“The Art of Client Service” – 27 Things All Account Executives Should Know

Often when I read books, I like to highlight the important takeaways. I usually pull a handful of helpful tips from each book I read, and try to apply at least one of these principles to my daily life. If I can find one insight that has the power to change my work or personal life for the better, I consider the read well worth it.

After reading “The Art of Client Service” by Robert Solomon (a short but sweet little book written for marketing professionals), I was astonished to realize that I had highlighted not just a handful, but TWENTY SEVEN tips worth remembering, re-reading and sharing.

These twenty-seven tips are listed below, in no specific order, and apply mostly to those who serve clients on a daily basis. As a previous Account Executive at Fathom, I speak from experience when I say that every single one of these ideas is applicable to the agency world, especially to those who lead client accounts and are responsible for helping both clients and internal teams remain productive, successful and happy.

Notable Words of Client Service Wisdom from Robert Solomon, author of “The Art of Client Service”:

  1. Define Success – understand what the client wants to achieve, ask about business goals, sales goals and communication goals. Ask what response your client would like to see from key stakeholders – their customers, prospects, employees, shareholders, or even the competition.
  2. Live the client’s brand – know the history of the company, talk with other people who buy the brand, read what the press says, form a view on the company and brand’s strengths / weaknesses / opportunities and threats.
  3. Start every assignment with a budget, a schedule and brief that the client agrees to. Then do everything you can to maintain the integrity of these items.
  4. Listen carefully for client concerns, even when they are not stated overtly. Especially if they are not stated overtly. Ask questions. Probe for answers.
  5. One clear insight is worth a thousand data points.
  6. Spend as much time at your clients’ offices as you do your own. Nothing replaces face time – not phone calls, not emails, not web camera interactions.
  7. Respect what it takes to do great creative – start with the best ideas, and tackle the ideas that deserve death last. Your job, as an account executive, is to ensure creative work is on strategy, bring the client’s perspective into the discussion, measure the work against what’s going on in the category, and help determine if the creative passes the “so what?” test. Most importantly, push for great, if what you’re seeing is merely good.
  8. Client presentations are as important as new business presentations – the only thing worse than losing a new business pitch is losing a client. If you don’t pay attention to client presentations, if you take them for granted, that is the risk.
  9. Rehearsing client presentations helps you discover holes in your argument, anticipate questions that may be raised and polishes delivery.
  10. When presenting, you represent your work, but also the agency. Every presentation offers an opportunity to validate the client’s confidence in the agency, or conversely, to undermine it.
  11. Everyone present in a meeting should have a role.
  12. If you’re going to present without slides, boards or notes, you need to really rehearse so that you are confident enough to appear relaxed and informal. It’s a rare person who can wing it and do well.
  13. If you’re going to falter in a presentation, it’s likely to happen in the opening, and that mistake is likely to compound itself. Know your opening the way you know the first words of the Gettysburg Address – once you nail your opening, you’ll relax.
  14. If it looks like rain, carry an umbrella – anticipate what may happen and prepare for it.
  15. If you or your team have opinions that aren’t backed up by data, make sure you go back and build a case for it. Everyone has opinions – not being able to back these up with data can undermine your credibility.
  16. If at the end of your presentation, you and your team have done ALL the talking, you will know you have failed. Be engaging early and as often as possible.
  17. Start on time, end on time. If it’s your meeting, start it on time. If it’s someone else’s meeting, show up on time. Once a meeting is underway, the goal should be to keep it as short as possible. Know what you want the outcome of the meeting to be, say what you have to say quickly, clearly and concisely. Don’t waste your clients’ or colleagues’ time.
  18. Always follow up – immediately after a meeting has concluded, follow up with an email summary report.
  19. The two fatal mistakes an account person can make are to become the clients “man” at the agency, or the agency’s “man” at the client – both fail. A good account person gives objectivity, commitment, insights and – above all – truth.
  20. Spend time with clients when things are going well, and when things aren’t going well. Most clients have very little patience for account contacts who only show up when something is wrong.
  21. Great work wins business – great relationships keep it. Relationships are more than “doing lunch” – they entail listening. Asking the right questions. Anticipating and solving problems. Meeting commitments. Managing expectations. Eliminating unpleasant surprises. Taking ownership. Acting with integrity. A client who trusts you will partner with you in taking risks that lead to great work.
  22. A commitment without consultation ignores the collaborative nature of marketing. It pays no respect to the people you work with.
  23. Your job is to build bridges – “no” is a barrier builder. There is no “no” in your client vocabulary.
  24. Make sure you give your client what they want first, then show the client what you think they need.
  25. As voicemail and email replace live, in-person contact, you find yourself more in touch but less connected to the people you serve.
  26. The best account people have a profound sense of responsibility and they literally find a way to blame themselves for anything that goes wrong.
  27. Ideas, and the ability to communicate them effectively, distinguish great account people from good.

In summary, the great account managers are distinguished from the good mostly by their ability to communicate effectively, build quality relationships with clients and employees, and stay focused on the goal at hand. If you have additional qualities that you think make a great account manager, feel free to comment below!

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