Here’s one of those posts that’s been sparked by someone asking – ‘what’s the worst that could happen’. And of course the answer for most experienced account handlers is usually ‘everything’. Not that you shouldn’t approach the day to day with positivity – that’s the ‘sunshine can do’ side of what you do – but it has to be tempered with a healthy dose of reality. You’re basically paid to worry & anticipate issues so that others don’t have to. Most account managers are often evaluated a bit like a diving competition – i.e by the mistakes they make rather than the value they bring to the table. And usually we’re pretty okay with that as it can foster a collegiate sense of being ‘a safe pair of hands’. So what are the 7 deadly sins of account handling? For one thing – I’m sure there’s probably more than 7 – but here’s some thought starters:
1) Not delivering
It doesn’t matter if it’s to a client or to a colleague. If you’ve promised to do something then you have to deliver. If you don’t it sends signals & you have to keep focus that this is a service business & you’re the front line. Being on top of things is a priority but more so is keeping a commitment. One tactic that helps you be double/triple sure you can deliver is to buy time before you agree to something – ‘I’ll get back to you’ is invariably better than ‘yes’. And once you’ve checked – check again.
2) No lies
Ouch. These will come back to bite you firmly on the arse. It might sound obvious but this (like the above) will torpedo the most valuable asset you have : integrity. Even worse you’ll make the team look bad & in a trust based relationship this is commercial suicide. It doesn’t matter how thin the lie – don’t do it – the bullshit will fly back in your face & most likely stick.
Of course in a service business you want to be liked & you want to be the guys that get the phone call. But being eager to please can lead to over promising. This is bad. So bad in fact that it can become a nasty habit that unless you manage expectations around what you will/won’t do can lead to some serious trust issues in the relationship too. You might not even be aware you’re doing it until it’s too late. Ever heard – ‘oh the work is great but they are tricky to work with?’ Well here’s the newsflash – great agencies do great work but still get fired. Why? Because the relationship matters & this is built on doing what you say, when you say you’ll do it & doing it better than anyone else.
4) Making clients look bad via mail/in meetings
No one likes a show off. Being humble, advisory, collaborative & accommodating even when there’s a tricky situation will win you friends in the long run. Digging in doesn’t move anything forward & you’re all about progression – of the work, of the relationship & of the business. There is nothing worse than making a client look bad in front of his/her boss – it could get you or the agency fired. You should be looking for the opposite – make them the hero & figure out how to make this the reality.
5) Not being honest about how the client really feels to the agency
We work in a people business & people have feelings. But don’t fudge or soften how the client feels in order to spare peoples feelings at the agency. First – it wastes time. Second – it will probably result in the wrong work. This is bad. Very bad. In fact you’ll probably shaft credibility with the creative team, the account team, traffic & not to mention management. You’ll also probably piss off the client.
6) Credit is for creative directors – not for account handlers
It’s an old saying but if you want to be a gunslinging glory hunter then you might as well pack it in now. Taking personal credit instead of crediting the team (and the creative workgroup especially) is no way to play the game. Your job is to make sure the client feels comfortable with the whole agency so that when you need to move on the agencies work continues.
7) Not learning from mistakes
I started this post by stating that you’ll be evaluated based on the mistakes you’ll make – not by the campaigns you’ll help facilitate. That’s true. But your real value is in learning from those mistakes & making sure that they don’t happen again. Whether that’s resourcing better on your account, managing expectations with greater clarity, setting more concrete timings or just being better at evaluating strategy/work remember that it’s largely on you when things fuck up. And you will fail. But use this insight to develop a radar that helps you avoid the blood, sweat & tears.