefully about how you can achieve the desired goal as quickly as possible and with the least amount of material and personnel, and with which customers this goal is realistic. In this way, you can decide for which customers a lean partnership with low support effort is sufficient and which customers you would like to develop strategically instead because they offer promising potential for your company.

Strategic sales–a decisive competitive advantage in times of new work

Strategic selling helps you meet the challenges of the modern workplace with confidence. Many factors in today's work life are becoming increasingly complex, uncertain and multi-layered. For example, many decisions involve many different people–because there are different locations and each location has a representative who makes decisions for that location. Tactically astute and deliberate action, as is the case in strategic sales, is therefore becoming increasingly important: In fact, it allows you to get an overview of all the critical people and get to know the entire buyer center that you should address so that you really have all the relevant people on board.

Having the focus on the customer is also typical in our modern working world. Keywords: "Customer centricity" Customers usually also prefer having a single contact person who handles the purchase, is responsible for their well-being and is happy to help with any problems. You can ensure this, too, by taking a strategic approach. After all, the focus of key account management is on a strong customer orientation and a spirit of partnership. So, you should always listen to your customers and ask them questions to find out more about what is important to them and what information, products or contacts you can support them with.

Investing strategically and wisely in the right customers

Let's summarize: Key account management is an important sales concept that contributes significantly to the success of a company. With the help of a strategic approach, you can identify and consciously develop precisely those existing customers who promise high sales. Subsequently, these customers should receive special service and attention. Learn more about key account management and which methods and techniques can help you identify and analyze your regular customers and retain them in the long term in our three e⁠-⁠trainings on strategic selling:

Strategic Sales—Basics of Strategic Sales

Strategic Sales—Strategic Customer Development

Strategic Sales—Building Relationships

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