May 2024

Influencing value in Direct Store Delivery: Key Account Manager

by Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins

Back to insights

Influencing value in Direct Store Delivery: Key Account Manager

May 2024 by Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins

Back to insights


There are many players in the complex system of Direct Store Delivery (DSD), where suppliers and retailers must partner to achieve mutual success. In this article, we look at a person who strategic influences value — the Key Account Manager.

More than a liaison between suppliers and retailers, these managers wield a profound impact on value creation within the DSD ecosystem. We’ll dig into the pivotal role of Key Account Managers, illuminating their potential to amplify value. Examples of the behaviors exhibited by a good, better and best Key Account Manager will unveil opportunities to add value within DSD partnerships.

This knowledge and implementation of advisement are a core part of The Gap Partnership’s consulting services.

The role of the Key Account Manager: Catalyst of collaboration

Key Account Managers occupy a central role in DSD partnerships, orchestrating value creation that extends beyond individual transactions. Their responsibility transcends routine interactions, encompassing strategic alignment, mutual growth and the realization of shared objectives.

The good Key Account Manager: Establishment of alignment

A good Key Account Manager establishes the bedrock of value through effective communication and basic collaboration. Their behavior includes:

  • Objective alignment: Ensure retailer and supplier objectives are communicated and understood, fostering a foundation of shared goals.
  • Effective communication: Maintain open lines of communication, addressing concerns and facilitating information exchange.
  • Basic collaborative planning: Engage in Joint Business Planning (JBPs), aligning strategies to optimize both parties’ performance.
  • Data utilization: Leverage sales data to inform decision-making, ensuring that plans are rooted in empirical insights.

While a good Key Account Manager establishes alignment, their influence remains within the boundaries of routine collaborations.

The better Key Account Manager: Strategic value amplification

Advancing the role, a better Key Account Manager infuses strategic insight and innovation into their approach. They grasp the intricacies of the DSD model, utilizing their understanding to create value. The behavior of a better Key Account Manager embodies:

  • Strategic JBP co-creation: Proactively contribute to Joint Business Plans, offering insights that align supplier and retailer objectives for mutual growth.
  • Customer-centric insights: Glean customer preferences and market trends, tailoring strategies to resonate with the local audience.
  • Proactive problem-solving: Collaboratively address challenges, leveraging cross-functional teams to identify innovative solutions.
  • Performance tracking and analysis: Monitor key performance indicators and analyze data to drive continuous improvement and identify growth opportunities.

The better Key Account Manager’s actions extend beyond routine collaboration, using strategic thinking to amplify the value they bring to the partnership.

The best Key Account Manager: Champion of mutual success

At the pinnacle of the Key Account Manager hierarchy stands the best—the champion of mutual success, collaborative innovation and value maximization. Their behavior transcends tactical thinking, reflecting a comprehensive understanding of the retailer’s ecosystem and the potential of the DSD model. The best Key Account Manager’s behavior personifies:

  • Strategic value co-creation: Actively co-create value-driven strategies with the retailer, aligning objectives to drive shared growth.
  • Innovative joint initiatives: Conceptualize and execute collaborative initiatives, such as joint marketing campaigns, product launches, and co-branded promotions.
  • Comprehensive data utilization: Employ advanced data analytics to uncover hidden opportunities, refining strategies to optimize both parties’ outcomes.
  • Strategic business development: Identify new business prospects and untapped markets, expanding the partnership’s horizons for greater value capture.
  • Inspirational leadership: Inspire cross-functional teams, fostering a culture of collaboration, accountability and continuous improvement.

The best Key Account Manager’s actions are transformative, collaborative, and aligned with overarching business objectives, creating a symphony of value that resonates throughout the DSD partnership.

Inside their head: Max’s mutual success

In the grocery game, Max was a Key Account Manager who was the embodiment of the best in the business. Max faced a challenging puzzle at a regional grocer, seeking a breakthrough that would redefine value. It was during one of his many store visits that he stumbled upon an unconventional promotion he’d never seen or heard of before—Buy 2 Get 3 Free. This was on a product in a totally different category than Max’s and on a totally different side of the store.

While others saw it as an eccentric strategy, Max recognized the unique shopping habits of this retailer's customers. Not only was he looking for good ideas anywhere he could find them, but he was also seeking to understand the shopper — their needs, their wants, their shopping patterns and their behavior. After gaining this insight, he was committed to leveraging this shopper behavior in designing a promotion for his products.

Weeks of relentless collaboration with his finance and retail partners followed. They spent time refining pricing and strategy to ensure profitability without sacrificing volume, for both supplier and retailer. The result was astounding - sales skyrocketed, and profitability soared. Max’s audacious, yet meticulously planned move unlocked unprecedented value, proving that the best Key Account Managers don't just navigate the terrain, they sculpt it to create success.


In the sphere of Direct Store Delivery, the Key Account Manager is instrumental in fostering a strategic partnership that not only creates value but maximizes it. A good Key Account Manager establishes alignment, a better Key Account Manager adds strategic dimensions, and the best Key Account Manager stands as a collaborative visionary, seamlessly integrating with the retailer’s ecosystem and driving innovation that resonates across the partnership. The Key Account Manager ensures that value appears not only within the partnership but also in the enduring success of suppliers, retailers and the broader customer base.

About the authors 

Nick Capuano, Senior Consultant, The Gap Partnership

Nick Capuano is a results-driven Senior Consultant at The Gap Partnership, based in Philadelphia, PA. With a career spanning over a decade, Nick has honed his expertise in business development, account management, and strategic leadership across various industries. His exceptional proficiency in delivering and facilitating core development workshops, coupled with his talent for building and maintaining positive collaborative relationships with clients, are fundamental drivers of his success.​

During his tenure as the National Business Development Manager at PepsiCo Foodservice, Nick led national new business initiatives in specialty retail, amusement, and fitness sectors. His exceptional abilities in prospecting potential customers, developing relationships with C-suite executives, and structuring national deals across all lines of business were pivotal to the company's success.

As the National Account Sales Manager at MFO Restaurants, Nick cultivated relationships with national customers, including renowned concepts such as Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s, Jersey Mike’s, Dairy Queen, and Capriotti’s. ​

His proficiency in understanding and managing customer organizations, utilizing personal influence and knowledge to achieve goals in a matrix environment, greatly contributed to the company's growth.

With a proven track record of success in strategic business development, relationship management, and leadership, Nick Capuano is a dedicated professional committed to driving excellence and achieving impactful results in every endeavor.

Jordan Mullins, Senior Consultant, The Gap Partnership

Jordan has spent the last 10+ years working and growing within the CPG industry, spending time with multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Coca Cola, Kraft Heinz, and Colgate Palmolive. During this time, he realized his passion not only for negotiation, but his desire to help his co-workers become the best versions of themselves, which led him to the Gap Partnership. ​

During his time prior to joining The Gap Partnership, Jordan was tasked with improving the processes for multiple national sales programs and being able to successfully train and deliver significant financial results across the organization simultaneously. Jordan has achieved a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration as well as a Master's in Business Administration from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.​

Jordan is currently a Senior Consultant and is responsible for delivering our portfolio of workshops brilliantly across all sectors such as CPG, Retail, Oil and Gas, Automotive, and Pharma. ​

Jordan finds passion for helping all of the participants find who they need to be during these workshops while helping them implement these behaviors and reap the benefits of the program.

About The Gap Partnership

The Gap Partnership is a management consultancy specializing in negotiation. We help organizations drive profitability, increase efficiency and reduce cost.

Negotiation is an integral part of everything a business does. It exerts a critical influence on the profitability and market value of the organization.

At The Gap Partnership, we provide development programs and negotiation training to our clients. We work with you to understand your challenges and performance needs. Our negotiation consultants come from your industry and will support you with a 'complete' solution that embeds learning, measures capability and delivers sustainable change.

We hold ourselves accountable for your success. 70% of our business comes from clients we have worked with for over five years

If you require further information on how we can help you and your teams make the most of every negotiation, or simply need to ask us a question - just call, email or complete the form.

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Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins