What does an account manager do, exactly? If you are one of them you’d probably understand this better, but even if you are not — this would serve as a good list of insights.
As I write this, I have come to realize that while I was told to pick up skills for Account Management on the job, it’s worked the other way as well for me. My work as an account manager added skills I subconsciously use for my personal life, all the time.
Unlike how it usually goes, I have learned more from observing other people than from my own mistakes. Eventually, I was able to find a style that works for me.
In an agency business, our moat is our ‘people.’ They develop ‘products,’ in the form of our creative breakthroughs, that becomes our service. Everything has a price. Therefore, the services we offer (creative, strategy, production, etc.) as output, support the agency business in a transaction with a client. Acting as managers of these relationships, transactions, protocols, and businesses are account managers.
In the course of my thirteen-years and running career, there are a few lessons I have learned; some were taught, some were observed. In no particular order, my learnings:
- As an account manager, you are always sitting in the eye of a brewing storm. A good account manager keeps an eye on the weather and predicts a possible storm beforehand.
- No-agenda “Good Morning” calls to your clients on a boring Monday morning, will take your relationship further than you can imagine.
- You need to get better at doing something the second time you do it. And even better the next time after that. Experience maketh the person.
- Learn to choose your battles. Sometimes you need to lose the battle to win the war. They always come at different times.
- You have to be able to pick a conversation with anyone, anytime. Small talk and ice-breakers actually come in handy.
- Be inclusive when you write anything (emails, texts, or audio messages) and hence avoid gender-direct anecdotes.
- Know your audience (in a campaign or in a meeting) and learn to read the room.
- There is a 60% chance of the experience of the client with an account manager that actually retains them.
- You are a reflection of your team. Strength is always in the collective. Lead how you would have liked to be led. Empower people under you. Trust people.
- The sooner you realize that departments within an agency are just a mindset, the faster you will do good work.
- Credit where credit is due, always. Set the right expectations. High expectations on the outcome of meetings/ideas are dangerous for yourself and your team. If you feel redundant, maybe you are.
- Teach your juniors enough, but don’t teach them everything. Let them find their own learning curve and pace. But don’t carry dead weight.
- If you are looking for credit for a creative idea, you are in the wrong job role. AM is the talent behind the talent. You work backstage. Make peace with it.
- People management is an art. If you are going to be the face of the agency, take responsibility, look the part.
- Have a life beyond work. Be known beyond your job title, your client surely does.
- Personal branding within the agency and outside is imperative. The career ‘pyramid’ is tighter at the top. Find YOUR headline; few read the body copy. ‘Team player, problem-solver’ and other template resume words don’t cut it anymore. Show your next boss the stud that you are. This is simple advertising.
- Be modest, but know your worth. Sometimes keeping silent is not a sign of patience. If you do not speak for yourself, somebody else will end up speaking for you.
- Update your resume every 6 months. Mark your progress and seek out newer challenges. If you are doing the same thing you were doing last year, stop kidding yourself.
- Someone somewhere could always be better than you. Don’t think about what you cannot control.
- You will always meet your current clients and bosses at another time, in another world. What goes around, always comes around. Never burn your bridges.
- Things take time. It’s true for all relationships, retainer growth, and creatives. Do not give in to the pressure.
- Dumb luck is an actual thing.
- Always expect to fail. Have plan B and C. Adapt quickly. Agility will be your biggest strength.
- Believe your gut. Be honest. Have principals. Never do something for, or sell something to a consumer that you would not sell to your family.
- If you feel bad when someone in your team quits. Retrospect. Sometimes it’s incompetency, your indifference and sometimes it’s too much control. Learn and take feedback from peers.
- Being understanding is underrated. Be approachable. The person anyone can speak to (internally) and the person who feels like an extension of their team (externally).
- Have a retirement plan, planned entirely.