Many of my midmarket industrial clients are beginning to implement key account programs for their larger clients. They want me to help identify the best target key accounts and, as importantly, who should lead the pilot efforts. I partner with them to identify the best people to be their key account executives.
These organizations range in size from $100 to 400 million in annual revenue. Many are marketing and selling in industrial markets. Their key accounts could be generating between $10-25 million in annual revenue. A mistake here could cripple, if not kill, my clients’ business. Therefore, many of these companies have not attempted to develop key account programs in the past.
To increase their odds of success, here’s what I have clients and partners look for in key account executives. This selection process is rigorous, comprehensive, and based on many different key account programs I’ve seen successfully work over the past 25 years. I believe there are several differences is how you succeed in middle market key account management.
Choosing key account executives is something I have a lot of experience in. I’ve been a successful key account executive, serving Fortune 100 clients in several leading midmarket companies. I’ve also recruited and coached key and strategic account managers for many of the world’s most successful manufacturing and emerging technology organizations. I understand what it takes to succeed with key accounts.
I’ve identified several key strengths you want to have in your key account executive. Interestingly, these skills are also found in the most successful entrepreneurs. This shouldn’t surprise you. Key account programs are more like running a business than being a senior sales leader. This fact surprises many of my clients, but once they see the system we are implementing, they begin to understand why. All of these strengths are coachable.
The first strength successful key account executives have is they can see the big picture. They are very effective at helping others see it as well. This is critical because, implemented correctly, key account programs transform both you and your client’s business.
The second strength successful key account executives have is they are creative in how they solve problems within their accounts. Almost every key account executive I know is creative in how they achieve their long-term goals and objectives. Many times, the problem they face is as much with their own team and leaders as with the client. Many senior executives can be very controlling in how they manage their businesses.
The third strength successful key account executives have is they are very emotionally intelligent. They know themselves and they understand their client’s needs. Frequently, better than the client. Emotionally intelligent leaders are intuitive. They understand how to bring out the best in others through understanding how to influence and delegate to the right people at the right time in the right way. This skill can be developed through coaching and developing better decision-making skills.
The fourth strength successful key account executives have is they are not always linear in how they work. They are masters of seizing momentum and new opportunities. This requires significant trust between team members from both organizations. It’s critical that the key account executive is nurturing relationships with all the stakeholders in their team. These team leaders must connect the dots so others can see how they came to their conclusions.
The fifth strength successful key account executives have is they are very good at motivating others to take the best actions for the key account teams. This means they are very good at telling a story or sharing an idea that is accepted and implemented by their team members. It is critical that successful key account executives create a key account strategy for the members of their teams. Every team member is responsible for implementing this strategy successfully.
Finally, its critical for successful key account executives to have a proven framework and implementation strategy while rolling out the new key account program. Next week, we discuss how to build it so they will come. Just kidding, we share several strategic ground rules you’ll want to know when your rolling out your key account management programs.
See you next week.