World-class Key Account Managers know that to really be successful, it isn’t enough to manage the customer. Whether they’re in a formal leadership role or not, they influence from the inside out, bringing internal resources on board to inform and align with their customer objectives, programs, and financial investment. Inspiring internal stakeholders to support their plans can be make-or-break, and truly standout KAMs know this.
For many KAMs, though, managing the customer is the easier part. It’s influencing internally that can be tricky. Here’s where to start:
1. Identify your internal influence group – Map out the key stakeholders in your organization that could play a role in creating, approving or implementing your customer plan:
- Who is the ultimate decision-maker when it comes to supporting and investing in your customer plan?
- Who advises and influences the decision-maker?
- Who has the informal ear of the decision-maker?
- Whose perspective is essential in the creation of your customer plan?
- Who is critical to the execution of your customer plan?
- Who could derail it?
2. Define and communicate your customer business case / vision – Take the time to build a compelling case that explains:
- Why is investing in your customer a critical must do?
- What, specifically, do you plan to accomplish with your customer in the next 1 to 3 years?
- How will you get there? What are the specific strategies and plans to get you there?
- So What – what will investment in your customer deliver to the organization? What are the strategic and financial benefits?
- Now What – what do you need each stakeholder to do?
Once you have your vision, communicate it – broadly, consistently and frequently.
3. Influence in the face of distractions – Even with upfront buy-in, there will inevitably be day-to-day distractions and derailers, that pose a risk to your customer plan. Mid-year budget cutbacks, new customer activity, other marketplace news, shifting internal priorities—it’s even more important to keep influencing internally to keep your plan top of mind. When it comes to internal resources, be:
- Empathetic – Seek to understand your new environment and stakeholders’ new motivations. Then show stakeholders how continuing to support your plan aligns with their goals, too.
- Goal-Focused – Remind your stakeholders of your customer business case / vision and highlight the strategic and financial benefits in staying the course.
- Accountable – When the going gets tough, it’s easy to spread blame around. Own it! It is within your control to influence key stakeholders to stick with your customer plan, even when your internal or external environments are changing.
4. Emphasize customer wins – Positive momentum makes more positive momentum. When you get favourable results, celebrate! Acknowledge wins, whether they’re major or more modest. Recognizing shared accomplishments motivates stakeholders to keep playing for your team.
Marshalling internal resources takes real leadership skills. But it can make all the difference when it comes to reaching your targets.