Unlocking key account success through cross-functional collaboration

As we stand on the brink of what JP Morgan predicts to be a “synchronized global downturn sometime in 2024,” businesses are scrutinizing their expenditures with an eagle eye, seeking cost-saving opportunities. However, with a staggering 58% of key accounts failing to deliver on their quotas, meaning only 42% are unlocking key account success, the situation is not just worrying; it’s risky.


Collaboration’s role in unlocking key account success

As organizations become increasingly discerning about the projects they undertake and subject any changes in suppliers or additional expenditures to meticulous scrutiny, statistics are still showing there is a way to unlock key account success. That is to provide better service, more cost-effective solutions, and earn that extra revenue. In fact, research by Gartner reveals that “high levels of cross-functional collaboration increase the amount of key customer spend by 215% more than poor to mediocre levels of collaboration.”

Similarly, Roland Berger’s insights emphasize that effective organizations employ “an overall comprehensive account planning logic (…) to drive Key Account Management (KAM) excellence and extend this across all functions necessary for business success.” Roland Berger’s findings also underscore that multi-contact structures yield higher commercial success, highlighting the pivotal role of cross-functional collaboration.

When collaboration is fostered and every individual’s contribution is acknowledged and valued, it creates an inclusive environment where no member feels underappreciated or overlooked. This, in turn, has a profound impact on team dynamics and productivity. When people feel seen and heard, they are more likely to contribute. It boosts team morale, promotes knowledge sharing, and strengthens bonds among team members. Moreover, this culture of appreciation drives continuous improvement, as team members are more willing to provide feedback and engage in constructive dialogue.

According to McKinsey, one of the foundational pillars of agile and fast-moving organizations is precisely this: cross-functional collaboration. As we mentioned in our previous article, leaders in such forward-thinking enterprises report remarkable statistics: 2.1 times higher operational resilience, 2.5 times higher financial performance, 3.0 times higher growth, and a remarkable 4.8 times higher innovation. The message is clear: effective collaboration across functions is the key to thriving in an ever-changing landscape and unlocking key account success.

So, how can organizations enhance their cross-functional collaboration to ensure they’re unlocking key account success and meeting quotas while navigate economic challenges with resilience?

Inspire cross-functional collaboration:

Inspire cross-functional collaboration: A dedicated sponsor, someone with the vision and influence to drive this transformation, can play a pivotal role in making it happen swiftly and with a sense of urgency, aligning with McKinsey’s recommendation to complete the key phases of this change within 18 months or less. Leading by example is crucial in signaling your commitment to this change. Establish a cross-functional team that embodies the collaborative spirit you want to promote. This team should serve as a model for others to follow, showcasing the benefits of working together seamlessly across departments. By setting the tone from the top and creating an environment where cross-functional collaboration is not just encouraged but expected, you can pave the way for a cultural shift that will drive innovation, efficiency, and success across your organization.

Support transparency and communication:

Transparency is vital to successful collaboration. Establish the right culture and policies to facilitate information sharing. Tools that provide visibility into goals, scope, and tasks within various workstreams can mitigate the risk of redundancy and foster trust among collaborators. Stephanie Spangler at McKinsey highlights the importance of visibility among team members, stating, “Each member of the team may benefit from having visibility into the goal or the scope of the problem and also what others are doing as part of that workstream. This could mitigate the risk of redundancy in tasks by the other co-collaborators while also potentially building trust. Collaboration will likely fail if knowledge is siloed, making information sharing a key element to enable collaboration.” The right tools can break down barriers, reducing confusion and misunderstandings.

Engage with purpose:

Sales leaders should proactively engage with leaders from other functions, intentionally and iteratively. This deliberate engagement not only deepens the sales team’s comprehension of what other departments value in key accounts but also cultivates a collective sense of co-ownership across different teams (as emphasized by Gartner). Collaboratively building processes, making formal resource commitments, and conducting consistent follow-ups not only strengthen your sales objectives but also solidify a shared sense of purpose among cross-functional units. These actions are instrumental in unlocking key account success, driving meaningful collaboration that goes beyond mere cooperation, enabling the organization to thrive collectively in pursuit of common goals.

Embrace continuous improvement

Ensure timely feedback loops and “lessons learned” sessions are integrated into your collaborative efforts. This iterative approach ensures that your team remains agile, responsive, and well-prepared to navigate changing circumstances and emerging opportunities. Furthermore, it fosters a culture of accountability and learning, where feedback is not seen as criticism but as a means to collectively improve and excel. By actively seeking to enhance collaboration through continuous improvement, you position your team for greater effectiveness, innovation, and long-term success, as noted by McKinsey’s research and best practices.

Assemble the dream team: 

When selecting team members for specific accounts, do so carefully and wisely. Choose individuals who can make the most substantial impact, while minimizing the number of passive participants. This approach not only enhances productivity but also boosts engagement and overall morale. Team members won’t be seen as timewasters, and they’ll be more inclined to participate actively and respond promptly to communications. When you formalize this selection process, you’ll ensure consistent criteria and replicable success, reducing inefficiency and variability.

Establish accountability: 

 Hold every team member accountable for their contributions. Whether they’re in sales or other functions, integrate account management and project participation into their annual objectives and performance evaluations. Implement a formal follow-up process supported by robust project management. By doing so, you communicate the importance of each contributor’s role. You also ensure they receive due credit and, ideally, bonuses when exceptional results are achieved.

The collaborative approach to unlocking key account success

The promise of successful key account management hinges on cross-functional collaboration. The pain of underperformance in this regard can lead to missed opportunities, compromised resilience, and diminished growth potential. As leaders, it is on us to turn collaboration into our competitive advantage in the face of evolving challenges.

Explore our earlier article for an in-depth understanding of CI-supported account planning. And if you’re keen to discover how Kreivo can assist you in embedding cross-functional collaboration to unlock key account success and thrive in a competitive landscape, please reach out to us through our contact page or connect on LinkedIn.  

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