designing and implementing a KAM programme

Delegates (representing experts and beginners from law firms, accountancy practices, technology consultants and actuaries) at a recent training session by on Key Account Management (KAM) selected the following top 10 tips for designing and implementing a KAM programme in a professional services firm.

Designing the Key Account Management (KAM) programme

1. Adopt a long term perspective

KAM programmes take time. There’s a major role for educating everyone on what a KAM programme might look like and the various stages of design, development and implementation. There may need to be changes to the internal culture, rewards and recognition processes and the firm’s systems. Manage expectations that whilst there will be a lot of work, there may be no immediate payback – it will take time to realise results. In the business case and planning stages, explain that there will be a number of elements to the programme and outline the time frames and milestones so that progress can be measured.

2. Engage internal stakeholders

Engagement starts at the outset – when internal aims and needs are explored. The perspectives of different stakeholders – the Board, division heads, country leaders, discipline managers and even clients must be accommodated. The KAM programme shouldn’t be imposed by the business development and marketing teams – their role is to facilitate the design process and provide input and expertise so that the right programme for the firm and its clients is generated.

3. Consider a range of objectives

Too often KAM programmes are established to achieve short term revenue growth through cross-selling. Cross-selling planning is a long way from Key Account Management. Profitability is a key consideration – otherwise you can provide lots more service and value and improve the client relationship but erode profit margins. We looked at how to calculate Client Lifetime Value (CLT) so that a longer term financial perspective is adopted. We also considered goals around client satisfaction and loyalty (see and also generating referrals and recommendations.

4. Find a champion

In all projects that require a change in culture and behaviour, there needs to be senior fee-earners who support and promote the programme. KAM is no different. Identify those who are already demonstrating the right behaviours and achieving success and capture and promote their best practice. Get them fully involved in designing, planning and implementing the project. Ask them to champion and promote the KAM programme.

5. Integrate KAM into other programmes

Fee-earners may show resistance when marketing announces another new initiative like KAM. So ensure that it is integrated into other strategic business development programmes such as sector groups, client experience management (CEM) and client journey mapping.

Implementing the Key Account Management (KAM) programme

6. Select team members with the best emotional intelligence

There is a huge difference in the competencies required to be an excellent technical expert and a leading relationship manager. Whilst we might generally consider these to be marketing and selling skills, a major component is emotional intelligence (EQ) and empathy with the clients’ point of view. Background information on empathy is here and There are tools available to allow the testing and development of emotional intelligence skills (for example:

7. Demonstrate the behaviours you want to encourage

Role models are important in a professional practice. Exhibit the behaviours that you want to see adopted by fee-earners. This means that marketing and business development professionals must prepare and structure meetings, show real empathy with others’ perspectives, ask questions and listen attentively, be proactive and responsive, build trust and add value at every opportunity.

8. Know your clients

There will no doubt be a lot of analysis undertaken as the KAM programme is developed – to identify which clients might be considered key and to gather the existing information within the firm about the client. There can be a lot of information – across various systems and within the heads of senior fee-earners – that needs to be collated, synthesised and used in key account planning. And at early key account meetings fee-earners should learn to “be more detective”. The focus should be on filling the gaps in knowledge and extending the range and breadth of knowledge of the client and its aims and operations. Understanding decision making processes is a fundamental part of a KAM programme. And there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all to KAM progammes – each key account plan needs to be tailored to the particular needs of each key client.

9. Provide structure, tools and training

While fee-earners may understand the aims and rationale for the KAM programme and want to participate they may not know how. Increasingly, firms run skills training programmes that provide the necessary communication, relationship, persuasion, interviewing and selling skills. (see

Fee-earners will need practical guidance and training on specifically what to do and how to do it. This requires the production and use of best practice “playbooks” and tools to plan, structure and facilitate meetings (for example:

We tried out a number of exercise to help KAM teams focus on the needs of the client and what the firm could do to innovate their service and add value to the client organisation. Examples included brain writing exercises and the “60 ideas in 60 minutes” brainstorm.

10. Involve the entire client team

Succession is often a major driver in KAM programmes – the need to establish strong relationships with other senior members of the firm with a network of senior people client side. But peer relationships also need to be encouraged at all levels of the client team so that younger fee-earners can play their part in understanding the client needs, developing deeper relationships and being great ambassadors for the firm. The bow tie to diamond model is important so provide guidance, encouragement and motivation on how to achieve this.

Other key posts on Key Account Management (KAM) include: