What is Key Account Management (KAM)?
Over the last few weeks in my new role as a freelance expert in KAM, it is quite amazing to note the number of times people ask this question. How can we have reached a point where something so simple has become so complex?
My definition of KAM is a way of working effectively together to manage resources to achieve the best possible outcome for the patient, external stakeholder and the organisation.
In real terms, it means having one accountable person who manages the account. They are the constant and the connector. It is their job to be clear on the role and function of other colleagues who may be able to support the needs of the account; taking responsibilities for specific tasks, based on real insight.
Insight provides us with an understanding of why an account, or an individual within an account behaves in a certain way. From this, cross functional account teams can collaborate to identify solutions to support a change in behaviour which will deliver better outcomes for the patient, account and organisation; commonly known as the win:win:win.
The accountable person, whether they have the job title of KAM or not, cannot be an expert in everything. They must rely on the expertise of medical, pricing, sales, market access, government affairs, marketing etc. to support the account.
KAM therefore depends on everyone involved being very clear about their roles and responsibilities. The account leader can then easily identify when to introduce appropriate resources, and co-ordinate to ensure that the external stakeholder has an optimal ‘customer experience’.
An effective cross functional account team is like a jigsaw. It is made up of unique component pieces which all gel together to form one cohesive big picture. That picture is what should be seen by external stakeholders.
When explaining the concept of KAM to my twelve year old nephew, he replied:
“That is just common sense!”
But is it really that commonplace?
What stands in the way of KAM being effective in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries?
We touched on some of this in my last article when considering operating models and metrics. But there are simple, practical things that can be done in the absence of effective metrics, leadership and operating models to enhance KAM as a way of working.
“It’s good to talk, but it’s better to listen”
Account teams are not without tension. We can all identify having conversations with sales team members and medical science liaison colleagues who were aggrieved because someone saw ‘their customer’.
I remember dealing with a situation where a key opinion leader, who was critical to the success of a formulary application was not present because he had been asked to speak at a meeting abroad by a colleague from Global marketing. Nobody in the local market had been informed.
KAM at its best begins with effective, regular communication. To recognise the challenges faced by external stakeholders, not least, the competing forces for their time, requires pharmaceutical and medical device companies to become better at communicating with each other. Effective listening and understanding each other’s expertise is essential to enable everyone to play to their strengths.
Ensuring a mechanism for regular communication across the account team relieves potential clashes, and ensures that anyone who is seeing external customers, is aware of activities and understands how this will support the overall account objective. With current technology, this does not require face to face meetings. A regular virtual call with the entire cross functional account team will make a huge difference.
Effective communication with external stakeholders
Returning to the concept of improved ‘customer experience’ we can then see how improved internal communication can benefit external stakeholders. How many stakeholders have closed their door to industry because they were bombarded with multiple visits from multiple personnel asking the same questions, offering the same thing?
The account lead should take accountability for agreeing the account objective with external stakeholders, and then agree the course of action. It is just good manners to let people know why someone wants to see them, and broadly, what they will be speaking about. The account lead should also be clear that they are not the subject matter expert on everything. In healthcare, this is something that people are more than familiar with, given the levels of specialism that prevail.
So my thought for today, is to think about employing some common sense. Encourage your cross functional account team colleagues to talk to each other and be more open with external stakeholders. You’d never know where it could lead…