Key account management in business markets: an empirical test of common assumptions

by Björn Sven Ivens and Catherine Pardo


Purpose – The concept of key account management (KAM) has received considerable attention from practitioners and scholars for well over 20 years now. However, numerous articles build on a set of tacit assumptions for which we lack empirical evidence. This paper seeks to propose an empirical test of several of these assumptions.

Design/methodology/approach – The contribution draws on a study conducted among 297 purchasing managers in two industries (packaging goods, market research data).

Findings – The findings indicate that parts of the foundations of KAM are not as solid as they may appear at first sight.

Practical implications – This paper invites managers of KAM programmes to carefully consider the objectives they assign to such programmes by integrating the idea of value created both for key customers and for suppliers implementing such programmes.

Originality/value – The article extends knowledge of key account management in the business field by providing new – and, in the light of the extant literature, sometimes rather counter-intuitive – insights into this important management phenomenon. It does this by systematically comparing key account relationships and non-key account relationships.


As a reaction to changes in environmental factors, in their customers' purchasing behaviours and demands, and in their own strategies, many ...

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