Is your KAM Training approach solid 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 execute on its KAM Strategy.

This post is the first of a series of two dedicated to how to set-up an adequate KAM training approach supporting the initial kick-off and the further development of a KAM initiative. In this first part, we discuss how to set a solid framework for the KAM training. In a second post, we will focus on the KAM Training Path and on the format of the training.

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 these 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; the 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
  • Improve an ailing Programme the outcome of which is disappointing
  • Further sharpen a well-functioning Programme

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 of course find a spectrum of situations that will influence your approach to KAM training.

A KAM Training without a flexible KAM Methodology is a tower built on sand

In a previous post, I have discussed the Charybdis and Scylla of KAM; the excess and lack of Methodology. This also applies to Training and a KAM Training that is not built on a clear and flexible methodology, fully-customised for a company’s business, will have a very low impact.

Since I have been a consultant with a high focus on KAM and associated topics, most of my customers, large or small, have been companies who had previously invested a lot of money in a standard KAM training delivered by prestigious and expensive training institutions. After having invested a serious level of resources, time and money, these companies were left with very little. Paying for a one-fit-all methodology and a standard class and not embedding this into building the right KAM Infrastructure has just resulted in a dysfunctional Programme, a tower built on sand.

KAM Training should be delivered to a broad enough audience

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 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 selected members of support functions.

Unfortunately, such a situation is very frequent as companies start a KAM initiative without thinking first of a Methodology and of the necessary “Infrastructure” that enables an organisation to execute on KAM/GAM, Training the right audience being part of it.

So, the Golden Rule is simple. Implementing KAM means driving a Change, and all people involved in this change must be trained. Of course this needs to be done in a realistic and cost-effective way.

A KAM Training must be customised to a 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 and of effectiveness, optimising the budget and time required to achieve this impact.

Without on-the-job coaching and peer learning, a KAM Training is useless

It is now well recognized that adults acquire new skills mostly by doing. In addition, learning in one thing, practicing is another one, and reaching proficiency only comes through a long 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 by on-the-job coaching, individual or collective.

As the emblematic example, on-the-job coaching to Key Account Managers help them take ownership of the KAM Methodology and Tool Set according to their personal style and to the 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.

We have now described the key element of a solid approach to KAM training.

In the next post, we will explore the Training Path and the training format.

About Olivier Riviere
I am a consultant helping companies of all size optimize their Marketing and Sales Performance and drive a Cultural Change. My focus is on General organisation dynamic, Sales Effectiveness, Key Account Management, Solutions Marketing & Sales, Prescritive Selling and Influencer Marketing. I am a European citizen of the world working in 3 languages and with a passion for diverse multicultural work environments.