Key Account Management


Transformative Times for Key Account Management, Special issue of Industrial Marketing Management; Deadline 1 Oct 2023

POSTING TYPE: Calls: Journals

Author: Selma Kadić-Maglajlić

Call for Papers


Transformative Times for Key Account Management

Submission deadline: Oct 01, 2023

Overview and purpose of the special issue

In recent years businesses have experienced major disruptions from technological, ecological and social forces that have the potential to re-shape current and future business practices within and across firms (e.g., Dubey et al., 2021; McGrath et al., 2021; Rusthollkarhu et al., 2022). These forces impact both suppliers and customers and therefore Key Account Management (KAM), which sits at the heart of the interactions and activities between them. For instance, a report by McKinsey reveals that “more than three quarters of buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions—a sentiment that has steadily intensified even after lockdowns have ended.” (Bages-Amat et al., 2020). Key account managers at the fulcrum of the business-to-business relationship are necessarily involved with implementing and adapting to transformations. Key account managers are involved in intra- and inter-organizational network structures (Gupta et al., 2019; La Rocca et al., 2016) and they can also develop their role to better fit the changing business climate. They participate in a wide range of communication activities with key customers and make plans and decisions which affect the buyer – seller network.

This call for papers intends to focus on a variety of ongoing changes that have the potential to impact the role of KAM and, consequently, the nature and content of key business-to-business relationships, particularly:

  1. Disruptive events that are reshaping global supply chains, which have revealed issues such as excessive dependence on certain suppliers and the general scarcity of raw materials, energy and components. The KAM organization could develop its role to become central in helping customers find alternative solutions.
  2. The increasing adoption of digital technologies generates opportunities for KAM (Lautenschlager and Tzempelikos, 2021), but also poses challenges caused by the empowerment of buyers (Ancillai et al., 2019). This represents a substantial shift in KAM practice, originally focused on personal selling, towards the development of supplier/buyer inter-personal relationships.
  3. Sustainability and its overlooked effects in business-to-business contexts (Sharma, 2020) should be a concern for KAM organizations. The monumental sustainability challenges of today (Chakrabarti et al., 2020) can only be addressed by inter-organizational collaboration. The role of the KAM-organization is paramount in establishing sustainability collaboration projects between key b2b partners, potentially, shifting the focus of KAM from individual buyer-supplier relationships to a stakeholder/business ecosystem perspective.

Extant literature provides only limited insights into how KAM organizations are surfing the evolution of business environment and its complex realities, and empirical investigation remains particularly slim. This special issue aims to explore this gap and make a contribution to current understanding by enriching the research agenda on KAM.  While both buyer and seller organizations are experiencing pressures from profound transformations, a deeper insight into the parameters that would enable them to improve their KAM practices and key-customer relationships would be very valuable.

Sub-themes and sample questions

This special issue seeks submissions that address one of the sub-themes listed below and related sample questions:

  1. How do disruptive events (such as effects of the pandemic, supply chain disruption, search for greater supply independence, energy crisis etc.) change/transform KAM?
  • Do firms rethink KAM in times of disruption? How do key account managers adapt?
  • How do key account managers adapt/innovate their role to accommodate/fight disruptions?
  • How/do organizations interpret the need of a ‘network view’ in KAM to capture the increasing complexity in the business environment?
  1. How do new technologies change the role of KAM?
  • Do new ways of buying/interfacing with suppliers change key account managers’ working practices and tools used?
  • How is artificial intelligence used (or could be used) in supporting decision making in KAM?
  • How do organizations support key account managers to acquire new skills and embrace new technologies?
  1. How does sustainability impact KAM from an intra and inter-organizational perspective?
  • What is the role of key account managers in intra- and inter-organisational sustainability initiatives? What kind of impact do stakeholders and the business ecosystem have?
  • To what extent are sustainability concerns and initiatives matched and shared between suppliers and customers?
  • Is there a negative (or dark) side if key account managers ignore sustainability?

We welcome papers of different types (conceptual and empirical papers, quantitative and qualitative) that examine change/innovation in the role, performance and effect of KAM and key account managers as consequence of current transformative events. As the theoretical lenses employed in KAM research notoriously have their roots in different disciplines (Ivens et al., 2018), we welcome studies that purposefully combine and draw on different theories and methodological approaches.

For enquiries regarding this call, please contact one of the guest editors.

Preparation and submission of paper and review process

Papers submitted must not have been published, accepted for publication, or presently be under consideration for publication elsewhere. Submissions should be about 6,000-8,000 words in length. Copies should be uploaded on Industrial Marketing Management’s homepage through the Editorial management system. You need to upload your paper using the dropdown box for the special issue on VSI: Key Account Management. For guidelines, visit:

Papers not complying with the notes for contributors (cf. homepage) or poorly written will be desk rejected. Suitable papers will be subjected to a double-blind review; hence, authors must not identify themselves in the body of their paper. Manuscripts within the scope of the special issue (as described above) and deemed to have a reasonable chance of conditional acceptance after no more than two rounds of revisions will enter the review process.

Important dates

  • Submission opens: August 1st, 2023
  • Deadline for submission: October 1st, 2023

Guest editors


Ancillai, C., Terho, H., Cardinali, S. and Pascucci, F. (2019). Advancing social media driven sales research: establishing conceptual foundations for B-to-B social selling. Industrial Marketing Management, 82, 293-308.

Bages-Amat, A.  Harrison, L.,  Spillecke, D., &  Stanley, J. (2020) These eight charts show how COVID-19 has changed B2B sales forever. New analysis makes it clear: For B2B sales, digital is the wave of the future. McKinsey. Retrieved from:

Chakrabarti, R. Henneberg, S. C. & Ivens, B. S. (2020). Open sustainability: Conceptualization and considerations, Industrial Marketing Management, 89, 528-534.

Dubey, R., Bryde, D.J., Blome, C., Roubaud, D., & Giannakis, M. (2021). Facilitating artificial intelligence powered supply chain analytics through alliance management during the pandemic crises in the B2B context. Industrial Marketing Management, 96, 135-146.

Gupta, A., Kumar, A., Grewal, R., & Lilien, G.L. (2019). Within-Seller and Buyer–Seller Network Structures and Key Account Profitability. American Marketing Association, 83(1), 108-132.

Ivens, B.S, Leischnig, A., Pardo, C., & Niersbach, B. (2018). Key account management as a firm capability. Industrial Marketing Management, 74, 39-49.

Lautenschlager, C., & Tzempelikos, N. (2021). Innovation in Key Account Management: Identification of Research Trends and Knowledge Gaps. Journal of Business to Business Marketing, 28(2) 149-167.

La Rocca, A., Moscatelli, P., Perna, A., & Snehota, I. (2016). Customer involvement in new product development in B2B: The role of sales. Industrial Marketing Management, 58, 45-57.

McGrath, P., McCarthy, L., Marshall, D., & Rehme, J. (2021). Tools and Technologies of Transparency in Sustainable Global Supply Chains. California Management Review, 64(1), 67-89.

Rusthollkarhu, S., Toukola, S., Aarikka-Stenroos, L., & Mahlamäki, T. (2022). Managing B2B customer journeys in digital era: Four management activities with artificial intelligence-empowered tools. Industrial Marketing Management, 104, 241-257.

Sharma, A. (2020). Sustainability research in business to business markets: an agenda for enquiry. Industrial Marketing Management, 88, 323 – 329.