Developments in selling and sales management - Marketing Management

Growth of key account management

Recent years have witnessed a growth in the use of key account management (KAM) approaches to organizing the selling process. An important factor that has led to this is the trend towards more centralized buying. Here, a shift in the balance of power, particularly in retail markets, towards the buyer has meant that such accounts must be handled carefully in terms of retaining goodwill. It makes marketing sense to identify and manage key accounts professionally. Millman and Wilson12 suggest that a key account is a customer of strategic importance to the supplier. This definition does not necessarily mean large customers or important ones in terms of share of sales, but rather customers who can affect the future of the company in some important way. All customers are important, but it is useful to assess the differences and the bases regarding the variation of this importance between them.

Key account selling requires the development of different selling and sales management skills (Ivens and Pardo13). For example, key account selling heightens the consultative and ambassadorial roles of the salesperson. In addition, the salesperson must have regular meetings and communication with key account customers, and normally the task is assigned to a senior salesperson, as key account customers require much more support than their non-key counterparts. Brehmer and Rehme suggest that key account management is a very effective way to develop existing relationships, therebyincreasing sales, but it needs a proactive approach on the part of the supplier


This form of direct marketing has increased dramatically in terms of usage in recent years. Starkey states that one facet of the overall process of telemarketing is a key part of this process; that of telesales. This can involve dealing with calls into the company and calls out to customers. Increased use of telesales is because of potentially lower costs. However, lower costs can only be justified to the extent that teleselling actually creates sales. Like key account management, teleselling requires special skills and training. In addition there is a danger of alienating some customers when using telesales staff to contact customers at home. In this respect there are ethical and legal issues involved with this type of selling. A broader.

The Internet

Virtually every company uses the Internet as an aid, or sometimes exclusively, to sell products and services. B2B marketers, where, as we have noted, personal selling predominates in the communications mix were some of the first to recognize the potential for computer-based interchanges between themselves and customers through Electronic Data Exchange (EDI) systems. The often close rela tionships required between buyers and suppliers in B2B markets encouraged supply chain members to ‘link up’ electronically to exchange information. As a result, EDI systems were developed. These have now developed further into B2Be networks. In a sense, the Internet reduces the need for personal selling. The major impact of the growth in Internet marketing has meant a reduction in the size of many companies’ sales forces, and can be seen by some sales persons as ‘cannibalizing’ their customers. However, these days sales personnel recognize the potential of the Internet combined with selling skills to help generate sales and customer loyalty. For example, the Internet is a powerful aid to generating sales leads. In addition, it is a powerful communication tool, especially when managing key accounts. Day and Bens17 show that the Internet can be used to reduce customer service costs and build sales. Research by Samaniego et al.18 suggests that the Internet is particularly useful in the early stage of the buying process and/or for new adopters where perceived risk is high and information low. The Internet and its uses in marketing are so important to the contemporary marketer.

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