A typology of initiatives to orchestrate the key account relationship
The issue here closely relates to the notion of “rituals” developed in social sciences. Of different natures, initiatory (initiation rituals), calendar (commemorative rituals), otherwise cyclical (monthly, quarterly) or occasional (celebrating unusual events), rituals help to renew and strengthen the feeling of belonging, to reach common points of view, to soften psychological shocks, and to facilitate the integration of individuals into groups. As for "orchestrating" the BtoB relationship, the observation of usual practices has lead us to distinguish at least four types of meetings, mostly of a cyclical nature: two inside the Supplier organization (Key Account Management Meetings, Key Account Commercial Meetings) and two at the Customer-Supplier interface (Key Account Reviews, Customer Advisory Board). The terms used here are generic and may not be widely used… The survey will tell! The two types of initiatives are represented by rectangles with dashed borders on two stylized drawings showing each a supplier hosting Key Account Managers assisted by inter-penetrating key account teams, facing the key accounts (Fig. 1, Fig. 2).
- Key Account Management Meeting. Internal meeting (Supplier side), organized by the Key Account Manager about a particular key account with all or part of the active KAM team and potentially other members of the organization (remote support services, specialists, etc.). Frequency: generally at least once or twice a year in a steady cyclical rhythm. Objectives: ongoing project review and further stage preparation, preparation of the key account plan. Focus: project management.
- Key Account Commercial Meeting. Internal meeting (Supplier side), gathering all key Account Managers and all or part of their KAM team members, potentially with some top executives of the organization. Frequency: generally at least twice a year, in a steady cyclical cycle. Objectives: commercial performance appraisal based on the commercial action plan; main obstacles anticipation. Focus: commercial management.
- Key Account Review. Meeting between the Key Account Manager of a customer and representatives of that customer. The Key Account Manager may bring key account team support staff (support executives or specialists, etc.). This meeting may be organized at the Customer’s or Supplier’s premises, depending on the constraints and objectives pursued. Frequency: once a year, particularly before annual negotiations. Objectives: revalidate or revisit the strategic objectives concerning the key account relationship. Focus: key account planning, negotiation.
- Customer Advisory Board. Meeting generally initiated by the Key Account Director, by invitation only, between representatives of a select group of customers and the top management of the supplier, generally in the absence of local salesforce. This event is usually of a festive nature. Frequency: once a year at most; often every second or third year. Objective: develop customers’ trust towards the supplier’s brands or offer; listen to the customers’ perception of the supplier. Focus: develop the understanding of “Key-Opinion-Leader” type customers.
Over time, other types of initiatives may contribute to orchestrate the supplier’s relationship with key accounts: anniversaries, transition rituals, etc., without forgetting informal meetings which obviously remain of prime importance. It is the disparity of these practices across organizations, more or less formalized, sometimes even improvised, and the scarcity of open experience sharing on the topic which have motivated the online survey proposed here.
An empirical survey to enrich your key account relationship orchestration practices
This 10-to-15-minute survey will immediately help you evaluate your own practices. Moreover, it will allow you to benchmark them against those of numerous other organizations, for the unique benefit of all!