Thursday, 30. April 2015

Trends in Key Account Management

WHU Campus for Sales 2015 – Conference Discusses Sales Trends

Taking "Trends in Key Account Management" as its theme, the Campus for Sales was held on April 21 at WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management. Some 150 sales managers, managing directors and sales experts met at the Vallendar Campus to discuss changes and future trends in key account management.

The primary audience for this fourth Campus for Sales consists of managing directors, sales managers and key account managers. Participants were provided with insights into the different approaches companies take with regard to key account management. High-ranking executives from Hewlett-Packard, Dürr AG, Pfizer, Siemens AG, Commerzbank AG and Procter & Gamble were in attendance as speakers, presenting a variety of examples drawn from their experiences in the field.

Opening remarks by Professor Ove Jensen, conference organizer and holder of the Chair in Sales Management and Business-to-Business Marketing at WHU, Ralf W. Dieter, CEO of Dürr AG offered a presentation on the role of the CEO and management in key account management. Dieter, himself a sales professional in his company's management hierarchy, called for closer cooperation between the key account managers and management and a sales culture throughout all divisions. The principle he left for conference participants was: "Everyone in the company works in sales!"

Dieter was followed by Dr. Hajo Rapp, Senior Vice President Customer Relationship Management at Siemens One. In his remarks, Rapp presented the company-wide key account management program in place at Siemens. "Top customers buy across divisions," Rapp pointed out, and identified as the central task that of overcoming silos and agreements involving multiple divisions in key account management. He also shed light on challenges to KAM in times of digitization, insisting: "We have to listen to customers more!"

The impact of digital technology on KAM formed the topic of remarks by Michael Eberhardt, Managing Director, General Manager and Vice President Enterprise Services at Hewlett-Packard D/A/CH and Eastern Europe. He offered a fascinating insight into the KAM processes and solutions in place at Hewlett-Packard. Eberhardt identified changes in customers' expectations as an overarching trend and challenge, and as an opportunity at the same time: "At the end of the day, every customer wants to be treated as an individual."

In her lecture entitled "How can we bring value back to an industry with narrow margins?," Astrid Teckentrup, Vice President Customer Business Development D/A/CH at Procter & Gamble, presented some specific KAM strategies in place in her company. Working from the fundamental idea of customer business development, Teckentrup explained various solution approaches to promote better value creation. Taking the maxim that "The customer is the boss" as her point of departure, she spoke in favor of making active use of new technologies, reported on creating added value through product innovation, and called for closer cooperation between industry and retail.

The Campus for Sales offered a platform for the exchange of viewpoints and experiences again this year. In addition to technical presentations, an interactive lunchtime program featuring mini-workshops and discussion stations organized by academic staff and students at WHU offered participants added opportunities to share ideas with fellow sales enthusiasts.
In the afternoon, Ralph Lägel, Senior Manager Healthcare Strategies Global Innovative Pharmaceuticals at Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, kicked off the second part of the conference program. Refreshingly open-minded and straightforward, in his presentation "Innovative partnering models with key accounts in the pharmaceuticals business," Lägel discussed the challenges Pfizer faces in a constantly evolving industry. In the process, he succeeded in making the complex structure of the pharmaceuticals industry understandable, describing how the shift from product sales to solution sales can succeed.

The ever-increasing complexity of KAM was the topic of remarks by Günter Tallner, Executive Vice President Major Clients Northwest at Commerzbank AG, in a presentation devoted to complex account management. He offered insights into the five-year process of reorganization in KAM at Commerzbank and stressed the importance of adapting to clients' needs. "Knowing one another personally at the executive level is a critical success factor," Tallner concluded.

Host Professor Ove Jensen of WHU rounded off this year's Campus for Sales with a lecture on "KAM 4.0," in which he shed light on developments in KAM in recent decades and offered an outlook on possible future developments in the field.

The next Campus for Sales will be held on April 20, 2016, and will be devoted to the theme of "Hybrid sales processes." Effective immediately, interested parties are welcome to pre-register for the conference: