Your Key Account Program is essential to your company’s success. It’s an important component of your sales effort and your sales strategy. But is this program meeting your expectations – or is it really a profitability drain?


One of the ways Key Accounts Programs can drain profits is through over-resourcing. Though this tactic can sometimes be fruitful, sales leaders need to think it through. Overspending on the wrong accounts can quickly undercut profitability.


Now is the time to review your Key Accounts Program with your sales leads. Consider these three questions to ensure it’s a profitability enhancer rather than a leech.


Question 1: What are the right accounts to have in my Key Accounts Program?

Your biggest accounts are not necessarily your key accounts. The next best opportunity might be an account you aren’t focused on right now. Selecting the right accounts for your program is critical.


Don’t make the mistake of looking at past growth as a sole indicator. 

Of the companies on the first Fortune 500 list, only 71 of them exist today. The business landscape is always changing – and so will key account opportunities!


So how do you predict the next client to experience growth? Look at:


  • Industry data. Consider the growth of industry segments and sub-segments.
  • Revenue growth trajectory. Review the information provided by the company, such as expected growth and profits.
  • Changes in capital structure. For example, is the company about to get an infusion of private equity investment?
  • Transformation. Consider the revolution of the company’s go-to-market approach. Is the company moving away from a legacy system? Are they taking a fresh approach with their brand?


Also consider your ROI (return on investment) for over-resourcing key accounts. What has your ROI been for overspending on these accounts? Look closely. Have you seen a growth in profit from overspending?


View your Key Accounts Program from a long-term perspective. Select companies that are showing positive trends, and be cautious with over-resourcing.


Question 2: What is the process for engaging with my key accounts?

A mistake many companies make is always giving key accounts the best resources. Often key accounts are given the best reps and the best discounts. It may sound counterintuitive, but this is not always a smart approach.


Instead of throwing your best resources at a key account, consider what they actually need. Build your Key Account Program around what the customer values. Are they more concerned with getting the biggest discount, or getting on-time delivery? Having the sharpest sales rep, or the most proactive customer service rep?


Encourage your sales leads to employ the “give/get” process. Have them go to key accounts with a win/win offer. E.g.: Your company offers a price discount in exchange for the first opportunity to bid. This, of course, is easier to do once you understand what the accounts really want.


Then look closely at the investment versus the return. What is the cost of your Key Accounts Program? Does the incremental revenue balance out that cost? Do you really see considerable ROI when you allocate your best resources to an account?


Question 3: How do we hold each other accountable for growing relationships and keeping the program profitable?


A strong Key Accounts Program can take time to build. Keeping everyone accountable through the long process is crucial to maintaining momentum.


In SBI’s Key Account Management Program,


  • We help you set account quotas based on potential spend
  • We provide a mobile app to improve productivity through real-time collaboration
  • We help you institute an incentive compensation plan to inspire higher performance


This may be a good place for you to start creating an effective accountability program.


To learn more about how we help, check out SBI’s Key Account Management case study.




Aaron Bartels

Helps clients solve the most difficult challenges standing in the way of making their number.

He founded Sales Benchmark Index (SBI) with Greg Alexander and Mike Drapeau to help business to business (B2B) leaders make the number. The world’s most respected companies have put their trust in and hired SBI. SBI uses the benchmarking method to accelerate their rate of revenue growth. As an execution based firm, SBI drives field adoption and business results.

His clients describe him as a consultant who:


“Makes transformational impacts on me, my people and my business”


“Solves my most difficult problems that to date we have been unable to solve ourselves”


“Brings clarity to an environment of chaos”


“Has real world sales operations experience making him qualified to advise us on a variety of sales and marketing challenges”


“Is able to spot proven best practices that once implemented will make a material impact on my business”


“Constantly challenges status quo and compels us to act”


“Focuses on execution and driving change to stick in our environment”


“Makes good on his promises while enabling our business to realize his projected results”

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