The KAM Coach - Key account management training, consulting and coaching.
Search
Close this search box.

How to Conquer Imposter Syndrome as a Key Account Manager

Ever feel like a fraud as a key account manager? You're not alone. Get help with this guide to conquering imposter syndrome and banishing self-doubt for good.
How to conquer imposter syndrome as a key account manager
Hey there, fellow Key Account Manager!
 
I want to let you in on a secret. Even the most successful people in our field have moments where they feel they’re not good enough. It’s called imposter syndrome and it can hit you like a ton of bricks when you least expect it.
 
I know from personal experience.
 
A long time ago, far far away, I was promoted from team leader of 4 people to manager of 45 people. Completely beyond my expertise at the time.
 
I would be in a daily panic about whether or not I was doing a good job. My boss had a habit of dropping by my office unannounced and asking “Have you got a minute?” She just wanted a chat, but every time, my heart would race, and I’d think, “This is it. I’m fired.” 
 
Spoiler alert: That never happened. It was all in my head, thanks to the convincing voice of imposter syndrome.
 
So, if you’ve ever felt like you’re not good enough, even when the evidence says otherwise, you’re not alone.
 
Let’s talk about what imposter syndrome is, how it affects Key Account Managers, and how to get rid of it—once and for all.

Table of Contents

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is that nagging voice inside your head that doubts your skills and successes. It makes you think your achievements are due to luck or outside factors – not your own hard work. This constant self-doubt holds us back and stresses us out.

How common is it?

Many people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. You might be surprised to learn just how many:
  • Studies show that imposter syndrome affects a wide range of people, no matter their gender or age. No one is safe from it.
  • The number of people who experience it varies from 9% to 82%, depending on the study and symptoms measured. So, you are not alone in your struggles.
 
UK Insights: In the UK, imposter syndrome is a growing problem:
  • A staggering 39% of people feel bad about their jobs at least once a week.
  • For 1 in 20 people, this feeling of not being good enough happens daily. This frequency highlights how serious the problem is.
  • Google searches for “imposter syndrome” have jumped by 511% since 2016. More and more people are looking for help with this issue.

*See sources below

Why does imposter syndrome happen? 

Imposter syndrome has specific triggers that allow it to take hold. Here are a few to look out for:
  • Unrealistic Standards: You hold yourself to impossible expectations that nobody else could meet. Even when you go above and beyond what others expect, you still feel like you never measure up.
  • Comparisons: You compare your behind-the-scenes work to the polished results of others. This distorted view makes you underestimate your own talents and contributions. You forget that everyone’s journey looks different.
  • Downplaying Success: You think your success is due to luck, timing, or outside help and not your hard work. You can’t fully own your power and potential if you always downplay your wins.
  • Fear of Failure: Sometimes, imposter syndrome stems from a deep fear of being “found out.” You don’t take risks or step outside of your comfort zone. In the end, you hinder your opportunities for growth.
  • The Need for External Validation: You rely on praise or recognition to feel good about your job. When positive feedback isn’t available, self-doubt creeps in.
These are just a few common causes. Imposter syndrome is complex and it knows how to hide.

KAM Spotlight: The Big Promotion

You've put in the work, honed your skills managing mid-sized accounts, and finally, the big break arrives. You're assigned the company's most prestigious, high-profile client. The one you're told your company cannot lose. Suddenly, the spotlight's on you, and every single move feels under a microscope. Doubts creep in: "Am I really cut out for this? What if I fail?"

 

Recognize the Trigger: This overwhelming feeling is a classic sign of imposter syndrome. Feeling uncertain when making a significant leap in your career is natural.

 

Tips:

  • Break It Down: Don't get overwhelmed by the big picture. Focus on smaller, achievable goals.
  • Embrace the Challenge: This isn't about instant perfection, it's about growth. View it as a chance to rise to a new level.
  • Find a Mentor: Seek guidance from an experienced KAM who has successfully managed similarly large accounts.

Remember: You were given this account for a reason. Your skills and potential were recognized. Trust your abilities, tackle challenges strategically, and you'll rise to the occasion!

Identifying Triggers

To combat imposter syndrome, you need to understand what sets it off. Here are some common triggers to look out for:
  • The Performance Review: Your annual review is coming up. The anxiety starts building and you focus on every mistake you’ve made. You convince yourself the feedback will be terrible.
  • That Colleague’s Success: You see a co-worker crush a presentation or get promoted. Immediately, you think, “I could never be as good as them.”
  • Stepping into the Unknown: A new project lands on your desk and brings a wave of uncertainty. “Can I really handle this?” becomes like a broken record in your thoughts.
  • Perfection’s Trap: You find yourself obsessing over every detail. Anything less than perfect feels like a catastrophic failure.
  • The Compliment Conundrum: Someone praises your work. Instead of saying “thank you”, you think, “They’re just being nice. They don’t really mean it.”
Your triggers might be different! Start a ‘Triggers Journal’ to discover your own patterns. Keep a small notebook handy, and whenever those negative feelings creep in, make a note of what brought them on. This will help you spot patterns and understand what sets off your imposter syndrome.

KAM Spotlight: Stepping into a Legend's Shadow

Your boss hands you a coveted account, but there's a catch – your predecessor is a legend in the industry. The client won't stop singing their praises, highlighting how irreplaceable they are. The pressure mounts, and you think, "How will I ever live up to their reputation?"
 
Recognize the Trigger: Comparisons breed insecurity, especially when the benchmark seems unattainable. This is a prime imposter syndrome breeding ground.
 
Tips:
  • Acknowledge Their Legacy: Don't ignore the elephant in the room. Let the client know you respect their former KAM's work.
  • Lean into Your Newness: Approach the account with a fresh perspective. Your curiosity could reveal new opportunities or uncover overlooked challenges.
  • Focus on Building Trust: Your goal isn't to replace a legend, but build your own solid relationship with the client. Show them what you bring to the table.
  • Embrace Your Unique Strengths: You were chosen for a reason! Highlight your skills and how they can provide additional value to the client.
Remember: The "legend" also started somewhere. Your unique skills and fresh perspective bring valuable new energy to the account. Focus on building a strong client relationship, providing exceptional service, and your own success story will unfold.

Strategies to Combat Imposter Syndrome

Now that you understand your triggers, it’s time to fight back! Here are strategies to help you conquer imposter syndrome:
  • Preparation: Know your stuff. Research your clients, their industry, and how your solutions fit their needs. Thorough preparation builds confidence and respect.
  • Focus on Your Journey: Stop comparing yourself to others. Celebrate your unique achievement and your journey so far. Every day you’re becoming a better version of you.
  • Embrace Challenges: View new tasks as opportunities to learn and grow. Break them down into smaller steps to avoid overwhelm.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Aim for progress, not perfection. Achievable goals build confidence and keep you moving forward.
  • Own Your Successes: When someone compliments your work, say “thank you” and mean it! Fight the urge to downplay your accomplishments.
Overcoming imposter syndrome takes time and effort. Choose a few strategies to start with, and build from there. You’ve got this!

KAM Spotlight: Finding Your Voice with the C-Suite

Engaging with C-suite executives and senior stakeholders can be intimidating. You might think, "Why would they listen to me? I'm so junior in comparison." Doubts swirl, and you might shy away from offering insights or taking initiative, fearing you don't have enough experience or authority.
 
Recognize the Trigger: This is a prime example of imposter syndrome fueled by perceived hierarchies and undervaluing your expertise.
 
Tips:
  • Own Your Knowledge: You're the expert on your product, industry trends, and how your solutions create value. Remember, they hired you for a reason!
  • Focus on Shared Goals: C-suite executives are driven by achieving results. Frame your insights in a way that aligns with their goals and priorities.
  • Become a Problem-Solver: Instead of just offering information, identify potential challenges and present solutions tailored to their specific needs.
  • Be Enthusiastic and Curious: Ask insightful questions and demonstrate your passion for helping them succeed.
Remember: Senior leaders are often open to fresh perspectives and value those who take initiative. Don't underestimate the power of your in-depth knowledge and understanding of their pain points.

Building Credibility and Influence

As a Key Account Manager, establishing trust and influencing decisions is crucial. Here’s how to boost your impact:
  • Speak Up: Share your ideas! Don’t be afraid to contribute in meetings and discussions. Your insights are valuable.
  • Ask Questions: Show engagement and curiosity. Smart questions spark conversations and uncover deeper understanding.
  • Build Relationships: Invest in genuine connections with colleagues and clients. Strong relationships make collaboration and influence easier.
  • Continuous Learning: Stay up-to-date on industry trends and tools. This commitment to growth shows your expertise and value to clients.
Building credibility and influence takes time. Focus on these key strategies, celebrate successes, and you’ll see your impact grow.

KAM Spotlight: When a Client Walks Away

Losing a client is a tough blow, especially when it feels like it reflects poorly on your abilities. You might find yourself thinking, "Everyone will blame me. Should I have pushed harder? Did I miss something?" This self-doubt can quickly spiral into full-blown imposter syndrome.
 
Recognize the Trigger: Churn is a reality in sales, and client needs can evolve over time. Don't personalise the loss or blame yourself for something outside your control.
 
Tips:
  • Review the Timeline: Objectively analyze the lead-up to the client's departure. Identify any missed opportunities to address concerns.
  • Learn from the Exit Interview: Gather feedback through an exit interview to understand why they left. This information can be invaluable for future client retention.
  • Focus on Improvement: Did internal processes fail to prioritize at-risk accounts? Were there communication breakdowns? Look for opportunities to improve internally.
  • Shift Perspective: Sometimes client needs change, and your services may no longer be the perfect fit. Ending the relationship doesn't mean you failed.
  • Maintain Professionalism: Aim for a clean break, preserving a positive relationship for future opportunities.
Remember: Client loss doesn't define your worth as a KAM. Use it as a learning experience, adapt your strategies, and focus on building even stronger client connections going forward.

Maintaining Progress and Not Going Backwards

Overcoming imposter syndrome is a journey, not a one-time fix. Here’s how to keep the momentum going and prevent those doubts from creeping back in:
  • Track Your Wins: Keep a “success journal. Jot down accomplishments, positive feedback and when you overcame self-doubt. Refer to it when imposter feelings try to creep in.
  • Normalize Setbacks: Remember that setbacks and mistakes are part of the growth process. Don’t let one misstep derail your confidence.
  • Embrace Challenges: Seek out new opportunities to stretch yourself. Tackling challenges builds resilience and reminds you of your ability to grow.
  • Find Your Support: Be around mentors, colleagues, and friends who have faith in you. A strong support network boosts your confidence and helps you navigate setbacks.
  • Reflect and Adapt: Check your progress and the strategies you’ve used. What has worked well? What could you do differently? Reflection fuels continuous improvement.
  • Share Your Knowledge: Mentor others or teach a workshop. Sharing your expertise reinforces your own knowledge and empowers those around you.
Choose one or two strategies today and commit to consistent action. What small step will you take today to conquer imposter syndrome?

Want to Know More About Conquering Imposter Syndrome?

Articles

Books

Sources

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
WhatsApp
Email

Related Articles

LinkedIn For Biz Dev: 3-Week Gameplan to Secure 3 High-Value Meetings!

Ready to turbocharge your client relationships and close more deals using LinkedIn?

Join our action-packed workshop and learn a simple 3-week plan with proven steps to help grow your accounts.

📅 This Tuesday, February 27th