Lessons From an Account Manager

Reflections on a decade of account management by Priyanka Borah, Vice President

Dentsu Webchutney
4 min readJan 25, 2021
Image credits: Pixabay on Pexels

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:

  1. 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.
  2. No-agenda “Good Morning” calls to your clients on a boring Monday morning, will take your relationship further than you can imagine.
  3. 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.
  4. Learn to choose your battles. Sometimes you need to lose the battle to win the war. They always come at different times.
  5. You have to be able to pick a conversation with anyone, anytime. Small talk and ice-breakers actually come in handy.
  6. Be inclusive when you write anything (emails, texts, or audio messages) and hence avoid gender-direct anecdotes.
  7. Know your audience (in a campaign or in a meeting) and learn to read the room.
  8. There is a 60% chance of the experience of the client with an account manager that actually retains them.
  9. 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.
  10. The sooner you realize that departments within an agency are just a mindset, the faster you will do good work.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. People management is an art. If you are going to be the face of the agency, take responsibility, look the part.
  15. Have a life beyond work. Be known beyond your job title, your client surely does.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. Someone somewhere could always be better than you. Don’t think about what you cannot control.
  20. 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.
  21. Things take time. It’s true for all relationships, retainer growth, and creatives. Do not give in to the pressure.
  22. Dumb luck is an actual thing.
  23. Always expect to fail. Have plan B and C. Adapt quickly. Agility will be your biggest strength.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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).
  27. Have a retirement plan, planned entirely.