Account manager or account leader, what is your position?

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“Leadership is the art of getting someone to do something you want because he wants to.” Wise words of former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower .

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Leadership is based on persuasion, influence and motivate others. It ‘s not about the projects that were completed, but the achievements were reached .

Eisenhower was clear about saying that “leads not hitting people in the head; that’s assault, not leadership. ” This distinction is key to assessing whether the position of account manager is still necessary in the agencies.

Part of the problem is missing account managers and business accounts prepared to lead rather than simply following orders from customers. However, it is essential that we know before what both positions differ.

“The simplest difference lies in doing what the customer requests instead of determining what the client needs to do,” explains Sheila Campbell. “It’s not always the same.”

Campbell is director and general counsel of Wild Blue Yonder , founded in 1994. Company Gary Duke, his business partner, joined the team in 2015. Together they offer training and development in leadership, management and strategic thinking has a personal and agency executives. Members of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (or 4A) flock to Campbell for account management training. Campbell also has a great knowledge about the industry from the customer’s perspective, having worked with agencies before founding his in Washington DC (EE. UU.).

Along with the owner, the manager of a customer’s account is the most influential person (both positively and negatively) in a business relationship. However, few agencies clearly defining the position of account manager or provide training necessary measures to protect customers and leading skills.

Industry marketing agency is recognized for its lack of training and development. This statistic of a 2011 report by Arnold and 4A says it all: A Starbucks barista gets more training than an employee of an agency. To this is added that many account manager positions are filled by recent graduates with no specific qualifications for the task.

We need a clear understanding of the responsibilities and skills of account managers and actions to transform those who behave more like project managers at leading customers.

Main responsibilities of an account manager

We’ll start by defining the key responsibilities of account managers. Campbell created this list in order of importance. 

1) Increase revenue account

The most important task of the account manager is to increase the size of the customer’s account. While it is essential to get new agreements, stability and profitability of agencies depend largely on organic growth of its existing customers.

” We work for an agency and work with the client, but we do not work for the client , ” says Campbell.

Account managers must constantly evaluate existing and future opportunities for their clients. Should consult predictions and analysis of the industry and keep abreast of the most important trends to identify what marketing strategies should be considered and when, so you can create a plan to increase sales. They should also assess the ability of customer risk. 

Get new agreements can be exciting, but have a profitable and growing customer base is much more valuable to the company’s finances. 

2) Collaborate with creative and other departments to ensure that customers receive excellent content

The account manager should help create amazing content obtaining and sharing the information they need agency teams. Must participate in the process, working with planners, the creative team, developers and external suppliers to produce content that meets the objectives and reflects the wishes and needs of the customer. In addition, account manager usually has the final work or at least generate excitement in the customer. You must also create an environment and promote an attitude more receptive to return to the client with the content.

3) To achieve the objectives of customer marketing

Campbell does not locate this point in the top of the list because he considers it a no-brainer, since it is the basic ability of any account manager. If, as an account manager, you can not meet the target, it will not matter the level of effectiveness of the content that you offer or the relationship you have managed to cultivate. The customer will continue to dismiss valid reasons Agency. 

Account managers must understand the customer’s business and its quarterly or annual targets. It is recommended to always use the same process of incorporation to facilitate the discovery stage with the customer and help you establish smart or SMART goals. Check and measure these goals monthly, quarterly and annual basis so that everyone is aware of the main objective. 

4) Managing agency resources profitably and efficiently

As already mentioned, account managers work for the agency, not the client, so much of their work is to ensure the profitability of the account. This requires ensuring that projects have adequate scope, work to prevent excessive growth , develop processes that improve the effectiveness of projects and asking the right questions to have all the information needed in order to reduce the number of revisions. The account manager should avoid or solve problems that impede the progress of a project.

Campbell points out that the time, money and information are the only resources at their disposal agencies.

Account managers should ensure that customer requests do not exceed available resources. This is essential at a time when profit margins of the projects are becoming smaller. A single loss can affect the entire project profitability. 

5) To keep customers satisfied

This aspect can be complex. Account managers should ensure that customers are satisfied with the agency as a whole, not only with him. As the account manager wants to maintain good relations with customers, it is easy to fall into temptation to blame other team members if you receive drafts later or if the project exceeds the budget. The manager demonstrates that makes every effort to work with a complicated and unproductive team, but try to look like a hero in front of customers, transform the agency into the enemy.

Account manager should work to increase customer confidence in the agency and its internal experts. Campbell offers an example of this can develop a positive and effective relationship with the customer. Account manager can take a picture of the team working on the project and send it to the client with a note of the creative team to introduce members or show the progress of a project. The customer must feel connected to the whole team rather than a single employee.

Campbell suggests using these account management skills as a professional guide. Evaluate what your innate skills are and what you can improve. Use this guide to train you and develop your skills constantly. These skills can also help you set goals for professionals working in the accounts and their supervisors: What was the revenue growth of each account in the last year? What were the losses of each account? Do projects that were delivered reached the client’s goals? We recommend reviewing customer accounts annual or quarterly basis to determine your effectiveness as account manager.

What it takes to be a leader account

The next step for account managers is to develop leadership skills customer. This is the main objective to improve customer relations and increase the importance of the position of account manager at the agency.

“We want the customer to obtain better results, but we also want the same for the agency,” says Campbell. “The account manager must ensure that both the agency and the client get good results.”

Here are three essential skills that those responsible for the accounts are recognized as leaders:

1) to sell ideas to clients

Because of its proximity to customers, account managers are usually responsible for persuading customers to accept new projects. However, generate additional sales with a customer is not an easy task, especially if it is a client for years it will charge the same kind of marketing projects.

Sales speeches involve much more than schedule a meeting, turn off lights and make a striking presentation.

“Nobody likes surprises,” Campbell explains. “The resistance to change is part of human nature. It is common in the first instance, customers feel they do not have the need to manage a new task and explain the results to their superior knowledge. They think it’s easier not to venture into the new for fear that something will go wrong “.

Campbell states that account leaders should choose to suggest an idea, mentioning several times and, within a few months, submit articles that address customer concerns and help you see the benefits for their own products or services. This will make customers become familiar with the idea and discover their own potential. There will come a time when you want the agency to do a test model or plan to implement your idea. What is essential is that customers get to the point of wanting what you know they need. 

They might even get to what Campbell calls “corporate inevitability”; ie when a project becomes inevitable due to the frequency with which it is mentioned.

2) Saying “no” to customers

“While I know it’s not easy, it is essential to do so because customers do not always right,” says Campbell.

There are two types of “no” that must meet the leaders of note: the “no” philosophical implies that the customer asks for something that is unethical or that exceeds our knowledge area and, on the other hand, the “no” operation that we must apply when the client makes unreasonable demands regarding delivery times, budgets, etc. 

The important thing is to determine in what situations it is necessary to refuse the request of a customer. Does the account manager asks the right questions to understand why the delivery time is so limited or why the client wants to follow a certain approach? Accomplished discover the underlying problem and, if possible, the right solution for both client and agency? If the answers are yes, we are facing a true leader account. 

3) Manage meetings to perfection.

“Manage meetings is not put together a list of issues to be addressed,” Campbell explains.

To properly manage meetings must determine whether it is really necessary to carry out, what the goals are and what steps should be taken next.

Agencies have a very bad reputation when it comes to managing meetings. Too many brainstorming meetings planning, monitoring status and do not contribute to progress of a project. It is also very common for agencies to schedule meetings with clients for approval or move forward with the project, but fail to address the issue during the conversation. It’s a waste of time.

Account leader should consider the purpose of the meeting, the group enlighten him and try not sidetracked. Campbell also send a list of actions for the client after the meeting instead of wasting time taking detailed notes suggests. Imagine if you cobraras customers to make notes of the meeting. None would be interested in paying for them.

Another key factor during meetings is body language; p. ie., how you feel, how you make eye contact with the customer and how to take notes. Account managers who understand and study these bodily expressions will lead internal and customer meetings more productively. 

Create a customer leadership plan

Plan campaigns for clients, create new business plans and we have a plan for the growth of our agencies, but almost never create a guide that govern our relationship with customers.

Campbell suggests writing what he calls a “strategic plan customer leadership”, prompting the account manager to analyze the current state of the relationship and opportunities in the future. Wild Blue Yonder created a template for this purpose including sections as areas for improvement, threats and objectives. You can download the template here . It addresses questions such as:

  1. Can you measure the effectiveness of our work for the client?
  2. What is the state of our financial relationship?
  3. What new could have our customer needs over the next year?
  4. What new opportunities exist in other departments or divisions of the client company?
  5. What internal situations of the client organization could harm our relationship?
  6. What relationship problems be solved?

This requires account managers to think like leaders and determine not only current performance, but the future strategy for its business relationship with the customer: What does the customer to meet or exceed their goals? What can the agency to become indispensable to the customer?

While this exercise seems simple, we often ignore it because customer emergencies or other distractions,

and we must admit that we are even more likely to ignore it if everything runs smoothly. If the account manager and the customer have a good relationship, and the client looks satisfied, why take the risk of creating problems sobreanalizando account?

“It’s good to do things for our customers,” said Campbell. “An agency may provide better results than others, but ultimately, the customer does not difficult to find professionals willing to do what you ask. What makes the difference is the strategic thinking. That’s what adds value to the relationship. “

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