How to deliver a really good KAM Training

This is the third and last post of our series on the KAM Training and the development of KAM Skills.

The first post is exploring the global KAM Skills Development approach. he second post explores the concept of the KAM Training Path. This third post is about the execution of the KAM Training.

Here is a very quick reminder of a few of the key ideas presented in the first two posts:

  • The KAM Training must be based on the company’s methodology and tool set and also explain the company KAM Strategy.
  • Training should be delivered to various audiences, not only to Key Account Managers.
  • Training only is not sufficient and must be complemented with on-the-job coaching spread over time and with experience sharing and peer learning.
  • Because KAM/GAM is a complex and multi-disciplinary domain, a full KAM Training Path must be highly modular.
  • It is always possible to find a compromise between the richness of the KAM topic and the available time and resources available.

In this third post, we will look at; the training content, the place to be given to blended learning, the power of a serious game, the importance of the KAM trainers and the measurement of training.

A good content with a compelling format matters

A good training starts with a good content and a good content means;

  • a clear set of concepts and guiding principles ,illustrated with relevant examples,
  • an introduction of the KAM Tool Set that participants will use in their job,
  • practical exercises closely relates to the participant’s real-life
  • a visually compelling material.

The training for Key Account Managers will be far more efficient and effective if it is built around the KAM Tool Set that the participants will effectively use in their job. This requires of course that the fundamental work on the methodology and tool set has been done prior to the training.

The core KAM Training module, the one about Key Account Planning (see the second post) must give participants the opportunity to start applying the KAM Tool Set to at least one of their Key Accounts. Other training modules part of the KAM Training Path should create the same opportunity, although modules focused on developing very specific skills (such as listening & convincing or building influence) will also include other types of exercises and role plays.

Last but not least, a nice-looking content makes it easier to memorize the key ideas. Therefore the training content, and the handouts provided to participants must be visually compelling and they must be easy to use as a reference document after the training. Although this might sound like a banality it is often not the case. I recently had the opportunity to see training content used by two very prestigious – and expensive – institutions well renowned for their KAM training and I was shocked by the poor quality of the material; huge slide sets with each page overloaded with text and a few, difficult to understand graphics. This should simply not happen.

Which amount of blended learning and digital modules?

Blended learning means combining classical class-room training with other forms of training. Most often, Blended learning is associated to digital forms but, strictly speaking, it also includes simulations (the serious games) as well as on-the-job learning and all forms of peer learning. As we already discussed the importance of on-the-job coaching and of learning based on experience (peer learning, tutoring and mentoring, co-development), let’s focus on the digital part of blended learning.

The core expectation with the use of digital training modules is to reduce the overall cost by delivering a given part of the training remotely and on demand. In the Academic world, it is already possible to study and get a degree without attending any class-room session. In the adults Skills Development space, digital modules are mostly used first as a preliminary phase to acquire some base knowledge before a face-to-face training and, second, as a flexible way to refresh the knowledge and understanding of key concepts after the training. The format of the digital modules can vary from the very simple and easy to create short videos or recorded webinars to the far more sophisticated interactive modules based on authoring systems or videos with a more complex script and filming including professional acting. Of course the associated costs also vary in very high proportions.

What does this mean when designing a KAM Training System in the specific context of a company?

KAM is a complex and ambiguous matter the implementation of which must take into account a company’s specifics. A direct consequence is that the best KAM Training for a given company cannot be based on standard modules. However, may be some aspects of the KAM-related Skills Development can be handled by relying partially on standard modules.

All in all, this means that companies of all size should consider developing a minimum set of simple digital modules that will be part of their KAM Training tool box. Larger companies, especially if they have a large population of (true) Key Account Managers can afford a broader and more ambitious library of digital modules with a degree of customisation which must be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Well-designed digital modules can be fun and can contribute to raising the interest of Key Account Managers for an upcoming KAM Training. However, it remains that when launching a KAM Training or revamping an existing one, it is crucial to convince the KAMs of the relevance of the initiative and to win their hearts and this cannot be “delegated” to some digital tools.

The power of serious games

A cost-effective alternative to a rich interactive digital module, and a very powerful tool to create a strong KAM Training, is the development of a serious game, a full simulation based on real-life elements. Properly designed, this allows to put participants in a close-to-real context and have them working as a team using the KAM tool box and their own knowledge to manage a complex situation. Such a simulation works best when the different scenarios which unfold during the game have been developed specifically for a company. If integrated into a broader scope of developing a KAM methodology and supporting its roll-out and Training process, the development of such a serious game can be done at a reasonable cost even for a relatively small organisation.

Have true KAM practitioners deliver the training and coaching

The key mission of the KAM Trainer-Coach is to help the trainees-coaches develop their own way to “own” the KAM practice and the associated tool set. Developing true KAM Skills does not come naturally to many people and during the learning process, which is spread over a long time, resistances must be overcome. Therefore, face-to-face training sessions and on-the-job coaching should be delivered by truly senior practitioners with a real KAM experience across various companies and sectors, rather than by people who are just professional trainers or members of a central support team but with no real KAM experience. A true practitioner will be far more authentic than a pure trainer-consultant because they will be able to talk about their own experience. This works of course provided that the Trainer-Coach has taken enough time to learn about the real operational levers of the trainee’s company.

How should the impact of the Training be measured?

Practicing KAM is about developing a game-changing systemic approach to Customer Management, Value Creation and Collaboration. Therefore, the only true measurement of all KAM-related measures is the global impact of the KAM Program which is related to the global topic of the Key Account score card and KAM Program score card (theses are topics for an upcoming post)..

The reality however, is that training programmes must be measured in order to get a sense of how well the resources were used, even when this measure bears some built-in limitations.

Of course participants should be polled on their level of satisfaction at the end of a training session and after using digital modules. This is useful to detect potential areas for improvement and to check if the training has created some dynamic. However, this is by far not enough.

We have seen that the KAM Skills Development is a process spread over time which includes training sessions, on-the-job coaching and experience sharing. Therefore, the best way to measure the impact is to monitor the development of specific behaviours and the associated results in terms of implementation of the Key Account Plans.

My own recommendation is to develop a KAM Skills Assessment tool, customised to the context of the company, which helps to detect and assess the development and impact of specific behaviours. A good KAM Methodology and a well-designed KAM Tool Box must provide such tools and align them with the existing HR practice within the company.

This closes the series of 3 Post on KAM Skills Development. In you have found them interesting we suggest you have a look at my other posts on KAM and Sales Performance.

If you have a business need to discuss, 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.