The three most critical engagements for key customer success

The term key account management is foreign to some, familiar to most and overused to many. Today its relevance to the shifting perceptions and expectations of our customers has become even more critical. Clients want to have partner relationships. It requires a specific approach for success.

In its almost 40 year history key account management has had many evolutions. Above everything the most important thing to consider about key account management is this.

Without a firm view or mechanism for truly understanding how healthy, profitable and loyal your most important customers are, you will constantly be in threat of handicapping your business growth potential.

Key account management should give you this clarity.

Today the average business has 80% of its revenue tied into less than 10% of its customers. That is a huge risk not to have proper plans in place.

If you speak to many consultants out there they’ll start talking to you about strategy, throwing academic research at you and the need for SWOT analysis.

While all those things are important in their place. Fundamentally, the practice of key account management lies in three areas of engagement with your customers: Relational, Strategic and Tactical engagement.

To have explosive sales and relationship results from your key clients you need to be congruent in all three. They’re all just as important as the other. However, the relational and tactical engagement is what actually drives the relationship forward.

The strategic engagement helps you to know where you’re going. But, no one has really tackled the implications of what they all mean in practice together. To start you off on the journey of thinking about key account management let me explain what I mean by Relational, Strategic and Tactical engagement.

Relational Engagement

Your ability to connect with your clients to reduce risk, raise trust and deepen influence.

Many miss this in account management. We’re told in business we need to build relationships, which is critical to customer success. But what does that actually look like? How will you know things are working? What will you use to build those connections, amplify trust and deepen those relationships important to you? this is what relational engagement is about. The considerations of what your relationship should look like, why and how you get there with your client. Without a focus on this you limit your ability to grow your influence and opportunity.

One core activity: Start with this question in your business: How do we today measure the health, profitability and loyalty of our customers?


Strategic Engagement

Your ability to align yours and your customer’s goals to one or multiple mutually beneficial outcomes.

This can and in most cases is the part most sales professionals and businesses spend the most time on. Making specific account plans, cost/benefit and SWOT analysis etc… It’s also where you’ll set expectations with your client on how you’ll work best together. This includes your business growth goals. It may also include plans on who you’ll make what I call ‘power connections’ with. Connections with key influencers or stakeholders that move yours and your customers strategy forward. Strategic engagement ultimately helps give you a clarity on where to go and where the potential opportunities are for present and future success with your customer.

One core activity: Start with this question in your business: Do we have a current known, understood and agreed map of where we’re going with our most important customers?


Tactical Engagement

Your ability to choose and deliver on the right things to win consistently.

This is the area that probably gets the least amount of time because we often make assumptions for our teams. We believe in our business most if not everyone should know exactly what is needed in terms of activity to get the result you want. This is a big mistake to make. I believe it’s the one critical reason companies experience such low results in productivity with their employees.

Tactical engagement is the culmination of the past two engagements combined. Once you know what kind of relationship you want with your customers, who they want to become, what they want to achieve and the value promise you’ve made.

This next stage should align the rest of your internal departments to support customer success on how you execute growth goal promises for your customer, board and business. If this is not considered carefully and without a clear process for how you execute on strategy. You may still have wins but you’ll have very few business transforming successes. You’ll succumb to what I call R.A.S moments which are Random Acts of Success – ones that can’t be measured or repeated. I want you to have Recurring Acts of Success – ones that can be measured and repeated with your most important customers.


One core activity: Start with this question in your business: What are the weekly activity implications of our strategy that every team needs to do to produce our business and client results?  (this will be learning a skill, specific tasks or conversations etc.


What next?

If you haven’t considered all three areas of engagement today. Now is the time!

How do you start thinking about this? You can check out free content I’ve produced in Slideshare that addresses some of these ideas. I’d encourage you to answer those questions. If when you answer them you do not have answer it might be time to consider a next step.


By Jermaine Edwards


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