An unfortunate, debilitating mindset roams through organisations today, preventing people from learning great leadership skills. The prevailing view of leadership is the picture of a person with a title, someone people report to (with perceived business authority or weight in an organisation) or someone who has a specific personality.
This is a false view of leadership that prevents many capable people from leading well in their own businesses, inhibiting their own success and impact they could have with their clients.
Leadership skills have direct and unseen benefits to sales people that has gone unrecognised and largely untaught.The benefit of leadership skills is at the core of a key account manager’s role. That core role is influence.
The renowned leadership expert John Maxwell said “leadership is influence”. I believe this completely. If you really study influence you'll see the mark of true influence comes with empathy, a deep ability to listen, communicate and inspire action. This is really no different to a key account manager’s role. They seek to move relationships and bring multiple people with different agendas into one agreed focus. They have to do this with high levels of influence and lead on behalf of their business.
I want to share with you four specific leadership traits that reflect some of the 10 core behaviours in Robert K Greenleaf’s article “Servant as Leader" (1970). Servant leadership is just that…it begins from the place of serving first. A phrase, I believe, sums up all great sales professionals.
Since 1970 the term and development of the idea of the “servant leader” has gone on to be looked at as one of the most powerful ways to lead high performance organisations.
Just like the acknowledgement of buyer psychology in sales or empathy in customer service. Leadership in key account management possess those same trans-formative sales properties.
This isn't just an exercise of transferring what we know as leadership skills to another discipline. This is fundamentally what key account managers truly should embrace as they work strategically at all levels of theirs and their clients business.
There are 10 major behaviours of servant leadership. I've focused on four categories I believe feeds exactly where key account management should look to focus on first today.
1. Leading change as a key account manager.
In the context of leading change the key account manager sits right in the middle of a hesitant, but necessary, need for change. Their customers and even their own organisations need to adapt, respond and change to meet their customer’s needs. A KAM's ability to help lead and enable change is critical in the smooth process of profitable and effective delivery of results for everyone. Without this skill you will see costly delays, diminished urgency and lack of commitments to move.
Ken Blanchard's situational leadership model for change works well in thinking through the impact of this. Here are two easy tasks to begin with to manage effective change with your customers today
1. Don't make change the focus. Make people the focus.
2. Identify all the people in yours and your customer’s business that may need support to sell the message. Once identified decide whether or not more direction is needed or delegation to others who may have a different kind of influence or access to people who impact change. You can be a significant person in reinforcing the why at different levels of your customer and your companies business. Download this one page stakeholder document to help get clarity on who you might need to speak with HERE
2. Empowering people as a key account manager.
One of the unique opportunities KAM's have is in the place of empowerment. Key account managers have the power to enable others to act on their behalf and for the benefit of others.
Here are two ways to empower others to act on your behalf.
1. Identify the specific people with the skills and abilities you feel you will need or be able to access to the benefit of your customers and organisations success together. Make note of those people you discover.
2. Share with those people the skill you've noticed but be aware of their responsibilities and goals. Give them the opportunity to share where they might contribute to the overall goal and benefit of your business and your customer. Build them into your communication plan.
3. Sharing a vision as a key account manager
'A vision is a clear, distinctive, and specific view of the future, connected with defined strategic advances for the organization. Effective leaders clearly define a vision and communicate it in such a way to foster enthusiasm and commitment throughout the organization.'
Sitting at the centre of all communication between you, your customer and your organisation is a shared view of the goals and outcomes you're working towards.
High performing key account managers can effectively share vision if they have a clear view of where they, their customer and business is heading.
Here are two ways to begin with to share vision so there is greater clarity across your business and with your customers.
2. Have a quarterly vision review. Any key account manager should be in consistent communication with their customers on a weekly basis. Once the day-to-day grind begins it's your job to keep everyone focused on the goal. It's easy to get distracted. So this is a helpful discipline to start. Rather than just a strategic review use your external and internal customer conversations as an opportunity to re-share the vision. Where are you going together?
4. Inspiring people as a key account manager.
Very few people describe a key account manager’s role as inspiring others. I believe key account managers are placed to become a source of inspiration to their customer. A KAM's ability to encourage, challenge, be vulnerable and acknowledge others more than themselves shows humility and builds a unique relationship with your client. You have to be intentional in seeking out ways to make others feel respected and appreciated. When you do this you immediately tap into a deep held human need to be affirmed. Check out my blog on Maslow human needs in KAM to find out more HERE
What’s the benefit? When you practice the art of inspiring others you tap into what I call Trusted Adviser 4.0. People will always want to be around others who inspire, challenge and encourage them. This skill activates all three. Wouldn't you want your customers coming back to you more often? and have them simply want to be around you because of you are? Absolutely.
Here are two ways to begin inspiring other in your key account practice.
1. Set a goal in your customer conversations to acknowledge something positive about the other person or the relationship you are building but also where you see opportunities to improve.
2. Identify moments to do something exceptional. This requires a real understanding of what what going the extra mile would mean for your customers. Often times its not what you expect. One of the most powerful demonstrations of this is spending time with actual users of your service or product and helping them to win. That can be a great source of inspiration for managers who see their teams really engaging with what they've invested in.
This could look a little overwhelming but there is a process to activate these skills and transform your personal growth. In my key account customer growth programme KAM leadership has its own core component. While many rightly focus on trying to get a process going. If you can’t manage yourself and others in whatever phase your key account journey is you’re unlikely to reap bigger and better rewards. If you’re not on my mailing list get connected at www.jermaineedwards.com or speak to me about my key account programme Contact me
New Key Account Thinking for Greater Sales Results