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What does a great key account manager look like?

By Dr. Sue Holt


The key account manager role is very different from that of a traditional salesperson, and increasingly many key account managers or key client managers do not come from a typical sales background.

So, what makes a great key account manager?

  1. They need excellent management competencies including leadership and team building.
  2. They need excellent financial and customer acumen.
  3. They need to be great strategic influencers at all levels in the customer and internally and across all functions.
  4. Innovative problem solving and opportunity discovery are also important competences.
  5. Personal qualities needed are high ethical and integrity standards.
  6. They must have the ability to inspire trust and to motivate people.
  7. Excellent listening and consultative skills are highly necessary.
  8. As is the ability to understand and manage complex relationships with the customer and internally.
  9. They must be willing to take some risks.
  10. And to challenge the team, the organisation and even the customer.
  11. Finally, there is an increasing need for key account managers to have the intercultural competence to work in multi-national and international environments.

These are some of the critical competencies to look for when recruiting key account managers.


Our work in this area is critical to achieving successful key account management programs for organisations looking to succeed at managing key account customers. For the past twenty years, Cranfield has pioneered the development of Key Account Management research in Europe. Working with world leading businesses to adopt new frameworks to fully leverage key relationships and strategies. This new frontier knowledge is continually integrated into our Key Account Management Programme

Blog produced by:  Dr Sue Holt, visiting academic and programme director on Cranfield School of Management Key Account Management Programme. Also facilitates on the KAM Best Practice Forum.

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Key Account Management Programme

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