Recently, two members of Zion & Zion’s Account Management team attended an AE (Account Executive) Bootcamp conducted by the Agency Management Institute in Chicago, Illinois. It consisted of two days of training, along with group presentations, and critiques. Below are a few of their takeaways from the bootcamp.
Clients want you to make their job easier
As an Account Manager, you must be informative, highly organized, and a great communicator so clients can focus on running their business, while you take care of the rest. The primary reason clients hire an agency is to help them with workload. They need an agency partner who will prove their worth and make them look like rock stars, especially if they report to upper management.
Be proactive with your communications, so the client feels in the loop on all the work you’re doing for them. If a client feels in the dark and starts asking you for status updates, it means you’re not doing your part to keep the agency’s responsibilities off their mind.
It’s important to remember that your clients are busy. When the time comes for you to collect the assets or information you need from them, it’s imperative to know the difference between what constitutes an email versus a bigger call. Clients don’t have time to read lengthy emails and figure out what they can or can’t get back to you on. If you’re asking for something simple or something surrounding one topic, shoot them a quick email with a clear subject line and be concise. If you have more to discuss, plan a call, set an agenda, and send the follow up notes in a timely manner.
Time block so you can stay effective
One of the toughest parts of our job is going into work with a clear to-do list. Because right after you make your list, life happens. You check your inbox to find a queue of items ready for facilitation. Your team is requesting feedback or information. And, your client is calling or texting you to ask you about that “thing.” While all these require your attention, it doesn’t all need to happen at once. Block your calendar for times when you need to shuffle through email, focus on proofing deliverables, or call clients—and make sure the calendar blocks are clear so your team also knows what you are doing, and when you are not available.
On a similar note, email itself can be a huge distraction. It’s best to limit the amount of times you check your email per day as it can help alleviate the stress of always being connected and getting distracted. Account Managers have some of the most active inboxes in an agency. If you’re trying to focus, but check your email every few minutes, you are not making an effective use of your time. This can, in turn, cause you to spend longer on things than needed or cause you to miss things you shouldn’t.
When you really need to get focused, consider working offsite or securing a conference room. This lets your team know you need to get things done and gives you the opportunity to lessen normal office interruptions.
Keep your presentation skills polished
At the AE Bootcamp, our groups had to quickly put together agency-pitching presentations for the next day. While this felt overwhelming for the perfectionists of the group, the content of the presentation was not the point. The point was, the “agency” (aka our groups) that was selected as the best presentation was chosen based on how that group made the audience feel and how easy it was to believe and digest the presentation information.
When a client is looking for potential agencies to partner with, they often shop around multiple agencies per day and just like anyone, get overwhelmed with information overload. But, what’s easy to remember is the impression they got from the agency. Did they have fun? Did they laugh? Did they feel comfortable with the people in the room? Did they feel like they can believe the information that was being presented? Your agency is more likely to be chosen when you’re the “yes” to those questions.
Part of that “yes” comes from making sure you and your team maintain the same energy. Be sure everyone works the room, stands up, smiles, and makes eye contact with ALL the client attendees—you never know who has the most say on their end.
Make time to recharge and refuel
As an Account Manager, you have a lot of people depending on you. You need to make your bosses happy. You need to make your clients happy. And, you need to make your team happy. That’s an exhausting position to be in every single day. None of these people can afford to have you burn out, so it’s important to take time to do what you need to do to maintain your happiness and energy. That could come in the form of having a tough conversation about alleviating your workload and delegating to others, or it could come from things as simple as exercising, visiting with family and friends, or opening a great bottle of wine while watching The Real Housewives (or, maybe that’s just Laryssa).
How can you implement these learnings?
As Account Managers, you’re in constant communication with clients, but sometimes can become too comfortable with just sending emails or text messages. Facetime is incredibly important, and as anyone who works for an agency may know, budgets and hours are often tight. At Zion & Zion, we set time aside to meet with clients for coffee or lunch, spend time in their staff meetings, or sit and work from their office. Building relationships with clients should always be one of your top priorities because it can also lead to more open communication from them when issues arise.
Another concept we implement at Zion & Zion is when we meet with clients, we always ask multiple questions related to their business or industry. This can be something we are curious to learn about or read in a newsletter or article and we want to get their opinion on it. As Account Managers, you should continuously be learning and increasing your knowledge about your clients’ business and industries. This can happen through reading and staying up on the latest trends or attending conferences with them. And as mentioned earlier, if you visit their offices and attend their internal staff meetings, you will gain more of the knowledge that you need to do your job better and strengthen your relationships.
Do you notice a trend on the ways to make your relationships with your clients better? Well, bringing them time and money saving ideas is another one. By providing clients with ideas they can easily implement themselves, you are letting them know that you are thinking about how to make their lives easier and make them look like a rock star (the number one thing they want from you).
Would you find the conference beneficial?
Account Managers are the oil that keeps the gears of the agency moving. Your internal teams, clients, and bosses all have one point of contact that they can rely on when they need something communicated or clarified to the other side. You have a lot of people depending on you which is why it’s important to recharge.
In addition to the ideas the bootcamp shared, it was nice to hear from others in the same position. Many had similar pain-points and great ideas on solving challenges we also experience in our positions. At the bootcamp, we were able to make connections with other Account Managers who we can reach out to in the future for questions and advice.
Overall, the AE Bootcamp was incredibly rewarding because we learned a lot that can be applied to our position. We highly recommend it to others who are Account Managers, either new or veteran, because it’s always good to hear from others and be reminded of how you can always be improving.