There are a variety of competency models available, each one with its unique approach, I suggest you do your homework and select the one most appropriate to the expectations and challenges of your Key Accounts. The TopGrading approach starts as many others with a list of core competencies required for successful Key Account Management. The list in table 1 is one version of a Key Account Manager Competency profile.


Key Account Management


Table 1


Review the table above and ask yourself the following questions about your Key Account Managers (KAM).


Does the Key Account Manager:


  • Meet with the customers top decision makers?
  • Always know what the competitors are trying to do within the key account and appreciate the competitors may be better in some areas?
  • Set realistic goals?
  • Handle the stress of last minutes changes well?
  • Know the customer’s business as well as they do?
  • Assist the customers in areas unrelated to your business?
  • Bend the rules only to support the customer: this is the forgiveness over permission rep?
  • Consistently communicate the value the company provides the customer?
  • Usually the first in and last to leave the office?


Answering “yes” to the above questions is a great start.


We’ve outlined some competencies of the ideal Key Account Managers and answered some questions on whether I currently have the right Key Account Managers.  The next question is how do I flush out the ones I want to hire or move into the position?


Assuming you’ve determined the fundamentals of the ideal candidate: years of experience, education, industry or technical ability & knowledge, leveraging the Topgrading or similar type approach, let’s flush out our top 5.


Sure you could go down the traditional route and use interview questions like “tell us about a time when you had to sell up an organizations hierarchy” but does that really help you understand how they would react or handle a specific situation?


We recommend an in-depth scenario based interview process combined with a sample project analysis.


This approach would involve anywhere from 16 to 28 scenarios related to each of the competencies in table 1 with 3-4 questions per scenario. We would then evaluate the response based on the key requirements and completeness of the response while benchmarking them against a peer group.


In addition, we would include a sample project to determine actual ability with regard to a potential key account. Is it timing consuming? Absolutely, is it thorough and yield only the best Key Account Managers, no question. Refer to Talent Management for details on the cost of a mis-hire estimated at 3.7 – 9.3X total compensation. Now ask yourself the question; can I really afford not to invest the time and effort?


The Key Account Management program is beginning to take shape; we have our “A” player Key Account Manager candidates. How will we compensate them in order to drive the desired behavior? In my next post we’ll discuss Key Account Management and the Compensation that drives optimum Key Account Manager Behavior.


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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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