5 Biggest Frustrations for Key Account Managers
November 11, 2014
Alex Short
1 minute

The role of a Key Account Manager (KAM) can be a complicated balancing act – they have to somehow keep both their customers and their internal teams happy. In this post I highlight the five biggest frustrations that key account managers encounter when working with large buying companies.

In another post of mine “What Everybody Ought to Know about KAM” I provided some insight into the role of an account manager and highlighted the different levels of engagement they can have with their customers. In this post I wanted to share my thoughts on five areas of frustration that key account managers face when working with large customers.


Buyers that concentrate on price are not only difficult to manage but are also shortsighted. For a KAM a relationship that is built on price tends to lack trust or a long-term shared goal. This is purely a transactional relationship where both parties involved concentrate on getting the most they can, with no real focus on the value that can be generated from the partnership.

Lack of communication

When KAMs have to second guess what buyers are thinking, it results in all sorts of problems and ensures that roadmaps are not aligned. KAMs cannot then plan for the future and are unable to make sure they are perfectly set up for the buyer. Lack of communication on a day to day basis is also a fantastic way to destroy a relationship.

Monthly meetings not taking place

Regular catch-ups are essential for ensuring businesses are on the right track. They are also a fantastic opportunity for suppliers to learn more about the buyer and their specific needs. Buyers should be doing everything they can to ensure these meetings are happening on a regular basis. They not only improve moral but create opportunities for suppliers to come forward with ideas.

High turnover of personnel

Relative to key account managers, buyers tend to have a higher turnover of staff in the category manager and buyer positions. This not only makes it difficult to build an open relationship, it also stalls projects as KAMs constantly have to build relationships with and teach new arrivals. This is especially troublesome when it comes to larger projects – they can be started with one buy team and finished with another.

Late change of specifications or requirements

Sometimes this cannot be helped. However, changes are often not communicated early enough. This disrupts the internal operations of a supplier and can negatively affect the rest of their business. It is also a costly process.

If these common shortfalls can be avoided then there will be a considerable change in the buyer-supplier relationship. It will result in increased innovation and shared interactions which will improve the businesses of both buyer and supplier.

Businesses such as Procter and Gamble and Unilever are at the forefront of supplier relationship management. They are looking to build their futures with their suppliers in mind. This should be the next step for all!

Alex Short is Founder of Old St Labs he is passionate about building the next generation of business software. He is recognised as one of procurements thought leaders.
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