Online courses

Online training

Go to the course catalogue

Key account manager

What is a key account manager

What is a key account manager?

A key account manager is responsible for working with clients who play a strategic role in business development (that is, they are a priority for the business). Such a manager's main responsibility is to ensure that the needs of a key client are met in a timely and high-quality manner. Essentially, they are the link between the client and the rest of the company's divisions, handle all client problems personally, and close transactions with key clients independently. These managers are in demand in the B2C and B2B sectors and e-commerce and retail in national, regional, and international companies.

Key account managers come in two levels: junior key account manager and senior key account manager. The only thing distinguishing them is that the senior manager can manage and distribute tasks to junior managers.

Key account manager job description

What does a key account manager do? They should provide the key client with the most ease when interacting with the company and maintain long-term relationships to open up new opportunities. Managers are also responsible for creating new business platforms. As part of their responsibilities, they seek out new customers in person or individuals who can serve the business strategically (for example, potential influencers, decision-makers, business partners, private clients who make transactions for large amounts, etc.). An integral part of the key account manager's activity is the preparation of business plans for the company to expand and maintain the client base.

Essentially, a manager's main job is to provide customers with a good experience so they never consider going to a competitor. That is why the following indicators can assess the effectiveness of a manager:

  • Retention percentage. Exactly how many customers did the manager retain this month?

  • Churn rate. How many of the manager's clients still went to competitors or stopped making regular purchases?

  • The number of additional services a client has purchased.

  • The number of meetings and calls with clients.

  • The percentage of the increase in the business profitability or the increase in other targets that the company wants to achieve and has directly communicated to the key account manager.

To demonstrate the maximum values for all these indicators (except for churn, where you should strive for zero), the key account manager must know each client from your database in person and regularly conduct an in-depth analysis of customer loyalty, sales statistics, and market trends. It is on these KPIs that a key account manager salary will depend.

Roles and responsibilities of a key account manager

Roles and responsibilities of a key account manager

The responsibilities of a key account manager include:

  • Forming, developing, and sustaining relationships with key customers who bring the company the most profit.

  • Quick handling of key customer complaints and instant response to them.

  • Maintaining communication between the company's key clients and other departments.

  • Managing the junior team assigned to each key client (if any).

  • Interacting with the marketing and customer service departments, working with design, advertising, sales, and logistics to meet the needs of a key client.

  • Analyzing and tracking the needs of a key customer.

  • Developing individual solutions considering all the client's interests.

  • Negotiating with a key client, drawing up documentation, signing contracts, etc.

  • Meeting deadlines and achieving clients' long-term goals.

In the key account manager role, the manager acts as a personal liaison between the company and the client. This individual is the key client's go-to point of contact for addressing any questions or problems regarding the product, concerns, suggestions, complaints, etc.

Key account manager skills

Key account manager skills

To fulfill the numerous responsibilities outlined above proficiently and swiftly, the key account manager must possess the following skills:

  • Selling skills, namely the ability to present a product, convince, work out objections, and motivate to buy here and now.

  • Negotiating and closing deals.

  • The ability to speak in public, make the perfect first impression, etc.

  • The ability to build long-term relationships with the client.

  • Leadership, team management, and teamwork skills.

  • Exceptional customer service skills.

  • High emotional intelligence.

  • High communication skills.

  • Strategic and analytical thinking.

  • Planning and time management.

  • An understanding of marketing and how to promote products effectively.

  • Knowledge of business etiquette.

  • The ability to cope with stress and get out of crises (since key customers, as a rule, have the highest requirements and requests for business, which can be challenging to satisfy).

Also no less important are the personal qualities of a key account manager, namely self-confidence and charisma.

Account manager vs. key account manager

Account manager vs. key account manager

Although the skills and duties of traditional and key account managers overlap in many ways, they are two different positions at different levels of hierarchy.

Unlike a key account manager, a regular manager works with all current and potential clients of the company, not just those of a specific status or higher level. Consequently, key account managers are considered higher-level managers and are more responsible for a business's long-term prospects and potential realization.

Also, key account management is a full-fledged business strategy based on high-quality customer interaction that is especially important for the business. In contrast, regular customer management focuses mostly on sales, and such managers have little priority in customer service and are often denied access to other departments. However, they also do not need to develop an individual approach to each client - traditional managers act according to ready-made scripts and instructions, redirect customers to other departments, and generally work routinely.

The main goal of regular managers is to meet the needs of a mass audience, while the goal of a key account manager is to satisfy a narrow segment of the audience that is highly important to the company.

Key account manager vs. sales manager

Key account manager vs. sales manager

The main difference between a key account manager and a sales manager is the same as the one described above: the former focuses on a small segment. In contrast, the latter focuses on most customers. Also, sales managers use entirely different methods and techniques in their work. Instead, they are "hunters" who focus on attracting new customers and increasing the check, while key account managers are the "gardeners" who nurture and care for them.

However, there is one thing in common between these two types of managers: the desire to understand customers' deep needs and satisfy them, reduce customer churn, build trust, and eventually conclude a new deal.

The average sales manager can serve 10 to 25 regular customers, depending on the business scale. Considering that, at the same time, the key account manager focuses only on 2-3 clients, this is quite a lot. With so many clients, the quality of work of a regular manager inevitably decreases. At the same time, their responsibilities still include:

  • Conflict resolution in the process of cooperation between the client and the company.

  • Handling incoming requests from the client, their complaints and needs.

  • Promotion of additional products, partial advertising, and marketing.

  • Improving brand reputation by providing customers with quality service.

  • Conclusion of contracts, direct sales of goods, and, as a result, an increase in the company's profits.

  • Attracting new customers and retaining existing ones (until they become key to the company and go to the appropriate manager when it happens).

  • Handling all customers associated with the manager and ensuring smooth client interaction.

  • Ensuring the availability of the company's resources and the manager for the client if the latter has any difficulties and problems.

There are always many more sales managers in the company than the key account managers since there are more mass customers, of course, than key ones. A regular manager can also get the position of a key account manager through promotion or redistribution if they demonstrate a high level of customer retention and involvement in the business.

How to become a key account manager

How to become a key account manager

The first and most important thing you need to do before applying for the position of key account manager is to undergo regular management training and master the relevant skills listed above. After that, you can use several methods and/or strategies of action:

1. Find a mentor

Find a person in your company who already holds the position of key account manager and has the necessary competencies for this. Inquire if they would be willing to instruct you, either directly or through indirect guidance. For example, observe their work several hours weekly to learn more about the responsibilities and processes involved. If you don't have connections with such employees or have faced rejection, don't hesitate to communicate with your management. Be candid about your career aspirations, specifically your interest in transitioning to key account management. Perhaps the manager can organize mentoring for you or tell you what you need to fulfill your dreams.

As soon as you find a mentor, ask them:

  • How did you get into key account management?

  • Do you have any advice for those wishing to become a key account manager?

  • What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

  • What do you like most about this job?

  • What skills do you consider the most important, and where can they be acquired?

  • What are the most challenging/exciting/multi-faceted situations regarding business importance? Can you tell me more about them?

Monitor how the manager communicates with key customers and what they do between meetings or calls. Consider the apps and tools the mentor uses, as well as analytics and tracking tools.

2. Take qualifications or training courses to develop specific skills

You will inevitably lack some skills for this position. You can master or be trained during your current work experience, which is much faster and more efficient. There are many online courses on the market today where you can develop the missing skills quickly (for example, with the help of Lectera courses). In the future, you will have to compete with a relatively large number of experienced managers in the labor market, so take care of your competitive advantage in advance and take time for professional development.

You can see what key account manager skills you lack through a SWOT analysis of your current career or a simple assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Your identified strengths need to be improved, and weaknesses need to be compensated. Also, correlate your current skill set with the one we listed in the section above, and based on this, form your educational route and then the career path.

3. Study specialized literature and blogs of recognized market professionals

Today, in any bookstore, you can find a wide variety of books for any profession, and key account management is no exception. Lectera experts advise you to start with the following books:

  • "Customers for Life" by Carl Sewell and Paul Brown.

  • "Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service," John Tschohl.

  • "The Customer Centricity Playbook: Implement a Winning Strategy Driven by Customer Lifetime Value," Peter Fader and Sarah Toms.

  • "Mastering Your Key Accounts: Maximize Relationships; Create Strategic Partnerships; Increase Sales," Stephan Schiffman.

  • "Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity," Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn.

It can also be personal blogs of successful top managers, where they talk about trends and innovations in business, their approaches, and experienced cases. These blogs include:

4. Update your CV

You should take this step only when ready for a new position. Your resume should fully address potential employers' questions on websites that post jobs for key account managers. In other words, you should clear your resume of everything unnecessary and focus on what is essential to your new field. Even if you don't have the right experience yet, the employer should clearly understand you as a manager after reading your resume.

Be sure to list the experience of your work in which you at least indirectly interacted with customers and put into practice the skills of a key account manager. For example, it can assist the manager in organizing and conducting negotiations with partners, answering questions, etc. If you have one, experience in marketing, sales, management, or consulting is also worth mentioning. The main thing is to extract from your background at least something that will illustrate your ability to work with serious people and act as a link between them and the business.

If you have any achievements or specific results that can be measured in numbers, include them, too! The more you give the employer illustrative examples of your work as a key account manager, the higher your chances of getting a dream job. However, do not lie: remember that you still have to answer interview questions at the employer's interview!


The position of key account manager should not be considered a separate profession, as this position often becomes a promotion for sales managers or ordinary account managers. To become an excellent key account manager, you must first gain experience resolving conflict situations, conducting successful negotiations, interacting with decision-makers, and dealing with other business processes.