The questions are:

  • How are your resources aligned?
  • Are they the right resources?
  • Are you single threaded within the account?


When it comes to KAM & GAM, most of the companies competing for the business offer good products and services, so what is the difference maker?  It’s not only the people within the account team but the depth and breadth of the client relations.


The common mistake made by most companies is that after the initial sale the level of resource involvement tails off.  The “key” to any key account program is developing and maintaining the relationships long after the initial engagement.


Some may say “thank you for stating the obvious”, others may say, “why do I care I’m not incented to go beyond the initial product or solution offer”.  Let’s face it the traditional bow-tie relationship (figure 1) is simple, provides a high level of control and typically creates no surprises between the buyer and seller points of contact.


The following are just 6 reasons the traditional bow-tie approach fails or does not yield the value planned for from the Key Account:


  1. No penetration of the account beyond the initial contact or no depth & breadth
  2. Limited account or client business understanding
  3. Limited solution selling opportunities (both sides: customer doesn’t know you offer other products & services and therefore the seller is unaware of the additional prospects within the account)
  4. Heavily reliant on 2 individuals
  5. Leaves the door wide open to competitors
  6. With the limited penetration into the account the likelihood of a large complex sale is slim to none


Key Account Management Bow-Tie Resource Approach


Figure 1 The bow-tie relationship

Adapted from Cheverton, P: Global Account Management and McDonald M, Millman, AF, and Rogers, B: Key Account Management: Learning from the supplier and customer perspectives


The solution to the traditional bow-tie approach is the cross functional team matching buyer & seller resources (expert to expert), educating, learning and understanding (Diamond Relationship: figure 2) the value each party provides. The result; you’re viewed as a “problem solver”, developing “trust” and considered part of the team not an outsider:


Key Account Management Diamond Approach


Figure 2 The diamond relationship

Adapted from Cheverton, P: Global Account Management and McDonald M, Millman, AF, and Rogers, B: Key Account Management: Learning from the supplier and customer perspectives


The 4 success criteria of the Diamond Relationship are:


  1. Research: do your homework, know the customers business better than your own
  2. Patience: these success stories take time, they will have their ups and down, don’t panic
  3. Relationship map: a matrix of key contacts within the account aligned with their peer within your company
  4. Teamwork: groups or key account teams of 3 (“A” Players) and greater, all rowing in the same direction.


Some may say you know when you’ve arrived when the teams on both sides understand their roles, purpose, requirements, and the program plan. From a seller perspective you know you’ve arrived when you’re invited to internal meetings by the buyer involving annual planning, strategic direction or meetings slightly outside of your core but where the client believes you can add value or at a minimum wants your opinion.


So we are developing our key account diamond approach, aligning resources, and getting invites to meetings outside my core competency, how do I measure the success of the relationship? In my next post I will discuss the details of the key account score card.


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John Staples

Leads teams of highly qualified experts, all relentless in their pursuit of helping you make your number.

John is the global leader of SBI’s account management business unit. As such, he and his team help clients across 19 verticals drive top line growth and operational efficiency in sales and marketing.


John’s marketing, sales and product expertise span a multichannel strategic approach. He has an unyielding focus on strategic and key account development, which enables strategic alignment between all functional team members in order to reduce acquisition cost and increase lifetime value.


His broad experience in sales, marketing, product and engineering allows him to bring a unique problem solving approach to his team and clients. As he has discovered through decades of experience, clients are often distracted by the symptoms of a larger problem and overlook the root cause of it.


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