The importance of the Key Account Management (KAM) has become more important and tougher in recent years as key clients become more demanding, more sophisticated and global in their operations. In order to gain repeat business and build long-term relationships with clients, a complete understanding of the clients business is required. The aim is to develop client relationship in a way that brings mutual benefits and to lead clients' thinking and ultimately build up partnership status by transforming Key Account Manager to a trusted advisor.

Some important Key Accounts of apparel sector are shown in Figure 1

Addressing key areas to achieve the objective:

  1. Understanding the drivers in the business context
  2. Step-by-step approach to classifying and selecting key accounts
  3. Practical approach to analyzing the requirements of key accounts
  4. In-depth understanding of how to measure the real profitability of key accounts
  5. Better understanding of the organizational issues surrounding key accounts
  6. Understanding the needs of the client and adding value
  7. Building high performance team environment focused on meeting team goals and client needs
  8. Planning and implementing change
  9. Benchmarking to measure and enhance performance
  10. New tools and techniques to manage the vital soft factors in successful relationships
  11. Identification of strategies for client loyalty based on value not price
  12. Development of a client account planning system to retain client loyalty and enhance business opportunities


A typical key account management procedure successfully followed by the author during his tenure in SGS, India and a part of that is shown in Figure 2 as an example.

An example of selection and prioritization map of key accounts is shown in Figure 3:


How to handle Key Accounts?

Most effective quality service


i.     Error free reporting and application of precise methods by following standard practices in different business heads/pillars i.e. testing, inspection and code of conduct audit (CCA)

ii.    Ensuring and maintaining TAT with respect to testing, inspection and CCA

iii.   Recommendations on failures and non-compliance, if necessary

iv.    Timely delivery of daily/weekly/monthly reports as and when applicable

v.     Stable operational structure wherein movement from one business head/pillar to another is flexible

Effective communication


i.   Proper understanding of client needs

ii.   Prompt response

Client Contact


i.    Meeting by local KAM twice a month

ii.   Meeting by national KAM once a month

iii.  Meeting by regional KAM on half yearly basis

iv.  Meeting by global KAM on yearly basis

Value added services


i.     Complimentary need based training programs or seminars on a topic of current interest in testing, inspection and CCA

ii.    Regular technical updates

iii.   Technical consultancy

Increase interaction


i.   Arrangement of "Customers Day" once in a year

ii.  Compliments/gifts at important occasion

Business development


i.    Interaction with clients

ii.   International support from affiliates

Figure 4: Trust is important in KAM activity


What are the Roles & responsibilities of Key Account Manager?

  1. Depending on capabilities, formulation of Key Account team at each location in testing, inspection and CCA
  2. Arrangement of training to all involved in testing, inspection and CCA
  3. Adherence to the correct Manual for Key Accounts
  4. Correct following of protocols of Key Accounts
  5. Meeting with the Key Account client as per schedule
  6. Analysis of periodic customer feedback and executing corrective action
  7. Gathering concern from the client and address promptly
  8. Keeping client informed about related structural changes in third party organization to obviate any communication problem
  9. To become solution provider for the Key Accounts towards technical problems
  10. Co-ordination and addressing issues related to any other areas for Key Accounts

How do we address variables?

  1. Positively influence each power base i.e. influencer and decider in any Key Account and manage the positions and perspectives with an adverse power gradient
  2. Find and develop people in the Key Account team as "Commandos" or "Champions"
  3. To turn negative gatekeepers, or blockers into allies
  4. Competitors pricing and parallel nomination are to be dealt at the national and international level involving GKAM, NKAM, regional KAM and local KAM.

How do we define financial goals with respect to time?

  1. Quarterly business revenue monitoring for Key Accounts in respect of testing, inspection and CCA.
  2. Analysis of the business trend, compare with previous record, find out reason for hike or drop, sharing with GKAM, NKAM and regional KAM to formulate the right action plan.
  3. Depending on the business result, movement of client from Business Universe to the key account and subsequent monitoring thereof. Thus, identification and benchmarking of key accounts will be a continual process.