Key Account Manager – Tasks, Roles and Skills
The key account manager takes on the role of a supervisor, an advisor and a permanent point of contact. In times of ever-increasing competitive pressure, key customers are central to a company’s economic strength and future viability. This makes it all the more important that these customers receive expert attention. This is what key account managers do. All the more reason, then, to take a closer look at this job. Who is suitable for the key account manager’s many tasks? What kind of know-how does a key account manager need? And why do they have such an impact on key accounts? In this article you will find answers to all related questions.
What is Key Account Management?
Key Account Managers (KAM) are responsible for looking after the most important customers. These “key accounts” are usually the ones that generate the most revenue for a company. Key accounts play an even bigger role in the B2B sector. This means that a few customers can make and break a company.
Key account managers contribute to customer loyalty by providing targeted support to key customers. They manage complaints, maintain regular and close contact with these customers and accept improvement requests.
As a rule, key account management is a subdivision of the sales and marketing department. Frequently, this area is further segmented into territories, countries or regions.
For example, key account managers may manage several accounts in one country. In a way, key account managers represent the interests of customers within the company. As such, they are an important interface with all other areas of the company such as logistics, marketing and management.
The most important tasks of a key account manager
Key Account Managers perform classic sales tasks such as:
- Contacting customers
- Preparing offers.
However, the work of a key account manager goes far beyond this. Ultimately, the key account manager’s main task is to align the interests of the most important customers with the interests of the management or the company. The aim is to keep key customers happy and to generate revenue for the company.
Key account management is not about offering standard products or services to many customers. Rather, key account managers must work with top customers to develop possible solutions or strategies for their business. For example, key account managers can take a proactive approach by highlighting potential opportunities for their customers that can help their business move forward.
To keep support at a high level, regular communication within key account management is necessary. Visiting customers or inviting them to discuss new ideas is one of the tasks of KAM.
It is also part of the key account management process to attract new potential customers. As opposed to traditional sales or marketing, KAM is primarily concerned with acquiring new key customers.
In order to provide the best possible advice to customers, a comprehensive knowledge of the relevant markets, products and industries is required. An important task of the key account manager is therefore continuous training. KAMs should be aware of customer and market needs and have a thorough knowledge of their own company’s products.
Finally, key account managers also perform important strategic tasks. They develop possible market strategies or analyse sales trends to identify new approaches to customer care.
What are the core skills of a key account manager?
Key account managers are challenged in many different ways on a daily basis. On a professional level, in-depth business knowledge is important, but so is knowledge of psychology or marketing.
Soft skills such as flexibility, empathy and strategic thinking are essential. KAMs should also be able to act with a high degree of autonomy. Especially when dealing with international key accounts, intercultural competence is essential. The same goes for foreign language skills.
The path to becoming a key account manager
There is no typical training or degree for key account management. Candidates for this role often have a degree in business or industrial engineering. However, it is also possible to start with a commercial apprenticeship as well as a business degree. Because of the variety of tasks involved, it is also possible to enter the profession with a degree in psychology or the humanities.
However, if you want to work with key accounts, you will need work experience. Candidates for such roles can gain this experience in account management or on the sales team.
How much does a key account manager earn?
Your salary as a key account manager will depend largely on the industry in which you work. In the food industry, for example, you will earn significantly less than in the highly specialised engineering sector.
Your education also plays a role in determining your salary. Business and sales engineers with technical expertise can expect to earn more than more general business graduates. The average entry-level salary, excluding bonuses, is around €41,000 gross per year.