Inflexion Group co-founders Tim Shercliff and Bev Burgess shared perspectives from their book, Account-Based Growth (Kogan Page, 2022) at the annual AKAM Workshop in Lisbon, Portugal (June 2023).
Here are Tim and Bev’s three key takeaways from the workshop.
1. Economic pressures mean focusing on key customers is more important than ever
The recent fragmentation of supply chains, with globalisation de-stabilised and increased economic volatility, is driving an even greater need for companies to focus on their most important customers. We were struck by the number of companies that need to not only focus on the next link in the supply chain, where their business may be transacted, but also in the end customer, who may be driving demand but with whom the supplier may do no direct business. The idea of having a key account that has zero direct revenue is an interesting but important concept, introduced by Stefan Wengler from Hof University.
2. Technology companies are leading the way
The sophisticated and long-term nature of KAM programmes in the technology companies we work with are leading the way. For example, Accenture, with its Diamond Client Programme, derives over 50% of its revenue from around 3.5% of its customer base, and so naturally invests heavily in the management of these important accounts. This includes commitment from the CEO down to spending time with these customers and a management system that brings these customers’ perspectives right to the heart of the way Accenture is run. This ’50/3.5’ ratio accords with our research, showing the fractal nature of the 80/20 rule. It led to a healthy debate as to how to resource these customers appropriately, and the level of experience and gravitas needed in the KAMs trusted to lead these relationships.
3. Key Account Managers must take the lead with internal and external stakeholders
Alistair Thursfield from Lufthansa Systems picked up on this theme, explaining how he applied the three dimensions of responsibility, ambition and empathy to embed leadership capabilities into the KAMs who support Lufthansa Systems’ business with multiple airlines around the world. The KAM is the fulcrum between the customer (who sees them as bringing them the best from their strategic supplier), and the supplier (who gives them the responsibility to manage a significant business relationship over the long term). Their ability to face both ways and adopt a leadership role with their internal and external stakeholders, and in the ecosystem within which both operate, makes the role both fascinating and challenging, but also complex and difficult.
Our thanks to Diana Woodburn, Chair at AKAM for organising the event and to ISEG, Lisbon School of Economics and Management for hosting us.
If you would like to know more about how Inflexion Group can support your key account programme, please contact Tim Shercliff email@example.com.