Global Key Account Management in B2B
 
This article has been produced in cooperation with Interim Manger Ralf H. Komor.
 
Basics for a successful implementation of a Global Key Account management strategy in B2B medium-sized businesses.

The second part is fully dedicated to the implementation of a GAM strategy and what needs to be considered. What happened so far: The first part of our Global Key Account Management Strategy dealt with the specific tasks and goals of successful global management.

Based on four criteria, you can see whether an introduction is worthwhile for your own company. You also learned which of your accounts are suitable GAM candidates.

As a short reminder: GAM promotes and intensifies the relationship with your global clients.

Requirements for a successful GAM

As mentioned in part one, the implementation of a GAM program is initially an investment that is quite costly. This fact can be seen in the requirements alone that are necessary for the performance of GAM. For this purpose, it is advisable to conduct a go-to-market analysis. This analysis will help you determine what is required to serve these new industries or customers.

Here are some examples:

– What products or spare parts are needed.
– Which technology do you need.
– Is a specifying design necessary.
– Defining the quality of the products.
– What price level should be applied.
– What sales support measures of any kind (website, white papers, proof-of-concept studies, field reports) do you need?
– Multi-channel marketing.
– Which service partners do you need.
– Prepare a regional or global competitor analysis.
– Do not forget the logistic, and much more!

But that is not all, because a global account manager and the corresponding sales staff should have particularly good sales skills and experience. You can create a specific profile with requirements to find suitable candidates.

However, there is one more thing you should bear in mind: The expectations of a Global Account Manager are far from the old stereotypical definition of a salesperson. In other words, the “lone wolf” or the “rock star” who sells projects all by himself with willpower and eloquence.

Today’s successful salespeople in global customer service are highly talented managers of a team of colleagues. Together they follow an agile process that requires insight and wisdom. They focus on the customer, his needs, not on themselves.

Approach and structuring of GAM

Meeting the above requirements is already a big step in the right direction. However, to be incredibly successful with Global Accounts, four elements are essential. How to ensure a structured approach:

– Knowledge
Get to know your Global Accounts, use your experience to serve customers and build a knowledge base.

– Structure
Organize your team(s) according to the requirements of the Global Account.

– Process
Develop a step-by-step process to arrive at a realistic global account plan for your sales opportunities.

– Vision
Outline a vision for your Global Accounts and keep it alive as long as possible. Strictly follow the implementation of this vision.

Form a strong “Diamond Team.”

The development of a BAM requires teamwork on both the supplier and the customer side. The goal of a global customer relationship should be the successful formation of a Diamond Team.

Such a team consists of close cooperation of different functional areas between the supplier and the customer, as shown in the figure. This constellation can lead to a decisive competitive advantage.

 
Global Account Management Diamond Team
 

As the name suggests, a diamond relationship with a customer is substantial and steady. It is almost impossible to pull them apart in one go. So, this structure ensures a long-term client relationship with important global accounts. However, this is not the only advantage that such a relationship brings:

– You learn more about the real needs of the customer and improve your ability to influence their decisions.

– You become part of the customer’s business and take on tasks that make you irreplaceable.

– You increase your chances of being recognized as a strategically crucial global supplier.

– This creates a competitive atmosphere of mutual ambition.

– Information is shared, and access to people is facilitated. As a result, the price level is stable, and profitability improves.

Of course, there are also some dangers and challenges lurking in the formation of a Diamond Team, which suppliers should be aware of. It is essential that such “partnership teams” are built step by step over time and with caution.

If vendors explosively “jump on the customer”, the customer is likely to react with a defensive attitude, and both will damage their relationship.

The way a Diamond Team is managed should also be well defined. A poorly formed Diamond Team can cause the provider some disasters. It would help if you made sure that all members of the team know precisely what is expected of them and how to deal with the customer.

For example, if a supplier puts uncoordinated eager specialists in front of the customer, unnecessary work will quickly be arise. Projects emerge that solve unprecedented problems, and it quickly becomes costly.

Another factor that is crucial to the success of a Diamond Team is the support of the respective country organizations. A Global Account Manager should, if necessary, be able to delegate specific tasks to a national key account.

Especially when it is not always worthwhile to travel directly to the country. Because everybody knows that travelling means much effort with visa, travel costs, time, and expenses. A relationship based on trust between national and global key accounts is worth its weight in gold.

Many organizations are struggling with an inevitable “rethinking”: The separation of territorial claims of individual internal divisions can be difficult. Increased transparency of previous services and a customer-centric approach to work also mean a significant change and requires a high degree of agility and flexibility.

Therefore, a team-oriented skill set “We are all in sales and pulling together” is essential for such a project.

Last, but not least: A clear, internal guideline that regulates ambiguities should not be forgotten. It sounds straightforward, and for many people, it may sound obvious.

But without a written policy documenting the Diamond Team approach, there can be chaos. It should be clearly defined who talks to whom in the customer organization, at what level and how often. Besides, regular coordination, either weekly or monthly, is advantageous and avoids ambiguity.

Trick 18 – Creating verticals as a functional competence

Medium-sized companies that have several international GAM candidates from the same sector or industry should consider forming so-called “verticals”. This means that several GAM clients are combined into a vertical (industry cluster).

For example, international hotel chains (Hilton, Marriott, Accor, among others) could be incorporated into a vertical “hotel”.

The advantage of such an approach is quite simple: companies can achieve an additional bundling of resources and represent an even higher level of expertise to these customers.

The supplier speaks the specific language of the industry (better).

Also, an even higher level of integration of activities will be achieved. Teams of professionals can be set up who have a profound knowledge of the specifics in the industry and react accordingly.

For example, inside sales, estimating, and the service department can be tailored to the specific industry. A successful formation of verticals can lead to more efficiency and higher customer satisfaction.

Checklist: How to implement your Global Account plans

Global Account Management Checklist

Source: Peter Cheverton (2008): Global Account Management, A Complete Action Kit, London, p. 206.

 
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Global Key Account Management Part Two – Conclusion

The introduction and implementation of a GAM can pay off in many ways:

You strengthen client relationships with large and important clients;
you gain more influence;
you expand your network;
you have access to hard-to-reach executives and, last but not least;
a successful GAM promotes growth.

Building a significant position within a client requires patience and consistency. A well-functioning Diamond Team should be the goal of a global customer relationship.

It strengthens the trust and cooperation on both sides so that such a relationship can hardly be separated. However, you should make sure that clear guidelines are defined, national support is available, and regular reviews take place.

In recent years, large European corporations have been placing more emphasis on long-term and sustainable supplier relationships – and this also globally. This means that the supplier has the chance to be seen not only as a product supplier/service provider.

Through an optimal GAM, he becomes an integral part of his customer’s value chain and adapts to his customer’s constantly changing requirements.

Always remember, successful global customer management requires a high level of commitment, resources, and time. It is not an event but a process. So, give it some time. It takes about 24 to 36 months. But, we are sure: It is worth it!

 

This article has been produced in cooperation with Interim Manger Ralf H. Komor.

 

Are you about to change your sales strategy? AI-based data analysis is a valuable tool to get advanced insights from your sales data and to take a look into the future! Please contact us.

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Further Read:
 
Capon, N. (2001): Key Account Management and Planning, New York, Toronto, Sydney.

Drahmann, L. (2018): Relationship Management und Face-to-Face Interaktion im Key Account Management im interkulturellen Vergleich. Universität Bamberg.

Homburg etl al. (2008): Sales Excellence, Wiesbaden.

Hutter, H. (2010): Global Account Management als integriertes Dienstleistungscenter. Universität St. Gallen.

Yip, B. (2007): Managing Global Accounts. Harvard Business Review.



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