27 May Is your KAM Training approach strong enough?
When starting a new KAM/GAM Programme or revamping an existing one, Training is a topic that immediately draws attention as it is a key instrument to allow an organisation to build and mature its KAM practice in order execute on its KAM Strategy.
This post is the first of a series of three dedicated to KAM skills development at each development stage of your KAM initiative. In this first part, we expose 5 guiding principles to set a solid framework for the KAM training. In a second post, we will focus on the KAM Training Path and in a third post on how to ensure a high-impact delivery.
1. Training needs and goals depend on the maturity of KAM in your company
There is nothing such as a unique starting point for KAM Training and identifying very clearly the one or those that are relevant to you is crucial. The parameter to consider first is the state of development of your KAM initiative.
If your KAM initiative is in its infancy, you are probably facing the following needs in a chronological order:
- Explore the matter before starting the design of a KAM Programme
- Train the key people chartered to design the KAM Initiative (KAM Programme Director/Manager and team)
- Deliver an initial training to the first Key Account Managers and Teams
If, on the contrary, your company already has some experience with KAM, the potential training needs are somewhat different and can be summarized as follows;
- Deepen the training on KAM to existing Key Account Managers and their teams
- Deliver initial training to newly appointed Key Account Managers and Key Account Teams members
- Further develop and sharpen a well- functioning Programme
- Improve an ailing Programme the outcome of which is disappointing
When starting with KAM, you want to equip the involved persons with the initial knowledge that enables them to start their “KAM-related” work. If, on the contrary, your company has a well-established KAM practice, your first goal with training is to set a standard by equipping KA Managers and their teams with a common foundation and your second goal is to support the skills development of people involved in KAM. Between these two cases, you can find a spectrum of situations that will influence your approach to KAM training.
2. A KAM Training with no links to the organisation’s methodology is a doomed initiative
In a previous post, I have discussed the Charybdis and Scylla of KAM; the excess and the lack of methodology. This also applies to KAM training & skills development: without a clear and flexible KAM methodology, fully-customised for a company’s business, training will have a low and short-lived impact. The only exception to this is, as mentioned earlier in this article, the situation of an initial education on KAM to help the people chartered to develop the company’s programme.
Since I have been a consultant with a focus on complex sales and KAM, most of my customers, large or small, have been companies who had previously invested in a standard KAM training delivered by some prestigious – and often expensive – training institution. In almost all cases, the training was not linked to the company’s own KAM methodogy. In many cases, the organisation hadn’t even defined one. All in all, despite having used a significant level of resources, the true impact of the training remained limited. Worse, in many cases, the Key Account Managers who had attended these trainings became quite frustrated of seing their company’s taking a quite inefficient approach to KAM. Paying for a standard class and not embedding this into building the right KAM Infrastructure is one more element that leads to a dysfunctional KAM Programme, a tower built on sand.
3. KAM skills development is required not only for Key Account Managers
I remember a very successful global medium-size industrial company who has appointed a few Global Account Managers chartered to manage the most strategic customers. Each of these Global Account Manager has been sent to a 5-days KAM Training delivered by a prestigious Institution. They were all positive on this training which opened their eyes and enabled them to explore the matter further on their own. At the same time they were very frustrated that their company has neither defined a KAM Methodology (the point discussed above in this article) nor thought on training other populations such as the Top Management in the Regions, Sales Reps and Technical Specialists operating on the Global Accounts and as selected key members of other support functions.
Unfortunately, this perception that only the Key Account Managers should be trained on KAM is almost the norm. On the contrary, as implementing KAM means driving a significant change within the organisation, it appears quite logical to train a broader audience than a few Key or Global Account Managers. Of course the training needs vary with the audience: not everybody should receive a full KAM training intended for Key Account Managers and training requirements must be adressed in a realistic and cost-effective way. This does not mean they should be ignored.
4. A good KAM Training is fully customised to your company’s context
The initial education on KAM for the people chartered to design the KAM Programme must be broad. It can combine reading, attending conferences, attending a general KAM class, visiting experienced KAM Program Directors at other companies as well as being mentored and helped by a seasoned practitioner.
Apart from this initial situation, most of the KAM Training must be customised to the company’s context. It is a matter of efficiency, obtaining the expected impact, as well as a matter of effectiveness, optimising the budget and time required to achieve this impact. This does not exclude the possibility to give to participants a broader view on the topic of KAM with examples from other industries, but the training still must reflect and leverage the company’s environment, methodology and toolset.
5. Without reinforcement, training is useless
It is now well recognized that adults acquire new skills mostly by doing. In addition, learning is one thing, practicing is another one, and reaching proficiency only comes through a sustained practice. This is well expressed by the “rule” that acquiring new skills comes from 10% of learning, 20% of on-the-job coaching and 70% from practicing. This applies very well to KAM because it is a complex area which requires a very broad skills set. This means that, whatever its quality, a KAM training is only an initial impulsion which much be complemented with reinforcement activities starting with on-the-job coaching, individual or collective.
As the emblematic example, on-the-job coaching to Key Account Managers helps them take ownership of their organisation’s KAM Methodology and tool set according to their personal style and to the specific situations encountered on their Accounts. My own experience coaching Key and Global Account Managers across various industries and countries always was that the path towards KAM proficiency varies a lot according to individuals. Therefore coaching is the best approach to accompany the Key Account Managers or some other key contributors. Coaching can also be used collectively to help a team find new solutions to an internal or external problem related to KAM.
Last but by far not least, mentoring and peer-learning are also very efficient to help people change their view on complex issues and find new ways to handle them. These are interesting instruments to help handle the ambiguous and tense situations often associated to Key and Global Account Management.