Defining the adequate KAM Training Path

In a first post dedicated to KAM Training, we have explored how to set a solid framework for a KAM Training and covered the following topics

  • Training needs and goals depend on the maturity of KAM in your company
  • A KAM training without a flexible KAM Methodology is a tower built on sand
  • KAM training should be delivered to a broad audience
  • The training content must be fully customised to each company
  • Without on-the-job coaching and peer learning training is useless

In this second post, we explore the definition of a KAM Training Path and discuss the options in terms of training format.

Defining the notion of KAM Training Path

The Training Path is the sequence of training modules aiming at developing the targeted skills. For a truly solid approach, as discussed in the first post, and without creating rigidity, it should also take into account the on-the-job coaching and peer learning parts. The Training Content is the set of information, concepts, tools, practice and examples used in each training module or during co-creation workshops.

Getting started: the initial KAM Training

For reasons easy to understand for almost all companies starting a KAM initiative, the core module of the KAM Training Path is dedicated to the Key Account Planning and, in many cases but not all, to the implementation and monitoring of the Key Account Plan.

A Key Account Planning module focuses on analysing a Key Account and its business with the vendor along various dimensions (business strategy, network of relationship, nature of opportunities, competitive positioning, ..), and on building an Account Strategy & Plan. It normally clearly defines the current and desired specific Value Proposition to the Key Account. It also defines the identity and roles of the members of the Key Account Team. As an introduction to this module, it is recommended to first explain the company’s KAM Strategy and System (definition of Key Accounts, short and mid-term goals and some elements of Methodology) to the audience being trained on building and implementing a Key Account Plan. After the initial training and along a long enough period of time, Key Account Managers should be coached on the quality of their Key Account Plan and of its implementation.

Skills for KAM: a quite broad subject

Mastering Key Account Planning and the process of implementing the Plan is not enough to success in KAM (and remember it takes time and one initial training session is never sufficient). The KAM methodology must be applied properly (effectively and with a great flexibility) and the appropriate behaviours, individual and collective, are in fact what creates success. Therefore, a true KAM Training Path has to cover other topics and support the acquisition of a broader knowledge.

There is no one-fit-all approach to define a “good” KAM Training Path but there are constants that provide a good base to guide the initial thinking. For the sake of simplification, and without losing sight on the importance of coaching and peer learning, let’s focus on the Training Path as defined by the sequence, or menu, of training modules.

  • The two additional modules the most frequently found in a KAM training patch are probably How to Work Strategically with Purchasing, and Virtual Team Managemt / How to mobilise one’s own organisation without hierarchical power .
  • Less systematically identified as a specific module, because it is usually included on the initial training, but extremely important, for example for companies selling complex projects, is the topic of Analysing Relationships and Developing a Networking Plan.
  • With the evolution of the offering observed in many industrial firms but also in financial services or travel, The KAM Training Path more and more often integrates a module on Selling Solutions and not Products.
  • Developing a Deeper Understanding of Financial Matters and being able to Articulate and sell Value are also classic choices
  • Last but not least, most advanced companies practicing KAM utilise a process of Co-creation with Strategic Customersand this can justify another specific module.

The above already yields a KAM Training path with 7 modules and we haven’t touched yet on more soft skills: Advanced Communication Techniques, Building Trust and Influence, Intercultural Skills and Conflict Resolutionto mention only 3 of the topics that are often crucial for Key/Global Account Managers.

The need to make a choice in line with the company’s resources

All in all, a realistic choice must be made and the number and nature of modules that are integrated into a KAM training path are influenced by a company’s view on what is required to “do the KAM job” and by the depth and breadth of the more general available Learning & Development catalogue. Large companies with a rich L&D offer and well developed job descriptions and the associated kills profiles tend to have a rich training programme. Smaller organisations, even If they also have formal Training Paths, have a somewhat smaller and more focused KAM Training Path.

As an illustration of the above, the SAMA offers to its members a training programme based on 8 modules. This is a general training aiming at giving participants a broad view on KAM/GAM independently from their company’s KAM methodology. At one of my current customer, a large industrial firm, we have identified 4 topics on which a very specific training and coaching would help the Global Account Manager progress in their job. In addition, and based on individual needs, they can take advantage of a very rich Learning& Development offering. With a smaller company, also an industrial one, in order to support the initial phase of a KAM initiative, we have defined 3 base modules which, delivered across a time period of a few months and complemented by on-the-job coaching, will help the Key Account Managers start their new mission. As the GAM activities develop, 2 advanced modules have already been envisioned but with the flexibility to adapt the definition if this Training Path as the company gains experience.

Do not forget the KAM Training Path for a broader audience

As discussed in Post 1, KAM Training should not be offered only to Key Account Managers and the key members of theit Account Teams but also to members of other functions. Of course, both the format and nature of the Training Path should be simpler than for the Key Account Managers.

When co-creation or problem-solving workshops are organised, members of support functions involved in KAM should also be invited so as to use the power of more brains and clearly position KAM as a company-wide effort, not a sales-only activity.

In the next post on KAM Training we will explore the format of the training, who should deliver and how to measure.

In the meanwhile, check the other posts on KAM, Influencer Marketing and Sales Effectiveness and do not hesitate to get in touch

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.