Where's the strategic intent in key account relationships?

Lynette J. Ryals, Iain A. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (SciVal)
292 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: Over the past ten to 15 years, key account management (KAM) has established itself as an important and growing field of academic study and as a major issue for practitioners. Despite the use of strategic intent in conceptualizing KAM relationship types, the role of strategic intent has not previously been empirically tested. This paper aims to address this issue Design/methodology/approach: This paper reports on inductive research that used a dyadic methodology and difference modelling to examine nine key account relationship dyads involving 18 companies. This is supplemented with 13 semi-structured interviews with key account managers from a further 13 companies, which provides additional depth of understanding of the drivers of KAM relationship type.

Findings: The research found a misalignment of strategic intent between supplier and customer, which suggested that strategic intent is unrelated to relationship type. In contrast, key buyer/supplier relationships were differentiated not by the level of strategic fit or intent, but by contact structure and differentiated service.

Practical implications: This research showed that there can be stable key account relationships even where there is an asymmetry of strategic interests. The findings also have practical implications relating to the selection and management of key accounts.

Originality/value: These results raise questions relating to conceptualizations of such relationships, both in the classroom and within businesses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-124
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business and Industrial Marketing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • Sustainability
  • Key accounts
  • Buyers
  • Suppliers
  • Channel relationships
  • Industrial selling
  • Strategic intent
  • Relationship typologies


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