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It’s Thursday at 3:00 pm.
You’re tired, it’s been a long week, and you’re about to hop on a call with your account manager. In their agenda-setting email, they mentioned they wanted to “talk” about something, but were a little vague and now you’re a tad worried.
Those of us who have been in this position can probably rattle off a few landmines that may be brought up in this call. Obstacles like “Performance is down” or “I can’t do that” may await you, and you’re dreading any more setbacks or roadblocks.
But I wanted to share why those sorts of responses can be beneficial for you and your account. By the end of this read, you’ll see how proactivity, honesty, transparency, and humility can be the difference between a nice account manager and a profitable one.
1. “The Numbers Are Down”
This is probably the most common and uncomfortable topic any account manager can broach with their client. Nobody wants to see the numbers go down.
Whether it’s traffic, downloads, revenue, or any other KPI or metric your teams have agreed upon, seeing the numbers go down causes instant anxiety and, sometimes, irreparable panic.
Now, a decent account manager knows the numbers are down before you do. They can tell you why they are down, how we got here, and hopefully, what the next steps are. But a GREAT account manager knows all of that, is on the phone with you or is emailing you various solutions.
We’ve all worked with that guy or gal who likes to hide their performance and hope no one notices. Sadly for them, the numbers don’t lie. At Directive, we believe that “Ownership breeds excellence.”
What that means is by owning your actions and efforts of your current situation, you can get buy-in, trust, and the energy needed to get through challenges.
Account managers who hide results for four weeks and then hit you with a downward red arrow during your monthly reporting are all too familiar. Account managers who bring you along for the journey, offer insights and ownership along the way, and strive for better months are the ones worth working with.
Those are the people who understand the context of success and failure, can speak to positive takeaways and ensure the numbers never go down in the same way again.
2. “I’m New To This”
Most clients want to feel like they are your only client, even if they genuinely know that they aren’t. Nearly all clients want a seasoned veteran at the helm, ensuring they aren’t a practice course that may live or die based on their AM’s experience. However, there is freedom and potential within new account managers that most clients are hesitant to utilize.
New account managers are only as weak as their organizational intelligence. If the agency has done their hiring and training jobs correctly, your brand new account manager should come equipped with all of the learnings and strategies the agency has perfected over the years.
Furthermore, they are more likely to push for success, as they are trying to prove themselves to their bosses and rise within the internal ranks.
Another big bonus is the flexibility a new AM provides, as you indeed may be their only account at that moment. You’ll find them quicker to respond to an email, more likely to pick up a phone call, and happier to dive into a more extended meeting than usual. Use your new AM’s malleability to your advantage instead of hoping for the grizzled vet who may form a “my way or the highway” relationship with “hard stops” and obvious distractions.
3. “My Other Clients…”
On the flip side, an account manager with an extensive portfolio can offer insights that new ones can not. However, many clients are hesitant to believe their AM cares about anyone but them.
It’s powerful to have someone who can say, “Across our entire portfolio, we have 10+ accounts that have a similar CTA on their landing pages and their A/B test converts better 79% of the time.” Why wouldn’t you want that insight, even at the cost of a shorter weekly meeting?
I get the value of tons of attention focused solely on your project, but a busy AM can save you time by applying proven logic to your account right out of the gate…if you let them. Our most clever clients are continually asking, “What are your other accounts doing?” or “What other strategies are you trying elsewhere?”
Those clients end up benefiting from our organizational knowledge, especially if they apply to one of the many verticals we have years of experience within.
4. “Let Me Ask My Team”
I try to tell people this all of the time: nobody has ever fired us because we wanted to get it right.
Some clients love their AM because they think that the strategies, execution, and testing live and die with that person. However, that’s just not the case, at least not at an agency like ours.
Every account manager has support at the ground level (specialists), department level (SEO, CRO, PPC, etc.) and executive level (directors and leads). It would be irresponsible and sometimes damaging to have an AM agree to next steps, timelines, and capabilities without consulting them.
While your AM may have their pulse on the account like no other person at an agency, checking in with their team allows for a level of quality control and checks and balances that “Hero Marketing” does not.
“Hero Marketer” AMs often inaccurately forecast deliverables and results, usually due to their desire to please a client or smooth over a rocky conversation. Having them check with the critical people on the project creates clarity, buy-in, and better results.
This is because it’s no longer the AM and a supporting cast, it’s the agency that is delivering results!
You may get an answer an hour or so later than you wanted it, but the chances that it’s the right answer are exponentially higher.
5. The Power of “No”
This might be the toughest pill to swallow. “No” invokes a reaction, and usually not a positive one. “No” could just as easily be construed as insubordination as it can be a strategic choice, but how and why the account manager tells you “no” is the crucial part.
Being told “no” should come from a positive place. The term should be used because the team has a hierarchy of priorities and this new item just does not fit the current timetable.
Or perhaps a request is being asked for that is out of scope or not within the AM’s realm of expertise. No matter the reason, a thoughtful and insightful “no” should help your account, not hinder it.
You hired your agency for a reason, and those who aren’t confident in their abilities or feel like they aren’t delivering full value will often give you a “yes” when a “no” is more realistic. And being a “yes” man or woman is the opposite of what is essential to drive results. Value the strength and determination it takes to be firm when making decisions.
We all want vendors and partners who know what they’re talking about, but few of us prepare for the pushback that comes from a confident and intelligent individual striving for the same goals we are.
Trust that your account manager is saying “no” for a good reason. However, investigate further: Is it a resource issue? Confidence problem? Or just not feasible for one reason or another?
When I field client concerns, I listen out for these items we’ve discussed. Churning clients is a realistic and unfortunate part of agency life, but those who churn because they aren’t willing to listen to the five things I’ve listed above are going to churn for the next agency they work with, and the next. This cycle will continue until they see what a little clarity, transparency, pushback, and perspective can do to transform their business.