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Top 6 Global Account Management Challenges & How to Solve Them

Discover the key challenges faced by global account managers and learn how to navigate the complexities of managing multinational client relationships.

As businesses continue to expand globally, the role of global account managers has become more critical than ever before. These professionals are tasked with the challenge of managing complex relationships with multinational clients, navigating different cultures, time zones, and business practices.

Learn the unique challenges faced by global account managers and practical insights on how to address them.

Table of Contents

Definition of a Global Account Manager

If you’re interested in a career in international business, you may have heard of the role of a global account manager.

But what exactly is a global account manager?

In simple terms, this is someone responsible for managing and developing relationships with key accounts across different regions or countries.

A global account manager’s job involves working closely with clients to understand their needs and develop tailored solutions that meet those needs. This requires excellent communication skills as well as an ability to navigate cultural differences and adapt to local business practices.

To be successful in this role, individuals need:

  • Strong analytical skills
  • Communication skills.
  • Conflict resolution.
  • Global team leadership and management skills.
  • Business and financial acumen.
  • Relationship management skills.
  • Strategic vision and planning abilities. 
  • Problem-solving capabilities.
  • Cultural intelligence and empathy.
  • Selling skills, both internal and external.
  • Industry and market knowledge of the company and the customer.
  • Product/service knowledge.

Many of these traits are developed through experience rather than formal training/education alone!

A global account manager plays an integral part in helping businesses succeed on an international level by cultivating lasting relationships while driving revenue growth leading towards sustainable prosperity.

The Importance of Global Account Managers in Today’s Business World

In today’s fast-paced global business world, the role of a global account manager has never been more important. These professionals play a critical role in helping companies manage their key accounts across different regions and countries.

One of the main benefits of having a dedicated global account manager is that they can help businesses build strong relationships with clients worldwide. By understanding local cultures, customs and ways of doing business, they are better equipped to tailor solutions that meet client needs while also ensuring compliance with local laws and regulations.

Another advantage is that these managers can help coordinate complex supply chains spanning multiple countries. This includes managing logistics, coordinating deliveries and addressing any issues or concerns that may arise along the way.

Moreover – Global Account Managers are responsible for driving revenue growth by:

  • identifying opportunities for upselling/cross-selling products/services 
  • keeping costs under control!
  • Delivering customized solutions unique to each region/account
  • Developing winning proposals/presentations etc.,

As globalization continues to reshape our economies on an unprecedented scale, a skilled global account manager serves as an integral part in helping businesses succeed on an international level.

Challenges Faced by Global Account Managers

Managing key accounts on a global scale can be an incredibly challenging task, which is why the role of a global account manager is so important. These professionals are responsible for managing relationships with clients across different regions and countries, coordinating complex supply chains, and driving revenue growth.However, being a global account manager comes with its own unique set of challenges. Being aware of potential challenges and obstacles is essential if you want to succeed.

Challenge #1: Cultural Differences

Imagine you’re trying to close a big deal with a potential client from another country. You’ve done all the research on their company and have prepared a pitch that showcases your strengths as an organization. 

However, when you meet with the client, things aren’t going as planned. They seem disinterested or even offended by some aspects of your presentation. 

What went wrong?

It’s likely that you didn’t take into account the cultural differences between yourself and the client. Cultural norms vary widely across different countries and regions, so what might be considered appropriate behavior in one place could be seen as rude or unprofessional in another.

For example, while direct communication is valued in Western cultures like the US, it may come across as confrontational or aggressive in other parts of the world where indirect communication is preferred.

Global account managers need to understand that cultural differences have a significant impact on business relationships. Each culture has its own set of values, norms, beliefs, and communication styles. 

Failure to understand these differences can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts that can damage the relationship with clients and ultimately hurt your bottom line.

Strategies for overcoming cultural barriers

So what can you do to avoid these kinds of pitfalls? 

The first step is simply recognizing that cultural differences exist and being open-minded enough to learn about them before entering into any international business dealings. 

Cultural intelligence refers to the ability to adapt effectively to different cultural contexts. Global account managers need to develop cultural intelligence if they want to communicate effectively with clients from different cultures.

First, you need to understand your own culture and how it affects communication styles and behaviors. You can’t change the way you communicate unless you know how you do it.

Global account managers must be willing and able to learn about other cultures by reading literature or taking courses on intercultural communication. Do thorough research on local customs before traveling overseas for meetings or negotiations. This includes learning about topics like appropriate dress codes, gift-giving practices, meal etiquette, and even non-verbal cues like body language.Another helpful approach is working closely with local experts who understand both their own culture as well as yours – this could mean hiring translators or reaching out to colleagues for advice and information.

Global account managers must be flexible enough in their approach towards different clients since no two clients are the same. They should be ready and willing to customize their communication style based on individual client preferences.

Finally- if you’re a manager, consider implementing cross-cultural training programs within your team so global account managers are better equipped to navigate potentially tricky situations abroad.

Develop cultural sensitivity by building trust and rapport

it’s important to remember that cultural sensitivity is not just about being polite or avoiding embarrassing faux pas. It’s also about building strong relationships and earning trust with your international counterparts.

Building trust takes time but is essential for maintaining strong relationships with clients from diverse backgrounds. To build trust and rapport with clients, global account managers must be authentic in their communication style. Avoid using jargon or buzzwords that may come across as insincere.

Be willing to listen actively and show empathy towards your clients. Make an effort to understand the client’s unique perspective and demonstrate a willingness to work together towards mutual goals.

Cultural differences play a significant role in global business relationships. Global account managers must develop cultural intelligence, adapt their communication style, and build trust with clients from diverse backgrounds to overcome the challenges posed by cultural differences.

Challenge #2: Language Barriers

When you’re doing business with people from different countries or regions, it’s likely that you’ll encounter some language barriers. Even if both parties speak English as a second language, for example- their accents or idioms might be difficult to understand.These misunderstandings could lead to confusion over important details such as project scope or budget which in turn could potentially damage the entire relationship with that client.In addition – when individuals are not able to communicate effectively due to linguistic barriers (particularly during in-person meetings), this can create an impression of incompetence even though skills may be top notch!

Strategies for overcoming language barriers

So what strategies can help overcome these kinds of obstacles? 

One effective approach is hiring translators who are fluent in both languages involved. These professionals have specialized training and experience communicating complex ideas across multiple languages which helps ensure everyone understands each other clearly.Another option is using translation software such as Google Translate- while not always perfect, these tools provide a good starting point especially for written materials like emails or presentations where context is more limited than spoken conversation.Finally consider enrolling employees in foreign-language classes so they can become proficient themselves over time. Bilingualism adds value not only by improving customer interactions but also opening up new career opportunities!

Even a beginner level competency where you can ask and answer simple questions, recognise familiar words and can use simple sentences to describe things will be immensely beneficial. And your efforts will be appreciated by your global clients.

Ensuring Accuracy and Clarity in All Communication

To avoid miscommunication that arises due to language differences, it’s important for global account managers always to ensure clarity in all forms of communication including emails, phone calls video conferences etc. 

When communicating through email or any written form of discussion, it is important always double-check your message before sending it out for grammatical errors spelling mistakes as well as tone to avoid offending the recipient.

On calls or video conferences, be sure to speak slowly and clearly especially when speaking with non-native speakers. Enable live captions if available. 

By focusing on these strategies, global account managers can successfully overcome language barriers, improve communication, and build strong relationships with clients from all over the world.

Pro tip for overcoming language barriers

Give DeepL Pro for Business a try. It’s an advanced translation tool that helps global teams communicate across boarders. It offers accurate translation (over three times more accurate than the closes AI competitors), translation customisation options, industry glossaries, and lots more.

Importantly, your data is protected with enterprise-grade security, which is essential for sensitive business communication.

Plans start at €7.49 a month and you can try for free with their 30 day trial.

Challenge #3: Communicating Across Time Zones

When you’re managing accounts across different regions or countries, it’s likely that you’ll encounter some significant differences in time zones. For example- if a client is based in Australia while the company headquarters are located in New York City, that means a whopping 14-hour difference!

This kind of overlap poses challenges for scheduling meetings as “normal” business hours may not align with one another.

Effective communication becomes harder when each party must wait until the other has arrived to their office before hearing back which could slow down decision-making and create delays.

Sometimes waiting until morning isn’t feasible when “morning” is two days away.

Strategies for overcoming time zone differences

So what can you do to overcome these challenges? 

One effective strategy is simply being mindful of other people’s schedules as much as possible. This means trying your best to schedule calls or video conferences at times that work well for everyone involved – even if it means taking some early mornings or late nights on your end.

Another helpful approach is leveraging technology tools such as calendar apps which automatically adjust meeting times based on each person’s location (Google Calendar has this feature).

One key solution is investing in tools like virtual meeting platforms (e.g Zoom) which enable real-time video conferencing so participants feel more connected despite physical distance between them

Other options include digital project management systems where progress updates and assigned tasks are centralized so they’re easily trackable by all relevant stakeholders regardless of location/time zone etc

For longer term planning where timing conflicts are inevitable- consider delegating tasks specifically assigned by time zone so individuals can tackle them during their regular working hours while still adhering overall project timelines.

Communicate expectations to avoid misunderstandings

All these strategies only work if clear communication channels are established. It’s important not only set expectations around response times but also ensure every team member clearly understands who they should be contacting and how best/when they will respond given time zone differences.It’s essential that everyone involved understands exactly what was discussed during meetings, phone calls, and emails – this is especially true when communication occurs outside of standard working hours. Take extra care to make sure details are written down clearly or even recorded so it can be reviewed later if needed.By prioritizing clear communication with clients and colleagues in different time zones, you’ll not only avoid misunderstandings but also build stronger relationships based on trust and mutual understanding.

Be prepared to work odd hours

Global account managers often have to be flexible and adaptable about working outside regular business hours in order to accommodate clients in different time zones. 

This may involve working evenings or weekends, but it’s essential for building strong relationships with clients who value responsiveness and reliability. It requires good communication with colleagues and family members about scheduling needs, as well as self-discipline in managing work-life balance.

Doing business across different time zones can be challenging, but by being mindful of other people’s schedules, leveraging technology tools when possible and communicating effectively- these obstacles become less daunting!

Pro tip for planning global meetings

Use a free meeting planner like timeanddate.

You can add a bunch of cities and it’ll give you a color-coded summary of meeting times. Green is the optimal time, although usually someone will have to compromise.

For example, when it’s 11am in London, it’s 2pm in Abu Dhabi and 7.30pm in Adelaide. That’s after hours for Australia, but not a major disruption to your evening if you have to take a call at that time once in awhile.

Challenge #4: Legal and Regulatory Compliance

When you’re doing business internationally, it can be a real challenge to keep up with all the laws and regulations that apply. Every country has its own set of rules governing everything from labor practices to taxes to environmental standards – not to mention differences in cultural expectations around things like gift-giving or bribery.

Companies are expected to adhere strictly to local rules in order not only maintain their reputation but also avoid any penalties. The penalties or fines can be very heavy at times especially if certain countries impose strict compliance rules on foreign entities operating within their jurisdictions.

Understanding these requirements is crucial for a global account manager to develop an effective strategy for their clients. Failing to comply with local laws and regulations can quickly lead to legal and reputational risks that tarnish your company’s image – something no organization wants or needs!

Managing the complexities of complying with different legal and regulatory frameworks

So what can you do as a global account manager? 

The first step is recognizing that compliance is an ongoing process- You need stay updated on changes in local law and regulation so you don’t get caught out by sudden shifts which may impact your operations.Another important strategy involves hiring local counsel who know their way around the legal system within each respective country where you operate. These experts can help navigate complex bureaucracies, negotiate deals and ensure proper documentation at every stage of the process.

Depending on your industry, there may be other specialists that can help you on the ground to ensure you comply with local regulations and documentation. For example, freight forwarding and logistic operators might help you with navigating rules around imports/exports/customs duties/taxes 

Conduct regular audits to identify any areas where your company might be falling short when it comes to meeting local requirements for safety or ethical conduct etc. That way you can implement corrective action plans before they become bigger issues later on down the line! 

Staying up-to-date with changes in laws & regulations

Laws and regulations frequently change since governments regard these changes as a way of improving business practices within their respective borders. As such, it is essential for global account managers to keep updated on the latest changes; this will allow them to stay compliant while retaining a competitive edge when they advise clients on what to do. 

Being aware of regulatory changes in different countries might be daunting, but it’s important to stay in the know even if it’s just through email newsletters or attending seminars or webinars that address these issues.

Staying up-to-date with the latest legal and regulatory changes helps global account managers to provide their clients with the most accurate and effective advice possible.

Ultimately, ensuring full compliance wherever your company operates isn’t just about ticking boxes – It’s also about maintaining good relations with clients and stakeholders alike.By demonstrating adherence both legally AND ethically (which often go hand-in-hand), companies establish themselves as responsible players within their respective industries, setting themselves apart from competitors. 

Pro tip for keeping up to date on global trends

The best place I’ve found to keep up-to-date is reading the research material published by professional services firms like PwCMcKinseyDeloitte and others.

They provide comprehensive insights that cover a variety of industries, regions and countries and it’s their job to stay on top of changes in laws and regulations.

Sign up to their email newsletters, and also follow my Twitter Business Trends List.

Challenge #5: Travel Constraints

Global account managers often have to travel extensively to meet with clients, build relationships, and close deals. Face-to-face interactions are often seen as essential for fostering trust and mutual understanding between parties involved – but when this isn’t possible (or advisable) finding alternatives becomes a necessity!

Strategies for overcoming travel constraints

One effective solution is utilizing technology such as video conferencing software (e.g Zoom), virtual meeting platforms like Skype Business/Teams etc. These tools allow you connect remotely with individuals around the globe in real-time while also providing enough visual cues that give a sense of being “in person”.

Another option is investing resources into building teams locally within each region where your company operates so that they can act as intermediaries between HQ & local counterparts during periods of restricted mobility.Finally-scheduling regular check-ins via phone calls or email will ensure everyone stays connected even if physical presence cannot be maintained.

Importance of maintaining regular communication and building strong relationships (even without physical presence)

While nothing beats the power of human connection through personal interaction -it’s important not let temporary obstacles derail progress towards long-term goals.

By focusing on nurturing strong working relationships regardless of whether they’re conducted virtually or in person—you’ll create an environment where trust has been established amongst both parties involved. And that’s an essential to successful cross-border negotiations and dealings

Challenge #6: Turf Wars

Global account management involves integrating global and local sales organizations to ensure that key clients receive the best service possible. And that often means trade-off decisions need to be made.

On the one hand, you want to have a cohesive sales strategy across all markets. On the other hand, local teams may have unique insights into their market that global teams simply don’t possess.

However, if these teams are not able to work together effectively, it can create serious problems for global account management and lead to turf wars. These conflicts occur when when local teams feel that their autonomy is being threatened by the global organization. They may resist efforts to standardize processes or procedures, or feel that their local knowledge is being overlooked.

This can lead to a breakdown in communication, distrust between teams, and a lack of collaboration.

Examples of Turf Wars

Turf wars can arise when global and local sales teams have different goals and objectives. For example, global sales teams may prioritize revenue growth and expanding the company’s global footprint, while local sales teams may prioritize building strong relationships with clients in their region. This can lead to conflicts over who owns the client relationship and who is responsible for revenue growth.

Turf wars can also arise when global and local sales teams have different ways of working. For example, global sales teams may have standardized processes and procedures, while local sales teams may have more flexibility to adapt to local market conditions. This can lead to conflicts over which approach is better and who should be responsible for making decisions.

Additional examples include:

  • Local sales reps feeling threatened by attempts from HQ’s team at taking away part of their commissions.
  • Disagreements over pricing structures
  • Differences in product offerings across regions leading to competition instead of cooperation

So how do you overcome these challenges? 

Strategies for Overcoming Turf Wars

Turf wars can be a major challenge for global account managers, but by working together, global and local sales teams can provide the best possible service to key clients and help organizations succeed in today’s interconnected world.

  • Establish roles and responsibilities.  Develop a clear strategy for managing global accounts and establish a clear hierarchy of responsibility and authority. This can be done by defining the scope of each team’s responsibilities and ensuring that there is no overlap. It is also important to establish clear communication channels between global and local sales teams to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Create a culture of collaboration and teamwork. This can be done by encouraging global and local sales teams to work together on projects and initiatives, and by recognizing and rewarding collaborative behaviour.
  • Provide training and support to global and local sales teams. Help them understand each other’s perspectives and ways of working. This can be done through cross-functional training programs, team-building exercises, and mentoring programs.
  • Address conflict between local and global sales teams promptly. Ignoring conflict can lead to resentment and further escalation of the conflict, which can damage customer relationships and harm the overall success of the organization. Have open lines of communication and being willing to listen to each other’s perspectives. It may be helpful to have a mediator or facilitator who can help teams work through their differences and come to a resolution.

Why It’s Important to Overcome These Challenges

Global account managers are the backbone of any successful international business.

They play a critical role in building strong relationships with clients across different countries and cultures, managing complex supply chains, and ensuring smooth operations on a global scale. 

However, this is no easy task.

Global account managers face numerous challenges that can make their job difficult.

To overcome these challenges, businesses need to develop a comprehensive strategy for managing their accounts globally. This includes:

  • understanding the unique cultures of each region they operate in through cross-cultural training sessions or by hiring consultants who specialize in it;
  • keeping track of all relevant laws and regulations so compliance remains top priority;
  • developing effective communication strategies such as using translators or investing in language courses for employees working abroad.

Overcoming the challenges faced by global account managers should be a top priority for any business looking to succeed on an international level.

It’s essential for businesses to prioritize global management because an efficient system will help them:

  • gain a competitive advantage over rivals who neglect these issues
  • reduce risks associated with non-compliance
  • reduce poor communication skills
  • avoid reputational damage and loss of market share.

By creating effective global account management strategies focused on:

  • cultural awareness
  • training programs to develop essential skills
  • staying updated around ever-changing regulations and laws
  • Good communication tools and resources

companies can ensure smooth operations while establishing long-lasting relationships with customers worldwide.

Need more help with the challenges of global account management?

  • Global account management strategies: Drivers and outcomes. An excellent study from the Journal of International Business which explores global account management strategies. They found that inter-country, inter-organizational coordination, standardized marketing activities and global integration and significant determinants of success.
  • Global Account Management: Creating Companywide and Worldwide Relationships to Global Customers. A 2010 study published in the International Journal of Customer Relationship Marketing and Management. It examines the issues related to multi-level relationships in global account management and provides some solutions.
  • Managing Global Accounts. A Harvard Business Review article based on research that found global account management can improve customer satisfaction by 20% and raise profits and revenues by 15% within a few years. But only a third of companies are happy with how their GAM strategy is working out. The article gives advice on how to create an effective program, a scorecard and guidelines to help you figure out if GAM is right for your business and how to get started.
  • Successful Global Account Management: Key strategies and tools for managing global customers by Kevin Wilson and Nick Speare. A comprehensive book that guides you through the process of starting global program, developing global account management strategies, managing global relationships and lots more. Essential reading, but a brand new copy is really expensive, so pick it up second hand for around $5.
  • The Culture Map: Breaking Through the Invisible Boundaries of Global Business. When you’re working on a team with people from all over the world you need to be aware that everyone has different expectations for how to communicate and work together. In “The Culture Map,” Professor Erin Meyer explains how to navigate these differences so you can work better together. Her book is packed with useful tips and advice, so you can learn how to decode cultural differences and make your team stronger.
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