CEB research shows that B2B buyers are deeply uncertain with the wealth of data on any solution and an array of stakeholders all involved in the buying decision. Stating “Customers are increasingly overwhelmed and often more paralysed than empowered”.
The sales person must run a complex gauntlet; negotiating each stakeholder relationship in the decision-making unit. There are as many as seven roles in the decision-making unit from the buyer, gatekeeper, user, initiator, influencer, finance and deciders.
The buyers have more power and are only interested in meeting their own needs. So there a disconnect between the hunter ‘self-interest’ and the buyer’s ‘self-interest’. Today’s buyers are not interested in hearing the supplier’s product benefits ‘sell’. Buyers have done their research and know as much about your company as your sales person should know about the buyers need. What they want to know is whether your product solves their specific problem from a trusted adviser.
Sales leaders must adapt to the complexity and enable their team to navigate this changing environment. While the ‘hunter’ sales person is skilled in closing deals, the focus is often on deal quantity and exploration opportunities. The key account manager although viewed as applying softer ‘farmer’ service skills. The key account manager is focused on quality with deep relationships across the customer organisation. These are the skills necessary in a complex sale. However, the skills and attributes of the traditional salesperson are often the opposite of the Key Account Manager.
Research state that the number of stakeholders directly involved in the decision-making process has increased from 5.4 to 6.8. The complexity come with each having a specific driver but collectively they move cautiously wanting to avoid risk and save money. The sales person must develop a relevant relationship with each buyer to secure their trust and close the deal.
Key Account Management is an organisational process for B2B suppliers to manage their important and most valued customer relationships. Key Account Management produces measurable mutual benefits for the supplier and the customer. It is the method of building trust and trust is the glue necessary to make the relationship stick.
The key account manager must think strategically about how they can develop a partnership to better serve the account. They are external champions of the customer, representing their needs in the supplier. Key account managers must understand the customers:
- Corporate strategy, structure and leadership
- Main competitors
- Differentiator and competitive advantages in the market
- Financial performance and forecast
- Relationships and health of their customers
- Partners, influencers, networks and growth relationship
- SWOT, strategic initiatives and operational or tactical challenges
- Political, economic, social, industry and market drivers
- Specific needs from your supplying company to help them achieve their goals
- Existing and future ROI.
The role of Key Account Manager is to know the customer entire company better than the buyer. Each buyer has a specific view of their area of responsibility. It is this overview with the intimate relationships that enables the Key Account Manager to take a trusted leading role to simplify and craft viable solutions.
Unlike the traditional sales methods, Key Account Manager are enabled with strategic information to craft detailed account plans. The Key Account manager encourages the development of innovation to better serve their buyers. So, securing deeper partnerships and creating higher barriers for competitors.
The key account manager is regarded as a trusted strategic resource. Imaging if the sale person was regard so highly by the buyers?
This is the position of a trusted adviser a key supply partner, this is how you scale your sales.