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World Class Key Account Planning

By Dr. Sue Holt


As the late great Sir John Harvey Jones said:

“Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. And the nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression”.

However, developing strategic key account plans for key customers that generally take a 3-5 future time horizon is imperative for the successful management of key accounts.

Here at Cranfield we have worked with many organisations over the years on Key Account Planning and have created a best practice approach which we call Value Planning.  This puts the customer at the start and heart of the planning process and our toolkit takes you on a journey to building a best practice plan.

There are some common questions that we are asked about implementing Key Account Management Planning and here are some examples:

  1. How should a best practice Key Account Plan be structured?
  2. What types of information should be included in a typical Key Account Plan
  3. What time period should the Key Account Plan typically cover?
  4. Who should the Key Account Manager involve in the planning process?
  5. Should the customer be involved in the planning process?
  6. Should senior management be involved in the planning process?
  7. How often should the Key Account Plan be reviewed?
  8. Who should review the Key Account Plan?
  9. How does the Key Account Manager get buy-in to the Key Account Plan from other parts of the organisation?
  10. How does the Key Account Manager keep the Key Account Plan ‘alive’?

We have the answers to these questions.



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 through the KAM Best Practice Research Club, working with world leading businesses to adopt new frameworks and best practice 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 Research Club.


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