Business Bridge Supplier Toolkit

Account Management: Doing Business with a Large Company

Researched and written for Business Bridge by Strategic Insights Inc. | Thursday, March 14, 2024

As a small or medium-sized business (SMB), becoming a strategic supplier to large corporations represents the opportunity of a lifetime. It can open the door to scale, profitability and partnerships.

Securing and retaining major accounts depends on several must-have supplier capabilities required by large corporations. Key account management (KAM) is generally one of those key requirements.

What are key accounts?

Key accounts generate a large share of revenue and profitability for most companies. As noted by multiple experts, key accounts typically deliver around 80% of total sales from only 20% of clients. These accounts also provide ancillary benefits through referral business, industry credibility and early access to decision-makers.

Key accounts typically have more complex needs and demand more attention, understanding and skill from account managers and salespeople. As a result, the ramifications of losing high-value clients or key accounts are greater. Businesses must take extra care to manage the relationships at these accounts.

Some common characteristics of key accounts:

  • High annual sales volume

  • Profitability and growth potential

  • Strategic partnerships and visibility

  • Industry influence

  • Ability to serve as references to attract other accounts

Differences between sales and key account management

There are differences between key account management and selling. While a salesperson focuses on the short term by necessity, a key account manager prioritizes the future. Sales reps also zero in on specific opportunities, while key account managers have broader goals, including collaborating with the client on mutually beneficial projects, helping the client meet their objectives and making sure the client is getting the necessary support. The difference in competencies needed for the two roles is important to note from a hiring and allocation-of-resources perspective.

12 Key Account Management expectations from major corporations

At its core, KAM focuses on nurturing long-term, consultative and mutually beneficial supplier relationships with key accounts. With KAM, suppliers dedicate personnel and resources expressly to developing trust, understanding needs, enhancing collaboration and delivering on-schedule and high-value solutions tailored to those key accounts.

Typically, corporations have the following 12 KAM expectations of suppliers:

  1. Dedicated key account managers assigned to manage relationships with each key account

  2. Proactive engagement with consistent and strategic interactions focused on the corporation’s objectives

  3. Alignment of the supplier’s teams across sales, marketing, product and services to provide unified support

  4. Supplier leadership engaged with client executives where appropriate

  5. Account plans detailing strategic goals, stakeholder maps, milestones and metrics for each key account

  6. Technology, such as professional CRM tools, to capture account insights and coordinate account-based interactions with supplier staff

  7. Use of key account managers to serve as the primary contacts and advocates for key accounts within the supplier across all business units

  8. Creation of industry- and account-specific solutions rather than one-size-fits-all offerings

  9. Stringent requirements for product quality, responsiveness, reporting and customer service

  10. Maintenance of impeccable business ethics, financial controls, regulatory compliance and data security

  11. Continuous innovation of improved or differentiated solutions tailored to key accounts

  12. Mutual objectives around growth, innovation, sustainability and diversity goals

Strategic KAM steps for SMBs

SMBs can use the following five essential steps to meet the expectations of major corporations:

  1. Define clear targets for revenue, profit and strategic impact expected from key accounts.

  2. Create account plans detailing goals, contacts, timelines, activities and metrics.

  3. Assign managers and dedicate resources expressly for nurturing key relationships.

  4. Equip account teams with digital tools to deliver insights and impact at scale.

  5. Continuously gauge account health through measures like sales growth, share gains, satisfaction surveys and retention risk to guide strategy.

Harnessing digital tools to enhance KAM

SMBs can use digital tools to meet the KAM expectations of major corporations:

  • Automate repetitive tasks and capture customer data digitally to refine and scale account management processes.

  • Use cloud-based tools for centralized communication, file sharing and project management with account stakeholders.

  • Gain a better understanding of key accounts by following their press releases, social media posts and advertisements, as well as speeches and interviews of their executives in business publications like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

  • Orchestrate targeted, multi-channel digital marketing campaigns tailored to individual key accounts. For example, if your company wants to showcase the advanced cybersecurity of your solutions, promote the benefits of your advanced cybersecurity solutions in your marketing materials, in the email correspondence with buyers of that corporation and on your website.

The latest AI-enabled platforms also allow SMBs to quickly build hyper-personalized websites for each key account. These enhance the client’s experience while capturing detailed behavioral data to inform your KAM approach.


Having a strong key account management (KAM) strategy and implementation plan will serve your company well in securing and maintaining contracts with large corporations.

Further Reading:

  1. Katti, Milind. “Unlocking The Secret To Managing Key Accounts: Digital KAM.” Forbes, 08 Jun. 2022,

  2. Johnson, Jamie. “3 Powerful Tips for Successful Account Management.” Business, 16 May 2023,

  3. Ryals, Lynette. “How to Succeed at Key Account Management.” Harvard Business Review, 13 Jul. 2012,




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