Attitudes and behaviours of key account managers: Are they really any different to senior sales professionals?

Iain A. Davies, Lynette J. Ryals

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This study investigates the range of attitudes and behaviours exhibited by Key Account Managers (KAMs) in their roles as customer relationship managers. Specifically, we test whether KAMs exhibit different behaviours and attitudes towards relationship management compared to other sales professionals based on a range of assumptions currently theorized but untested in the Key Account Management (KAM) literature. Utilizing the existing theoretical models of a KAM role we identify six major areas of relational behaviour assumed in the literature to separate the KAM from the sales professional. Drawing on a cross sectional quantitative study of 10 organizations and 409 key account managers, sales managers, and senior sales executives we explore goal orientation, planning, customer embeddedness, strategic prioritization, adaptability and internal management behaviours of our groups and find that, in certain managerial tasks, KAMs do indeed exhibit many of the different behaviours and attitudes predicted in the literature. However, in many customer-facing, goal orientated and revenue generating activities, contrary to expectations, they display similar attitudes and behaviours to those in senior sales roles. This challenges the way that the KAM role has previously been conceptualized. Our findings raise a potential issue for senior managers, since KAMs' unexpectedly short term orientation may lead to insufficient consideration of the strategic consequences of their decisions for these key customer relationships.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)919-931
Number of pages12
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Issue number6
Early online date8 Apr 2013
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Sustainability
  • Key account management
  • Strategic account management
  • Global account management
  • Sales management
  • Relationship management


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