In my previous article, I announced the launching, hopefully, this November of my new book entitled, “6 Steps To Effective Key Account Management.” In this book, I included my interviews with experts to help us enhance the discussion of each step to effective key account management. Previous to this article, I featured a part of my interview with Ian Santos, Sales Director of Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) Pharmaceuticals, Philippines. Today, I’m featuring a Q&A with Raymund Sanchez, the president of The Generics Pharmacy (TGP).
Q: How important is ‘execution’ in the job of a key account manager (KAM)?
In a relationship between a supplier and a key account, the stakes are very high for both parties. The volumes being traded on an annual basis and the investments made on both ends are very significant.  That’s why so much effort is poured into the development of the Joint Business Plan, to ensure that objectives for the year are clearly defined, strategies and action plans developed, roles and responsibilities identified and milestones properly mapped. As exacting as this planning process is, and however critical the resulting plan, these steps are just part of the equation. The KAM’s job does not end after a plan is signed or when the order is delivered. As the year unfolds, a KAM works rigorously with the account to ensure that products on shelf generate sufficient turns, deliver required levels of profitability, contribute to a target basket size, attract enough customers to the store, as he contrives to sell out the products, generate repeat business, and develop loyal customers.  The list goes on. All of these will not happen by accident, as they are products of painstaking planning and detailed execution.
Q: In your experience as a Buying Director dealing with various KAMs, what did you notice were the most distinguishing characteristics of excellent KAMs?
Over the years I’ve worked with quite a number of outstanding Key Account Managers (KAMs), who come from different educational backgrounds and were products of different corporate cultures, but the distinguishing characteristic of these KAMs was their ability to execute on an agreed plan. When it came down to a KAM’s ability to execute, the benchmark for me would be two top personal care companies that competed directly with each other across several different categories. Both had strong brands in highly competitive categories and had their own respective areas of strength. What set their KAMs apart from the rest of the suppliers was their ability to work with and through their accounts to successfully implement plans and programs.
The KAMs of both these companies displayed a very different mindset and posture even in the early stages of the planning process. You could tell that they did their homework much better than others by how well they understood our issues and challenges as an account. They demanded much more information than we were normally willing to share but justified why it was necessary.They were very clear about what they wanted to achieve and was able to explain what value it would deliver from the account’s point-of-view. Above all they made sure to involve cross-functional teams from our end and theirs to bed down the implementing details of their plans as comprehensively as possible.
They then used a very simple but highly effective document for capturing the implementing details of the program, essentially like the Activity Planner you laid-out in this book. The Activity Planner is critical because by design it distills the key steps, accountabilities and timelines that need to happen for the planned program to be successful. You have to remember that Key Accounts work with hundreds of suppliers, thousands of SKUs and implement multiple programs simultaneously. The Activity Planner keeps the plan framework fresh in the mind of the stakeholders and allows implementing details to be accessible at a glance when it needs to be referred to.
Further, the KAMs from both the companies I referred to earlier took the initiative of giving us periodic feedback regarding the progress of programs being implemented on a regular basis. These weren’t necessarily long sit-down meetings, these updates were short and to the point, highlighting areas that went well and areas that needed attention. Sometimes these meetings were done at the shop floor for just 15 minutes or sent via email and followed through by a quick telecon, but they were done periodically so mid-course corrections could be taken by either party when necessary and helped ensure that there were no surprises regarding the results on both ends by the time the program had been completed.
Finally, these KAMs conducted very detailed post-program reviews immediately at the end of the implementing period. If an activity delivered or exceeded its objectives, it was very important for us to understand the key success factors of the program and distill best practices from them. If a program fell short of meeting its targets, it was just as critical to distill insights from the activity, which areas broke down and what could be done/avoided/revised next time around. It is imperative for a KAM to build a repository of learnings that will direct the joint effort of both parties over time, since even this is a critical component of execution.
After all, the relationship between both the supplier and the account is a long term one.
Emilio Macasaet III is also the author of the best-selling book Distributor Management: Winnning Tools in Managing Distributors as Partners.  Email for details.