*This post is dedicated to the wonderful team at stickee. Finding stickee was like finding a bunch of four-leaved clovers.
Whoever tells you that Facebook is not useful is pure mean. Namely during one of my Facebook wonders I stumbled upon stickee.
A month later I became stickee’s employee number one in Malta. The deal was sealed. My boss would take care of our UK accounts and I had to start making contacts with some Maltese clients.
I have to admit it was ALL, without exclusion, well out of my comfort zone: working in a big office all alone, having Skype meetings daily, arranging meetings with Senior Marketing Managers & turning up to those as well-prepared as I could, attending networking events and keeping my spirits up constantly. Saying that I was thrown at the deep end would be an understatement. My boss was often too busy, so I had to self-assign tasks, goals and make sure I learnt non-stop. It became a habit of mine to seek comfort zone exits, for the sake of learning. Thanks to the lack of the standard account assistant ‘shadowing’ and to my boss’s unique perspective on work in general, I have arrived at the following insights:
First and foremost, discipline is key. Keeping track of the communication with all potential leads, adding tasks for each of them and updating all new information (from meetings, phone conversations or research). Contact management tools like Highrise and Salesforce are quite handy and at hand’s distance. You can have all the people skills in the world, but without systematic effort, it is very likely for your talents to go down the drain.
Luck follows a prepared mind. If one could bullshit their way through – this is commendable. But turning up to a client’s meeting counting on charm & general knowledge is like jumping without a parachute in the hopes of landing on the back of a giant, friendly bird.
Meeting with professionals who had been in their industry for 20 years is rather fulfilling. I would suggest you take the path of humility, unless you are an Account Manager for Droga5. Your client surely knows more than you know for their business. Listen carefully and get invaluable business insights. It is a sign of maturity, not a sign of not being proactive enough. The first few meetings are for you to get to know your client, their preferences, their views and what it is like to be in their shoes. So borrow those shoes and take a walk around. You are there to help your account, but also your client is there to help you understand their business as deeply as possible. Turn up with many relevant questions.
Basic manners are vital. Not even talking about which of the 100 forks to use first during lunch. Turn up on time. However, if you end up turning late, embellish your excuse a bit!!! After all, nobody would have the guts blaming you, if angry Aladdin wanted you to hoover his naughty magic carpet, which would just not stay still.
Show respect with your clothing. Some ironing and a good scent would do the trick. In Bulgaria we have a wise saying that goes, as follows: “Clothes matter at the entrance, brains matter at the exit”, meaning that first impression is based on appearance.
Say pleasant things and smile a lot. People would naturally smile back, as this is an ‘inherited predisposition’ (as referred to in psychology). So provoke imitation. Smile and the world will smile with you, as the song goes.
Finally, if you could spoil your clients, do it. After all, nurturing a relationship with a beverage might just grow it faster.
Treat or trick
It is a public secret in the UK that the agency pays the bill from ‘the relationship building fund’.
In Malta, however, you might get one of those serial ‘business lunch-ers’, who would not mind speaking to you about all and nothing just to get a free portion of shrimps. Did happen to me. Be selective, not just blindly generous.
The necessary evil – networking events
Just alcohol would not do. Prepare for a serious battle with fears, complexes and arrogant but useful ‘bastards’. You could not afford to get disheartened by sly smiles and pompous conversations.
After all, most of the people you will meet at such events are people:
- Like you who do not want to be there
- Who are great at business but hollow & deeply miserable in their personal lives
- Who are desperate
It is a good exercise and opportunity to meet all sorts of people. Don’t ignore it. Don’t duck out. Just mingle! (trendy term, use it!)
You must find the perfect balance between clients’ needs and company’s interests. There would be lots of cases in which the client is not right. Sometimes ‘mild & kind’ would just not work. Try to get across the point that your agency is acting in their best interest – this is why it had been hired. It might help to find best cases, successful industry examples or anything that could back up your statements.
It becomes tricky when your client is stubborn and holds on to some ridiculous ideas, which in the semi-long run might damage your agency’s reputation. Bad news: it is your responsibility to resolve this. Just be blunt but polite and underline the importance of quality work. Ultimately this only shows care and devotion ‘out of work hours’. The right client would see this.
Account management is not a brainless or boring job. It is not being some kind of a modern ‘agency secretary’, although you would be writing emails and talking on the phone as often. It requires many & diverse skills. I hope this post has shed some light over account management!