Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast

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Jenny: Louisa, I'm delighted to have you on the show on the show today, I've been wanting to have a chat with you for ages. And I know what you're going to share is going to be so valuable to people in working agencies. So I'm just going to give you a short introduction. But obviously, we know each other through the healthcare communications industry, you're probably one of the most well known people for having built and sold your own agency Woolley Pau. So I know that you've got a huge amount of experience and having run the agency for 19 years. But you then pivoted to start another business in 2013, which is called Otherboard. And one of the biggest reasons for the listeners that I invited you on the show is because your journey and story is just so powerful. And it's sort of led you to do what you do now. So without revealing too much, I'd love if you could spend a couple of minutes just introducing yourself.Louisa: Oh, thanks, Jenny. It's lovely to be here. Yes, I mean, you've told my story, really, I founded, built and sold the agency. What people probably don't know is that during that time, I also had four boys, and that it very nearly killed me. And I thought, you know, I learned some, I learnt a lot of lessons the hard way, by just making the mistakes and doing it. And, and now, the reason for setting up Otherboard was that I really felt that I didn't want to do it again, which a lot of people do, they kind of go and do it again, I wanted to help other agency leaders, grow their businesses have it all, and not feel guilty and not nearly killed them. So have it all and have a healthy business and a healthy life. And I felt that I could have more impact by working with lots of agencies rather than just doing it again for myself.Jenny: So if you take us back to when you were growing your agency, because it probably was one of the most successful agencies, there wasn't anyone in the healthcare industry that didn't know Woolley Pau, the name, you're always winning awards. You were always known as a really creative agency. And so take us back to that time. And when, you know, what would, what's your day typically like,  how was your rhythm, you know, running with four boys which is absolutely incredible.Louisa: Well, it was really crazy. I remember my third child, I went to a pitch two weeks after I had quite a sort of traumatic birth with him. I mean, I just did crazy things. I didn't have any maternity leave. So looking back, it does all look a bit crazy. I mean, I had loads of support at home. And but, you know, about 10 years into the agency life we were doing quite well. I mean, it was slow. People always remember sort of success, but it was very slow. But about 10 years in, we were doing quite well. We had a nice offices in Covent Garden. The children were really young. But you know, but things were kind of going well, we had started winning awards, and we were growing. And then we had, and I remember, I mean I was it was a stressful time. I remember going to an awards dinner, and I was sitting next to this client and he said to me, oh, tell me Louisa, what are your hobbies? I just laughed in his face. There wasn’t really time for anything else. The business and home like that just took up every part of my life. There was no, there wasn't time for anything else. And then we had really terrible year, which most people probably don't know about. We lost nine pitches in a row. We lost two of our biggest clients. We didn't renew their contracts. My husband had a massive work life crisis and decided that he wanted to give up his big job. And, and Dean, my business partner also had sort of family bereavements and things going on for him. So we were really sort of sorely tested at that time. And we just carried on, I think we kind of sat down and I used to tell this story was, how did I come back from that? And, you know, we sat down and we decided and we made a plan. And then three years later, we sold the business. But what I didn't used to tell people was that what the cost of that was, so the stress involved in that. But at the time I didn't really do self reflection. I just did my mantra ,because everyone has a mantra now my mantra was pull your socks up. We nearly wrote a book about it, a sort of self help book called Pull Your Socks Up. But I now sort of laugh about it. It's awful, really. But I had this sense that I could manage on my own, because that's what I've always done. I've set up on my own, you know, obviously with a partner, and with support, but I think my parents say that my first phrase was ‘self do it’. And that's how I was, I just thought I could do everything. And we did sell the business, and it was all very successful. And then a year after we sold the business, I got very ill and nearly died. And I had ignored the warning signs. And and I believe that that illness, the cause of that was probably years and years of ignored stress that finally caught up with me. And, I can't remember what we were saying now!Jenny: No. And this is fascinating, actually, the timing of when it happened. So you sold it,  all of this stress was going on? You had this huge amount of pressure on you, additional pressure, when you lost all the clients, you lost the last two clients lost the pitch, Dean's family problems. And then, but But you made it through that, then you sold, then a year later, it actually affected your health. So looking back, the accumulation is massively powerful.Louisa: And I think that's what people do, they ignore the, there were warning signs. So which I ignored up, I kind of ignored for instance, during that three years, I was suffering quite badly from heart palpitations. And I did go and see a cardiologist, I had tests. And he came, the test came back and he said, Well, you know, everything's fine. You're just suffering from stress, you know, there's nothing else. So if I meant thinking, Okay, it's just stress. Now that I know what a bit about the science of stress and what that means I'm kind of amazed that that was just sort of brushed off because stress is, is incredibly unhealthy and can lead to serious illness if you don't deal with it. And you know, I had other, you know, other warning signs, like feeling, you know, those sort of feelings of guilt that I wasn't doing enough for the business or enough my family, you know, that's a very common sort of warning sign. And the trouble is that, that feeling of stress starts to become normal. And that's what happened to me, I think that was just my normal. And so it was only when it just came to a point where I literally nearly died, that I just had to go what, and physically I couldn't go back to the business, I was really quite poorly for a long time afterwards. And then it took, you know, the trauma of having to have a massive operation, the trauma of all that took actually years to process. And, and for me to get healthy again. And, you know, I just really don't want that to happen to other people. Jenny: Absolutely. And that is, and that's one of the reasons I wanted to invite you on, because I think this is, you know, like, what you've described is probably other agency leaders are listening to this and thinking Well, okay, maybe I'm ignoring the signs, or maybe that kind of little heart flutter that keeps happening, you know, you don't know how it's gonna manifest to you, as you say. So talk us through what your actual sort of routine looked like, because maybe other people can identify, was it because you were working weekends? Or evenings? Or was it the relentlessness of everything? Or you said you had help? But wha, what did your sort of day to day existence look like?Louisa: I suppose when the children were very young, getting up really early, so lack of sleep, getting up really early. Um, I mean, it's all a blur, really, for when they were really young, I can almost hardly remember feeling really tired all the time, getting up really early. So I would normally go into the office early, and then we had a nanny that would come in until my husband gave up his job. And then he looked after the children, as he had a basically a breakdown. Um, so we were both quite stressed for a long time. And then it you know, looking back, I just think I wasn't putting my energy, it's all about energy, what you put your energies into, and I think at work, like many agency owners, I felt I had to do it all as well as have it all. And so I probably just got got involved in too much in everything, and it towards the end, yes, I did let go of stuff, delegate stuff, have a good management team. But even so I think I was probably a bit too much the hero, you know, sort of stepping in when there was problems to be solved. Or if not meddling with, with things. It's a common theme I see in all with all the clients I work with, and really not, I suppose I didn't really, my role was a bit of everything. And so I just got involved in everything, everything to do the agency, you know, going to, you know, dealing with clients, dealing with the finances of the agency. I mean, my business partner used to always say, I was the conscience of the agency, I was really good at looking at creative work and deciding if it was good enough for us to present. So I did get involved at that stage, you know, at that level with creative work. Yeah, it's a lot of travelling around , which is funny now, because you spend so much time to go into meetings, spending time at clients. And it's actually quite a funny question, because I almost can't remember what, I think it really was just this blur of, and then coming home, you know, bathing the children trying to spend some time with them and the weekends with just fully the family. Unless we were doing a pitch or something, then you'd go in. I mean, I used to think that we had this healthy agency, because we didn't encourage late working, you know, staying up all night, every week. Yes, we did do it every now and then for a pitch, but we encouraged everyone to go home, because I did. But it was still stressful. Does that answer your question? And I almost can't really remember the details. Jenny: Sounds to me like you were on autopilot. And you were just doing, doing, doing? And how did it? How did it affect everybody else? Like were you noticing any reactions from other people? Or did anyone at any point take you to one side and say, Louisa, you know, I feel like you're doing too much? Was there no one around you at the time? Did no one dare to come near you?  Louisa: I think people used to find me quite scary, which I always find really odd, but I think they did. Oh, no that never happened. I think I mean, I did speak to my business partner, Dean. Yeah, I mean, I did want some time out of the business. But it was just so hard to sort of accept that. I did get a mentor. It was around that time before we sold the business. And he was really helpful. And that was the only time I really got some support. Apart from joining, I was a member of the IPA and the Institute of Practitioners for advertising. I was on Council and I also ran the health care group for a while. And that was a brilliant support network, because they were my peers and people that you know, and I'm still friends with some of them now. And that's been a really, you know, when you, I would advocate that to anybody to find peers that you can talk to, because they're the only people that really understand what you're going through.Jenny: Did you ever share? I mean, because to certain extent, I mean, it's always a double edged sword, isn't it? The reason you were so making sure that everything was done just so, you didn't drop any balls, and you were making sure that the company was operating at its highest level, and you got the success as a result, but actually, what was happening behind the scenes was personally, it was having a detrimental effect, albeit very slowly, chipping away at your health. And I'm just curious, like you were surrounded I mean, as if you hadn't didn't have enough to do you also get involved with the IPA and all that. So with your peers? Was this topic ever brought up? Or was it not discussed? The fact that hey, you know, like, um, you know, was it a bit like a badge of honour saying no, we're doing it all? Were you able to talk about it? Or was it a lack of consciousness on your part that you didn't actually know enough about how it was affecting you to be able to share how you were feeling?Louisa: I think I kept it very much, I did share with my husband and, and my business partner, um, that I was stressed that I felt guilty that you know, those kind of feelings. I don't think I did really share it with anybody else. I mean, we shared issues we had, you know, around, say pitching or something or issues or, you know, something to do with contracts or procurement, but they were more sort of functional things we didn't really share about how we were feeling in that way. I think I didn't I think, I put on my brave face. I smiled a lot, because that's what I did. I looked after everybody. That's, that's what I did. I pretended I pretended for years and years, everything was fine. And, you know, the way you introduced me, I obviously did a really good job, did a fantastic job.Jenny: This is the thing, it's like everything is in line in life is a balance, isn't it? You know, it has to somehow calibrate. So when, if we go back to that time, because what I'm what I'm really keen to do is to and as what you're doing now, I want to dig into how you're helping agencies now, because I think this is such a brilliant topic to talk about. I think so many people do suffer from stress, pressure guilt, when they're growing an agency, building an agency or working in an agency, actually, because it's very 100 miles an hour, everything, isn't it. And I just think it's a topic personally that I don't think talked about enough. So I'm keen to kind of try to pull out from you, what you believe people can do to recognise that they might be going down a path that they don't want to be doing. And quick, more quickly do something about it. You said that a mentor came into life and help support you, you could talk to your husband about things. But what I mean, you're obviously working now with agency owners leaders, what signs do you see from the outside looking in that they might be like you just getting on with it. But really, they need to be, there's a bit of a warning bell that you can see.Louisa: Sometimes I wonder, maybe, maybe that this doesn't exist, maybe I've just made it all up, I have those moments. And then for instance, the other day, I'm in an agency group that I'm in, there's a little chat, and 18 agency owners, but in this chat talking about feeling overwhelmed, feeling stressed. And these are the warning signs that you can't relax, that your sleep is interrupted. Or maybe you have that like 4am feeling where you wake up worrying about everything, or just little niggles like, you know, for anybody watching, things like headaches or you know, that you don't normally have itchy skin. Or just that feeling, you know, in your stomach, you know, that kind of like constant pressure in your stomach, which, which you might have, or even it could be more about, like starting to doubt yourself or that you know that you might make mistakes. And also, you know, actually making poor decisions, because when we're in that stress state, so there's a difference between healthy stress and unhealthy stress. This is important to realise. So, you know, I've noticed it in the last six months during the whole COVID time, there was a kind of sense that the first few months of it, that's just huge stress. But in a way, for some people, it was sort of healthy stress, because it's like, right, something's happening. It's almost sort of exciting, we've got to change things, we've got to do things differently. And that's what happens. Healthy stress is fine, it improves performance. And we've all felt that, you know, you start a new project or a new job or a new relationship. It's exciting. And that, but there's a tipping point which is where it turns into unhealthy stress. And that's the thing that we're not very good at noticing. Because we start to just think that this level of stress is normal. And it's realising when we start feeling those warning signs that it's tipping into unhealthy stress. And that that's the time to sort of do something about it. Because healthy stress makes is great for good decision making. But unhealthy stress is the opposite. So agencies should really worry about it because it's also really bad for creativity. Because creativity needs calm. It doesn't need stressed in the unhealthy sense of stress. So the other thing that is a little warning sign is that whole ‘I am fine. I'm fine.’ Yeah, yeah, smiley everyone's smiling because nobody's fine all the time. So that's that sort of understanding there are diminishing returns to that stress is very important for all and you're right, especially in agencies because it's already a stressful environment. You win pitches exciting, you lose pitches that's all for you, you know, have a new client you've got to get going. That's lots of new stuff to do. This is always up and down stressful. It is that kind of environment. So we need to really watch out for it more than many other people.Jenny: What's the first thing that you would suggest someone did, if they listen to listening to this, and they perhaps are thinking, I think that I'm starting to go down the route of the more unhealthy stress, rather than the healthy stress, what's the very first thing that they should do really?Louisa: Brilliant, they've already done the first thing, which is to notice it. So being self aware, is the first step to kind of having a plan. Because if you're, if you don't notice it, then you're just going to fall into it. And what happens is people go until they fall over. So people might get ill or, or literally can't go to work, you know, suffer burnout. So noticing it, being self aware is the first good step, then talk to somebody, most agencies do have some sort of, they're usually covered under their insurance, they do normally have somebody you can talk to like a kind of counselling services, you can just at least you can talk to somebody. But I would just suggest talking to, you know, a good friend, or, you know, just just to be able to voice those feelings is really important. And talk to somebody that makes you feel good. And talk to somebody that's going to say, Oh, I know somebody that's got stress, but you don't want to talk to the conversation. Yeah, know exactly. You want to talk to somebody who's going to go, I hear you. Yeah. So talking is, is really important. There's loads, there's loads you can do you can do for yourself, I would as a small step, we could do it actually, we could do it now, if you want is, it's up to you, a way of holding a stress, stress response as a physiological response. And one way to hold it is just a simple breathing. And if you start learning how to do that, that's a great way to get yourself into a more calm, alert state. So even if you just take a couple of deep breaths, but if you have a minute, would you like to do it now?Jenny: I'd love to do it. I’m going to get away from the microphone, I don't want to impose my breathing on anyone. Louisa: So it's just a really simple breathing technique called heart focus breathing. Just take a deep breath to start. And then just focus your attention in your heart or chest area. And then just start to breathe through your nose in a nice, balanced way. So for instance, in for a count of four, or five, and out for the same. And make sure you don't hold your breath on the ingress or the outlet.Jenny: Your voice is making me feel very relaxed as well, to be honest, I honestly, I physically feel better, just breathing twice there. And your voice is calming me down.Louisa: This is a great little technique that you can use with your eyes open anywhere. So if you're having a conversation with a client was like a stressful conversation or a colleague, or you're about to go into a meeting, if you do this just for a minute. It's so simple. The key is just to take your attention to your heart, it interrupts your automatic kind of breathing patterns. So attention to heart balanced in and out. And that's all you have to do. And that's just a simple little technique to take away. And yeah, it's funny, I was finally getting you were saying about talking about being, you know, about how you were then and I sort of think I would never have done that. I've never have known to do that.Jenny: Well, you take breathing for granted, don't you? We don't even think about using your breath as a technique.Louisa: And it's great because we do have an autonomic nervous system that makes us breathe without thinking.  But the brilliant thing is you can interrupt it. And what that does, it gives you a little bit, gives you a little sort of top up, I sort of like to talk about your inner battery in terms of resilience. And what happened to me is my battery just ran out. I had no more reserves, I had nothing. And a little breathing like that just tops up your battery, just a small amount and there's loads of other things you can do. But that's just a quick one, and it halts the stress reaction. Because every time you'll stress like that you're building up cortisol in your body. It's just so bad for you. Jenny: So is it cumulative? I mean, I don't know a lot about cortisol. So you add more and more and more? I mean, it's, well, I mean, my, my father died of cancer, and I'm sure a lot of the manifestation in his body that started it, he was he was very, very stressed. But I so that's one technique that people can use, which is really super helpful. Thank you so much for sharing. Tell me about the other ways that you help people when they come to you like, what's your advice for people? Because Do you find that the more you talk about this topic, the more people start sort of secretly contacting you and saying, hey, Louisa, I heard you talk about this. Louisa: Well, what tends to happen is people go, I know,  I agree I am, I'm really stressed, I really need this, but I've got no time. And because they are so overwhelmed, it's very hard for them to see how they could find the time. So the first thing is to help find some time, you know, help help even just, you know, one of the little workshops I run for whole agencies is how to have a good day. And that just is just like little productivity tips, you know, because until you find, you know, a bit about a bit of time to have for yourself. And I think a lot of agency owners are actually really good at looking after their staff, but they often don't spend any time on themselves. So until they're ready to actually say, I'm worth spending some time on because if I don't, I can't look after all these other people, then actually, there's usually a bit of a time lag, which is awful, because I don't want to get, I don't want them to get to the point where they're burnt out when they get to me, because then they probably need to go to the doctor, not to a coach. So I really want to help people before they get to that point. So the key is programmes, I think quite a lot of people do sort of resilience workshops, and that kind of thing. But I stopped doing them because I realised that one session is really not, you've got to do a programme, because this stuff tends to be ingrained. You're not going to change it, you know, in one, one session, this is going to take this is going to take some time and some commitment to help people.Jenny: And typically, what do people say about working with you during a programme? You know, how has it, how does it tend to impact them? Like what what did they, how did they describe their journey and their experience of you being able to help them with that transformation?Louisa: So they normally talk about feeling calm, which again, always makes me laugh, because I've always been known for being this kind of loud, extrovert person. I love the fact I'm making people feel calm. And they always talk about clarity. Like, suddenly they can see what they need to do. They, they have a plan. They have the next step they feel, they just feel, they often say they feel better. And for different people, it means different things. But usually, they see the next step that they're going to take and it feels doable and exciting. And they feel energised.Jenny: Is that  what you help people do is develop their own bespoke plan for them and where they're always, tailored to what they need?Louisa: Yeah, I mean, the techniques, and if I'm doing the resilience programme itself, there are there's a workbook and we work through it, but it's all based on them and what they need, and everyone's at different points in that journey. You know, some people I work with are really, really stressed and overwhelmed, and other people less so but they can see it could come if they don't do something about it. And we're also working on growing the business or, you know, helping them grow the business as well as the cost themselves. And that's the mix.Jenny: Well, I was gonna say, I mean, not only can you help them with their health, you can help them with the practical side of running a business, can't you? And presumably, I mean, that's the beauty of working with someone like yourself, who has trodden the path of growing and selling successfully an agency, you know, it's like, well, there's nothing probably that you come up against now that you haven't, you know, with someone else that you haven't experienced yourself.Louisa: I think that does mean that I have huge amounts of empathy for them. It might sound a bit odd but I really love my clients. Because, you know, when I'm in the moment with them, I you know, I really want to help them and, and I think they, you know, they clearly feel that support and I prefer now to take more of a coaching approach, which is really believing they have, they're the experts in their life, and they will find the answers that work for them. So yes, I may, you know, help, I may with my questions, and, you know what, what to ask them that might help them. And if I'm doing blended sort of mentoring and coaching, I may suggest some things if that's helpful to them, but usually, it's going to work much better if they find the ways that work for them. Jenny: You said before about, you know, the agency owner is very good at looking after their team and recognising stress in them. But then, you know, it's it, they're not looking after themselves. I think what I've realised working with a lot of agency account managers, is how the agency owner shows up within the business can have a real effect on everybody. I mean, their energy levels, their approaches. And I remember, when I was, I was running Publicis between different MDs, I was picking up the reins. I remember, I was I was what you just described, I was really resonating with what as you were describing it, I was, I was working weekends I was full on. And I was really excited. I thought actually, it was this anxious anxiety, I think all the time. And it wasn't until an old MD came to visit me for coffee. And she actually really helped me because she leaned forward said, Jenny, are you okay? And I went, it came as a shock, the question, but she'd noticed the change in my energy, my demeanour. And obviously, I was carrying myself and, you know, imposing that way of being to my team, so God knows what detrimental effect it had on everybody else. But do you think that's equally as important that, you know, ultimately, you're, you're looking after yourself so that you can help your team perform better?Louisa: Absolutely and as I say, I do find that most agency owners do really care about their team. And somebody I was talking to you the other day used the metaphor of the oxygen mask, they were saying, you know, if you don't put the oxygen mask on yourself first, how can you help everybody else? And, and I think that yeah, I mean, the impact on your staff is massive, because it could just be that you're micromanaging. That could be the impact of it, because you're so worried about everything, but you're constantly checking, checking, checking. Instead of going, I've trained them, I've empowered them. Jenny's done a fantastic account management programme with them. And you know, that I can let that go. And they might not think of that as a kindness, but it's actually so important for them to concentrate on the things that only they can do. And that's the biggest piece of advice I would always give anybody running a business is to really think about. And at home as well, you know what? So for me looking back, like what, what was it that only I could do with the children that only their mum will do? Because there are some things they don't, they didn't need me to pack their lunch, but they did need me to go to their assemblies, which I did go to most often. For instance, you know, so deciding what only you can do in the business, what what could you know, where you bring value to the business, and what you can let go of, or outsource or get somebody else to do is so important. And that's a really key step to, you know, having a healthy life and a healthy business.Jenny: Yeah, that must be quite cathartic for someone to sort of sit down with you and just pour it all out and analyse different areas of their life with someone else that can really have a practical and pragmatic approach to what can you leverage? What do you need to absolutely do? And what don't you need to do because that must in itself actually feel like a relief? And just you've mentioned your family a few times. And I hope you don't mind me asking the question, but do you think that your family in any way suffered as a result of what you were experiencing?Louisa: Yeah, I do. I do. I feel a bit emotional when you ask that, I mean, some of not all of it was bad. So I have four boys who are and I think partly, they were already lovely, obviously. But I think having seen me really, really ill meant they've always just been incredibly loving and sweet and my youngest son, I think it's the reason he's decided to go into medicine. Because he was only nine at the time, and it really it really affected him. And it was really sad at the time. But yeah, and I think it was a good thing for my marriage because I think we kind of fell in love again. In the hospital. Because it you know, sometimes those things are give you that real sense of what you could have lost, you know, and that perspective. So I don't, it's not all bad. You know, there was some amazing things that came out of it, including, you know, that I love what I'm doing now. And, yes, a lot of love. And I think I also have, I think one thing I gained was empathy, a lot more empathy for, for everyone. And, and I feel very blessed to have that, because it's, it helps me every day.Jenny: It's so powerful. I mean, it's so powerful to think that your son chose a career path as a result of what he was experiencing, that it had such a positive impact on your relationship. And I suppose in those times you do understand who your true friends are, and who your true supporters and the people that really care and love, love you. I'm sure. I mean, just out of interest, did you find that people from the industry were rallying round? Or did you want? Did you? Did people come out the woodwork that you didn't think had that sort of empathy, as you refer to at the time? Or were you surprised at the lack of care in general?Louisa: I don't think it was particularly one or the other. I think a lot of people just didn't really, I don't think it really registered with people. I think some people knew I'd been very ill. But you know, people were just busy and getting on with their lives. So I think apart from my sort of close, friends and, and sort of close business, friends, I don't think people really knew. I mean, people are funny, I remember smart people often, but I remember being in hospital and realising how, how little people understand about people who are sick, really, really sick. And, you know, sending you like huge boxes of chocolates that, you know, like work people thinking, what, you know, I'm really ill, I can't eat anything. It's sort of, they've got their PA to send a big box of chocolates. I think there is a sort of, I don't know, I think people don't really I don't think people really sort of understood. And I think if you're in a sort of leadership role, people just want us to be better. You know, I don't really want to know that you're, yeah, that human.Jenny: Exactly. That's, that's really interesting. That's really interesting. So the gesture was there, but the execution fell down. I'm interested to, to know if what else you would advise you've shared some really valuable tips, I think, you know, first of all, having a recognition of what you're going through and talking to someone about, and you've shared, the fact that, you know, breathing techniques really helped to initially calm you down, to think about your life in terms of areas that perhaps you could leverage, you know, and somebody else's services or tools even to, to help yourself. And I'm interested sort of to expand on that too, to understand the different ways that you work with people, I know that you prefer to work as a programme, and you don't do sort of one off resilience workshops or anything, but yeah, what do you do, you do that as a group? Or is it always one on one?Louisa: Both I like, I really like both. And I've found doing group coaching on zoom or group mentoring works really well. I love it. I never thought I'd say that because I really like being with people. And there's something about it that seems to work when people are in their own homes. So I do both. I love doing both. I work with small groups, unless it's a workshop like I'll do a How to Have a good day workshop. I can do that with 20 people. But with the mentoring and coaching programmes, the groups are normally around seven seems to be an ideal number and the one to ones and so I tend to work with the business owners and then also do groups with their teams or sometimes one to one with their teams, depending on what the need is?Jenny: And have you got any examples of perhaps agencies that are excelling in this area that are kind of super aware? And they have any kind of initiatives that they do? Like, what have you seen best practice with agencies?Louisa: Yes, I've been thinking about this, um, I think some, some, maybe bigger companies are tracking they’re maybe doing online surveys tracking, you know, the happiness of their staff. Some are doing training programmes. But this says, I don't know if there is a lot of really great best practice. I think, as I mentioned earlier, some will have sort of mental health signposting around, you know, so people will know, maybe to ask things in a certain way, and if and then we'll know who to sort of post them to signpost, them to, they might have a counsellor that you can talk to. And I think the thing with resilience is that people think it's all about sort of bouncing back after something terrible's happened. And so the programmes tend to be for that. So there's a lot of good stuff for people who have fallen over and say, is some way you can go and to help you up. But the way I just define resilience is that it's the capacity to prepare for, to recover from and to adapt in the face of stress or challenge. And so it's that building up your inner battery that that building capacity, and I think there isn't a lot of great work going on with that. I think there's good stuff. But what happens when I'm ill, but not so much, how do we create this capacity, which means that you are healthier individual at work? Even that's creative, you know, building up your inner battery, because I think everyone that resonates with everyone, isn't it? They can just imagine, yes, that makes total sense.And we do it, you know, for our cars, you know, we have MOT's we have regular service checks, we put oil in we check it, we look at the light switches, come on, but we don't do it for ourselves. And I don't, I don't think companies have really, you know, I think agency owners have been really good at the last few months that keeping the energy going the team, you know, I've worked really hard on team culture. And I think they do care about how much people are working, especially at home, where they're working possibly even longer hours back to back meetings on zoom, and I care about it. But I'm not sure there's I haven't seen any signs of brilliant best practice in terms of ongoing programmes.Jenny: Would you say that, just a couple more questions before I'm just conscious of your time, would you say that COVID the whole situation with everyone working remotely and on their own? Have you seen a higher prevalence in, you know, people who are, it is affecting their health because not everybody loves? You know, if you're maybe over 50, you know, you love being at home and working from home because you're very self sufficient. But generally speaking, our industry does attract a lot of young talent, doesn't it? And if you're starting in an agency, part of it, part of the enjoyment of an agency is the bars and pitching and stuff like that. So would you say that you'd seen any trends or changes recently?Louisa: I mean, I think it's been such a mix, some people and it's not just a age related, you know, I know some younger people also love it depends where they live, you know, what their home life is, what their commute used to be. And some people have loved it and are healthier, doing my exercise eating better, because they've got more time. Other people have gone completely opposite seems to be two camps, they put on weight, they've drunk too much and not as much exersie. I think the common theme is there's definitely more anxiety around. Some people have stress as well. But there's definitely kind of over here there's this like level of anxiety, which we've all got. Now, I've been working really hard on building up my inner battery these last few weeks, especially because I can see that it's being depleted by this kind of background anxiety that that is there all the time for us to see. So, so I think it's a real mix. I think that is more anxiety, more stress for everybody.Jenny: I think what I from what I've seen, I agree with you as well. Louisa, I think this is so powerful, I'd love you to share where, because I'm sure there are people listening to this thinking, oh my god, she's like, taking the words out of my mouth. That's exactly how I feel. And I recognise that I do need to do something about it. So I find it hugely inspiring that you're doing what you're doing because of your background because of who you're helping. And having trodden the path before. I think that does make you so much, so much more valuable, because you get it as you say, your empathy is increased. So how can people reach you who, who are the best people that you would like to be contacted by? And how can people contact you if they want to know more?Louisa: So they can find me on LinkedIn, or email me, I mean, I'm happy to chat to anybody. My usual starting point is usually business, the agency owner or person running the agency, or somebody in the senior management team. They're usually the people that employees employ me as it were. And so they would be the best people.Jenny: Amazing. And any finally, anything that I haven't asked you that is pertinent about your story that you would like to share? Because I just want to capture everything. Anything that I haven't asked you that I probably should have done?Louisa: I don't think so. We've been really kind of.. No, I’d better now share any more – my poor family!   Jenny: I honestly, I really want to raise the awareness of this because I, having worked in the industry myself, I I totally believe that what you're saying is so valuable. And I just think it's phenomenal what you're doing. So it's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. And, yeah, just carry on doing what you're doing. I think it's hugely valuable in the industry. So thank you.Louisa: Thank you. 
Jenny: Welcome to the Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast with me, Jenny Plant, from Account Management Skills Training. I'm on a mission to help those in agency client service keep and grow the existing relationships, so their agency business can thrive.Welcome to Episode Seven. I have a real treat for you today, particularly if you're an agency owner. I've managed to grab an hour in Spencer Gallagher’s diary and Spencer is in the middle of rewriting his book Agencynomics, which he wrote with his partner, Peter Hall and in this chat, we discuss what makes a successful agency leader now and what successful agency leaders are doing differently to accelerate their growth. What he’d do differently today if he was starting out his agency, what trends he's seeing in the agency landscape and why you need to keep learning to keep yourself relevant. He also shares loads of fantastic, really useful tips, particularly if you're an agency owner or leader and also if you're managing tribe relationships. So sit back, relax and I will introduce Spencer in more detail. Spencer - for those in the agency world, you need no introduction whatsoever. But for those in the audience who may not have heard of you or met you, you run one of the leading well, the leading, UK agency growth consultancy, Cactus. You're also co founder of Cactus Academy, which is online training for agency leaders. You're also the author of the bestselling book Agencynomics, which is a phenomenal book for anyone growing an agency. And you also run the biggest global community for agency owners of the same name, Agencynomics. And you're also the host of the vodcast agency Phonics. So I'm thrilled because I know you advise companies, you're a non exec, you do a lot of speaking gigs so to get some time with you, I know you usually sit on this side of the fence,  is an absolute delight for me. I'm absolutely thrilled. Just a short intro before I pass over to you to ask you to talk a bit about your history. We obviously met a couple of years ago and what struck me about you was first of all your energy, which is phenomenal. I just don't know how you get everything done, but also how you essentially adopted me into the Cactus and Agencynomics family, which I will be forever grateful for. And you've also gone on to trust me with many of your clients. So I just feel so at home in the community. I think you obviously attract a really decent, lovely type of person and you've created this really supportive community which is really active, really involved. And you just seemed so generous with everybody that you meet. So I would love you to share your journey with us because I obviously haven't mentioned the fact that you built a 20 billion turnover agency and sold it. So I would love you to share your journey with us.Spencer: Thank you. That was a wonderful introduction. Thank you. When I hear it back, sometimes I'm also thinking, Wow, how do I find time to do all those things myself? Well I'm so busy, I had a complaint this week from someone, who said your PA, Abbie, who you know very well, has said it's currently 58 days to get a meeting with you.Jenny: I'm not surprised.Spencer: And I was trying to make the point that I actually look after about £100 million worth of agencies with 1000 staff and I think people don't always realise what I do in my day job. Agencynomics is obviously something that I do as a bit of a charity, sort of social enterprise ‘pay it forward’ my spare time. But yes, I mean a brief history of time. You know, I'm one of those kind of classic entrepreneur types, I think. I left school at 16. No qualifications Left home at 16. Didn't have the best start in life. You know, worked in clothes shops, selling clothes and so life wasn't that good for me in the beginning. It wasn't like, you know, pure poverty. But put it this way, you know, I brought myself up and your life wasn't simple and I had to be quite independent from a young age and I don't know, like I just worked really hard at everything I did, and I got some lucky breaks and I ended up at the age of about 27 getting made redundant. I went through three jobs in a year, got made redundant twice and decided that in my spare time I'd been playing on this thing called the Internet since about 93. So to give you an idea, Tim Berners Lee came up with the Internet html and in 1991 so 2 years later I'm taught myself to write websites and after being made redundant from a purple shed in my mum's back garden, I started to build websites. And I started to build at the time what I thought was a web development company. And then about three years later, somebody walked into the business and said I really love your agency and I was like, what's an agency and then from that moment onwards, the business really, really grew quickly. So that's kind of briefly how it started, obviously aside building websites when it was a joke to build websites. So if you told people you built websites in the year 2000, they'd laugh at you because it's a bit like crypto currency or Bitcoin today. And so you know there was a tough times I think we called ourselves new media agencies back then and so you know, it's a long story short. I won, I got a couple of big breaks. One of them was Tottenham Hotspur football club and I then became very big in sports and I ended up building websites for people like the NFL, worked with Jamie and Andy Murray before they were, you know, big time really, you know, Judy used to come down to the offices. So we did a lot in sport , sports was our niche. But we did end up working with other companies like with Cancer Research, a big client. Before we used iPhones and Samsung we used blackberries, a BlackBerry or crack brief as we used to call them. So, yeah, I was very fortunate. Grew it organically. No investments. Deloitte Tech Fast 50 Growing business and ended up in 2008  really the big ad agencies had missed out on Digital. If you remember back then, they would call the digital team in their agency the dark arts department. Or they had, like, a separate division with a different name that did digital. A lot of big companies had missed out. They hadn't found a way to integrate digital into their advertising or marketing, so I sold the business very successfully. I was the only owner of the business and at 37 I kind of retired really, I sort of stopped working and my last pitch in an agency, I share this story sometimes with people, it was 63 hours with three hours sleep, and it was for a global business with Technicolor to do the re-brand and the global website development. And after kind of stopping work in 2010 I decided that I would never work or set foot in an agency ever again because I was just so burnt out. But the reality was after a year of sort of stopping working and having some time outs, a lot of my old friends, my old competitors, my frenemies, would ring me up and say, Hey, listen, there's a new era needed for a non-exec that understands technology, not just that Mad Men era. There were a lot of non execs 10 years ago who were very much from the advertising and marketing traditional world, whereas I was very much from the New World because I've been there and done it on did it organically I think there's a lot of connection there, so we started Cactus, and that was nine years ago now and it's been an amazing journey. You know, we’ve worked with a 1000 agencies,  written a book and it’s been a lot of hard work, but I'm really proud of everything we've achieved.Jenny: You should be as well. It's a phenomenal achievement. What drives you now? What drives you to continue?Spencer: Well, I think it's still the same thing. You know, I was a 16 year old who left school with no qualifications. Who left home at 16 and I felt a failure and so I've always been driven by the fear of proving that I'm not a failure. You know, I've always wanted to be successful. Even when I sold the business, actually, I sort of fell off the top of Maslow’s triangle and crashed down because I'd sold the one thing that made me successful. And I had nothing to show for it anymore necessarily. I had a nice house and car, lovely family and, you know, but I didn't really have something that I had built and made, you know, I’d sold it. And so in a way, then that's a rebuild that, so the driver with Cactus all along is I guess, you know, a lot of people say, you know, you could be one hit wonder. I guess you know a lot of people could say because you build one business and sell it doesn't mean that you can do it again. Well, I think a couple of people said that to me. In fact, you just reminded me there was a statistic that said something like and this is true, like only 30% of people who build themselves a business go on to do it again. So I wanted to prove that I could do it again. And I think we've done that through Cactus, time and time again now through our clients and through the investments we've made. Jenny: You know, I love that you shared, but that because I was just reflecting. And I'm sure a lot of people hearing that very open story and a really honest story wo;; identify with that because I think. Like, I didn't go to university. I mean, maybe in those days it wasn't so common, but that kind of drives me. And also I think you've got a shared love of personal development. You're always reading, aren't you? I mean, you interviewed Daniel Priestley..Spencer: Yeah, I managed to get Daniel Priestly on my podcast.Jenny: Amazing. So you're always developing yourself and your skills. Spencer: It’s funny because they were sort of two or three books along the journey that really helped me,  shape who I am. And when I say them, you know you'll laugh because they're the books that you probably see time and time again people always promoting. And the first book actually was it wasn't The Secret, but it was, I was discussing it this morning with someone, it was a book with a red cover, and it basically said ‘How to be successful in life’. This is a 16 year old me going. I'm earning £70 a week selling clothes in Foster's, which is like Top Man in a small town in Surrey, my life's not looking great, and I read this book and I find I left home with my mum at 15, my parents divorced. I moved to my dad’s house, and he had it in his, just as I left home at 16, he had it on the bookshelf, and it was something called ‘How to Be a Millionaire’ or How to Be Successful. One of those books and I read it and it said, close your eyes, sit somewhere comfortable. Imagine your life three years from now. Now I listen, I had nothing, right? I had no qualifications so at this point, I don't have anything other than this book telling me how I'm gonna I don't know, do something with my life. But I did it. I closed my eyes. I said, by the time I'm 20 I want to earn £20,000 a year, which, bearing in mind where I was, was quite an achievement. To give you an idea, I think I was earning about £4000 to £5000 a year, and that would probably be about the equivalent of about £10,000 today. So 20 would probably be about, what, £40,000 today. I want to have a company car and I want to own my own house. And three years from that day, I bought my first house. I was 19 years old. Interest rates were 15%. Not 1% like they are now 15%. I got a first time buyers discount. Some reason the visualisation worked. Now I don't know whether it was the manifestation of the secret or it was just the neuroscience, the fact that you know you achieve things, human beings, where we draw our attention to we focus and we achieve things. Who knows what the answer is? I still don't know. But what I do know is it worked. And so the first lesson I learned was about visualisation visualising your future, and even today, every day I read out a daily gratitude list where I'm grateful for the outcomes that are gonna happen to me. That was the first one. The second one was ‘How to win friends and influence people’. And that gave me an ability at the time to be able to talk to anybody. I think I kind of had that anyway, because I was in the bottom set for everything at school. So I hung around with rough kids. But then I was reasonably sporty enough to know the wealthy kids so I could kind of adapt up and down a little bit, that probably helps you in sales. But actually reading that book, you know how to win friends made me realise what's the saying, you know, to be interesting, you have to be interested, and just all of those techniques. And then lastly, it was ‘Think and grow rich’, which really underpinned the first book and you know for those people it’s a book that was written in 1927, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ and the book was at the time it just really struck a chord with me in many, many ways. So they were the kind of the early bits of reading I did, and what I found was because a lot of learnings from those books really helped me I realised that a real education in life actually starts the day you leave school, not the day – you don’t stop school and stop learning. You have to almost go, you know, and in fact, even I remember 2-3 years ago when digital technology started moving much more into distributed crypto, AI, you know, I went out every morning, walked 10 miles between six and 10K and 10 miles listening to audio books and podcasts around, AI,  machine learning, trying to make sure that I'm staying relevant and I'm learning new things. Yes, a journey of learning has been really the heart of everything I do.Jenny: And do you think that's the secret of success for an agency owner? Because I'm sure there’s agency owner is listening to this thinking I really would like to have whatever Spencer’s got to accelerate my agency's growth. What do I need to be doing differently? So do you see, when you meet so many, that the ones that stand out for you, you can see that they're going to be more successful. Are there any kind of traits?Spencer: So the reality is, is that we're complicated people, human beings and I think that I'm very fortunate in, like a couple of my superpowers are able to sort of cut through. So where some people overly procrastinate or suffer from imposter syndrome or have, you know, barriers from, psychological barriers from when they were younger and their stage fright, whatever it may well be. I'm someone who always sees cut through. So I don't try and coach people, and I talk about it quite a lot. I'm more of a fitness instructor because I find that I don't really have the skills to be able to retrain the way people work. What I do is I tend to show them the answer and then I give them the trust and confidence to just make and take that action, that decision. And then when they do it and it works, you know then they are like, OK this is great. So the danger is with that, of course, is that if you don't coach someone, they never make the mistakes. They don't go through the process themselves, don't learn it forever. So my approach is more like the PT instructor. You know, I'm moving the weight stuff. I'm telling how many reps you gotta do – you need to do three more, you know. But the moment I go, you might just revert back to going and hitting the Haagen Daz ice cream and I think a lot of agencies who start working with me, actually go back to who they were before. Because, you know, success, you know, is doing the right thing day in, day out, and failure is doing the wrong thing day in, day out. And so I'm just course correcting. I call it course correction. I have a philosophy that I believe is, you know, a successful philosophy, and I try and get people to understand that and embrace that and drive them down that route. But my skill, I guess, is to deal with all the different complex personalities and try and also find them the right people. Because, for example, you're a good example of this, because I find that it's very hard for me to work, I'm good at working with, like, agency owners, but I'm not so good at working with team members, you know, because team members do need coaching. They need a different level of empathy than I have time to give them. Apparently I’ve got a high EQ, I’ve just had my EQ test done today. I’m very highly self aware which is great. I have empathy, but I'm probably too busy sometimes to sit down and coach over a long periods of time. In fact, one of my colleagues who works with other non execs, he says, I sit in board meetings with other non execs and they spend six months trying to coach someone to do a new thing, and you come in, you just tell him to do it, you know, I think that so it's really good to bring you in to situations for me. Like I find it hard  sometimes to bring out the best in client services because they need the empathy that to relate to someone who's worked in their role before. I haven't been an account manager, I had fantastic account manager client servicing in my teams. I made a lot of mistakes but in the end, I feel like I got a successful team through making lots of mistakes. But I think you know that’s where you’ve got to bring the right people in to do the job could be better than you. And I'm also good spotting that, you know, so does that answer the question? Jenny: It does, fantastic answer. I wasn't expecting it to be answered like that, but absolutely and I was gonna ask you another one. If you were going to start again, because I know a lot of agency leaders that are here at the moment listening will be thinking Well, okay, so if you were going to start again, what other things that you'd be doing differently. Like you've said, you made a mistake. I'm sure a lot of us doing, that's how you learn sometimes. But you're very good at short cutting their learnings for others. So what if the top three things that you would be doing differently if you start it again now? Spencer: Well, the thing that is really obvious, and I think people sometimes because I'm slightly more extroverted than I am introverted so it's easy for you to say these things. But, you know, Malcolm Gladwell says, you gotta be 10,000 hours to be an expert. I've done 20,000 hours now, you know, helping agencies grow and another 10 growing my own. And the one thing I've learned is that agencies do not exist without, before even clients come on boards and even when clients do come on board, if you don't have leads coming into the business, you will not have clients. You will not have services, people, processes, profit, cash. You won't have any of those things. And so the number one thing you need to understand is how are eads generated. It's not about creating the best products in the world than trying to figure out how you sell it. It's not, you know, you have to understand what is it the problem that you're going to solve as a service business? That's what we do. We solve problems. What's the problem that we're solving, and how am I going to create an abundance of people wanting to work with me to do that? So the first thing is, is for me all about that. Mow to create that in today's market, so if I started tomorrow and I have this thing, there's a lot of people say I don't know who the person is who maybe coins it, but there was a think it might be someone like Jim Rome or Tony Robbins they said, You know, if all the wealthy people in the world lost all their money tomorrow, they'd all have it back in five years. I really firmly believe that. I'm not someone who is obsessed about money at all. It is not thing for me, but the point is you see how to make life easier for yourselves. You know often  as entrepreneurs and you see where the optical national agencies. But in today's world, what would I do in simple terms? I’ve been a massive fan of Daniel Priestley, and I would first of all say you read his book ‘Key person of influence’ in a world full of people on social media, establish your expertise, work on your personal brands, your personal brand identity. You did it before I did. I came across you when I was just liking and sharing other people's LinkedIn posts. And, you know, I would see you there talking about client services online, in video format. It was clear that you were an authority. And I think when I met you at the time, there was no other, I knew other people who did what you did, but you seem the biggest authority because you spoke about it the most. So I'd read ‘Key Person of Influence’. I’d work on my personal branding and my point of view and become an expert on what it is I'm looking to sell. And then the second thing, I would just get some LinkedIn training and learn how to use it properly. Because if it was the top 40 charts right now for lead generation agencies, I think the fastest riser is LinkedIn. I'm very fortunate, because I get to look at lots of pipelines every month, so I see where all the lead sources are. Since Covid started LinkedIn has been one of the fastest growing areas for new business its now appearing regularly on, whereas generally actually Twitter , Instagram they don't often appear on, they do, but not very often appear as lead sources in agencies. So if I started again tomorrow I’d work on my personal brand, work on learning how to talk about the process, to share what I'm doing, to demonstrate my expertise. And I would start to build a really good network of connections because the number one way – I’ve done around two surveys this year, Jenny, one was the UK Lead Generation survey, and one was the Global lead generation survey. And if you take out the number two, number three way for agencies to get business is always existing clients referring other clients or existing clients leaving. But if you remove those because they're already clients, the number one way is through networking, speaking ,thought leadership and so those three areas you need to build your connections, you need to set yourself some numbers. I mean, I used to have this thing, at Blue Halo where I'd meet 50 new people each month. And, I think today it doesn't have to be new people, but meaningful conversations on a regular basis will build your pipeline and if you build your authority then those two things come together. So that's what I would do in a nutshell.Jenny: It's such good advice and funnily enough I've seen quite a few posts from agency owners saying I followed what Spencer’s telling me and this month I'm doing my 50 phone calls and it gets results. Why do you think people resist it? Is it difficult? And why do you think agency owners don't do it?Spencer: You know I mean, it's funny because Agencynomics isn't my first community that I set up. In the early days of Cactus, I had a lot of people ringing me up, whose struggling in their businesses. Owners and I set up an early stage community, and I used to these talks in there. I used to share the philosophy that, you know, if you make 50 new connections a month and you understand what they do, then you share what you do then you're able to help them in some ways, to build some reciprocity and not unauthentically but genuinely you know, the more you help, the more business will come back. And I knew that because actually, when I analysed my own pipelines, there was one guy spent a million pounds with me over 10 years because I helped fix his email in 1999 when he was made redundant. And so you help people, connect to people and keep in touch. And so I tell people this. And I remember going to a dinner in Manchester about two years ago, and I hosted an agency dinner there. And someone say yeah, you’re always banging on about this meet 35 people a month, and that's just impossible. Now ir wasn't 50. It was 35.  And I said, you know, it's Thursday. I'm in Manchester. Every day of the week, I'm in a board meeting from 10. 30 till five o'clock. So that means I've only had from 8. 30 to 10. 30 and maybe the evening. I just wanna let you know that you guys are my, I think it was the 70th people that I've met that week because I did a speaking event the night before, in fact you were there that week by the way. The MAA speaking event was about 35-40 people. There was quite there was a couple years ago. I'd worked out I’d met 70 people in four days, and you know the reality is there are 22 working days in the month, 21- 22 working days. If you talk to two people a day, you know that's 44 people a month. If you can't find, you know, an hour a day to have two conversations for half an hour over Zoom, you know, with people that you used to work with you, used to go to school with, ex colleagues, ex customers. Well, if you really want to be successful, then that's what you need. And by the way, everyone has a number. So although mine was 50, because if you have 50 conversations serendipitously, you will probably find two or three opportunities. You don't find 50, you find 1 to 3 and of those three, maybe one or two will convert. But that for me was worth about £200,000  a month when I was doing your business. There were people I know they do a hundred, and they bring in maybe 40 a month. That's not a problem, but you've got to know your number because everyone will have a number based on the size, the stage they’re at, who they are, how they help people, etc, etc.Jenny: I notice this might sound like a silly question, but are you finding that generally, particularly younger people prefer not to speak face to face or on the phone?Spencer: Um, is it a younger person thing? I don't know. I've come across some people of all ages who do and don't do it. Is it a younger thing? Possibly. I mean, I don't know.  I'm not sure that I’m qualified enough or done the research to identify whether or not. The way people work has definitely changed, but I would say, you know, I know some fantastic super connectors who are under the age of 30 who do do these things. So maybe not. Jenny: I suppose the reason I'm asking is in my work with account managers who always tend to be a lot, obviously a lot younger than me, I often say, well, how about picking up the phone or just call them. I emailed and I said XY and Z and I got an email back and they tell me this whole story of what's happened over email and I said, well, how about just calling them or leaving a voice message or, you know, on LinkedIn and I suppose that was the reason for my question, really? And I was just wondering, is this a trend?Spencer: I mean, I for me I think that's yes I think there probably is an overarching trend as communication has changed, and people can use, you know, WhatsApp or text or Snap or whatever to communicate that they don't need to ring up, pick up the phone. Interestingly enough, my son is 15. He talks into his phone, so they use Snapchat and they just send each other voice messages all the time. It’s easier than typing. They commentate through games. It's like doing a phone call so maybe going full circle. But, you know, if I'm honest about it even 20 years ago, maybe let’s say 10 to 15 years ago with my client service team, you know, I probably used to be nagging them to pick the phone up more because as soon as email came out, it was very easy to hide behind it. But I do think there's a lost art of communication. I think there is a lost art of picking the phone up, and I mean, I think through Covid, what was very exciting was all of a sudden a lot of marketing managers and clients who are quite hard to get hold of suddenly had a bit more time because they weren't commuting. And actually, I think a lot of people who hate networking as an example found it a lot easier to just Zoom call to speak to someone, then having to go into a building full of men and women in suits or whatever. You know, I mean that horrible feeling of and they could just do it in this kind of format. So I think it's, you know, it could well be a problem. And I think if you are an account manager, listening to this or account director and you, you know, be different. Be the 1% be the ones that pick the phone up, because that's how you're going to get cut through. If you want to be successful, you've got to do the marginal gain things you've got to do the 1% yeah, so you just got find a way to overcome the fear because actually, like all things, it scary the first time. But once you've done it. You know, it's like speaking. If I meet, so many people are scared of public speaking. But, you know, the reality is is that you know, you start off with a couple of people on your team and say can I test doing a talk with you two? Then you pick five and six and you know, one day you'll accidentally walk out like I did and there's 200 people and you know you can't even breathe, but you do it and then you realise, OK, I could do 200 now and it just gets easier as it goes up. We have to start somewhere.Jenny: I'm so glad coming from you as well that advice was so golden for the creative agency account managers listening. Do you have any other advice that from what you've seen teams doing exceptionally well with their clients or making mistakes?Spencer: I mean, I don't know whether we did talk about this much detail, but there's been a lot of, I think in the last eight weeks in particular where are we now we sort of October 2020 and certainly that middle of August, Campaign magazine started to do this kind of it's the end of the account director and the end of account manager. No one really sees them any more as relevant. They're not needed. And I just don't believe that. I think that the problem is because of technology now being at the heart of all marketing and advertising and agency businesses, whether your PR or whatever, the technology is moving so fast. Business growth has become exponential too, in fact, the first time in history, ever, where technology has outstripped business requirements in the past technology could never keep up with business and now it's the other way around. So the point is, is an account director you have to be commercially aware about your client's business? But you’ve also got to understand that their business is changing rapidly because of technology. So the problem is is that you have to invest. So my advice would be, it doesn't matter how much time your company give you to do research for learning and development. You've got to make your own time in the future world, I get up early every morning and walk before your day starts, or get in a car or whatever do now, get on a scooter but you're gonna listen and learn about your client's businesses and understand, you know, where things are changing. You've got to be relevant or you just become irrelevant. You become commoditised so my advice to anyone listening is, you know, there's a famous meme going around with Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, if you’re not spending five hours a week learning new things, you're not gonna be relevant. I genuinely believe that. I think, in fact, I would predict that during 2008 with the last recession hit, 2009, a huge volume of client service people got made redundant from agencies because they didn't understand digital. And what happened in 2008/9/10 all they knew about was print and traditional advertising channels. Now they all got made redundant, they all came back two years later as social media experts. That's kind of the joke of the time. They went away, realised they’d missed it all, learned about such a media, came back again again and got re trained, but they had to use a redundancy period to do that. The reason why I've already had five or six very senior client service directors I know been made redundant. And that's because they know the world of websites and social media. But they don't know the next world of digital transformation of, you know, machine learning, they don’t understand the next wave where technology is impacting on businesses. So my advice would be come up with your own learning and development plan to keep yourself relevant, to find your expertise, to understand your client's business. And don't be a victim to your company not giving you time to learn. It’s not about them. It's about you, about your future, your career, you know, you will become more valuable to that company, to the clients, to other organisations. So don't look at it is that you know my company aren't paying me to get trained out of work out of hours. Don't worry about it. Just do it. You know, I'm sure you probably did that when you were working back in the day.Jenny: I always feel like I'm behind, so I could never absorb enough information. Honestly, there's not enough hours in the day, so I do have that drive to want to know more. And, I have noticed that some people do have that drive and others don't. But I think that's such a good point, like invest in yourself because it's about your career. It's not necessarily just about the agency you're working with, all the clients you're working with.Spencer: If you work harder on yourself than you do in your job, you'll always be more successful in life. That was said by Jim Rohn and I mean, just to add, once I I sold my business. I went back and I got told, because I was a little bit anti Tony Robbins, because he's always very positive and I'm very positive. But someone told me a good friend of mine about Jim Rohn, who was Tony Robbins mentor. I listened to a CD by him. A CD. I've got loads of them. I still can't play them anymore. But you know his philosophy back then, you know, he said things like, you know, skip a meal. But don't skip reading for an hour every day. I mean, that advice is timeless. You know, people say I don't have time then just skip a meal and read, right?Jenny: Absolutely.Spencer: You know, it's quite interesting. So I think I think the advice hasn't really changed. If you want to become more valuable in society, you need to basically invest some time in developing yourself.Jenny: Do you have any preferred sources of information that you go to like your go-to places to keep on top of things? Spencer: Do you know, when I had the agency is very different to where I am now. When I had the agency, I was you know, the term ‘Maven’, I would look for a Maven so I would look for people who I read Malcolm Gladwell's ‘Tipping Point’. And in that book he talked about how things go viral, and there’s a Maven at the beginning, someone who kind of knows about the future or is an evangelist for a certain trend. And then you get connectors and sales people down there who spread the word. But I used to follow certain Mavens around certain areas. So who are the people that are talking about what's next. For example, I would probably, again I'm going to do a bit of a Marmite thing with everyone now. Half of me would watch Gary Vaynerchuk because he's going to tell you about the next and future. Whether you love him or hate him, you still gonna watch him and listen. The other half of me would be watching Mr Mark Ritson because I want to know what is the now? What should I be doing strategically? Because the smart money is knowing where the now, next and future are. So I would bring the two of those together and go, I'm listening to you guys. And, you know what, I do listen to those guys now. So when I have my business, I was used to follow, because I was in sports marketing I would look out often stalk the bigger, more successful sports agencies. Bigger, more successful sports brands, individual thought leaders and futurists in those areas. And so I would always look to get some intuition around where things were going. So I’d probably look at, you know, you look at my clients. If I was people listening now, I’d look at my clients. I’d find the thought leaders in that space, I would follow them. I would probably look at the services we sell and I’d probably tune into who's doing the best now, and who's moving forwards. It doesn't take a rocket scientist right to look at Agency World now, and I know Stephen Bartlett recently left Social Change. But like he’s an agency owner, his agency's grown from 0 to 800 staff in four years. Well, there's something going on there, and he just happens to be an agency owner who is an influencer. So his personal brand, his thought leadership and the same with Vaynerchuk, Vayner Media, they've grown really quickly over a very short period of time because of the way that they've acted in terms of their personal brand. So yes, I would just tune into the experts it’s quite hard because there's so much information out there now. But certainly there's a lot of very good podcasts, I think McKinsey do a really good podcast talking about future of industry. So find things that really focus on now, next, the future of where you're focusing from a services and from a sector perspective, that's what my advice would be.Jenny: Really amazing, brilliant advice. I usually say to people also look at all of the management consultancy websites because they have the resources and the power, the money behind them to do these studies, and you've only gotta be ahead of the curve a little bit. Do a few readings of you know, some of the reports coming out around, just as you say the client's industry, your sector, to be one step ahead. So that's brilliant advice. What else are you seeing trends-wise like, particularly, there’s two questions really. One, who aree the agencies or what are they doing differently that are putting them at the sort of cutting edge, maybe apart from building their personal brands? Is there anything else that they're doing differently?Spencer: I think the big shift is probably organisational transformation in agencies, I think Covid has been an accelerator in many ways for obviously the way the flexible first approach to working this what we call agile distributed model where maybe agencies now are able to attract a more diverse talent pool from a wider base. Because you don't have to worry about, you know everyone hopefully work to a certain degree via video tools. I think we'll get a little bit worn down within, probably craving a little bit more social face to face interaction. Now I'm saying that now I have been really quite happy, even I am feeling this week a little bit like I could just do it going out with a group of people, more than 30 and having a good time out. So I think the organisation transformation. So what I mean by that is I think the big shift is, is seeing less hierarchies of businesses. I'm seeing more flat, meritocratic structures, more grown up approaches inside businesses, you know, less bosses and management and reporting lines and more people being trusted to do their job. I'm seeing people being more open and transparent around the numbers, the communication, you know, there's more experimentation in agencies more willing to test and try new things. And I think I'm seeing sort of a bit of a movement I think around the organisational structure piece. I think that's the first thing, by the way there's nothing new to this. I mean, when we wrote our book, you know, which came out two years ago and, you know, probably wrote the section three or four years ago, there's a good few global agencies where they have this hybrid model of a core team and maybe a freelancer extended team. So I'm seeing some definite and trends around that, and I've seen some trends around, I won't namecheck people here, but one client of mine in particular who you know, was in a pitch against two traditional agencies. And this is an agency that only has one employee, which is the managing director, the whole team is consultants, experts in this particular field, and they got chosen as the agency of choice for a FTSE 100 company because they preferred the model of saying, look, you only bring in the talent when we need it. You bring in higher quality talent rather than, but you see 10 years ago I lost, I remember I was talking to a big a FTSE 250 organisation who crucified me because I had a contractor in and they saw on LinkedIn that they weren't working for me. So it's again, so there's another trend. I think the clients are maturing. The clients are going to be working more remotely. I think that means a better distribution of wealth around the UK. I think we'll start to see people who are choosing agencies near where they live rather than nearer the central London office. So it's definitely something. I mean, when people say about people giving up offices, I still say it's fairly split. I think around half of people have considered giving up the office and another half are like no, we still need somewhere to meet and still need somewhere to forge our culture of people. So what other the trends am I seeing at the moment? Jenny: Do you think that the people being made redundant, because obviously we're heading towards the end of the furlough period for those in agencies that are gonna, unfortunately be made redundant. Do you see a trend for them setting themselves up as consultants or freelancers?Spencer: Yeah. I mean the problem, the problem we've got in the economy right now, you have this thing called IR35 which is very annoying. Which means that basically, if you're self employed, you can't work for just one person without the company having to pay your taxes. And so as a self employed contractor yeah, you've gotta have multiple employers and, you know, they were gonna put the change the law earlier this year they didn't do it. And so it needs modernising definitely to protect people from being exploited, you know, it is not a bad thing why it's being delayed and taking time. So yes, I think inevitably, when there's a lot of redundancies people will like I did when I was made redundant. They use the time to try and start to work for themselves and do things. I definitely think so. I'm going to make a bit of a blanket statement here, which is from what I've seen most of the people that have been made redundant because they haven't moved with the times or there's a carrot, or they genuinely were affected by travel by, because it's only about four or five sectors that have really been hit. I wanna be really clear about this. 99% of sectors in the country are actually doing okay. They're not booming, but some of them are booming like SAS. But there is only really a handful of sectors that are struggling. But some agencies just unluckily had everyone in that space. But apart from that, last night, there was a post. A good friend of mine works in user experience, and someone asked for some user experience people, and I put the name of a friend of mine who's just been made redundant. And that post must have had, like, 60 names on it by the morning and it just goes to show how user experience has become more commoditised. And so it's almost like you've got to keep going up this value chain. But what I would say is I have not seen many people who are working quite strongly in technology in a sector that hasn't been hit by travel or high street retail that isn't very secure in their jobs. So I would say people who are being made redundant do take a good long look at what you're doing where your role is and do you need to progress it now to another area which is more future proofed.Jenny: I think it's a really, really good of advice. I'm just conscious of your time we're coming up to the hour, can you believe it? It's been so… I could talk to you all day, Spencer. Can you tell us what projects are you working on right now? What's exciting you?Spencer: So I've got a couple of really big announcements coming up, we’re doing a couple of partnerships, which is really exciting for me. I think the main thing is we're working on building our training library for agency owners, which I'm hoping to tap you up for some account client service training in there as well. So very much that's been something I'm working on now for a couple of years. It's been taken awhile because we're so busy to try and get them, but we are getting there. So the training stuff’s really exciting for us. We've just launched the masterminds workshops, which has been almost the first time we've been able to offer people maybe a low cost access to us because obviously being non- execs, you end up being a premiums or day rate. But this is a way to make us more accessible by people with smaller budgets but still get access to our tool kits, which we've developed over the last nine years. I'm loving it and it's just really building, we're building a team around the country. We've just taken on someone for the Northwest. I think we were travelling in the early days everywhere and now we're realising that actually there are better people in the regions that could do these things for us. So that's been exciting. And the communities, you mentioned the beginning, you know, we're on our way to 800 members now. Very, very close. And the engagement? The statistics have been just honestly, so good. I mean, the engagement rates are so high. I think we score excellent in every single rating in the analytics on the platform, which is really nice. And as you said at the beginning, which I'm a little bit shocked too everyone so nice in there, and it's weird because it's free you’d think you'd get all in the kind of trouble makers in there? Totally weirdly, I think I may be Covid, maybe people have got more humility. Maybe through this period.Jenny: It would really stand out if anyone wasn't nice, wouldn't it? It would be like, oh, no, that's not what we do around here.Spencer: When the person does something you’re like, alright..Spencer: We've got a good few announcements coming up, new partnerships coming in, which I think will be really exciting as well. So you know, all good. All progressing really nicely. All good fun.Jenny: So who would you like to hear from? Because obviously some people might be listening to this thinking, oh, I didn't know he did consultancy. I didn't know there was a community. What's the best way of contacting you and who’d really benefit from contacting you the most?Spencer: I think if you are an agency owner or a shareholder on Companies House, you know, with more than a team of three, because I'm trying to avoid having freelancers in the community because it will just become, because we do on our spare time, it's all run for free. So if you’ve got more than 3 people, then please, or if your boss is that person or, you know, you're whatever you know someone who owns an agency, please point them in direction of And you know, if you're that person, come in there and come along to an event and say hi to me. I think the best thing with me now these days is if you can is try and see where I'm talking, come along, listen and ask questions and then maybe we'll try and talk through there. And yeah, I think you know I'm on LinkedIn. If you want to connect to me, please send me a personal message and you'll need my email address, which is  But please send me a message because I only accept people now who kind of give me a bit of a back story in connecting. And year, I mean, you know that LinkedIn’s probably the best way to get hold of me.  Just check out website. There's an enquiry form on there. If you know anyone that might want to work with us at some stage point them in that direction. That's a shameless plug, I’m not normally that salesy normally.Jenny: No, you're not being salesy, Spencer. You're probably one of the most generous and well networked people I know. Really, because you help everyone and to put your email address and the contact. I just think you'd be foolish not to if you’re out there on your own agency owner not to take part because there's just so much benefit. You're getting posts tagging you.Spencer: I was saying to James earlier, the problem is, is that, as I said, the beginning at the moment, I've got a couple of big agencies who are selling it to their team, so different types of ways of selling businesses, and actually that takes a lot of time up. Sometimes I feel a bit like I want to make myself accessible but eventually it gets a bit hard so they'd be too offended if you want to have a video call with me and you gotta wait a couple of months, but it will come around quick enough so book it in. You know, that's what I say.Jenny: Absolutely. And just as I said, there's not a day that goes by without someone saying thank you to you. So you are changing lives genuinely through your work, so you must be really, really proud of that. And I just want to say a huge thank you.Spencer: They say don't they your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room, and I think it probably applies to your personal brand too, so and it's only really been last few months where I’ve started to hear people saying nicer things. It is quite embarrassing in a way. But it's, you know, I'm grateful for the people that take time to say thank you. If I've helped with people I've helped in any way or any of the guys at Cactus and I would say, you know, it's another good lesson, really. If anyone helps you on your journey out there, have a little think. And don't be afraid to say thank you to them. You know, it's just a really nice thing. And people would take a lot from it if you do, to make the time to thank people that helped you on your journey.Jenny: Totally agree and very well deserved. Thank you so much for joining me, Spencer. I really, really appreciate it. Big thank you.I really hope you enjoyed my chat with Spencer. I know that I got a lot of value from it and took down loads of notes, so I hope you've done the same. And if you're interested in joining the Agencynomics community then come along to It's a thriving community of agency owners. The only prerequisite is that you are an agency owner with three employees and it is a fantastic place to be. Lots of networking, lots of training, lots of advice and it's completely free, so I look forward to seeing you there. 
Transcript:Jenny: Welcome to the Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast with me, Jenny Plant, from Account Management Skills Training. I'm on a mission to help those in agency client service keep and grow the existing relationships, so their agency business can thrive.Welcome to Episode six and this episode I'm thrilled to have two guests, Carey Evans and Simon Rhind-Tutt from Relationship Audits. Now, I first met these guys in 2008 when I invited them into Publicis to audit one of the relationships that we had. It was probably one of the biggest at the time and what they unravelled for us and what they revealed on the golden nuggets they shared on having audited the relationship really helped us keep hold of that client relationship for another two years. And each year that client was worth on average about £700,000. So they added for us £1.4 million. So the value that they gave to my agency was astounding. Now, when I left Publicis in 2010 I actually went to work with them for a little while as a freelancer. So I was so convinced by what they did with our relationship that I started working for them for a little while and they really are phenomenal. They have a huge amount of benchmark data across several industries, and they have a question set which is really established. So they have some predictability around how much information that they can glean about your clients, that your clients might not be sharing with you. And in fact, that's what I found was the beauty of choosing an external third party to come and audit a relationship, because I actually felt a little bit strange about allowing a third party to come and talk to my clients. I felt a little bit exposed, but actually it was so worth it. The exercise really, really helped us. So the reason I've invited them this morning because I know that they have a huge amount of experience and are going to share so many golden nuggets with you. They're going to share things like tips for being seen as a client's trusted advisor, how you could build rapport with your client, the surprising average amount of time a client spends on liaising with all of their agencies - I think you're going to find this quite surprising - and how to ensure for you that you make the time they spend with you count. What 63% of clients say agencies never do but really, really should, what puts clients off agencies, they're gonna share some examples and why you need to make your client not only feel valued but special. That is just the tip of the iceberg. They share so many golden nuggets. So many tips for you. Grab a pen, take some notes and I hope you come away with some value. Enjoy.So thank you so much again Carey and Simon for joining me today. Do you mind spending a couple of minutes just talking about yourselves, your experience and also what Relationship Audits does?Simon: My name's Simon Rhind-Tutt. I founded the company along with Carey probably about 20 years ago. My background is in account management work with three very large international advertising agencies, then I went into the world of design and branding and was new business director at what was then the largest independent design agency in the world, and then started my own agency, which I sold after three or four years before Carey and I set up Relationship Audits.Carey: Well, as you see, I'm Carey Evans and, like Simon, I’ve got a background in marketing services. My background is entirely in account management in large international ad agencies across lots of different kinds of business there and spent quite a lot of time in my last agency and the one before that, involved in building business from existing clients. So, Simon and I both share a passion for great account management and really preach to anybody who'll listen about what good account managers can do for themselves, for their clients and for their agency. So hopefully we'll be able to drop a few nuggets of what experience has shown us works and maybe what doesn’t work.Jenny: I'm absolutely convinced that you will. I mean, you are my go-to people for you know what's new into the agency world what clients are saying right now. And so I know that this is going to be a really valuable discussion. Obviously, we met when I asked you to come in and audit one of our biggest client accounts. And a bit like Victor Khyam, I was so impressed with what you did I ended up where I left Publicis coming to work for you for a little while because I was just so blown away by the value that you brought and the difference that you made. So do you mind just before we get into a little bit more about account management and agencies in general just telling us a little bit about the different ways that you work specifically with creative agencies?Simon: Carey, you want to lead?Carey: Well, I think basically our role with creative agencies is to help them better understand what's working and what's not working with their clients. In fact, the clients are the be all and end all for any agency. They are in fact, they are relationship capital. If that's in a good place, then the agency’s in a good place. So what we do is we either speak to agency's clients, or we connect with them via email and online surveys to find out exactly how the agency is doing. What it’s doing right, what it could be doing better and any opportunities going forward to grow the business. That's the bread and butter of what we do. The other thing that we do really is about, if you like, enhancing the relationship capital within the agency by offering various different training modules that experience has shown us helps prepare account managers to be of a more valuable asset to their client opposite numbers.Simon: Yeah, I think I'd add to this that we are an independent third party and one of the benefits and one of the reasons why agencies use us is that because we're talking to clients, almost 24/7 We’d like to think we know the questions to ask, would like to think that we can interpret what clients say what they mean, but also coming back with action plans in terms of what the agency should actually do. Having said all of that, one of the tips that we would give you is to constantly be asking yourselves for specific feedback when a project is finished. One of the mistakes that we believe that most agencies make is not holding wash ups or post product reviews. It's really, really important to solicit ongoing feedback from clients, even if you know the answer is not always gonna be glowing.Jenny: That's a really fantastic point. Before we move on and just picking up on a couple of things that you've said, you talked about this relationship capital and one of the things I sort of discovered working with you that for agency leaders as well, you're very instrumental in an acquisition process. When you go in and agency leaders ask you to evaluate the strength of the relationships, perhaps of an agency they're thinking of acquiring. And, I hadn't realised before we started working when I was at Publicis, that you did that. And another thing that came up for me many times when I was working for you was this amount of interest in your benchmarking data. Because you've been in the market for so long, you'd be doing the services you've done for so long agencies were also able to benc mark how well they're doing with their client relationships versus others.Carey: Yeah, I mean, I think that the benchmarking thing has grown in  importance over the years, and everybody now wants to know not just how they're doing, but how they're doing against other people in their space. The other thing that we were able to do just related to that, slightly different is that we don't just work our agencies. We work for clients we’re commissioned by clients as well as agencies within marking services, but we also work outside of the sector, we work for professional services companies. And we work for law firms and accountants and people like that and what that does is it gives us a completely different perspective on a way of delivering a service. And what we talk about is our kind of helicopter learning that will allow a lot of agencies to compare what they're doing with what's being done in other service industries. And that's always a useful eye opener. Simon, do you wanna talk about relationship diligence?Simon: Yeah, I mean, we call it relationship diligence and to Jeny’s point it is used very successfully by people that wish to acquire an agency, but really wish to actually check out the quality of the relationships that they're buying. And a lot of our clients insist that this is part of the M&A process.  We generally are engaged at heads of agreements stage, so when the deal is actually nearly done. But it does provide great insight and insight is the key word in terms of everything that we at Relationship Audits give. It gives an insight into the quality of the client relationships that an acquirer is actually buying and, indeed, the opportunities that actually may exist or some problems that actually need to be fixed. What we do is not all about finding problems. It's about identifying best practise and, generally, the larger the agency, the less communication between one part of the agency and the other on. There could be one account team knocking it out of the park for very specific reasons that the rest of the agency actually don't know about. So part of our role is to identify what's working well and to help the agency actually share that.Jenny: Amazing. I mean, what other value do you find that clients tell you it brings for them doing on audits of this type and agencies on both sides ofCarey: As I said is that we gather intelligence in two ways. As I said either via an online assessment programme or by undertaking interviews and one of the things that never ceases to amaze me about when we do interviews is how many clients say, at the end of the kind of 40 minute session ‘wow, you really made me think about the relationship in a way I haven't thought about previously’, which is very good, because usually what it does is it opens their eyes into some of the challenges that the agency faces in being able to deliver what they want. And that's why, for example, one of things that we do, we typically for large corporates we insist that if they want to do an evaluation of their agencies, we insist that has done in two ways. Because you can't really criticise an agency for not delivering. Let's say you criticise them for the quality of the strategy or the quality of the creative work or whatever it is if your own briefs and your briefing as a company is hopeless. So you know, in all this kind of stuff, there's a sort of there's a ying and a yang and the great thing is that it makes a statement, undertaking this kind of exercise, makes a statement by the agency on how seriously and how important they think their client relationships are.Simon: And just to build on that question, Jenny, we're very, very lucky to have dozens, if not hundreds of positive comments back from our clients, and they can be found on the website. But I think two of our favourite ones is one of our clients for a very large ad agency said to us Relationship Audits tell me 90% of what I know, but it's the 10% that I don't know that is the most commercially valuable. There is another health care agency where the chief executive said about working with us, that there is a conversation going on in our client's office at the moment that we're not part of. What Relationship Audits helps us do is to get us into that conversation. And I think that's particularly important because the one thing that you can guarantee about any business relationship, not just a creative relationship, any business relationship is things are changing now at a rapid, rapid pace and, I suppose one of the frustrations that we see and this is another tip to the people listening, is that certainly one Carey and I started in the business in the days when I had a full head of hair and Carey wasn't grey…..Carey: I'll have, you know, fashionably grey..Simon: ..that clients were very free to share information about their business. And there was very often a really true partnership between the agency and the client for various reasons that will take too long to go into. Now that isn't quite the same and clients expect their agencies and their key suppliers to know about their business. The reality of that is that they expect their agency to be inquisitive and interested in their business. And one needs to be continually asking the client about the business, how it's changing. And let's face it, anybody that's actually working with you, you're going to favour somebody that is generally interested. And one of the tips we would give is if you work for a client that is a large public company, they will publish an annual report. And we would urge you if you haven't seen their latest annual report to actually go and read it, because one of the things in the report will be the chairman's statement, and the chairman's statement will talk about the issues facing the business and what their key challenges are going forward. I think most agencies aspire to get more upstream and to get access to senior management. And I think one of the other tips that we would give you as part of this is the ability to make your client a star in their own organisation will actually reflect very well on that client internally as well as the agency. So from the annual report, if you can identify initiatives and proactivity that the agency can engage in, it's very likely that that piece of pro activity and initiative will take you and indeed, your client further upstream.Jenny: It's a great piece of advice. Carey, did you want to build on that?Carey: Yeah, I just wanted to add something, something very simple, that I would encourage all account managers to do and this is particularly true of this environment but it is true generally, given in this environment, but there’s a lot of certainty going on. Will people go back to the office? If so, when, what it's gonna be like and so a lot of uncertainty, right? So take nothing for granted is my observation here and it's astonishing we've done some research when we go and talk to people when we wanna talk to clients on behalf of an agency. The first question we asked them is what their expectations are of the agency now. What is really interesting is that currently is something like 63 or 64% of clients claim that their agency has never asked them about their expectations of the agency, which is not setting off on the right foot, really. And if you do know what your client's expectations are, it's a damn sight easier to deliver them and beat them, as opposed to simply assuming you know what they are on that is emphasised even further when you've got an existing relationship and your client leaves on a new client joins and you assume that they're gonna want everything in the same size, the same job, the same package, same colour, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Of course they're not. Yeah, so ask your client what their expectations of you are as an agency, it'll do you a power of good.Simon: Can I had one further tip?Jenny: Please do!Simon: I mean, this is really not rocket science, but to actually make sure that you're on a daily Google updates of any news about your clients and their competitors because that way you stay upt to speed very quickly. And if your client has on their Website a newsroom that you can subscribe to that will keep you updated with company news that is an easy win. Coming back to keeping up to date with what's happening at your client's competitors, that potentially is news you can actually take to your clients because a lot of your clients won't be doing that.Jenny: I think these are all fantastic tips because many of the agencies I meet and particularly account managers ask me, how can they be seen to be more respected by their clients? How can they be seen more as trusted advisors? And actually, all of those tips are so relevant because if you look, smell, feel like a sales person, that's just trying to sell more of your stuff. You're not gonna be perceived by the client as adding value as an advisor, but all of the things you're describing are really,  I call it level four activity, which is really adding future value, you know, look at what we're seeing in the market. Look at this trend that's happening.Simon: Jenny, can I just add one other point? Because I think there will be a lot of account managers listening to this and, Carey, I was just gonna ask you to talk about your experience at Y and R when you were given the opportunity to actually something?Carey: Oh, yes when I joined Young and Rubicam as a trainee sometime ago. Now, in fact, anyway, and the piece of advice I was given there by a guy I used to work for was fantastic and it was very simple. He said to me, become a specialist in something that nobody else is as up to speed with as you. So I was put on, I don't know why they put me on a beer account, but they did so, I got to work on a beer account as one of my first pieces of business. Life was tough, but I had to do it, and I decided that I was going to become the specialist. I was gonna become the resident expert in the team on competitive advertising. So who was spending, where they were spending, what the ads were and so on and so forth. And that was a great piece of advice, which I would pass onto any anybody. Even if you feel as though you’re the bottom end of the team, if you could be seen to be somebody whose  ‘opinion’ is asked after, it will do you a power of good and it will improve your profile in the agency and it will help you develop.Jenny: Do you know what that is such a good piece of advice. Because many account managers say to me, I need to be more strategic and obviously, it's difficult when you're working across several brands and several clients to really get down as far in the weeds with the strategy as the strategists do or the subject matter experts. So that's like another alternative to becoming more of a strategic input, isn't it? Choose one particular aspect of the business and to choose a competitor or the competition it also is so attractive for the client, isn't it as well as internally?Simon: Absolutely, and I know we’re only on question one or two but just another tip is that particularly the large corporates have writing and communication styles. So, for example, there's one retailer that we know that only will have internal communication on PowerPoint and use bullet points, etc. But if you're writing something to be sent to the client, understand what their internal communication method is and how they like to receive it, and indeed, how their bosses like to receive it and then write it in that style. Because that way it's easier for them to actually forward on, and they haven't got to cut and paste.Jenny: That is such a good point, Simon, because again, a lot of the people I'm working with are having to present a piece of information because there's about six or seven buyers, actually, or decision makers on the client side that usually have to have an input. We talk about presenting the business case, so if you write the business case in the format that is most conducive to how they work, that's such a perfect point.Simon: Actually I suppose there is a bigger point that the more you can make your client's life easier, the more you could be seen as easy to work with. The more they want to actually work with you and that starts with attention to detail and getting things right first time.Carey: And that I can't emphasise enough how important that is. And people think, oh, yeah but obviously I’ll get the detail right? Once you don't get the detail right more than once, you know when you get into its second time and you got the details wrong that sends alarm bells ringing, alarm bells ringing in your colleagues heads that you haven't got the right of the level of detail consciousness. And that's crucial. And one other thing I would say to Jenny, which is, you know, you talked about people wanting ‘more strategic’. Let's not forget there's a process of development goes on in account managers career and development and one of the things that they need to be as the first stage is they need to be a bloody safe pair of hands, right? So they've got to be on top of the detail. They got to be on top of what's going on, they’ve gotta be on top of the timings. Because that builds a kind of level of trust within their peers and within their clients that allows them to move up to the next stage. So it's not about coming in and wanting to be the top of the tree. In terms of strategic contributor, you've gotta actually earn your corn. Gotta learn the business from the ground up. And if you are doing it, if you become a specialist and do all this kind of stuff, then your journey will be quicker.Jenny: Absolutely, 100%. I absolutely agree with you. There will be agency maybe client services directors listening to this thinking, this all sounds fantastic and I love what they're saying about, you know, Simon, you said about getting specific feedback on a regular basis, but make sure you put the wash up meetings in place so that clients have that forum to give you the feedback on a regular basis. And they might be thinking, well, we kind of do that. We do that on a yearly basis, or I asked the clients how they're doing, I know the answer to this because I've experienced it several times before, but what would you say to agencies the difference really is between getting an external third party in to evaluate your client relationships and doing it yourself.Simon: I think doing it yourself is an ongoing process and the more often you ask, the easier it will be to actually ask. It's interesting because people that come to us, and we really wish it wasn't the case, but probably in about 75% of the cases, they come to us with the specific problem or they've lost a number of clients. Or as one guy said, my antenna is going wobbly and I really don't know why but I kind of sense there is a problem. People would only use us in terms of online. We always say no more than twice a year in terms of what we call Deep Dive, talking to clients directly. You'd only do that on a once a year basis. One of the benefits of using somebody like us is that we can cover all of the clients in the agency so we can have a helicopter view of all the client relationships within a particular business. But I come back to the point I mentioned earlier about being interested, keen, eager to learn. Eager to learn about the client's business but is also being open and really wanting to actually listen to how well the agency is actually doing.Carey: The other day, right, I was getting briefed. I had to do some interviews for an agency, and the person who briefed me, because we all get briefed on the individuals before we go and talk them. One of the things that I said to this person was tell me a little bit about so and so's background, you know? What is he like? Is he married? Has he got kids, what does he like doing? And the response was, Oh, I don't know him. I don't know really. Well. I know he's married. I think he's married. I'm not. I don't know what he likes, and I was astonished by that, because if you want to be really successful as an account manager, it really helps if you've got a good relationship with your client. One of the ways of creating a good relationship is building what we call bridges of rapport finding out common points of interest. So when we meet new people there’s a series of questions that we just bang out to find out, you know, just being sociable. But it builds as a reservoir or criteria that we can fix on when we have a conversation, maybe we haven’t had a conversation for a while be can, Simon, for example, is getting treatment for it now but he supports Fulham. So if he picks up, you know, in conversation that somebody's a football fan or soccer fan whenever that's a natural entry point for him to talk about his woes.Simon: Indeed, but I would always check out who they played at the weekend, how they got on and actually who the next game is. And you know, I come across as interested, although I need therapy. But, you know, I’ll just tell another story that's related to this. I went to do an interview with one of the big rail companies last year and it was with not a marketing director was with a marketing manager and I said to her one of the questions we will ask, which is do you feel like a valued client? And she said, Well, yes, I kind of do, but that's not the question you should be asking. So I said what’s that, she said, Well, um, you know, I feel valued because we spend a lot of money with this agency and you know, I get to see the chief executive every now and again, but you should be asking me, do I feel special and what she meant by that is, are the people that we work with at the agency, Iis the agency interested in me or really are they're just interested in the money?Carey: I had exactly the same thing said to me about two weeks ago by somebody in Pharma who said, I'm interested to understand where the value is, am I the thing that’s valued, or is it my business that’s valued?Jenny: And tell us a bit more about why they drew that conclusion, that they were even questioning it. Did they feel that they client or the agency weren't interested enough in them as an individual? Did they get the impression that the agency was more interested in the business?Simon: So any first conversation about a new project, and this came up the week before last with a very large I suppose, pharma company and they said, you know, we have a conversation with the agency, and the first thing they want to know is, what's the budget rather than what's the brief? Now I know that the account managers listening to this, their account directors or the chief executives will be interested in what the budget is, but you've kind of got to start at ground one. And ground one is being interested in them and their business and their job. And number two is about understanding what the business problem and the strategic problem is. You know, one of the things we mentioned earlier about learning from professional services firms, one of the things that they're very good at doing is creating what they call secondees and the equivalent would be an account manager going to work at the client for two or three months, maybe even longer, but actually understanding, really, what goes on in clients’ offices. The conversations that go on, we often ask in those days when we did training  seminars on a face to face basis. What proportion of time does a marketing manager on average in their working week spend working with all of their agencies? And the answer is typically are anywhere between 30% and 70%. The reality is it's about 7%. Okay, because a lot of agencies, people working in agencies, don't really understand what their clients do during the day. So if you can't go in and shadow a client, and particularly at the moment this is very, very difficult, just say, look, could we put a diary session in for just half an hour, have a coffee? Whenever is convenient to you? Can we just understand what you do during the week and the other things and the other challenges? If there any agency chief executives here or heads of client service, get one or two clients, have a webinar and you interview them about their working week and let certainly account management, certainly strategy and frankly, creative and everybody else listen, because it's not what you may think it is. And of course, the more you can understand about the clients and the individuals and how they work and the challenges they face, the better client service will be. If I could summarise that it's be interested and be interesting. So when I have my brand design agency and I went to new business pitches, I always had three interesting things to actually ask them, which were born from research that I’d done on. Basically, my strategy was greeted in reception, taken by the client into the meeting room, setting up the presentation if I have three interesting questions that show an understanding of their business and their challenges, I know I'm almost into their comfort zone before we even start. But that's not just for new business client’s, it's for your existing clients.Jenny: So I mean, this is so powerful. I mean what you've just said that clients, on average, have 7% of their time to focus on all of their agency relationships, so that presents the case for each agency interaction, every time we're in front of the client, we gotta make it count, haven’t we? And what you just described there was a classic example of someone who's prepared and probably rehearsed before they showed up. And it's something that I talked to agency account managers about and I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, because I get sometimes pushback on the fact that everyone's so busy, you know, delivering projects that when you do need to make your interaction with a client matter, that there is that lack of preparation sometimes so you're not performing. It’s like a  performance, isn't it? What do you think?Simon: Absolutely. And Cary and I work together at one of those days. I worked with an account director who was an actor and what he made me do and this had stayed with me ever since he made me prepare for phone calls in the same ways we prepare for a big set piece meeting so there would be an agenda for the phone call. But he would ask that, or he would insist that I’d always prep likely questions to actually come out so that I've actually got the answers. Obviously that doesn't cover you for everything but the impression is that it's a well run conversation, and actually, the result is that you actually save time because there's no going backwards and forwards if you've actually thought it through. My own personal view is that what we've seen since Covid broke is lots of video meetings. Those video meetings are an opportunity to actually create an impression even more than a phone call. But the meeting rooms got to be honest. The backgrounds gotta be dressed. You've got to be prepared, and you've got to take it as seriously as you would if a client was coming into your office or you were going to the clients’ office.Carey: Just to build on that Jenny, if I may, I think there's another thing which is about, you know, however prepared you are, and I absolutely, you know, there's no excuse for it really because if you think about it, you know, you may often wish that you'd rehearsed or prepared more, but you'll never wish you'd done so less. But there are gonna be times when you're not going to know an answer to something. And the worst thing you could do is bullshit. You don't know, be honest and say I don't know, but I will find out and I will come back to you whenever because again, it's transparent. And if you make it up and you get caught again in the future, your relationship is shot.Simon: And actually building on that one of the things, and I think it's within the people that go into the marketing services industry, we want to please our clients. We want them to be happy. And the easiest thing to do is to, frankly, over promise. I know Carey always used to talk about the example of Marks and Spencer furniture that they would say it's gonna take 14 days and it got to him in 10 days. You're really delighted that that's the case and this is a really, really, really important point that if you commit to a timeline, your client would have committed to a timeline internally, and there will be very often numerous other people that are kind of relying on that chain of events to actually happen. If you don't meet that timeline, you let the agency down. You let your client down, but you know you also let yourself down very badly.Jenny: Such spot on points, absolutely. Just stepping back to the rehearsing point and the preparation point. One of the things I hear agency account directors say is they'll go to a meeting with the client unprepared with other members of the team, the agency team. And maybe you've got someone that's more senior from the agency there, and they kind of take over. So the account director or account manager is de-positioned. They're sort of in the background taking notes when actually they're supposed to be leading the account, leading the relationship and what happens is the client then sees the agency owner as the one that's got all the answers and therefore, then they carry on phoning the agency owner. So lovely tips that you've shared,  what I tell people is have a pre meeting plan, which is a planning template on one page that's really simple to fill in, but it includes who sets up the meeting, who starts a meeting and how they start the meeting. What questions they have prepared to ask the client. What we can expect to receive having some research done are we LinkedIn him with them, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah on. It's just essentially a checklist, and it allows the fact that the account director doesn't come away from that meeting looking like they're making up the numbers.Simon: But I think it comes down to this is really basically having an agenda, agreeing who has the ownership for the agenda and also agreeing who from, let's say the agency's perspective is going to lead the meeting. You know, one of the tips that we've picked up from the professional services industry, the big law firms, is they will always have somebody leading a meeting. And when one of their colleagues wants to contribute something, what they do is they lean forward now that was in a meeting, so I mean, maybe you could scratch your ear or something like that so that the person that's leading on behalf of the agency knows that Simon wants to actually say something. And that way, the agency comes together as a team. There is a client of a big brewery who said that whenever he sees a pitch, they judge it on the quality of creative, the quality of thinking, probably quality of money but he didn’t talk about that, but also the quality of the team and what he means by the quality of the team, he said have they been put together and really met for the first time on the train up here or actually, are they a team. And the best agency relationships for all sorts of reasons are teams, rather one person that actually takes over.Carey: Yeah, I think I think it's really important that when you meet it, if there's a gang of you, firstly, don't go to the meeting unless, you know, unless you have a role. That's the first thing I would say. Secondly, if you in the meeting each person, to Simon's point, gotta know what their role is on which part of the meeting on the agenda they own and the other thing  that is really important is that people understand when a question comes who will answer that question on a particular topic, you know? So if there's somebody conducting the meeting, then if the questions on money they put it over to Jenny, if the questions on something else, they’ll put it over to Simon and so on, so forth. So that in itself, if you like, creates a sense of expertise amongst the team to contribute as a team and make sure everybody has their part and plays a part.Simon: Yeah, I think it's not done a lot for a new business pitch is probably as much as it should be. But the same applies to existing client relationships actually prepping and sometimes brainstorming the likely questions that we're actually gonna get back.Carey: So just one story about the team, right? I remember one of my very first pitches when I worked in Y&R and I was put onto the pitching for was then called the Electricity Council, which was pre-privatisation, and we were pitching there and in the room outside the meeting in a kind of anti room, outside the meeting there was a gang of us standing around and the chief exec went up to one of the guys near me and shook his hand and he said, Hello. I'm so and so from the agency and the bloke said Yes, I’m so and so from the agency, I’m the new planner.Jenny: That's a bit too close for comfort. I have been in so many pitches in that situation, similar ones. It's just embarrassing. A couple of things that I want to build on this well, the way you operate together, right?  I just want to bring up this point, going back to rehearsing as the team, making sure everyone has a role that one's prepped on. Who's gonna answer the questions? These were all fantastic tips, but the other thing that you're demonstrating, which wasn't apparent to me before I was told, was how you interact as a team in terms of answering questions, because you both you've said, can I add to that point or can I build on that point that essentially makes the other person who said something not looked like they've just, you know, said something silly. But there's some people will say, well, almost interrupt or the way they actually put their point across makes out that the person that's just said something, it's kind of disregarded.Simon: Yeah, and I think it's ,to get back to a football analogy, this time of the year, the transfer window's open and lots of teams are buying lots of new players, but that doesn't instantly make you a great team because you gotta play together. The reason why Carey and I bounce off each other is because we've known each other for a very, very long time. I kind of know what he's about to say. But that comes from experience on. It's about listening. Is that respecting? And frankly, it's also about feeding people you know, nuggets. One of the pitch tips, if you like, because one of the things that we do is what's called lost pitch audits to actually find out why agencies ‘come second’. Never last. And there was one very famous PR agency that we work with who, whenever they're doing a pitch, they insist that everything is finished before five o'clock the night before and the agency pays for the pitch team to go out for an early dinner the night before the pitch on. There was a tangible improvement in the success rate because coming back to that point, there is a team there, and also, I suspect that if the team are comfortable with each other and they're bouncing off each other, clients feel as well as listen, and you can sense the team that's happy in each other's company.Jenny: It's called chemistry meetings for a reason. It's not only chemistry between the client and the agency, but if the client could feel that the agency isn't a cohesive team, so that's such a good point as well.Simon: Yeah, to that point, Jenny, again for new business  exactly same for existing clients that people are into roles. Our view is that if you're a client service director listening to this, you really need to perform the role of being a casting director. Because at the end of the day, businesses don't buy businesses people by people and you may not necessarily need to be the world's greatest strategic thinker for, let's say, a beer brand. But actually getting on and having the chemistry and people wanting to work with you is very, very important, and there is very little often to separate one agency. And another chemistry is a key, key part.Carey: Yeah, our experience shows that chemistry is probably the most important part of the decision to appoint. It’s not about the quality of the work on presented on the day. Our view is you typically win the pitch before you get to the final meeting because you created a relationship and the client will typically feel these are the people I want to work with to help me achieve my goals. When you get to that, you're more likely to win even if you don't have the best creative solution and I remember reading a statistic that the statistic of work that is presented at the final pitch meeting and that actually runs is below 20%.Jenny: Just goes to show you doesn't it? And you both know and I know having been in multiple pitches throughour lives. You know the pitches, you can tell when they go well, can’t you? Because you just feel it. Yeah. I mean, I know we could go on all day basically, because there's so many stories. I’m very conscious of your time because we’re coming up to the hour. I've taken so many notes. I think you've given so many golden nuggets for agency account managers, directors as well as agency leaders. This has been phenomenal. Is there anything, I'm particularly interested because you're so plugged into the trends that are happening and what clients are talking about and how things are changing, particularly with the Covid situation. We're recording it at the end of September beginning of October of 2020. Is there anything that you're seeing or that you think agencies should be aware of that are changing in the marketplace that either they're not doing that they should be doing, or that you're seeing a trend in what clients are doing differently, anything that you can share that you think might be valuable.Simon: Okay, we've got separate presentation on this, but just to give you some of the headlines that we're saying, I think clients want more empathy and collaboration from their agencies. They wanted to collaborate more, infinitely more. The acceleration in new technology is a massive issue. As one client said to us the other day, we've changed more in terms of the use of technology in the last 10 weeks than we have in the last 10 years. Clients are seeing disruption in their supply chain, which includes agencies and therefore, they want to have, to come back to this point, trusted advisor type relationships. If you're an account man or on account lady, what you need to do is you need to be embracing data because data has become even more important. And whether or not you teach yourself on YouTube or you get the agency to put you on course is, the more you can understand and interpret data that is going to further your career and clients want to see agencies adding value. Just answering the brief or just doing what we call the hygiene factor really, really isn't enough anymore. And yo try and find pieces of pro activity where you can add value is absolutely huge.Carey: Yeah, I think that there's another thing to say as well as that, which is that it was a lot of change going on, right that the 10 week thing Simon just talked about, loads of change going on, loads of technology, all that kind of stuff. There's some things that just don't change, and that is about remembering that as an account man that you’ve two of these and got one of these, right, use them in that order. Sorry, two ears and one mouth. Use them in that order. And make sure that, you know active listening is a great skill of an account manager. Demonstrate you're interested. clarify if you don't fully understand, but listening. I can't recommend that, frankly.Jenny: It's not taught, is it? And it should be in schools, the skill of listening. I agree. Listen, this has been phenomenal. I want to respect both of your times. Thank you so much for sharing so many insights and valuable tips and help for account managers. I'm sure I just can't wait to type this all up. Well, I won't be typing it, but my PA will be typing it, and like getting this out to everyone, because I just think it's so valuable. Who would you like to be contacted by? And how can people get hold of you if they'd like to chat to you more about this stuff?Simon: If anybody has got any questions at all and we can help them in any way, whoever you are. And you're listening to this. Jenny, you've got both Carey and my email addresses. Please as the Americans would say, reach out to us and we'd be delighted to help or advise. You know, one of our mantras and what I've just said on behalf of Carey and myself is an example of this, that we believe in business you need to give before you get so if we can help you and we can help any of the people listening to this, we would be delighted to help.Jenny: That would be fantastic. I will include both of your email addresses in the show notes. Carey, were you going to say something then?Carey: I was – we won't charge anything for it.Jenny: You know, I was just going to say something that you add value to all of your partnerships all of your peers in the industry. Everybody, not just clients. And every time you send me an email, I think I've told you this before, I always open it straight away because I know how much value you give and how much insight I've always got an a-ha moment thinking, gosh, thank goodness that Simon shared that information with me. It's usually agency industry related or specific to clients, some kind of insight. So I think that is so valuable, so I know how much value you give. And I think this is a brilliant offer for anyone listening to get in contact, so I'm sure they will. So thank you so much again for joining me. I really appreciate it. This has been phenomenalSimon: Our pleasure. I hope you enjoyed that episode and come away with lots of tips that you can put into practise straight away. And if you're interested in how good you are at keeping and growing your existing accounts, come over to my website and take the quiz. It's called the Client Growth Quiz, and speak to you on the next episode. 
Transcript:Welcome to the Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast with me, Jenny Plant, from Account Management Skills Training. I’m on a mission to help those in agency client service keep and grow the existing relationships, so their agency business can thrive.Welcome to episode five of the Creative Agency Account Manager podcast. This is a solo episode and this is all about how to be more productive.What I’m going to do now and again is have an episode where it’s very short and hopefully valuable to you. And it’s going to answer a question that typically I hear from creative agency account managers. This one is about productivity because it’s a very, very common thing. Lots of people complain that they tend to lurch from one disaster to the other, or they tend to use their time not in the most effective ways.So most people are looking for some kind of productivity hacks or time management strategies. So I’ve just got 10 top tips, these are the tips that I found the most helpful in my career. And I hope they’re useful for you, so I’m going to go through them one by one quite quickly.So number one is know what your business wants. Know what the agency wants you to be focusing your time on. I know that might sound obvious, but sometimes we can carry on doing what we think are the priorities. But, actually, the business has another idea. They want us to focus on another area. This also is important if you’re starting a new job, so you might want to develop a 90 day plan. A 90 day plan is where you think, ok, what are the three key big goals that I want to achieve in the next three months and then you go to your boss, talk it through, and say ‘these are going to be the priorities for me’. You get that agreement and then if you get side tracked after those three months, or you get extra task put onto you and you can’t cope, then you can go back to your boss and say, ‘look, we did agree that these we’re going to be my three key priorities on. I’ve just been taken off track, so help me get in alignment’. I think sometimes where people go wrong with this is that they don’t feel they can ask for help. And I think everyone at some point struggles with overload. So if you’re feeling like that right now, I’d like to encourage you to discuss it with somebody else because sometimes it helps, particularly if you’re speaking to someone more senior in the agency who can help you prioritize your workload. So that’s number one.Number two is to minimize distractions. Now we all know that in our life right now we find it very difficult to concentrate for five minutes on anything. But it doesn’t help with focus. When you have pop-ups coming up, so many of us work on Microsoft teams or Slack, or we use WhatsApp groups and if we have all of these distractions, there is a study to show that if you’re working on a task, it takes 15 minutes to get back to the task that you were working on. If you’re distracted, close all those windows down, give yourself a chance to be able to focus on one thing at a time. I promise you it’s something that I still struggle with, I’ll be honest. However, when I do close down all distractions and I focus without looking at pop-ups and distractions, it really helps me be more productive.Tip number three is to limit the number of times you check your emails. Now, some of us like to have our emails up all the time on and as soon as we see one pop up, we go and have a look at what it’s about. But the same principle applies in terms of minimizing distractions. I always advise that you check your emails three or maybe four times a day at certain times of the day. So once in the morning, once a lunchtime and once in the afternoon or evening, because again it gives you a chance between checking emails to have deep focus time.Number four – talking of deep focus time, we need to understand the benefit off working on those really important tasks, versus the urgent task that tends to come in. So we want to be working on important, not urgent. If you are familiar with the Boston Matrix, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. If you’re not familiar with the Boston Matrix, I really recommend you look it up. It is essentially a grid that you can use to plan all of your tasks on along the top. You have urgent and not urgent along the left hand side. You’ve got important and not important, and each quadrant represents your different tasks and where you want to focus. As much of your time is possible is in the non- urgent and important box. And this is typically the segment off the matrix that you tend to find things like client development plans, client business research, perhaps strategizing and reflecting And, as you get more senior in your creative agency account manager role, you’re gonna be wanting to spend more of your time there. So get into the habit of looking at your tasks and thinking which ones really are going to move the needle in the client’s business or which ones are the ones that I should be focusing my time on.Tip number five is to consider Parkinson’s law. Now Parkinson’s law is the law that states a task will take the amount of time that you allocated to it. So if I say I need the report back on my desk in two days time, you’ll get it done in two days and you’ll put that amount of effort in. If I say you’ve got two weeks to get me the report then you may procrastinate. You may draw it out. So think about the way you tend to work and think about whether that suits you. Whether you really respond better to deadlines and set yourself a deadline for achieving a task, it’s amazing how much more productive you can become.Tip number six is, are you saying yes to other people’s work, are people delegating to you? That shouldn’t be. Sometimes if you’re in charge of a team, your team will start delegating their workload to you and this often happens to people who are people pleasers. Now again, hands up. That totally fits my description. When I was working as a general manager, I would often be really, really available to my team, and I didn’t want to say no. I didn’t want to turn them down, but what ended up happening was someone turned around to me, my coach at the time, and said, ‘you are getting your needs met’ and now that really shook me up. I thought, gosh, how rude. But actually he was right. I was getting my needs met by being available and helping others because that’s my natural state is to help others. But what you need to do is protect your time. Because, actually, what was happening was I wasn’t getting my own work done because I was being available to everybody else until the very end of the day. And that was making me tired, grumpy, frazzled. So it’s a vicious cycle. So just question yourself. Are you saying yes, too much and taking on other people’s work that you shouldn’t be?Tip number seven is all about planning in advance. Now a few tips here I have found that if you can do this in your agency, you may do this already, is take a long term view of the calendar. So think about booking your holidays as much in advance as you can so you can start planning the year around those holidays. Secondly, on the more medium term view, between a month and three months, think about all of the clients you’re working on and some of the projects that are going to be important in the timelines and the actual points in time during those three months that you are going to be busy. And put it in your calendar, mark it in your calendar, when these times are because these key times are times for you to make sure you’re looking after yourself and making sure that you’re keeping your energy levels up. It also will become apparent if there’s any overlap. So maybe you’ve got several clients you’re working with and many of them, their projects are kicking off at the same time or deliveries around the same time, so make sure that you’re at least aware. And that also gives you the opportunity to flag it to your senior management team, because maybe you’re going to need some extra resource to help you around that time. Short term planning – it’s all about looking at your calendar or your to-do list. But the night before now, I use a month to view calendar which of these big, sticky things, which you can see if you’re watching on YouTube. But it’s basically where you see a whole month and you can just update them manually on the other side. There’s actually ‘by day’ so you can actually write down, if you’re a paper and pen girl like me, for the month some of these key milestones for your projects that you’re working on.Tip eight. I’ve alluded to this, but it’s calendar blocking, time blocking. This has really transformed the way I manage my time and I now block time in my diary for absolutely everything, including leisure time, even stretching my legs time and I’ve really found that it’s helped me be much more productive. So think about blocking time for all of your task. So rather than having a long, unwieldy list of things to do, which inevitably you don’t get to the end off and you end up feeling a little bit disappointed with yourself that you didn’t achieve everything, think about putting each of those tasks into your calendar because again, it helps you think about ‘well, is this really urgent?’. ‘Is this really important and how am I going to make sure that I schedule enough time for it?’.Tip number nine is to continually review what you’re spending your time on with a view to considering whether you can systemise it, or use a tool rather than you spending so much time. So if you’re talking about tracking your time so you can monitor how long task take then I use a tool called Toggl. It’s, and it allows me to track the time that I’m spending on each project and then after a few weeks, you can look back and think, ‘gosh, I seem to be spending an awful lot of time on developing timelines’, for example, and then you might realize we’re still using Excel spreadsheets for timelines, maybe we could systemise this. Maybe we could use a tool like or using Microsoft Project so that you can use a tool that will make that speedier. Similarly, if you look at your calendar and you realize you’re spending an awful lot of time in meetings, maybe they’re weekly meetings that don’t necessarily have to be an hour, it doesn’t mean to say that every meeting has to be an hour. So think about, is this meeting a good use of everybody’s time? Could it be shorter? Could it be more succinct and, then again, ask people what they think and suggest some different format for that meeting or different length of time for that meeting.And tip number ten is to restrict your availability for meetings. Now, often in an agency, this has to be a policy. But I know of many agencies that are saying things like, let’s have a no meetings Friday, no internal meetings Friday or Monday or both. And this has been something that’s been discussed as a wider agency team. So everybody’s got a view on what could be more beneficial. And what that means is that people can’t book meetings in your diary that you haven’t given approval for. Also, it helps to manage your own personal time because during these times, I’m recording this mid September you know, we are coming out of the lock down period,  it’s the Covid-19 situation. Many of us are working from home with multiple distractions and a schedule, some of us are taking children to school. But I think this is about culture, and it’s about talking to your agency to look at collaborating as a team and thinking, ‘would this be more beneficial to maybe restrict internal meetings to certain days of the week or maybe certain times of the day, which are suiting more people?’. So have a think about how that could work for you. Personally, I try to block out Mondays and Fridays to have no coaching, no training sessions and no external calls and meetings so that I can focus on content creation, on planning, on doing all of the work that requires deep concentration. So that’s my top 10 tips.I’ve got a bonus, one for you, but let me just run through those tips again.So number one was know what the business wants, so that you’re focusing your time in the areas that the agency actually needs. So check with your seniors.Number two, minimize distractions. Stop those pop ups.Number three, limit amount of time you check your emails,  three or four times a day max.Number four, understand the benefit of working on important but not urgent tasks. These tend to be your deep work. The ones like client development planning, etc. And these are the ones that really going to move the needle on your career.Number five is Parkinson’s Law. Are you allowing yourself too much time to do one particular task? Could it be done more smartly?Number six. Are you saying yes, too much? I’m not saying no enough.Number seven, are you planning in advance? So think about your long, medium and short term planning tools that you use so that you can put those milestones in your diary in advance.Number eight, calendar time blocking. So use your calendar to block times for meetings, for planning for everything that you need.Number nine, make sure you continually review how you’re spending your time so you can see how you can leverage tools that you could use and then..number 10, restrict availability for internal meetings, and that’s something you probably want to discuss as a team.The bonus tip that I’ve got is something that my coach, Osman Sharif, said a while ago, which really, really helped me. Think about, if you are working from home, having different places in your house for doing different tasks. So, for example, if you are creating a plan or having to really focus deeply on content creation, then think about going into your lounge to do it or going to sit by a window to think, or maybe going to a local hotel reception and sitting there for an inspirational environment. Because sometimes we try to do absolutely everything at our desk, but sometimes it means that we’re not the most productive we could be. So if your brain associates your desk as a place that you do lots of quick turnaround tasks phone calls, meetings, emails, then you need to change your environment so that your brain, then all of a sudden has a different feeling and it tends to operate in a different way. So I tend to do all of my thinking somewhere else other than my desk. And if you’re in the office environment, then going into a meeting room and closing the door so that you’ve got that deep focus time.So I really hope this has been beneficial. I would love to hear from you if you have any other tips to share for creative agency account managers. May be something that you use all the time, a tool, or it could be a methodology or just a tip.I’d love to hear your views, so if you I would like to share with me your feedback, I’d love to hear from you. It’s, and I’ll see you on the next episode.
Welcome to the Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast with me, Jenny Plant, from Account Management Skills Training. I'm on a mission to help those in agency client service keep and grow the existing relationships, so their agency business can thrive.Jenny: Welcome to episode four. Today, I'm delighted to be speaking to Phil Lancaster. Phil has spent most of his career in account management and has worked for some of the most successful holding companies in the agency space. He's worked for companies like the Lowe Group and W P. P at a very senior level as client team leader and global business director. And he's worked at a very C suite level with clients for brands such as Bayer, Reckitt Benkiser, Jaguar, Land Rover, etc. So he's got a huge amount of experience in this space. So what he's going to be sharing with us is what he sees is the true value of the role of account management for both agencies and clients. He's also going to share some examples of the actions account management cant ake to save clients time and money. He's going to share with us his advice for agency account managers to help position you more as a trusted advisor versus a reactive order taker. He's also gonna share some examples where agencies get it wrong. And he has a particular interest in helping agencies reach the C suite level relationships of their clients. So he's going to share some tips around how you can start to think about doing that. He's also going to share his views on the role and how it's evolved, given that the report has come out recently saying that there is an urgent review needed. And also he's gonna share some advice for how to strengthen your client relationships, given the fact that many of us are still working remotely. So without further ado, let me go straight to the interview. Phil, thank you so much for joining me today. Would you mind spending a couple of minutes just talking about your experience in account management? Phil: I'm very happy to do so. Good morning as well. I've spent my entire life actually in account management, which is in terms of a career a very long time, and I came from the various lowest positions to one of the more senior positions through that function o that department. I started my career with Grey. In fact, I'm a product of most of the agency large networks around the world and holding companies. And I worked with the Bates Group and the low Group and in the last two decades with W P. P. and with an agency called J. Walter Thompson, which one point I was ahead of client service at J. Walter Thompson, which was about 120 people. I think that made it the largest account management department in the world of that time, so that was quite a challenge. But I am, you know, a child of account management. I believe fervently in it and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of being in it, so happy to discuss that with you this morning. Jenny: Fantastic. I know that you also were leading at a sort of holding company level some huge blue chip clients on I see from your background their brands like Jaguar, Landrover, Reckitt Benkiser, Bank of America, Kellogg's those a huge blue chip brands. So I'm so delighted that you've been up to join me and talk to me about this because I think you are the epitome of sort of someone who is leading account management at a very senior level. So I'm curious to know what do you see as the value of account management, both for agencies and for clients? Phil: I mean, that's if I could put this into a short answer, rather in a very long one. I again, I believe very strongly in the value that account management brings to the relationship between an agency and its client. But if we start with the client side for a moment, I think that, you know, notwithstanding the fact that many clients are perhaps beginning to in-house creative capability and resource, largly speaking, it's still, there's a world out there of very good agency people in agencies. that client's work alongside and use as partners. It is not their skill therefore to exact the creative mysteries of an agency to produce work that has a commercial impact on their business. They leave that to people within the agencies, and that's particularly led by the function of account management not exclusively, of course, but certainly often led by. And so the value to a client of account management is that it is, and the people who work in it  are those are the most expert in getting out of the agency all of its brilliant skills of creativity from its people and its execution on behalf of their business on behalf of their client brand, their service, their product, whatever we're talking about. So it's a vital role for any client institution, particularly when they're probably playing a great deal of money for it as well. So you know it's an investment in an individual and a function that will at some point return greatly on the performance of their brand or their service. So something that they don't enter into lightly, at all. It’s a deeply competitive areas as we know. So they have plenty of people to choose from and agencies. If you face the agency point of view there's so many talented people in an agency you know, and I include in that talented finance people, talented admin people as well as insight and strategy and, of course, creativity. But they would muddle together and produce very little if there weren't some kind of leadership to that process. Someone and a group of people who are absolutely accountable for ensuring that the agency presents the best creative thinking, the best creative execution, which has an impact in the real commercial world, where it drives a top line of a business for a client and indeed may fall to the bottom line, too. But there's a very clear relationship here with getting out of an agency group, its very best creativity and in some way making sure that that has an impact on the financial performance of a client business, because ultimately that's what clients are concerned about. So there have been experiments without account management in the past occasionally in agencies on none of them have worked. And that's not to say it's any more important function than it is planning or creative. Of course not, but it's a vital role, and it will continue to be a vital role. But it's changing profoundly, has a role. I'm sure we'll talk about in a moment. Jenny: Just on that point. Actually, that's curious, because I do know that some agencies decide consciously to not have an account management function, and you say there that it hasn't worked. Can you tell us a little bit more about why you think it doesn't work? Phil: Well, my personal belief, you know, I say this with humility because others may disagree with me, is it’s really quite difficult to be a brilliant creative person in an agency and to also be worrying about building the relationship with a client, understand the client's business inside out, to spot the opportunities to grow the business with the client challenging environment. And the same for perhaps the planning function the same, perhaps, for anything to do with that broad term media. It's a great deal to take on if you're going to be brilliant in one of those functions, frankly, on behalf of the client. So my experience has been that it becomes like a drag anchor on those individuals where if you're trying to be creative, because that's what you are accountable for and then to trying to take on some responsibilities of orchestration, process, dealing with procurement, whatever happens to be, you'll never produce your best work. You don't simply don't have the bandwidth. You don't have the stamina to do that and I think allow people to be brilliant in their area of expertise, gather them together, point them in a very similar direction and motivate them and inspire them. But let them be great at what they're really good at. Jenny: I love that you said that. I feel that was a great response, actually. What do you think makes a brilliant account manager? Phil: Gosh, well, I think there's some underlying skills sure than this, which is, let me tell you what it's not, in a way. If any young account manager management to person thinks that being incredibly popular with the creative group and focusing primarily on their internal reputation, and that it's simply a function of presenting what's being created internally to a willing client who will always say yes, you're not going to get very far. And equally if you take on more of the kind of the hue of the client, so you almost feel like you're outside of the agency, because what you do is you align with the client most readily and most often and see it entirely. From their point of view, it becomes quite dispiriting for the people in the agency, particularly creative people. I think the brilliant skills required of account management is that you have got to have an understanding and an innate interesting curiosity around two things. One of which is the broad business world, you know how do clients make money. How can I help them make more money on how can I grow their business? But equally you've got to have the, you know, the qualitative skills, the EQ, the genuine intuition and desire to be interested in anything creative. Not just the creative art of producing materials that stimulate brands and products and services, but, you know, you've really got to be genuinely interested in what the agency produces, you know, because that's the sausage machine that you work with every day, you know? And I've seen too many account people who come in who have really no interest in the creative product whatsoever and align themselves terribly with a client business and vice versa. You know, people who look very naive because they only talk about creativity within the agency, and it has absolutely no impact whatsoever on a client business. So the profound skill of very good account management people is to face both ways. And the thing that ties it is an intellectual curiosity and a heartfelt desire for creativity in its broadest sense. Jenny: What an articulate response. Thank you, that was really, really interesting. I think you've highlighted a couple of times about the importance of the agency account managers understanding the world of the client, their business world, the business outcomes that we're helping them achieve. Can you share with us maybe a couple of actions or examples of where you've witnessed the function of agency account management actually saving the client money or making them money, as you say, the top line revenue, or perhaps eliminating cost? Phil: I mean, the very best way to be the most effective partner for your client group is to produce the highest standard of work first time with little or no rework because it's so inherently good and finished that runs successfully in the marketplace and has the required impact on the business. The problem with that is that often we start out wrong and we get more wronger. Frankly, the brief is sloppy, inarticulate, imprecise carries no definition, no competitive difference whatsoever from the competitive set. And if you start out with a poor, sloppy, dull or lacking any kind of insight, brief things only get worse from there. And ultimately, the work that served up is frankly, average and its impact is probably worse than average. So if you want to save your client time and money, then be absolutely zealous around the quality of the brief on that. Of course you can do with your client, but you must take on the responsibility for it. And the only way that you will write brilliant briefs, frankly, is to know more about the client business than sometimes do themselves. To have this Olympian understanding of your own business in the agency and what it does, and to go further than anybody on the detail of writing something which is so perfect in its short form that everyone understands exactly what you're trying to do and what you'll be measured against. But it's such a brilliant platform for the creative teams to work from, but they find it inspiring in itself, let alone as a brilliant springboard for great work that they can produce. Poor brief, lots of rework, lots of arguments, lots of cost and ultimately a failing relationship. Jenny: And presumably also, you know, if you spend the time on the brief, get the brief right and the works right first time it can not only saved some time and cost, but also makes the money because ultimately what we're doing is a marketing action. It could be an ad campaign. It could be a comprehensive strategy around positioning. But ultimately we're helping the client achieve their business outcome. Phil: Yeah, yeah, we are. I mean, I think long gone are the days where an agency could be a partner that provided simply creative execution, that did or didn't work and that there appeared to be no accountability. Frankly and thank goodness to be any form of partner commercial partner for any client, business and agency can only be a concerned with one thing, which is how can we be most brilliant with our creative thinking execution, but only to impact on their commercial success? Because if you delve just a little into the world of the client organisation that you're working with, it's very obvious very quickly that they are accountable to very hard nose metrics, quantifiable metrics, of share and growth  and ROI you know, and profit. And so that's the language with which we need to discuss it with them. But at the same time, you know, we know that we are one of many partners that can impact on their business for a very particular reason. The management consultants that they were with may do something else and the frenemies that we are more familiar within, the Facebooks and the Googles, do something else. But none of them serve up the creativity that in theory agencies do, that can have such a dramatic impact on their commercial success. So I think account management today need to be really throw off the clothing of naivety and on worldliness and really understand if you're gonna have an impact on a client, business is gonna have to be first and foremost commercial. And it is impact will because it's just brilliantly conceived and different and captures the imagination of ordinary people like you and I in our homes, and builds that affinity with the particular company that we're talking about. So, you know, some things have changed enormously when we talk about data and technology, you know, in the delivery, to these clients now great speed and agility. Some things are always the same. I mean, we must never forget we're still dealing with ordinary human beings and need to be encouraged so genuinely fall in love with what we say and what we do and what we offer and to stay with us over the long term. You know, it's a very human interaction this and thank God, too, because it makes it so much more interesting. Jenny: You're so so right. We are dealing with human relationships. You're absolutely spot on. If there's an account manager listening right now and they're thinking right, this totally makes sense. How do I start showing up and acting like a true trusted advisor to my clients rather than sort of a passive reactive order taker? What's your advice for them to help them position themselves more in that way? Phil: Well, I think you started in the right place, by the way, that there is no future of any young account manager into next senior representative, an agency or otherwise if they are reactors. You know, we do need the practicalities of people who are good at making things happen in an agency, but they don’t tend to necessarily now sit just in the account management group. Account managers need to be forcefully in a very positive way with their clients, so that they are always prompting, always initiating, always suggesting proposals that develop the business and the thinking in the outcome. So by natural inclination, you know that's a skill that can be learned and taught. But it does help if you begin that way, as well as personality and character trait. So that's the very important start point on this. What I tend to say to anybody that I've ever interviewed or I've worked with in my groups and developed is you will always be reputationally thought of highly within a client organisation if you know as much about their business as they do or indeed, at times, more. It’s a criticism of the industry to a little, to a degree, that we still don't know our client business as well as we should. The brilliant account management people are those that have spent the time because they enjoy understanding how the client makes money. You know how they grow, where they're trying to grow, what the insurmountable problems are that they're trying to surmount. It's a bit like anybody. If you sit in front of someone and you talk about yourself for half an hour they don't find it particularly rewarding exchange. If you sit with a client and talk about them and their business and suggest things, tell them things that they don't know, you're inevitably more interesting than the other agency and the other people in it who really there to take orders to produce creative work which we’ll come onto in a moment. So, first and foremost, if you really want to stand out from the pack, either within your own agency or indeed with other agencies know their business, chapter and verse and show interest and go and see them in a post Covid world. Phone up anybody you can think of in the business, talk to anybody you know in the tertiary industries that support their business. I can assure you, you’ll be absolutely delighted in the response you get when you're able to talk about their business in great breath and depth because you then move towards this wonderful word which is such an enigma to us, this word of trust. You become more and more trusted the more you understand what they're trying to do, and how you could suggest that they might reach those goals. So that's the client side within the agency. I mean, there are robotic account managers that go through the process of just getting work out the door. Not many of them, but they're easy to see. And there are those that are driven by this innate desire to just be creative, think creative, spend time with creative people and produce things that have not been seen before, done before and that have a material impact, which is just exciting, you know, it's great fun. It separates our business from many other worthwhile sectors of industry that don't go about it. But it's very difficult to talk about clients and innovation and inventiveness and originality, when by if nature you plodding through an agency, ticking the boxes, going to work because you think that today is a good day to have another good meeting and to do some process, you know, which is not the purpose of what we do anyway, and then it's just a means to an end. So I think that, you know, the value that that one, as in account management, should be measured by your outstanding contribution to the delivery of creative work within the agency that stands out and has an impact on the client business, but also the fact that you have become more and more valuable to a kind organisation because you seem to be able to trigger the right work regularly at the highest standard, because you know where to take the thinking and where to take the work in the client organisation. It cannot be either or I'm afraid, it really has to be both.  Jenny: I love that. One of the things Phil and I’d love your view on this as I don't think I've ever asked you this before. One of the things that I get a lot of pushback on is in some agencies account management function have, like a dual role. They actually have to manage the projects but also manage the relationship and inevitably, what happens is they get very bogged down with the delivery of the projects and the development and long term strategic thinking about how you're gonna add value to their business. Spending more time in the client's spotting opportunities, getting more traction within the client organisation goes to the wayside, so it's probably more of a business model kind of question but what's your view if you have one on whether the account management function should not be in any way, shape or form touching projects and they should just be dedicated to client retention and growth. Phil: Well, I'm suspicious of that. You know what I mean? First of all, I'm not sure that you could grow to be a more senior member of the account management department unless you've gone through the learning curve of delivering the process, getting your hands dirty and understanding the geography of an agency today and its partnership. I mean, you really are going to have to be perfectly eloquent around data and technology and creativity. That triangulation is something that every year, account person coming through the ranks is going to need to be very comfortable with an understand. And I am not so sure either, that you're an effective  developer of more senior relationships, without the understanding of how a conversation you have with that client will impact on the agency whether the resources available. How you might find the appropriate resources direct it and manage it to create the output that you're looking to achieve as a result of discussion with the relationship. Also, the hard truth is that one has to make time on top of the delivery, the practicalities of delivery to build your relationships across a client base, so that's about going the extra mile, actually, to determine who you might need to know in the client organisation, what you need to know from them. And where you can take the information back to the agency to perhaps improve for shortened, to simplify, to remove complexity from the process. To produce things which are more valuable to a client and then the agency has a result in a different way, with a greater pace and acceleration. So I don't think the two will ever be separate or decoupled. Of course, as you rise through the ranks of account management, internal senior positions, you do less, and that's quite frightening, by the way, it's a point we should make that when your account director and you begin to hedge towards the border or a directorship within an agency. I have found that one of the most challenging aspects of that is for those young people to give away the job of doing because they were very good at doing and to start delegating and take on the responsibility of much more, nebulous areas of a relationship development where it's less black and white about whether it was right or wrong or whether it worked or it didn't. And to trust in those people you delegated to as well. So that transition is one that we've worked on very hard over the years in the agencies I’ve been in, to manage that emerging from senior account director position into young board director, young director position where the role is fundamentally different. But you cannot reach that more senior role unless you have underpinned the understanding,  the geography and the realities and delivering work in the agency. Jenny: It's a really good response. I like that. Great answer. You talk a lot about developing relationships with C Suite, the C suite of your client company. Why do you think that's so important for agency account managers? And do you have any tips that you can share? Phil: Right I have to keep this to a reasonably short answer. It is entirely vital. It's entirely vital for two reasons. First of all, that it protects the business in the revenue that an agency has in the first place, and secondly, it is the single best source of driving incremental new business from the existing client. I guess one has to start with what's the definition of C Suite and the first thing to disabuse people of, perhaps, is that we're not simply talking about CMO. And by the way, my private opinion is that the role of CMO is diminishing quite rapidly. And here are many other important roles within C Suite whether that's a chief technology officer, whether it's the head of corporate affairs, whether its head of legal, whether it's the CFO, CEO, the list goes on. There is a much broader spectrum now of C Suite that it’s imperative that agency people know, that they engaged with regularly, that they listened to and that they take initiatives to because they all hold budget. They all can grow your business. They all have an increasing say on the output of agencies and communication because they realise that that's a key differential now and that rarely are big decisions about communication made by individuals, including a CMO. They are more often made by leadership teams within a client organisation, particularly when you get to the bigger ones. So I'm working with a lot of agencies and I think you know, this as well for whom a relationship with C suite does not exist. And they are really, really vulnerable because decisions can be made no matter how good the agency's work has been or is at the moment, decisions can be made, which have no bearing whatsoever on the current relationship and output and now suddenly mean that the business is gone. And I have suffered this myself and particularly with the emergence of procurement who don't really care about that aspect of the business. They're more concerned about the effectiveness of the work on the relationship. And that's a separate point entirely, I guess so. It is unfathomable, really, to think that the management of an agency do not work day in and day out, week in and week out and so on, in the development of their broad based C Suite4 relationships to protect what the agency already has the business quite apart from growing up because it's hugely rewarding when you do, by the way, when you build a C suite relationships frankly, new jobs flow. New funding flows, new opportunities to reputationally emerge like out of a chrysalis every six months, 12 months of the year as a fresh agency that has fresh thinking rather than being seen as the agency that was good 2-3 years ago. You know, in terms of the value proposition of an agency, it's a great way to make sure that you look relevant and fresh all the time to a broad group of people in a client organisation that will continually think of you as a current partner, not one of the past. Jenny: And what do you have any advice for maybe agency leaders or account managers of listening to this and thinking, we don't have any relationships at all at any C suite level with our clients. Where do you even start with trying to form those relationships? Phil: Well, I mean, I believe strongly in a programme that's institutionalised within an agency to identify the C suite and to create content to take to them at a programme of managing them across the senior agency people matching them with senior client people and how it's a bit like, you know, selling a car. BMW would be delighted to sell me a car, of course, but there'll be a margin on that, but where they really made the money's in the after sales and the service and the fact that I'd become a long term and loyal supporter of the brand and buy various cars in the future. Therein lies the opportunity here, which is that we have created you know,  I have created on approach, which allows agencies to identify what the key issues are that confront the client, who the clients is,  who have prospects are across that leadership team because there are many off them in theory. And there are the emerging stars as well, coming beneath and everyone needs to pick up. Once you've managed to get something in their diary, virtually or otherwise, what on earth do I say to them that's going to interest them, hold their attention and asked them to perhaps think about a new area of their business on? Then how do I keep in there? How do I keep that fresh? How do I keep coming back? How do I keep from taking the phone call for me once a month? Because every time I feel Jenny, come on the phone, they always tell me something interesting about my business. They always provide me with a solution. Perhaps one I didn't even know I needed. You know, that's a programme in itself, is not a nice to have. It really is a must have. The very best agencies is, of course, do this. Working with the Omnicom’s and the WPPs and a little of the IPG, for instance, they have very good people who know how to build these relationships out over months and years, identifying what a client requires at any one time, but also making sure that that could be translated into what the agency can deliver, building those trust levels. But it's not a short answer to that. There is a programme that one needs to look at, think about it very carefully, you know, we share all our war stories. I think the most valuable thing I'm able to share with people is all the things that have not worked. Actually, all the things I've done wrong all the blind alleys that turned out, but there are some things that really do work time and again across business, domestic business, global business brands, products, services, I think account management needs to know these things. Jenny: Can you share just a couple of examples of maybe where you got it wrong and where you were hugely successful? Phil: Yeah. I mean, I talked earlier about the fact that if you don't believe in creativity and if you're not excited by creativity, in its broadest sense. It is not an easy industry to be in. But at the same time, I just see people do get kind of its like a laughing gas. We sometimes get so excited about certain things that we lose sight on why we're doing it, what its role is and where you know, it really needs to be quite commercially impactful. Some of the biggest mistakes I've made is where I've probably wanted to appease what I thought was brilliant creative work out of an agency, because I knew that it would provide a higher profile for the agency because of its creative prowess, and that becomes slightly dislocated from that's all very well. But, you know, was it ever gonna work on behalf of the client business? Should they ever have invested their hard earned money in it and what you're gonna say to them when it didn't work, even though someone standing on a plinth in an award show picking up awards on the trade press has picked up on the beauty of the work. But six months down the line, you're under great pressure because the brand has underperformed and I have made those mistakes a few times, and I learned the hard way, and that's what I talked about earlier. Which is you've got to be really hard nosed as an account manager, account director. Is it going to work in the real world, no matter how exciting it is on behalf of the reputation of the agency and the people who created it. Which is very important, of course, but I have lost business months after producing the most lauded and awarded work, and I have rarely ever lost business when work has been so commercially and fundamentally successful. The clients will achieve their own personal metrics and financial rewards through the bonus scheme because your work drove the performance of their brand or their service. So there's a really careful balancing act there about, as I said to you earlier, facing in two different directions. But you know, creative work can inspire great brand performance. That's wonderful, thank goodness. But equally there are times when other types of, what's the word I'm going to use, precise work, you can have just as much of an impact and develop your business. So I've made plenty of mistakes in those areas. Where have I done things differently? Some things I think that had the most impact is when I've introduced clients to new partners that they haven't thought of working with before, so that they could extend their distribution footprint. Or maybe there was a sampling exercise that they could piggyback on the backup. So the adjacencies of putting a really impressive brand together with another brand that consumers and insight might pull natural together, but have never worked together in the past because they don't see themselves as working in the same areas, has been fundamentally very satisfying, but also quite lucrative on behalf of the client business. So I mean, I think another time, but we can give some very good examples of that, how to put those adjacencies to this together. Jenny: I think that's a fabulous example. It also highlights to your point before about the more we understand about the client's business, actually, our job in account management is to retain and grow the client business, but we need to keep their business objectives in mind. This is not about us selling more of our services. It's looking at what is right for the client business right now. And you know, just there's one great example there of introducing a new potential partner, which is going to open up a revenue stream for the client. And that's not selling more of your services. That is adding value truly, adding value to the client organisations. I think that's a great example. I love the fact that you've said that you need, every agency, needs a programme for reaching the C suite and we’ll certainly share the contact details for your systematic approach to reaching the C suite because I think again, that's absolute gold. Just recently, we've talked about this briefly but there was an IPA report that was commissioned.  It talked about the role of account management and the fact that there needs to be an urgent review and it was kind of putting into question the value of the account management. Do you have any thoughts on that report and its findings? Phil: Well, I agree with them. I really do think it requires an urgent review of what account management has become and it really should be on. I would start with some of the terminology. I find account management, client service, you know, some of these terms unhelpful or redundant, and yet it's really very difficult to find a better term somehow. So I think a review of the function and its so called skillset is desperately needed. I think that sometimes the headlines would suggest that there's a tremendous crisis involved, you know, because that makes a good headline. There's an awful lot that's good in the account management within agencies, there's some very good people with some great skill set who are doing things the right way. I think what we're talking about here is like anything else you know, creative destruction which is, if we were starting from scratch what would we lay aside in terms of what the offer of account management is now on, what would we retain and what would we add going forward on. I believe that some of the requirements of the remain same, which is about, as I said earlier, you know, this duopoly off, being inspired and motivated by creativity generally and at the same time having curiosity and an interest and understanding of the world of business and the commercial opportunity that confronts our client. So those are the broad perspectives. Added to that, and I talked about the triangulation earlier of understanding what data means what technology means in creativity, they're just words that are thrown around, you know. Ultimately, one has to take it back to what do human beings want, desire, need, look for. What could we persuade them that they had never thought about before but could be quite interesting to them? And I have genuinely think, and I looked for it in anybody that worked with me in this area, you have to have a fundamental  interest in people. You have to be quite nosy and curious, you know, and watch and listen. And a piece of advice, I would give, by the way, too young account people but carrying throughout your life is, I read a different publication every day. I’ll read something out of The New Statesman one day, but The Spectator the next. the Daily Mirror one day,  The Daily Telegraph the next. I will watch ITVB and the terrible collection of reality programmes. And I will watch something like Newsnight. I have listened to you know, Asian radio, overseas radio, commercial radio, Broadcast Arabia. The more one listens and watches and assimilates information from different parts of the spectrum of society and people you'll find them more interesting and engaging. You'll understand a little bit more about where they shift in their attitudes in a society. And you're a lot more useful to your clients because I'd worry terribly about those people that never watch much TV or who don't know the plot of Eastenders, you know, or here’s good example someone recently, you know, somebody in account management in their twenties, what’s your view of Gym Shark, tell me about that, and they hadn't even heard of the brand. Now populist brands are popular for a reason because they capture something of the imagination perhaps for the first time. A young man has created an extraordinary business on the back off being in competition with major players like Nike and Reebok is an extraordinary story. But when you take it back to its base, he just loved the idea of working around this area of young people who wanted to work out and be fit and Crossfit and all the rest of it. Wow, what a story, he created it. My view is, the more you know, the more you read, the more you watch, the more knowledge you have, the more ideas you have, the more interesting you’ll be to your client. And if you're not interesting, you're not gonna last five seconds with a client organisation and you're never going to reach a senior position. And you're not gonna hold the interest levels of C suite. So feed the machine of your knowledge and understanding. But make sure you balance it. That's why I say, don't be drawn in by a left wing persuasion, right wing persuasion, populism, intellectual, academic. It doesn't matter. Jenny: I think that's just such a fantastic tip. I really, really do. I'm usually banging the drum for reading, certainly reading, too, particularly personal development books, all about developing relationships and obviously industry information. But the fact that you've just shared that tip about, just broaden it out, you know, diversify your reading sources. I think that that's just gold. So thank you for that. That's brilliant. Currently, Phil, with our relationships with clients, we're recording this just coming into September 2020 and we're just kind of coming out of the Covid situation, lifting slowly the lock down rules. But essentially many of our clients are still working from home. Many agencies are kind of moving to more of a hybrid model, letting their staff also worked from home and maybe a couple of days in the office. How do you develop relationships or continue the momentum of developing relationships when you can't meet in person? Certainly so frequently as we used to. Phil: Perhaps there is a shift of focus, actually, which is, I believe, undeniably in the need for a relationship I really do. But I think that the shift of focus is perhaps now on the word value, and I do believe that whilst it is more difficult to achieve, we can project our value on our clients remotely as much, if not more so we can, in the old model of presenteeism and being together and that having that idle time to get to know each other. So it's a tricky one, and it's perhaps a rather stock answer but I genuinely believe that you will drive a relationship over the long term because of the value that you bring. And the value you bring will be your intellectual stamina and observation and point of view, as well as the initiatives and the proposals that no one else is bringing to a client organisation, or client individual that will help him drive the business and, frankly, looks smart at times within their own organisation. So when we had the opportunity to meet in person and to spend time and to build our relationship from the outside in as it  were, and reveal our value over the course of hours and weeks and years and whatever it worked well, but you ultimately could track through to being quite a valuable individual to the client organisation. You kind of have to turn it on its head now, present yourself immediately as someone of value, on behalf of a valuable agency and a valuable function called account management that brings a point of difference and a commercial impact on the business from the word go and that will then lead to a long lasting relationship. Inverted commas. Whether relationships on the metrics of those will be in the future hard nose quantitative r ROI metrics, probably, less so than they ever were in the past, when they were more qualitative or it was as much about who you were, how you engaged with the client on a, you know, just a human aspect, as it was on the performance of what your outcomes were. So shift, I think a shift is the order of the day. But I do think engagements vital finding ways and means of engaging with these people in these organisations. And you'll do that because you're valuable. Jenny: Great point. Also, I believe that I've heard a lot of people say even the most senior people inc client organisations just are tending to be a little bit more available because of this new way of working so it could present an opportunity.  Just a couple more questions, I'm very conscious of your time. Have you got any thoughts on just generally how the creative industry landscape is changing in terms of how agencies are working with clients. Phil: Yeah, my sense is that the rules of the game have changed, actually. Probably the most unhelpful word at the moment is the word agency because it suggests to many, and this is the black propaganda that goes around this from people who was wish this to be the case is that agencies are boxes with rigid walls and ceilings that are ponderous and narrow in their scope of understanding and output, and therefore diminishing in terms of their value to a client base. Because there are so many other organisations around that are much more fluid, much more agile and much more, you know, technically competent as it were. So I think that my view of the way forward is that collectives of inspired people who work brilliantly together to deliver the creativity of thought and deed, with their data, with the technological understanding, with the ability to understand the consumer mind, and to change the course of that attitude in consumer behaviour, because of the something we learn from our data or because of a piece of simple technology that just changes everything good means that the method of agencies, if we're going to continue to use that word, has to have changed. It can't be so linear. It can't be so ploddingly process oriented. It has to be and has become in more recent years, much more quickly consensual around the good and the best, of the people and the thinking or the execution and taking rapidly to a client base, onto pilot tests, put in a crucible of, you know, life and see if it works. Course correct. Move it on. And not, in the days of past, where there was almost a delight in the process as much as there was in the work.  I think it's move. Make things, try them, test them, hold their feet to the fire, change, course correct, move again. Keep moving.  Jenny: Have you seen any agencies that are doing that particularly well and adapting to the new way, those new demands of ways of working?Phil: I see it all around. I'm not to sure it’s just in agencies. I mean, you know, if you look at the FANGs and you look at some of the still some of the great agency groups that I mentioned earlier but also in the independent sector. What a time to be in the independent sector now, as well, you know where major clients, domestic or global, are quite prepared to work with the smallest or largest. If the thinking is good and the execution is there. I think that there are examples all around. I'm particularly taken with the shift as well in some of the more long term publishers who, perhaps, have begun to understand how to confront the likes of Google and Facebook. We've been in this whole area of this dreadful word content, but I think that they are beginning to learn really quickly now about how they change their offer. So there's lots to learn from those boys as well. So lots going on lots going on.  Jenny: If you were going to start again, Phil, in your career because I'm very conscious is a few agency account managers that just beginning in their journey, they want to sort of be successful as quickly as possible. Looking back on your career, if you were starting again, what would you have done differently, or any tips that you can share for getting people sort of ahead of where they need to be. Phil: Well it’s still a glorious career to go into, by the way, that I do believe whatever that career is. But, you know, in it's broadest sense. I tell you what the biggest mistake I made in the early years, I just believed in big titles too much. I believed the people of above me and around who wielded their title, convinced me to make decisions and to do things in a particular way, which instinctively, I was unsure about or didn't believe them. And there's a fine line here between a young account manager who thinks they know everything perhaps probably just needs to show a bit of humility and learn a bit more. But there does come a point where you have to stare down the titles and the structure, and than those that have gone before that tell you everything they've done that was perfect and forget to tell you the things that weren't. And you've got to be your own person and I genuinely believe that. I mean, I fundamentally made a change of my approach in my early thirties to begin to trust myself more because I began to assess the people around me. And when I broke down their life experiences versus professional experience and the evidence before me of what they were and weren't achieving in the business I drew the conclusion that I probably had as much to say that might be was worthwhile, and it might just be better. And funnily enough, after a few months and a couple of years, it really was. You have to be careful you don't get ahead of yourself and think too much of yourself, but really, yeah, I guess that's what I said earlier. If you know more, you’ve read more, watched more, thought more, you can begin to trust yourself more. And when you trust yourself more you cand be more sure about what you say to a client and why because you've underpinned it with good evidence and understanding. You’ve tested it. You're not going in there because someone gave you the thought or the work because they were entitled to through their title. Ignore it. Jenny: I love that advice that made me feel quite emotional because I could identify that a lot myself. Phil, this has been amazing. Lots of golden nuggets and pieces of advice for account managers. Where can people reach you? And who would you like to be contacted by? Phil: Well, I'm available. I'm on LinkedIn. So that's one method of reaching me. Of course and I'm sure we could share details of my email as well afterwards. Who'd I like to? I really don't mind who contacts me, Jenny, I really don't. I continue even though I'm now working, running my own consultancy in the independent sector, I continue to be very involved with the industry and I continue to mentor casually or more professionally, many young people and many senior people. So I find it thoroughly rewarding to do both, but at the same time, I have my own client base. So I'm having to put what I just spent 45 minutes talking to you about into practise every day and still I make mistakes. Still, I get it wrong, but I get a lot more right than I did in the past. So, I feel like, you know, if you want to talk to me, as a senior member of an agency group on behalf of your management team or as an individual, or you have issues with your clients. Or you're someone that's just looking for perhaps a bit of help with a particular issue in the career. You know, if I can find time to do it, I'll always be very happy to talk. But I'm finding that a lot of agency management senior management contacted me. Just as a sounding board. Maybe one or two ideas about how to change things in a particular way and to think about things very differently. So that's the area I'm operating in, as board advisor and as a non executive, and running the consultancy. Jenny: Wonderful. Brilliant. Well, Phil, I'm gonna share your contact details in the show notes. So once again, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. This has been amazing. And I know lots of people going to come away with a lot of value. So thank you so much.  Well, I hope you enjoyed my chat with Phil. And if you're thinking that you would like to test how good you are currently retaining and growing your existing client relationships, I'd like to invite you to come over to my website, which is, where there's a short quiz that you can take and you'll get a report at the end of it with a score, which will give you an indication of maybe some of the areas that you could be doing to retain and grow your client relationships. So come over to 
Welcome to the Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast with me, Jenny Plant, from Account Management Skills Training. I'm on a mission to help those in agency client service keep and grow their existing relationships, so their agency business can thrive.Welcome to Episode three of the Creative Agency Account Manager podcast. I'm honoured to have a very, very well known salesman and sales trainer in the UK joining me today. My friend Marcus. I was lucky enough to be trained by Marcus when I was at Publicis, and he was actually the one that inspired me to set up Account Management Skills training to provide agency account managers with selling skills. Now, in this episode, Marcus shares some absolute gold for both agency account managers expanding the business but also for those in agency new business. I really enjoyed this discussion. Marcus does not hold back when it comes to how he feels. Agencies need to up their game when it comes to professional selling and no one's ever going to accuse Marcus of being a shrinking violet when it comes to speaking his mind. He's going to share with us the key to being successful in sales and the essential things you have to do when looking to expand the business. What not to do at the point of contract renewal, if you want to avoid a bid situation, what you should be tracking and measuring in your new business activities and the cure for a weak and empty pipeline where the area of really organic growth comes from, and why very few agencies recognise it. And what the transition looks like when your new business person hands over to the account management team. He's going to share loads more tips, loads, more advice and words of wisdom. He's even going to share with us the top 10 books he recommends every agency account manager should be reading. So I hope you enjoy this episode.Jenny: So today I'm delighted to speak to probably the most well known salesman and sales trainer in the UK, Marcus Cauchi, who I also had the pleasure of being coached by in 2010, which you probably don't do anymore, Marcus, do you?Marcus: I do. But there's a twist.Jenny: Okay, because you're far too important to do one on ones, I'm sure.Marcus: Love doing one on ones.Jenny: But you fundamentally changed my career. And you were the most inspiring person I've ever met in my career. So I'm delighted this morning. And he's also happens to be the author of the book Making Channel Sales Work, who I'm holding a picture of now, and also the host of two fantastic podcasts, the Inquisitor podcast, which if you are in sales, or in the business of sales, or you're a business leader, then I highly recommend you read because it's like a master class in selling, frankly. And also a newer podcast called Scale Ups and Hypergrowth, where he interviews leaders of disruptive tech companies about how they reach massive scale and hyper growth.Marcus: Without losing control,  is the important bit in that. Most companies that scale fast so you know, hit the edge of a cliff and then fall off it. They don't go over. And the important thing about scale is that you can sustain it so that you end up creating a long lived business with customers for life.Jenny: Well, I've been following your journey and I listened to the podcast and you've had some really, really high level people on there. It's been really impressive. How do you manage that?Marcus: Well, just by asking, they’re incredibly generous. But I've learned so much from those podcasts, you could not even begin to imagine. Jenny: I honestly every time you ask a question, I think I was nervous about asking you on this podcast because I thought I'm not going to be able to reach that level of questioning. But listen, tell me, give us a bit of a short intro anything that I missed out on just for the audience. Marcus: I've been selling for 35 years, been with a company called Sandler for the last 17 years, and just about to embark on a new journey. So I've got some really exciting plans ahead. And the podcasts are really an opportunity for me to learn from the best in the world. And that's working out really nicely. And got married, three kids, worked in probably about 450 - 500 different segments of the market. And that range has been really useful, because what I've discovered is that in a specialist field, people who come with a broad range of experience and they have exercise creativity tend to be far more successful. So what I've found is that with minimal knowledge about what  the product is, but an understanding of their customer, the kind of problems they have, the kind of better future they're looking for, I'm able to help people. So my typical client will grow three, four or 500% in a year, if they apply what I teach. And what I've seen is people who were on their last leg in sales, suddenly become top performers. And so, I think people who, if you find their motivation, and you understand what drives them, and they're willing to be helped, then pretty much anybody can be helped. But it does require the willingness, not just the ability, and I think what you have is a dearth in sales management skill. Sandler did a study in January, it came out and found that only 6% of sales managers were actually fit for purpose. And last year, only 44% of individual reps hit quota, and only 13% of teams hit quota. So that gives you an indication of just how far we have to go. And if you ran a finance team, or an engineering team, with those sorts of results, I think you'd have a very short tenure.Jenny: There's no doubt that your skills of helping people grow their businesses and get better at selling are so spot on. I mean, I've watched it myself. I've experienced it myself. But just going back one step, you mentioned that you're on a new journey. Is there anything that you can share right now?Marcus: Nope. I'll tell you offline.Jenny: Okay, cool. So basically, Mark my audience are creative agency account managers, so they're less about landing the business, they're more about expanding the business. So for those who perhaps don't have any sales training, they haven't got a background in any sort of techniques or strategy. Can you talk a bit about where the hell they should start?Marcus: Yeah, you should speak to your customers, speak to your clients, and find out what it is they're trying to do and speak across their organisation. The problem with so many creative agencies, is they're fixated on winning the pitch, and then they're fixated on not being kicked out. You know, I remember learning from you. This one choice turn of phrase, which is you're never more than three years from being fired by a client. And so that was from your days at Publicis.. And the reality is, there's no need for that if you develop two skills, listening and questioning. I've never listened my way out of a sale. I've talked my way out of plenty. And most people when they're asking questions are asking questions to gather information to gain understanding if they're slightly better, but the best questions are the ones that deliver insight. And this is where people go horrifically wrong because they don't prepare. They turn up and they prepare the pitch. But the pitch is broadcast. It's not collecting useful insight. It's not gathering the quality information. By the time you've turned up, you should already know most of the answers to the questions you were going to ask. Because you can do WWGS - what would Google say? It's not like that information isn't out in the public domain. And your buyers are very savvy nowadays. They've got the sum total of human knowledge with a few clicks of a mouse available to them, so they've done a lot of their research, and they're familiar, I think with their symptoms, but they're not necessarily au fait with the cause of their problems. And it's your job to get beyond that. Because if you are making this initial sale, your job is to beat the status quo. 60% of buying cycles end up with the incumbent solution, whether it's homegrown or another agency, of the 40%, 74% of those will go to the company that displaces their current preferences, helps them recognise what the cost of staying stuck will be. Creates enough points of difference. And this isn't about the product, necessarily. It's about what matters to the customer, and creates enough white space between you and the competition and the incumbent. And most importantly here is being able to allay their anticipated fear of regret and blame. And that's how you win business. To keep it, what you need to do is not introduce the shiny new object at the point of renewal. If you introduce that concept at the point of renewal, you almost guarantee it will go to a bid. Now, the actual win rate on buy cycles that get started and then end up in a bid is 2.6%. Very few agencies, very few vendors take the time to actually track and measure how many opportunities they engage in. And then how many of those actually resist in business, and when you consider the cost of pursuit, which is massive, you know, I don't know, what your audiences are made up of whether they're small, medium, or large agencies, but in large agencies, you know, 20-30 people might be involved for two weeks. Now, when you think about these people being billed out at 500 to a grand a day, that's a shitload of money - the technical term! And the problem is if they win one in four of those that they get to pitch, then chances are, they are going to end up eating into their profits, but they sink it into cost of doing business. Well, it shouldn't be a cost of doing business. That's just a lack of imagination. And if your imagination’s out of focus, your eyes won't see. And most of the time, we're steeped in tradition. This is the way we've always done it. It boils down to and I'll eventually stop ranting. But it boils down to sellers not understanding their rights.Jenny: There's so much that I want to dive into there, but just to get stepping back to the questioning. I don't know if you remember this, but when I first met you, you came into the Publicis office, and I was thrilled that I was gonna get my own coach. But within 20 minutes, I was in tears. Do you remember that?Marcus: That’s the usual reaction, and it’s not just women. In my training centre I’ve always had boxes of tissues for just that reason.Jenny: But what I realised afterwards was that you were doing a fantastic job of pain discovery on me. And like you said, I at the time in my role as general manager, who ultimately the buck stopped with me in terms of the business. I understood my symptoms, but I didn't understand my cause. And what you did was have a conversation with me, not about you, not about what you could do. In fact, I know I knew nothing about you. You were doing all the listening and asking questions, and I was just pouring out and what you managed to do was make me realise what I didn't have in place. And for me that was so powerful, and transport transformative. So this skill of asking the questions in the right way is so it takes practice, doesn't it? It's not something you can acquire overnight.Marcus: Like any skill that's worth acquiring, it takes time, practice ,reinforcement, you have to fail. But the most important skill of all of those is listening. And listening is a whole body experience. It's not something you just do with your ears. You do it with your eyes, with your gut. You pay attention to how the person is responding, not just the words. I'm having a row with my former associate, because he's a huge Trump supporter. And he's justifying and defending the Draino scenario because he's using the literal words. Whereas when you look at the rapper, the context in which that happened, it was fairly clear, he wasn't suggesting for a second, that this might be something useful to explore. He genuinely believed that you could inject Draino into people and it would kill the virus. You could see that from the body language, the context of everything that went on around him. And the slightly vacant and dumb look on him and the poor medical director who is shrinking into her shoulders. So, you know, the reality is that the words themselves convey only part of the meaning. And when you're meeting with a prospect, your intent must be right. So the first two questions you must be able to answer yes are, can I help? And if I can, am I the right person to help? Because if you're not, get the hell out of dodge as quickly as possible. Do them a favour, do you a favour, save everyone time. And now the problem there is that so often we have a weak or empty pipeline. So we need every deal. And the cure is prospect consistently, little enough and every day. So that eventually, and you end up with a sales funnel. Well, there are four things that I always get people to measure. And the first one is daily unique, effective conversations with prospects. In the agency business, five to seven a day is probably more than adequate. If you have five to seven, where you make the call, you get past the gatekeeper, you get through to the decision maker, and you engage in conversation around their pain with a contract that says at the end of this conversation, you will either invite me in or you'll not. And we'll part friends. And if you do five to seven of those a day, then chances are you will fill the top of the hopper. Second thing is the velocity, and the velocity with which opportunities go through your funnel. Now, the problem is that often you end up and this is the non PC version, you end up with either a Dolly Parton or Kim Kardashian pipeline. And on them the bulges are in the right place, but in your pipeline though, they’re in the wrong place. And because your funnel should really look like a thong, it shouldn't look like a baggy old pair of grey granny knickers, which is just bulging with stuff that isn’t moving, you don't really know where you are, and a load of non prospects. That kind of sales funnel is built on hope and hope is a shitty strategy. Now what it should look like is wide at the top with lots of opportunity, and you're filtering and disqualifying, and disqualifying and disqualifying, and all the good stuff should be in the gusset. And there, you're looking for three to five times more at the qualified moving to closable stage, than you need to hit your quota. So if you have a million dollar quota, you need 3 million to 5 million at the qualified moving to closable stage. And within seven months, it should be three times, within 12 months, it should be five times. Now if you have five times as much at that stage in the hopper at that stage, then you have choice and you prospect for choice. The other thing that I'm looking at is the conversion rate of first to second meetings. When you consider the cost of acquiring a lead, the cost of pursuit and you consider that seven out of eight first meetings did not result in a second meeting on average, that is a crashing waste. So you need to rehearse or you need to plan, then you need to rehearse. My rule of thumb is for every minute you're in front of the prospect, you need three minutes of rehearsal time. And especially when you're in an account management role, you need to rehearse and prepare. You need to have a cadence of accountability, you need to have regular contact with your customers, or your clients.And these would vary from maybe fortnightly calls with different people in the organisation, not just the immediate buyer, but the people who are affected by the work that you do - senior leadership, marketing, operations, sales, legal, finance, all these different departments, you need to engage with them because they're a business and they are a system and if you change one thing, then it affects other parts.  Jenny: On that point you mentioned before because I can imagine someone's listening to this as an account manager. And first of all, one of the things they always say is many account managers in creative agencies have like a dual role. Half of it is kind of project management, essentially. And the other half is actually where they're tasked with growing an account and developing relationships. Now, when you say, look, you've got all of these opportunities to expand your relationship building within the same client company, finance, procurement, etc. You said earlier on about having their rights, you know, where's the confidence level on how do I even start that conversation? Why would they want to talk to me, kind of thing?Marcus: Well, first of all, the most important relationship you have is the one with yourself. And this is your self concept, you will only perform to the level that your self concept will allow. So if you were to rate yourself on a scale of one to 10 in terms of your role, you might give yourself a seven. And on a good day, you'll be a nine and on a bad day, you'll be a five. Okay? And you average around the seven mark. However, role and identity are very different. Role is what you do, your functions. Identity is who you are. Now, if you cannot look yourself in the mirror and be proud of the person that you are, then you're going to have a problem. If you run negative scripts, like who am I to speak to the chief executive? Who am I? You know, I'm just an account manager, or an account director. So what? . And these are people who have problems that you are the expert in helping to fix. If you don't see yourself as having equal business stature, then you've automatically given away your power and you've created this disparity. So you've turned it into a parent child relationship, and what you need is adult to adult. You need two grownups meeting at the table to try and resolve problem. And what you want them to do is step out of the goal. And it's both you and them kicking into an open goal against their problem, you need to be partners. Now partners help each other get better. And so another right that you have is to establish very clearly upfront, what the terms of engagement are, how you escalate, how you will hold one another to account. And we use a tool called the client centric satisfaction tool. And it lists a number of areas that we are in control of, but directly affect the customer's experience. And we get them to pick five of those, and every quarter, we are held to account, our feet are put in the fire until they're good and crispy, and they're allowed to tell us the truth and we're allowed to tell them the truth, because we hold them to account as well. But the problem is that because agencies have historically bought into three really awful lies -  The customer is king. The buyer is always right. And the man with the gold makes the rules. Okay, let's deal with them. First of all the customer is not king. The customer is never more or less than your equal. The buyer is not always right. But when they're wrong, it's often your fault. And, the man with the gold has the commodity, which is cash in 2010 in the depths of the last recession, tramps had cash, you know that that must give an indication of just how ubiquitous cash is. Today $5 trillion is going through the global economy just today. Okay, so it's not that there isn't money around. People want to spend it on something other than what you're selling, because you've been outsold by their internal narrative, or by something else, by a competitor by the status quo. You've been outsold. And so the responsibility comes on to us. And if we don't understand that, we have the right to do business with the right kind of people, we have the right to say no, we have the right to equal business stature. We have the right to have fun. We have the right to lunch once we've earned it. There is no such thing as a free lunch. This is tough. And account management is a really difficult job. But it's simple. You have to do the basics well consistently over time and mean it, but very few people do. I remember working with one agency years back, and one of the two founders kept blathering on about being creative. And no one buys creative. They want to sell more shit, okay. If your advertising is boring, but it works, who cares? And the fact that you've got lots of awards doesn't mean that you've actually helped them sell anything, because let's face it, agencies with awards generally bribe the publication to get them. Jenny: So you talked about something earlier on that I want to go back to, because this for me was probably the biggest powerful element of the Sandler Training System, which is transactional analysis. And actually, it's about your own internal internal state and how you react in the moment, because we're talking about people to people relationships, aren't we? So can you talk a little bit more about transactional analysis. You referred earlier about being in an adult to adult state. And how it relates to sales selling specifically, from an account management point of view?Marcus: Of all the psychological models or methods I've come across TA, transaction analysis, seems to be the one that works universally. And it's unfussy. And there's a really good book called ‘How to run your own life’ by a guy called Jut Meininger which I urge everybody to get a copy of it. Now it's only available second hand, it'll cost you over 100 quid. But it's one of the best introductions to TA but also to life. It's all about a martian who pops down to earth, and then discovers just how screwed up we are. Now, another good book that's really worth a read is TA for kids (and adults) by Alvin Freed. And TA is essentially understanding how we engage in communication transactions, and how we play games with one another. Now this is the negative side of it. And this can be described on three points of a triangle. It's called the drama triangle and ego thrives on drama, so bear that in mind, when I described the three positions. If you imagine an equilateral triangle on its sharp point, with the victim at the bottom. The voice of the victim goes, ‘It’s not fair, this always happens, you always do this to me, save me’. Now lots of customers play the role of victim ‘poor me my wooden leg, you know I don't have any budget times are tough’. Yeah. And that encourages two other types. So if you imagine on the top left hand corner, you've got the persecutor. Now the persecutor comes with a jabby index finger, ‘you piece of shit, you always, you never, you’re such a disappointment’. You ad people, you branding people, you PR people, you're all the same. Yeah, you make these promises and you do nothing. It comes with the jabby index finger and the pronoun ‘you’ and diminishes you an identity level. And then you have the rescuer. Now rescuing is helping without boundaries or permission. Rescuing is molly coddling, it's permissive and allows people to take the piss and allows people to bully them. And, what it also becomes is micromanaging. When we first engaged you were quite a rescuer, you're trying to rescue your people, you're trying to rescue your clients. And the problem with that is that you end up run ragged. You get upward delegation, you create learned helplessness around you. Persecutors create the conditions for the minimum amount of work and effort necessary to not be noticed. You don't put your head above the parapet because it will get shot down, and you try not to be noticed by being average that creates mediocrity. Which again, was your previous bosses in those companies without wanting to get you into trouble?  So they used to be very persecuting and there was this, you know, what's happening about this, what's happening about that and you will get sucked into all these bids that were pointless, because they were confusing activity with meaningful action. Okay, now anytime you hear anyone playing the role of the victim, the persecutor or the rescuer, that's someone's ego being hooked. Now, that means that you tend to be stuck in the past or worrying about the future. And it creates a blame culture. And there's a lot of prejudice, pre judgement. Not only you've been judged and judging yourself, but there's excuse making, there's blaming. It's where agencies create these fiefdoms and stovepipes and you end up with political infighting. It's tough enough, what the hell are you doing fighting amongst yourselves, you should all be aligned working with the customer against their competition. And that way you're serving them and the individuals within those accounts, they have problems that they need help with, and it's your job if you can't help them to find someone who can and become a partner, so that you're raising the tide and raising all boats. Now, my favourite philosopher Bruce Lee was asked what's the best way to avoid a punch? And he said be somewhere else. So instead of this drama triangle, victim, persecutor, rescuer, go what I call below the line and this is a triangle on its stable flat base. And, at the bottom left, you have vulnerability, you need to be vulnerable. The word vulnerable comes from the Latin vol nebulous, which means to make yourself wounded, to put yourself in harm's way and do it anyway. It's an act of courage, vulnerability is probably the pinnacle of courage. And then you have on the top, nurturing and assess, nurturing and empathic. So you nurture these people, but so you empathise without falling into buyer empathy. So buyer empathy is where you say, you know, if it were me, I'd probably want a discount. That's bad, ok, but if you can empathise with the pressure that they're under, the stress that they're feeling, the worry that they're experiencing, and then you have a fighting chance of actually doing something to help them because you're staying in your rational mind. And also, then bottom right, is being assertive. Now, that doesn't mean being aggressive. It means establishing clear boundaries and clear expectations. And this is where things go wrong very often. Ambiguity is the mother of all fubars. And this is where ambiguity at the top of your organisation leads to politics at the bottom. So ambiguity is another example of what happens in that drama triangle, whereas within the winner's triangle, you are absolutely clear, specific and certain about what both sides have agreed. Everyone knows what their roles are, what their responsibilities are, you know how to escalate. And you know how to confront constructively the problems, and so you're not afraid of conflict. And agencies should be challenging their customers, their clients, they shouldn't be passively taking whatever their crappy brief is. You know a great example of this is one consumer brand that was following the CMOs vision. And bear in mind, the brand is determined by your customers, not by your CMO. And he had this vision that they were an adventure brand. So all of them, media and advertising was geared around people base jumping, and windsurfing and climbing El Capitan and all that crap. But in their biggest market, Hong Kong and China, people saw their brand as an opportunity to go out and be seen in public as being smart and sophisticated. So the minute they got rid of that idiotic message, sales went up 62 million in one quarter. Jenny:  So it's starting with the customer?Marcus: You start with the customer, you need to speak to the customer, you need to listen to the customer. And, again, I do a lot of work in tech where they're fixated with big data. Actually, it's small data that matters in my book. And it's the individual conversations that you're having, Record them, get transcriptions of them, break them down, look for patterns, look for the clues in those small conversations and that small data as to what the customer needs and wants, what they want to know, what they want to be known for, what they want to have happen. Jenny: And the thing is this on the surface, it seems so easy, doesn't it? Listening, actively listening, asking the right question, empathising, but actually in reality, this is my experience. People don't do it that well, like I remember going back to the conversation we had at the beginning was, I really felt heard, I felt understood. You know, within minutes of meeting you, I felt like I'd known you for years. So you obviously were putting all of that in place, to not only build the rapport, but also to make me feel that I actually was being heard and listened to. No one knew actually in my job that at the time, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. Now that added another layer to all of the political bollocks that was going on, you know, at the time. I look back on this and think you came into my life at the right time with the right skill set to help me and it wasn't just empathising. It was about making my business better. Getting all upset now. But going back to, I know that you feel passionate about sales management. And I do too, because actually, when I'm invited in to help account managers, I often realise that actually the problem doesn't lie with the account manager, it lies with the management.Marcus: Yeah, a fish rots from the head down, an old Russian proverb. And the pressure that you were under was astronomical, it was heartbreaking to watch as well, because it was utterly unfair. And what you were acting as for the rest of your team was a buffer. Now you were doing a great job of doing that. But it was exceptionally unfair and more often than not, it's because senior management is so fixated on the wrong things. And I put this down to a large extent to the work, their business model, because if you publicly listed and then you have to work towards quarterly reporting, and you have to keep your investors happy, which is not the way to build a long lived sustainable business that has strong fundamentals. And what you end up doing is creating a business that is chasing logos, chasing revenue, not profit, and isn't focused on the long term. They say that they are but the reality is, I mean, get this, depending on your industry, it costs somewhere between six and 21 times more to acquire a new customer than sell to an existing customer. If you're selling to an enterprise, the enterprise actually is a marketplace in and of itself. You have the organic growth, which is sell them something similar but different, more of the same. And then you have grow what you've got. Then you have their supply chain, you have their partner network. And again, most account managers are not really looking at that. It never crosses their mind. But if you ask for referrals into those organisations you can build your pipeline brilliantly. And alumni is another area. You can look at the organic structure of the family, so parent companies, sister companies, subsidiary companies, and all of those and also look at the customers’ customer. And why is it so few salespeople, whatever industry, are spending any time at all either on the supply chain and department network, or the customers’ customer, all of those could just as viably be customers or clients for you.  And part of the problem here is that leadership and management is fixated on the numbers. You cannot manage the numbers. The numbers are a byproduct of the behaviour of the inputs. And they're fixated on lagging indicators because by the time the revenue number comes in, you've already hit the iceberg and you’re two thirds of the way to the bottom of the Atlantic. I remember when when we first started working together, having these conversations with you trying to work out, okay, what is it that we need to be seen to be doing versus what we're actually going to do, so that we can get a strong foundation. You focusing on building the pipeline up, making sure prospecting was happening, making sure that you're having the right conversations with the ideal customers, because I remember there was a guy in your sales operations team, whose name sticks in my mind, and he ended up ploughing 3 million pounds worth of pointless pipeline into your business, that you could never win, but you had to go after it because your leadership had this idiotic lottery mentality, which is, you know, you've got to be in it to win it. No, you don't. You only want to be in the ones you can and will win, and you need to disqualify hard. And this is the other thing coming back to our rights. You have the right to say no. And don't go after to companies that are 72% fit your ideal customer only go after the companies that are 100% fit. In fact, my newsletter this month is exactly on this. I'm just finishing it now. And, you know, focus on your ideal customer. But to do that you have to know who your ideal customer is. And be clear about who your ideal customer is not, so you can say no. Don't get involved in those bids and tenders. Don't get involved in those proceeds. Because if they're not absolutely right, they will suck you dry. They'll ask for things that you can't deliver or that will be non core to your core customers. And they'll drag you in with complaints and frustration and they'll suck your leadership and management dry as well. Meanwhile your higher ups are sat there quietly counting the coin, and because they're working everybody to the point where they're burning out. That's crazy.Jenny: It was probably one of the most frustrating things for me, once again, we'd started working together was understanding, why are we qualifying, right? Because we didn't qualify, it was saying yes to everything, which obviously has an opportunity cost because it's putting a strain not only on the team, but also on the current clients that you've got back. So it I think I felt very sort of powerless. I mean, for agency owners that are in control of the qualifying process, I think the other downside is, if your business isn't strong, you don't have a strong cash flow. Don't forget, most of us are pricing on hours, number of hours rather than outputs or outcomes. So again, from a pricing perspective, you've got problems. And also from a positioning point of view, like you said before, we don't have a narrow enough focus a lot of the time and therefore you can't charge more. So I think there's lots of elements.Marcus:  In the absence of value, the conversation will descend to cost very quickly. And agencies, media companies across the board, whether you're web development, whether you're SEO, whether you're advertising, whether you're branding, whatever it happens to be digital, the conversation invariably turns into hourly rate in a very short space of time. And I remember I was working with our colleague Mike, and he was invited to pitch for a piece of business. And we worked on this response, which was WPP only sells at rate card, to every question when they were in this 19 way bid, 19 people and 19 different agencies, and they ended up winning it. And the point being, they only sold a rate card because it meant that they were in a position to offer the best service, because if you're not scrambling around for profit, because you're under pressure for that one as well, then you don't have to worry about where the next penny is going to come from. If you've got the right customers, you're serving them really well, you're focused on service, not servitude, and you see yourself as equal, then you can challenge them, you can bring your best people to bear. They're not being stretched on seven other bits that they shouldn't be involved in. Your creatives aren't being sucked from pillar to post. There are clear demarcation lines as to how often revisions can happen in order to ensure that the customer doesn't take the piss, because God knows they do. They have to be clear about their thinking and that's your job. That's a sales disability. And, you know, like I said, when the customer’s wrong it's often because it's our fault. We haven't established clear boundaries, we haven't established exactly what is required. And we haven't made clear the process to make sure that they don't flip flop and chop and change. And because I saw that in media all the time, for the last 20 years. I've seen agencies being dragged around by the scruff of the neck and being told, oh, well, why don't we focus on shampoo this week, so we're going to do body wash, and oh, no, we're going to move to toothpaste next, and so nothing ever gets done. And another really important skill is this whole process of contracting. It's agree the beginning, what you both intend to happen by the end, and make sure at the end, that someone is accountable.  One individual is responsible, with a date and a time by which they will deliver a certain piece of work or an action. The people who need to be consulted and informed are also identified. You understand who has high, medium or low influence over a decision and also understand the different cast of characters who are involved, so you have ultimate power. So sign off authority, you have decision makers, and there are many decision makers often. In an enterprise, on average, you're going to be somewhere between six and seven influencers and the account coverage is generally very poor. There needs to be someone with chief in their title ideally. Because if you're only dealing with managers they have to defer up for sign off. And you need to make sure that you are looking at the influencers, the recommenders, the specifiers, the technical buyers, the user buyer, the financial buyers, and this is stuff that most agencies do none of. They just go in blindly to take a brief and then come back four weeks later or two weeks later to do a load of free consulting. And then they wonder why their win loss rate is so terrible. And then they blame the customer. It's not the customers fault. You cannot blame prospects for doing something you never said they couldn't do. So tell people you don't get involved in beauty parades and bids, see how they respond and say no three times because if they really want you, then you've got some leverage. If they don't, and you’re just column fodder, which is what most agencies act as. And then all you're doing his free consulting because they're looking for you for the cheapest price. You know, Joe Bloggs up the road for the most innovative ideas and Fred Jones for best service and they give all three of those to their preferred supplier, and they get paid for all of your hard work.Jenny: You've shared so many tips for people responsible for new business in agencies, Marcus this is brilliant, and the benchmark data as well, which is fantastic. And this is professional selling. I'm interested to ask you one question, because it's been coming up quite a lot recently. When in an agency it goes from the new business team to the account management team? What should that transition look like to set the account manager up for success.Marcus:  First of all, you need to make sure that the relationships are handed over, so introductions need to be made from the new business to the account manager to all the different cast of characters. The expectations need to be documented and a cadence of regular contact needs to be put in place. I would look at a quarterly value review rather than a quarterly business review. Quarterly business review is typically where you turn up with your market stall and you try and pitch something else. A quarterly value review is about holding each other to account. It's about establishing right from the outset what their vision is over the next. 6/ 12/ 18/ 24/ 36/ 60 months and looking at the direction they're trying to take their business so that you can stay ahead of where they are. Making sure that your co developing a plan so if resource is required, identify what those resources will be, when they will be required, what the trigger points are and identify what budget is going to be required in order to be able to recruit them. Make sure that you understand the competitive landscape. So as an account manager with the new business person, what I would do is sit with the customer and spend time understanding the impact of their various competition. So not only your competition you need to understand, but I think you also need to understand your customers’ competition. If you understand the customers’ competition, then you can identify a whole raft of stuff. So, for example, you can identify what the facts are, what their products and services are, how well they perform, which markets they operate in, who their people are, how they're positioned, what their value proposition and pricing is, their accounts, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what their plans are. The question I always like to get an answer to is what is the weakness in their strength? Because if we can exploit that weakness in a competitive strength, then it allows us to start creating campaigns and messaging to exploit it. Now, the beauty of that is that you can start taking market share away from the competition, which is where you should be taking it from. And helping your customer to do that makes them look good. Your job is to always help make your customer the hero of your story. Stop talking about you, your agency, your past glories. No one cares. That's like showing photos of your ugly children to strangers. Focus on how you helped a client achieve their strategic objective. How they benefited from it, what they learned, what journey they went through, the ups and the downs. Because I think that makes a story real. Make sure that you are very clear in your messaging, how it serves them and that handover piece needs to encompass a lot of that. You need to understand where they've come from, where they are and where they're headed, and that needs to be part of the hand over. You need to have a regular cadence of meetings, typically every quarter where you get together on and you work out what's working, what isn't, what you need to do more of what you need to do less off. Every fortnight I would have what's called a re-con call with someone within the organisation as the account manager. Have them remind you what you agreed to do between now and the last time you spoke, or remember what it was like before you came in. Then what are you not doing? Well, what are they not happy with? Because you don't want mole hills to turn into mountains and if they've identified something, then give a commitment as to when you will come back with action. It's like when you go to a hotel and they ask you for feedback and you never hear back from them as to what they've done with that feedback. That's frustrating. So that's why you end up with 0.3% response rate. And, you know, that kind of response rate is awful. Who on earth would throw that much shit at the wall and hope just a fraction would stick. Customer surveys again be really careful about customer surveys because they are built in with intrinsic bias from the questions and often the customer survey questions are intended to try and make you look good. It's free form conversation, spontaneous conversation with customers that's got the really rich, useful data. Once you've identified the negatives and you've given a commitment when you'll come back and what action you will take, then ask what's changed for the better because that allows them to warm up and it sets you up for the next thing, which is where the opportunities for us to help you over the next 3/6/9/12 months. Because this is where they will tell you how to sell to them and what to sell to them and what are the next steps. So you always have to agree the next steps. Now, other things that you should be doing at the handover stage, you should make sure that you've done your research. You need to understand where this company is and the pressure that they're under. So two great sources of information, the annual reporting accounts section 1A is made up of all the blue sky bullshit the CEO and Chairman are peddling to their investors. Section 1B is the really interesting bit. This is all the caveats as to why Section 1A is full of lies. Now the other thing that you can do if you're selling to a publicly listed company is listen to the quarterly analyst calls where they're being taken through the gristmill and being held to account by the markets. You can get hold of those transcriptions and that will then tell you where you need to focus your attention to help them at a strategic level and stop selling advertising. Stop selling media.  All media is is a means by which they can get their work done or their job done and achieve their goals. You can probably save them money. I can save the money -  that puts us in competition. You can help them be more effective, more efficient, acquire new customers to grow, open new markets and those are the things that they care about.Jenny: It’s about helping them with solving their business problems. We're selling business outcomes and we're helping them not only from the business perspective, but from the personal perspective. Marcus, this has been absolute gold. You've just shared tip after tip after tip. I've been scribbling notes. I know that everyone's gonna take loads of value from this. You mentioned a few book recommendations, but apart from your podcast, obviously, to be listening to, are there any other book recommendations, particularly for account managers that you can think of? Because I know you're an avid reader.Marcus: ‘Just listen’ by Mark Goulston is a must read. I mean, if you just park the species, you should read it. ‘Talking to Crazy’ by him is also very good. And that's really dealing with your own demons first, because, as Philip Larkin put it, you know, they fuck you up your Mum and Dad they don't mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had and add some extra just for you.  And everybody that you know is a sick puppy, so understand that. I would read 'Essentialism' by Greg McEeown and the basic premise there is do less, but better on purpose. What you say no to is more important what you say yes to you. I would also read ‘Asking Questions’ by Antonio Garrido.Jenny: Oh my God, that is just such a good read.Marcus: I mean, it's a packed full of useful clickable technique. Quite fun. Jodi Williamson's ‘The Contrarian Salesman’ is a really good one as well. That's a little parable about the journey someone goes through to move away from the free consulting model to actually selling. ‘The Sales Coach's Playbook’ by Bill Bartlett is a must read.I would also suggest ‘The Road Less Stupid’ by Keith Cunningham which a fabulous read for managers and leaders. ‘The Right Use of Power’ by Peter Block is a fabulous read as well. Just trying to think I've been reading so many. Oh, ‘The Context Marketing Revolution’ by Matthew Sweezey and ‘Marketing Rebellion’ by Mark Schaefer because they all talk about humanising your marketing and personalising it. And the really important thing, let me give you a useful actionable item, ok? I have a framework for getting testimonials that tell the story that I want. Okay, so this is a testimonial template. Question one. Who are you and who do you serve? Question two. What problem initially caused you to invite me in to help you? Question three. What results have you had? I want pounds, shillings, pence percentages all that stuff - hard and soft. Okay. What initial reservations did you have about working with me? Because that helps me neutralise objections. What surprised you about working with me? Was it fun and would you recommend me? And why? If you look through my length in profile, you will see well over 100 testimonials that followed that framework and they’re that long, they’re a full page.Jenny:  I mean, that's so golden for anyone listening because they're not asking for testimonials or referrals. But when you do, having them structured that way obviously is a lot easier. I mean, I love a format or a framework anyway, but that's going to be so much easier for people looking to work with you, isn't it?Marcus: Well, people struggle to answer a statement, but they find it really easy to answer a question. Your brain is always looking for the answers to questions and you never suffered from writer's block. I mean, another good tip, if you're producing content. Virtually all my business comes from either content production, which makes the customer the hero and puts them in the story and enters the conversation they're already having. It comes through personal referral and warm introduction/ recommendation. And it comes from actually people seeing me do what I do either on podcasts or live events, that kind of thing or joining one of my classes. Now, if they see that, then they can experience it for themselves. They make up their own mind. The reality is that the most powerful content is the stuff that my customers write about me that's golden. I mean, the flurry of enquiries that come off the back of that, they are worth 10 times, 20 times a cold lead.Jenny: I absolutely agree. This has been so valuable not just for account managers, but also for agency leaders, owners. Because you're absolutely right. I mean, if you're not following Marcus, you should, because what he shared today has just been fantastic. But I know how active you are on LinkedIn and how much value you share for free markets. So to that point, where can people reach you? And who do you want to reach you as well?Marcus: Well, the people that I'm really interested in are owners and founders who want to grow their business by 200% per annum compound over a 5 to 8 year period. And they're not afraid of breaking the mould, breaking the rules. They need to be ambitious. They need to be honest. They need to be willing to take direction and they need to understand the difference between risking and sacrificing. Risking is going from lower to higher value with the possibility you might lose some or all  of what you've got. Sacrificing is going from high to low value, and there's no upside and most people confuse the two, and they spend their life in sacrifice. So what I'm looking for in particular are tech companies in the 10 to 50 million mark who are really looking to expand and they want to grow but build a really profitable, sustainable business with a long lived future where they secure lifetime customers. Where they are in control and they don't have to give away either equity or power to private equity or venture capital, who are the devil incarnate.Jenny: Brilliant. And if anyone wants to follow Marcus on LinkedIn, you spell Cauchi C A U C H I and any other email address or any contact details?Marcus: I’m on Twitter as @THE_Inquisitor. You can catch me on Facebook, although generally that's me just ranting and the Inquisitor podcast which is It's on Apple and Spotify and all other platforms on. If you really want to scale up, then the also available on Apple and Spotify.Jenny: Marcus, this has been fantastic. Thank you so so much for joining me. I know that everyone that listens to this is going to take loads of notes there’s loads of gold there. Thank you so much for sharing so much value.Marcus: The other thing is I’ve started a newsletter aptly called The Grumblers, so I'll send you the link for that as well. If anyone wants to get in time to get in touch. Jenny: You’re always approachable. Thank you so much. Marcus, this has been amazing. You are amazing. You are a legend.Marcus: Thank you. You are too.I hope you enjoyed my chat with Marcus. And if you don't want to miss an episode, please subscribe to the podcast. If you like it, I'd love it if you would leave a review. And if you don't love it, I would like to give me some feedback. Please send me an email to Thanks for listening.
Welcome to the Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast with me, Jenny Plant from Account Management Skills Training. I'm on a mission to help those in agency client service keep andgrow their existing relationships. So their agency business can thriveWelcome to Episode two of the Creative Agency Account Manager podcast. Today I'm thrilled to speak to Tina Fegent. Tina is a marketing procurement consultant with 28 years experience, and the great thing about Tina is she's worked for agencies but also for clients, and she's going to tell you a bit about that. There are loads of golden nuggets for you in this episode, and I really hope you enjoy it. She's going to cover what she sees has changed in terms of procuring services with remote pitching, and some of the trends she's seeing. We're recording this in August 2020. She going to share her views on the latest IPA report about the future of  account management. She's going to talk to us about why you need to be developing relationships with procurement and some brilliant insider tips on what to do during a pitch. And there were loads more nuggets of wisdom that she shares with us. So grab a pen and take some notes, because I think it's really valuable stuff. A side note, there's a bit of background noise in this episode, which I hope is not too distracting. We happened to record it on one of the hottest days of the year in August 2020 and we have Windows open and fans on, so I hope it doesn't distract from the core of this episode, and you come away with some value. Jenny: All right, well, I am thrilled to have as my second guest Tina Fegent, who is a marketing procurement consultant with over 25 years experience and I first met Tina probably a couple of years ago. We had a few coffees together didn't we, but the moment that I remember the most was when we were walking into the IPA conference business conference together like being with a rock star. Everyone was like Tina, Tina, you're so popular.So she knows everyone in the industry, and a couple of things that stand out for me before I asked her to introduce herself is she has worked both agency and clients site, so she's got really good understanding of you know how things work on both sides of the fence, which I think is really insightful for us. The second point is, she's very active in the marketing procurement community, and she's sort of got leadership quality. She's always posting articles, she writes for Campaign magazine, so she really shares her voice and lends her voice. So she's very inspiring. I've already listened to a couple of podcasts with her before. Super impressive and, yeah, I'm really excited about getting her views on things and just diving into the interview. So, Tina, welcome.Tina: Thank you, Jenny.Jenny: That's all right. Perhaps you could spend a couple of minutes just introducing yourself - anything that I've missed.Tina: I am honoured to be the second guest on your podcast. Thank you for the kind intro. So yes, I've got over 25 years on this but that makes me sound a bit old if I'm getting toward 30 years. So firstly in marketing procurement, when I worked for Cellnet, I don't if your listeners will know but that is now Telefonica. I got there and, again, for the older generation, the user guides for mobile phones used to be really big and massive. I got there and the advertising agency was buying them.  I was, like, from a procurement point of view, you know, can I look at going direct, and it was a 50% saving, so that's why I go into market procurement. And at that time, hardly anybody else was looking at marketing procurement globally. I think the guys at Guinness were, and Natwest were, so yes, I have always been in procurement.  I worked for SmithKlineBeecham, Ribena vending machines and Lucozade. Then I went to Orange. I had a fantastic time there, I still have my Orange number and I can't bear to move away from the Orange/EE network.  Then I went to with two advertising agencies as a commercial director, so quite an interesting, quite a shock to then work agency-side. I've never worked so hard in my life, but great insight from the point of view as commercial director and I started my own consultancy 14 years ago actually. Actually, to begin with, for agencies but to get involved with clients that could be with CMOs, pitches, could be reviewing the whole agency base, mentoring for procurement people and actually I do a bit of agency work as well, and obviously you and I have worked recently on a client. So looking at tenders, doing trade and stuff like that. I chair our trade body CIPS and I chair the marketing group there.  So, yes, I've been doing it for 25 years now.Jenny: It is so impressive. And I think what we forgot to mention, which I was hoping you would, but you were voted one of the most powerful people in advertising. You were the first marketed procurement person to be voted most powerful by Campaign magazine, right?Tina: Yeah, really. I was really touched. 2017 to being included, and I've been in there every year since and I think last year I got 'good egg' rating, so really good from a procurement point of view that the trade press thinks that, actually, and you said, you know, I just spent quite a lot of my time talking about good procurement, you know?Jenny: Well done, honestly. Before I get on to the questions,  just something you said there that you were brought in by a couple of agencies to be commercial director. And just for those maybe agency leaders thinking about, is there a need for a commercial director that has a better understanding of procurement? So can you talk a bit about what your role actually was in that commercial director role?Tina: Yeah, I think it's a great question because actually you've got FDs? And, if you've got FDs, why do you need a commercial person? But I think in my two roles I just got a different slant and I think, you know, you are facing procurement more and more as an agency, and I think agency land can be very negative about procurement. They don't want them there. So I think FDs, rightly or wrongly, haven't always got the relevant experience to know how to work procurement and are often more internally focused. So I think my roles were both internal and external when I was agency side. Actually, I've been surprised how there is still quite a lack of procurement people, agency side, but actually, you need to have people that understand the interface with the client side, you know, it's not just about doing fees. It's about doing quarterly commercial reviews , it's being practical on your spend and actually if you've got a client question that sort of stuff, to have someone on the agency side that is attuned to everything that's come from it is a difficult mindset from Finance, so I do think agencies could look to invest in that support not necessarily in a full time role, but I think with an increased level of understanding of procurement, that's what my role was, when I was agency side.Jenny:  It's really interesting you say that because I've been thinking about this for a long, long time. Agency leaders who go into a traditional kind of negotiation with procurement. My understanding is procurement people typically are very well versed in negotiation skills. The training is a lot more comprehensive. Is that right?Tina: Yes. I mean, you know, we are trained in procurement, we've all done negotiation training and agencies often haven't. It could be little nuggets, like reading things upside down. You know, we might look at someones notepad and have they got, you know, their rates or 'musn't go lower', things like that. You know, having time out when you're in negotiation, you see the agency person getting redder and redder. We can say 'we'll have time out'. We go away talk about the options. We would have prepared. We would have had two or three scenarios, terms like 'MDO', most desired offer,  but it does cut the negotiation process down to like an hour. Yeah. No, I totally agree, Jenny. I think it is an art.Jenny: I think it sounds like it absolutely would be, because the investment that you put into some kind of advice from a procurement specialist would ultimately save you money in the long term, couldn't it? These tiny little things, all of these things add up. Just talking about your procurement services at the moment and the types of consultancy pieces that you've been involved with lately. Obviously, we're recording this mid August 2020. We're in the middle of a pandemic, the Covid 19 situation, we're starting to come out of lock down. Just curious to know what have you seen, if anything, of different trends that are happening recently that maybe as a result of the pandemic have caused I don't know, companies to put a procurement process in place to kind of look at their supply list.Tina: Yeah, I think what I've seen is that procurement has moved up the supply chain, as it were. So I was interviewing for another conference the head of procurement for M&S and he was saying he's now dealing with C Suite on a more regular basis because, and I know listeners are going to hate it, but it was about cost savings. It had to be, you know, because the food part carried on and pushed the fashion side off. But you know, I've found  colleagues in banks and FMCG, they've all been really, really busy because I think it has helped cement their role in that they are a key player. I think before we've always had a bit of a chip on our shoulder that you don't often have someone at board level. If you're involved in indirect procurement, these things are not always involved at manufacturing level. Spending direct, so if you work for Diageo, the oats to make the Guinness and the tin cans. Indirect will be marketing, HR, IT services, so obviously marketing is indirect procurement.  We're often sometimes not on the board, so I think what's happened coming out of this from a procurement point of view is it's elevated the role and actually a lot of my procurement clients say they've never been so busy. Because people are coming to them. There's been a recapitalisation of suppliers again, the M&S chap was saying that he spent a long time prioritising their suppliers, Tier 1  and Tier 2.  And then what happens is, at a level above that's pandemic criticial, so for example pest control.  It's not a marketing example, but actually, he would never put them as Tie 1 or tier 2 supplier. Of course, now come the pandemic they are now critical. So it's really interesting how they categorise their suppliers. So I think, you know, it's really been elevated in stages. I think it's maybe think about the strategic partnerships. Agencies have responded on the whole really well. There's been a few that I've heard that haven't done as great, you know, taking a month or two to ring up the clients. But on the whole, you know, agencies I think have really stepped in and again we used the word partnership it's a word at procurement we hate and agencies love it, but I think we have seen a lot of partnerships really come to the forefront where those key strategic relationships with the clients that are continuing to invest, or maybe having to cut back but make money work a bit harder because there's obviously not point going on outdoor and cinema when no one's around, I thinkit  really bear fruition because I think those were in the trenches together,  will really help.  And also I've been very busy during this period with pitches, doing them virtually online. I do think that at one stage you do need to have a face to face because marketing is a people business. Much as we're all experts in Zoom etc and Teams now, I do think we do need that degree of face to face. But I think clients have been more available as they're not travelling, they're not spending an hour and half each way. The pitches that I've been involved in, the clients have been much more open to having more time, we've had two or three meetings where usually you'd have perhaps one, trying to get everyone involved. It's easy to get a guy from New York to dial in.   I think, it's been positive, on the negative side unfortunately there's redundancies and I've got CMO clients that are now having to look around. It's mid August, the furlough scheme has started to come to an end.  So that's sad to see, on agency side. But we'll come out of it whenever  and I think relationships will be stronger and deeper and we will have different ways of working? However they evolve, it will be great. You just got to try and look at the positives and work together on this sort of thing.Jenny: You mentioned the agencies have been responding really well in terms of partnering with their clients. Can you give us a couple of examples? Have they been sort of more flexible with payment terms or, I don't know, just stepping up to offer more advice or more direction, what kinds of things that they've been doing differently?Tina: Yeah, I think it's all of that. It's like, 'we were going to spend £5 million on media but it might be 5, it might be two and half, it might be one' . So let's go through some more modelling on the media side. I've seen agency come back and say 'actually we've look at this technology and we could do this online experience'. Or I talked to a retail client last week that actually have done an experience with their media cost two weeks ago. So, yeah, I think they've been really practical, I think they been looking at what other clients have been doing. Obviously each client has been in their own bubble. But, you know, we're looking at what's a Bank doing FMCG, versus Manufacture? I think they've been really helpful in terms of saying 'look, you know, this is what other clients are doing',  and then having discussions about what happens to the staff, because staff did need to be furloughed, so working with clients on what works best. Some clients obviously had their spend cut,  some have carried on spending,  some have reduced, but they will come back. They will remember the agencies that work with them. It's always been about being proactive, you know, a good agency, a good account person is someone who is proactive, and I think on the whole its been really good to during this pandemic, people have stepped up.Jenny: That's excellent. You mentioned before that one of the key skills for an account manager off the relationship is pro activity just sort of expanding on that? Given your number of years in the business, what other skills do you think are key for a really good account manager?Tina: Being proactive, I think being able to hold senior level discussions. I think that's the big crux of the IPA report. But being able to deal with senior people. I think, being financially aware, I think that is an area that could be improved in terms of having those 'why are we all doing this?' (conversations).  Magic logic, which is now 15 years ago, said, it's about getting profitable ideas that work for both sides. Why is the client investing the money in that PR, that digital, that event? Because they need to drive sales.  agrees it. An account person who's not even focussed that well, how can they deliver for the client?  So I think it's being able to have the dialogue with senior people on the client side,  being financially aware and I think also management, because I think their role is very much about co-ordinating  agency's resource because they take the brief, go out and work with the creative, production, planners etc to deliver what is right for that client. But being able to manage, to be to coordinate and effect change, deliver for that client is really key, and to have that client top of mind. It's obviously being able to deliver for the agency as well, you can’t deliver for the client at 0% profit because you’re not delivering for the agency then. It's making sure you can get the skills of the agency resources to deliver to match the client's brief on time and in line with the budget as well. And that is a skill. It does take a skill to do that, and I think account managers, the right ones, are really, really good. At the end of the day the key one is being  focussed on the client’s business. That's what is top of their mind.Jenny: I'm sure you know Tim Williams from Ignition Consulting Group, he delivered a report for the AAA between agencies and clients. It was a huge global study and it was sponsored by a lot of the marketing bodies globally. But one of the questions was, What are you actually selling? You know, as an agency and all the answers came back from agencies saying creativity, strategy, people, solutions. And the outcome was you are selling business outcomes. You know, just as you said, what are the business outcomes that the client is going to receive as a result of working with you? So, I love that you brought up that point.Tina: Yeah, I think you know, agencies, we focus on the awards sometimes, you know? Okay, everyone likes award winning work.  But it’s exactly that, why is the client spending money with you? You have to be focused on that. When I worked agency side one of the most focussed teams in one of the agencies that I worked with was the one that had a bonus linked to how the advertising worked. And they were the most focussed ones in terms of ‘ok, that ad’s gone out.  Where’s the data from you and where are we?’. Because they could see what was working. Obviously, these days, that's a lot easier to do with digital work but you’ve got to think why is client spending this money with you, it’s not a vane project. Even more so coming out of this period, about investment, we’ve got to talk to a procurement client, she works across five markets and she says, right we’re going to spend money as a whole now. So if France needs upweighting we will look at that, as opposed to five markets doing their own separate work. I think there’ll be a bigger fight for the money but I think there’ll be more focussed activity and making sure the work and the budgets go further than they ever did.Jenny: That's a really good point, actually. You mentioned just earlier on about the latest report that came out. So this was a report that's just come out from the IPA commissioned by the IPA by Hall and Partners called the Future of Account management. And for those of you haven't read it, there were four key reasons for this report was coming out. One, we're losing talent to tech and management consultancies.Two, the value of account management needs redefining. Three, there's a growing need to collaborate across different agencies and four, obviously with the new normal with Covid and the economic impact we’re having to do more with less. So just curious to bring you in on this at this point about having to define the value that an account manager brings to clients, you know. Do you think clients see the value in account management?Tina: I think they do. I was quite surprised by that report. I felt it was quite light in places and I was quite surprised. And there was a silly quote from a procurement person, and I’d like to know who they interviewed as I wouldn’t mind speaking to that procurement person themselves. I actually just looked back to the pitches I’ve done over the last few months to see potentially what was the cost of account management, and it was 20%. So actually in terms of costs versus creative account has a key role to play. My points are there are too many. In these pitches I said, there were twelve job titles in account management, ranging from Chief Executive to Account Exec. To me, what is the difference between a senior account manager and a junior account director? There’s absolutely no difference. You do not need twelve roles in account management. So I think they have a great role to play  but I think there needs to be less of them. I think they need to be more senior and I think they need to be more focussed. The best one, James Murphy, I’ve got his number on my mobile phone and you see him with clients and he’s on it. He knows it, he’s in with the C-Suite. He’s on it with the clients but I can still ring him up and have a discussion about their fees and have a bit of a laugh as well. And you see him interacting with clients and why do you need - there are obviously good people that he’s worked with at other agencies, in case any of them are listening! - if you’ve got him and the support of one or two others, why do you need  six different people in account management? The poor account exec on £45 per hour is arranging the meetings and organising the lunches from Pret’s, when they all go back into the offices, but I think they have a great role to play. I do think the IPA report underplays it. I do think they missed a few bits. I think they need to be more commercially aware, more focussed and be able to have those senior level discussions.Jenny: And asking the right questions, presumably, because I think one of the other things I hadn't realised was that the chief brand officer for P and G, Mark Pritchard, said, I think this was a couple of years ago, that they wanted less account managers for their agencies and more creative. It seems to me that account management generally is in the spotlight right now, isn't it?Tina: Yeah. Yeah, I'm surprised, I think it has a great role to play.  I just wondered what the premise behind the IPA report was. If you look at when they did the study it was end of last year. Ok, I think they do acknowledge that things have changed but for me, I was quite surprised.I’ve always felt, and I know my counterparts do, that account management has a great role to play. We would just often question, obviously, the number of roles, their rate. Sometimes you need so many, it’s more about their value and their contribution. Jenny: Why do you think that agencies put so many levels of account management forward?Tina: The common complaint from clients that go to a meeting is there’s four from the agency, and they don't want to pay for that. I do hear that more and more.  I think from an agency point of view, it’s covering everything. To have account managers and accounts execs there, the learning. But the client shouldn’t pay for that. It could be with a negotiation you need two ears, four ears? It could be that as well. They are on the account, they have been paid for. Those agencies lucky enough to have a retainer, they justify the hours, maybe? I think on the whole it’s good intentions, but in the last few years, clients have started to say, I don’t want to pay for them. But it’s been interesting because you don’t have those same levels - look at planning - head of planning, senior planner, junior planner. Creative - executive creative director, creative director, medium. Production - the same. I think it’s come out of salaries, pay rises, and that’s why it’s blossomed into more job titles.Jenny: I think you're right. I think some agencies use as how are we going to have a promotional pathway for you and we create these different levels so that you feel that you're progressing in your career.  I see a huge amount of disparity between when I worked with different agencies. If you have a title of account director often for me, it's not consistent. There's no consistency like you say.Tina: Yeah, that's where it falls down on. If you've got an account director, I remember working for a media agency quite a few years ago for a bank and their argument was, our account director is five years more experienced than Agencies , 2 and 3. And it’s a fair point. That’s why I think the auctions are really awful as you don’t account for that. But who is educated in the fact that their account director is five years more experience than other agencies?Jenny: Well, I was going to ask you actually. To that point, do you think agencies that want to put forward during the pitch process their different levels of account management should spend more time helping the client understand the value of each of those levels, or certainly the role of each levels in more detail.Tina: I think it’s hard in a pitch process because obviously you’re in front of a senior person and one other. Obviously for a large account in the pitches I’ve actually been having discussions before the pitch. Fair discussions in which you can say, actually account management is 35%, the other agencies are 25%, why is that? They’d say, ‘based on our experience we think we need additional heads’. I think once the agency does their initial structure then it’s not just down to procurement, it’s down to the marketing client as well. Sometimes they’re left alone to look at the commercial side and actually before you know it the client’s like ‘why have I got all these account people?’. Procurement needs to engage with their marketing clients in any pitch proces and say, this is the structure they’ve sent, what do you think? You’ve got your past agency, you know what you have been paying and the structure of it and you should use that as a benchmark as well. It’s good to have that regular dialogue and then if you’ve got that commercial paperwork you can review that and say ‘ well, this did have some side projects - two gold, two silver, one bronze’ and we had these five people but actually now five goals actually need to upgrade it and rethink the structure.Jenny: That's a really good point, actually. Going back a step to pitching because obviously we're doing virtual pitching now, you've seen many, many pitch performances on part of agencies in your time. I'm curious to know, where do you see really standout performances from account management? Can you give us a couple of examples of where it really has shone and the client's turned round and gone ‘wow’?Tina: I think it’s someone who is managing the process. Be it face to face, be it online, in the pitch process the account manager is the one in charge. The best examples of the ones I deal with is someone who is the conductor of the orchestra. Is on top of it, they’ve got the tech set up. They know who’s talking at what time, who’s got what role. Watching the client, that is key. Are they getting restless, are they doing their emails? What are they engaging in? Recently on one pitch the account manager said, let’s stop now. He was quite good, he had a picture of a pipe, or something, and it means let’s have a break. He was really good at questioning, saying ‘what do you think?’. ‘Where are we, how are we going?’ That’s great brave to do during a pitch because the client could say they don’t like it and you’ve got another two hours to go! So it’s someone who is in charge, who’s managing it, who’s watching the client but also making sure the agency are on top of it. Keeping to time, because that’s my pet hate. Be it an hour, be it three hours, making sure everything runs smoothly. Knowing the client, someone who’s done their research. I say to agencies, have you looked up the procurement person on LinkedIn? When you know your audience, and if you know that Johnny who’s at Client X used to work at Client Y, you can get the SP on it and ask, are they allergic to nuts, or whatever. I think that’s where agencies fall down generally is on having that level of engagement with procurement on a par with marketing. I think in pitches that is often true that, sometimes we have to bust our way into a pitch, its often the front part of the pitch process and obviously we can’t score as well as the client’s do on strategy but not to have done your research, is where they fall down. Not addressing procurement in the pitch, treating procurement as one of the team. Often agencies don’t do that, they might ignore the procurement person totally, some might ask a silly question, but a good account person will fudge it. Please don’t leave the procurement section to the last budget slide. Even engage them beforehand, do not leave it to the pitch. Even if they are not in the briefing process, do we need to engage with procurement - get it over and done with! If they are one of these procurement people who’s all about ‘the computer says no’ and it’s all about costs, at least you know that. Procurement shouldn’t be the lead, obviously, they should be there to support. But if it is a very costed out client, you might not have got that from the marketing people. Engagement early with procurement as soon as you can in the pitch process as well. Jenny: There's so many good, valuable tips there. Thank you for sharing. Honestly, I think that's like, I hope people were taking notes. One of the things you said earlier on, which I feel quite passionate about is the role of account management is a lot of the time about picking up on those subtleties of what's happening in a meeting and knowing when to shut up, when to speak, when to lead, when to step in. So I'm really glad you brought that bit up because that's the kind of softer element, but gets so overlooked and so taken, you know, for granted or feeling like that's not really important. But for me, I suppose, throughout my career over 30 years, it's the one thing that I've witnessed time and time again is where an account manager pays for themselves. You know, it's knowing what to do. It's having that sensitivity.Tina: And learning to read upside down! Say if there’s a scoring sheet, any agencies listening, I hate you sitting next to me on pitches, but you should sit next to me on pitches because you’ll be able to see what I’m writing! That’s why I don’t like it. Jenny: You mentioned earlier on and this is one of my questions, was I think for a lot of account people, there's a little bit of not fear exactly, but wondering how to engage with procurement. So you mentioned before, you know, make sure you know who they are. Connect with them on LinkedIn. Find out much as you can, develop a relationship. Tell us a bit more about that and where you see the value of account management actually creating relationships with the procurement team. Tina: Yeah, I think it's not just in the pitch process, you know, it’s for life. And that’s where I see the biggest fall down for agencies. Procurement often get involved in the pitch but then obviously agencies don’t often see them. So my biggest tip for agencies, let them see you look them on LinkedIn, you might get scored for looking them up on LinkedIn, you never know. Clients do talk about, ‘did you get that box of biscuits after the pitch?’. I know we have a ethics register, but treat the procurement person, within the ethics. Look them up, do as you would with marketing but be a bit more vocal about it. Treat them as an equal throughout any part of the process because they are as important as a marketing person. Post pitch have a level of engagement with them, and that’s where agencies fall down time and time again. I have for years said to any agencies that I’ve worked with, have a procurement club, have a procurement quarterly session. Ok, it could be a bit dangerous to get all your procurement clients in one room every quarter, but hardly any of them have done it and I just think, you’re really missing a trick. Or when they, when we did go out and go to events, I’m lucky to get invited to them, I rarely see a procurement person at them. I say to the client organiser, have you invited them? Sometimes they have, sometimes they just haven’t. Christmas party, are we going to be the ones asking, how much is that costing? Have a joke about it! Procurement’s here, put the vodka away! It’s pre-pitch, get the SP on them, LinkingIn with them, have that dialogue. But for me, it’s more important post pitch. The ones where you can give them a ring afterwards. I think agencies have got better at it. I think there’s still room for improvement, have that quarterly dialogue and have something where they can come out and understand how we do our process for X, it’s valuable.Jenny: I absolutely love that, and that's invaluable for agencies. I think it's great advice, thank you. I suppose, also, it's in the agency's interest, isn't it? If they did have those quarterly catch ups, it's also like a forum to be able to tell them what else is going on with their agency. What other services perhaps they got. Maybe they've made an acquisition and they have more things to offer.Tina: With my clients I do a quarterly review programme. And we also do an agency review programme where we score each other as well. In the quarterly commercials we’ve got a fixed agenda and it’s ‘what’s new with you and what’s new with us?’. One of my clients has been bought by somebody, so we talk about that. In the meantime, the agency’s actually been merged with another agency. I think you’re exactly right, Jenny, what’s new, let’s look at the scope, let’s look at the resource, what’s proactive? It just gives you that regular dialogue. Jenny: Absolutely. Like you said at the beginning, these people that are now may be on the C suite, the chief procurement officers, they're going to know what's going on at a business level, aren't they? So that their whole procurement team are gonna be updated on that? So it's a regular forum that agencies can have with their procurement contact to understand what's going on with the business, what are the business challenges, what's important. What are the strategic imperatives this year? And then they could look more forward thinking to think, how are we going to develop our services in order for us to tackle those challenges for the client.Tina: Totally agree? While I think agencies shouldn’t worry about consultancies because they haven’t made the impact that everyone was worried about 18 months years ago, they are very good at that C-Suite relationship. And agencies do fall down on that.  It’s easy to do. You’ve got a client that you’ve had for two, three, four years. People move but it doesn't take much to pick up the phone or have a cup of coffee. And to have that regular dialogue.  Jenny: Again, fantastic advice. Great reminder for agency account managers to think about that. I've been talking about this for a long time because obviously you know this, that in the landscape the Accentures of this world are becoming a hugely inquisitive aren’t they?. They're acquiring the creative arms. So I kind of thought to myself, it's only a matter of time before these highly skilled, more business consultancy type leads in management consultants are going to shine and be able to do the whole spectrum of services. Not just business consultancy, but all the way through to creative strategy concepts, you know, and all the tactics. So they haven't made the impact that you expected them to, though that's interesting. Why do you think. Can you give us an example?Tina: I can’t name names, but in terms of presenting in pitches, the overall package has been really difficult to fulfill or become cost-prohibitive. Don’t forget, consultancy is a lot more expensive than agencies. I do think agencies have reacted, agencies have sharpened their pencil a bit in terms of senior people. In terms of strategic insight, planning. I think in a way it’s helped, it has made many agencies step up to the table a bit more. I think agencies are very inward looking. Sometimes they should be more externally focussed. I do think the reason we haven’t seen such a big impact over here in the UK is that agencies have stepped up as well and thought, let’s get more at the table with the C-Suite. Jenny:  It's interesting because I think we were at the same conference. The IPA conference when Lisa Thomas spoke. Remember, she's head of Brand for Virgin, but she also interestingly she used to work for MC Saatchi. Like you, she's got two sides of the coin, and I just remember that moment when she almost, like, turned to the audience and she waved her finger because she’s sat in boardrooms now and she said, ‘we're not talking about creative in boardrooms. We're talking business outcomes and business challenges and business. If you want to see on the table, you need to speak our language’. And so I thought it was brilliant. I've quoted that quote so many times. That isTina: That’s the role of account managers. That’s why the IPA paper missed a bit of a trick there in terms of, exactly Jenny, that's exactly what Lisa said. Step up, know your numbers go on some commercial courses, go on a negotiation course. I recently did Mark Ritson’s Mini MBAJenny: How’s that going?Tina:  It was really good. I didn’t do the exam unfortunately as I was so busy but from a procurement point of view, and even though I’ve got 25 years experience, to learn from Mark and understand the strategic side of marketing. Obviously we see the tactical end, so if account people could sharpen that finance. Go and spend time with the client, sit in those boardroom meetings and that’s exactly what account management’s role is, to translate that back to their organisation. To say look, they’re really struggling because of Covid, because of supply and demand. For me that’s why account management has a great role to play. I’m not sure what that procurement person from the IPA report has been doing, have they been on planet Mars?Jenny: I think you mentioned this at the beginning. You said, I know procurement have a bit of a bad rap sometimes, and I suppose it's, you know, comments like that that have been taken out of context or highlighted in a place where they perhaps shouldn't. It's a shame, actually, because you're right and procurement are the ones that understand that commercial side of the business, isn't it? I think this is really valuable for agency account managers to hear. I really do, because you're absolutely spot on. I mean, do you have any other advice other than the stuff that you mentioned already about, you know, talking strategy, thinking about the commercials, the business acumen that you need to acquire, Perhaps looking at one of those, you know, the Mark Ritson. Do you recommend the Mini MBA?Tina: It’s the Mini MBA in Marketing. It’s very good from a marketing point of view, but obviously not money-wise. It's definitely worth looking at investing in training. CIPs, our trade body, we’ve worked on guides with the IPA that will be launching in September 2020. Look out for those. For me, it’s commerciality, invest in understanding a client’s business and how to work with more senior people and be credible. Be deeper with your clients, knowledge and, we call it, stakeholder management. To be able to deal with your internal stakeholders is one thing, but to be able to speak boardroom language, it’s a different thing.Jenny: I echo this as well. It's all about having a relationship development strategy and also confidence. You know, I train account managers, account directors, and one of the things that keeps coming up is this lack of confidence. So there's no wonder that they're not having a dialogue at that level. And there's lots of factors involved in that. It’s knowledge of the client's business, their industry,  what's changing, trends, but also and I love your view on this. Many account managers, account directors have this dual function. They're half kind of project, managing the projects on also half being expected to be the ambassador for the agency and develop and grow that piece of business, have that commercial point of view and also look at what's changing on the client side in terms of their business. And often it's conflicted because the project management side of their role, you know, they're inundated with just getting stuff done. And it goes probably to the detriment of spending time, understanding the client and nurturing the client and looking further ahead. So, Tina, this has been fantastic. Really, really brilliant. I'm very conscious of your time, Tina, where can people reach you? And who would you like to be contacted by? If anyone hears for anything you've said which has been absolute gold and they want to talk further with you.Tina: Thank you, Jenny, that's very kind.  There’s my website which is and you’ll find my contact details. As Jenny said, I’m on LinkedIn a bit,  sometimes on Twitter. I'm happy, I don’t want to open the floodgates to a load of agencies, but I'm always happy to have an approach from an agency and, when I've got time, to have a chat. It’s a hard market out there, I think, but I’ve enjoyed our chat, Jenny, and hopefully it’s given your listeners some perspective from the role of the procurement person.Jenny: It really, really has. It truly has. Thank you so much, Tina. Really appreciate your time. Thank you.I hope you enjoyed that episode. If you'd like more details about how you can position yourself more as a trusted advisor with your clients, then head over to where you’ll have more information about a course I'm running. It's a three month programme and it's to help you go from unpredictable project revenue to more predictable account growth, and this is specifically for agency account managers.
Welcome to the Creative Agency Account Manager Podcast with me, Jenny Plant, from Account Management Skills Training. I'm on a mission to help those in agency client service keep and growing the existing client relationships, so their agency business can thrive.Welcome to episode one of my first ever podcast. I'm thrilled to have as my first guest a client, and it's Kate Whittaker and she works at DUAL International, and she's head of corporate communications. And Kate is going to share with us what she looks for when selecting an agency - what to avoid when trying to prospect by cold calling clients, why you should be asking your clients for more referrals and then how to get access to even more of your clients once you're embedded in a client organisation. Also, she's going to share some top tips for building really strong client relationships. So I really enjoyed this chat. I hope you get some value. The sound isn't great in places, but I'm working on this. I'm also working on my interview techniques so hopefully with every episode it's going to get better. So now let's go to the interview. So today I'm really, really excited about Kate Whittaker joining me. Kate is head of corporate communications at DUAL, and she has three decades of experience working in marketing communications and loads of experience managing agency relationships. And I think it's really exciting to get the perspective from a client, really, about the role of an agency account manager. So I'm just going to ask Kate to introduce herself. Kate, welcome to the show,Kate: Thank you very much, Jenny. I'm really delighted to be here with you although, of course, we're not actually together. So, I'm head of corporate communications for DUAL Group and we're a global insurance group in 16 countries. But we're just about 700 people or so, so it's very personal and friendly. My role is a mix of communications and marketing, which makes it very varied and interesting. So as, Jenny said, I've been working in marketing for around 30 years in a mix of UK and international roles. These have mainly being client side, so I've worked with agencies throughout that time. And one of the reasons I'm really pleased you've asked me here today, Jenny, is I just don't think enough can be done to bring clients and agencies together, working in partnership, and  anything I could do to help that process I am delighted to contribute. Until this role at DUAL, I was a branding marketing consultant for around 15 years, and very often this involved reviewing agency rosters and also running agency selection process, so I hope I've lots to say today.Jenny: Honestly, Kate, I know that you have because, what I failed to mention that the beginning, was that Kate and I met each other about a year ago at an Agencynomics event and I was invited to facilitate a discussion panel, and Kate was one of the guests. We had about four or five agency people and Kate was the token client, and that discussion was so rich and so brilliant and there were agency owners in the audience furiously taking notes and going away with lots of new ideas. So I know that this is going to be a great discussion. And, by the way, if anyone hasn't joined Agencynomics and they're in charge of an agency, I'm going to put an invitation link in the show notes. If you are an agency owner and you have three employees minimum, then it's one of the largest free agency owner communities that there is, and it's a very thriving community. So, Kate, obviously you've got a huge amount of experience as you say, 15 years as a brand marketing consultant as well as the role that you're in currently. So let's start from the beginning. How did you select your agencies, and in that selection process I also am interested to know if you were approached by agencies and whether you still are. So what does that initial process looked like?Kate: So, obviously it varies from company to company. But to my mind, the common theme for me is I'm looking for a partner to work with. So the selection process is about being clear and transparent about what you need as a client, and what you're expecting the agency to bring to that relationship. I remember in my first few roles, back in the day, the creative directors' agencies were treated like royalty, and woebetide any client who questioned their thinking. Thankfully, those times behind us now, and it is really or should be about partnership. I think that the client agency meeting should be a single team coming together with common goals, but you're bringing different areas of expertise because otherwise why would you be working with them? So you know, if you're not looking forward to the meetings you have with your agency or with your client, I think there's something that needs fixing. So back to agency selection, typically it had a creative brief, and I'm a massive believer as you know, Jenny, in a clear and comprehensive brief. So we set out our selection criteria and make them very transparent, so every agency knows the points we will be considering that they need to address in their pitch for our business. And the main things I look for are quality of thinking and the ability to provide constructive challenge. Really, possibly because I'm in a more specialist B2B area, I rarely asked agencies to create new creative because I think it's very time consuming and I want their time to be focused on the quality of thinking and strategic direction, but I do like to see campaigns and case studies from previous clients to really understand what the objectives were. what was the brief, and what were the results. If you're an agency and you're looking for new clients my absolute top tip is really do your research. And I know this because I'm on a prospect list somewhere that agencies must be buying that actually list me as working for the Howden Broking Group, which is one of our sister companies. I regularly get emails maybe not every week, but several times a month from agencies promising to transform Howden's marketing and all they would have had to do is a simple check on LinkedIn to see that I don't actually work there and that we're not a broker. I think if you're doing cold calling, my other top tip is take the time to ask if now's a good time to talk. I  get cold calls really quite often and it's so rare that someone ask if it's a good time to talk before they launch into a sales pitch. And that just sets me on edge to start with, so those are my two top tips.Jenny: Kate, I was just going to say there's a few things there already that you've said, which I think are really useful. First of all, I love the fact that you don't ask for new creative at a pitch, because I know that's a little bit of a bone of contention for many agencies because a lot of work goes into pitches generally, and often for like a one in four chance of winning, so a lot of time and effort goes in.  It's nice to hear that you don't necessarily want to see brand new creative, but you do want to see examples of work. The other thing that you said, which I thought was really lovely about agency selection, was you're looking for quality thinking and also constructive challenge. So it almost invites the agency to participate in strategy and also to question things. And it's nice that you welcome that approach from agencies as well. But, this is really useful, this how to approach you and there's some brilliant examples there of 'do you research' because I get pitched myself and, you know, if they don't even take the time to understand what you're doing currently, it's just it's a no go, isn't it? Just interested, when you said you were approached, did you say you're on an email list? Do you tend to get approached on email more than anything else, like LinkedIn, for example, do you get pitched in LinkedIn?Kate: Probably more on email, actually, and on LinkedIn if I get a request, obviously I'm gonna look at who has sent that request and see where the connections are that they've and if it's people I know and value, and that will usually persuade me to accept the request to connect. And then you sort of know you're going to get a pitch, which is okay, because I've already made that decision to enter into a conversation. Phone calls, I do think work less well, because you don't know whether the person you're phoning is going to be busy, having a bad day,  whereas I can actually pick and choose the time I might reply to an email or a LinkedIn request.Jenny: Has it ever worked with you, Kate? So, has anyone pitched you cold? Whether it be phone calls, email or LinkedIn and it's actually turned into a relationship, and an ongoing agency relationship you have?Kate: Not quite yet. I'm just thinking in recent times, but I am actually in conversation with an agency that came to us with a really interesting and thought provoking email that was nothing really about the agency, it was something around developing tone of voice and how that adds value. It was relevant to me at the time and I'm pretty convinced that they'll have a piece of work from us before the year's out. It's just life is a bit unusual at the moment, and it has happened in the past as well. One of the things I think some agencies have been doing well through lockdown is creating content led webinars so you can go along, share thoughts, share ideas and even if that doesn't lead to me giving an agency a piece of business, or developing a relationship with them,  quite often I'm happy to recommend that agency because I've experienced their thinking and the work they've done. And we're really small network within financial services in marketing and people are often asking for recommendations, so it may not come directly but quite often will come indirectly.Jenny: I love that you've said that as well, because this is what I talked to my agency account directors and account managers about is this doing content led webinars. So this is really interesting, I want to dive the little bit deeper into that. I know that recently, because of the situation with Covid, we're kind of recording this at the beginning of August 2020 where we've just come out of lockdown, or this is the initial stages of coming out of lock down. But a lot of agencies were doing content-led Webinars. What do you look for specifically, that's most interesting for you to take the time to attend?Kate: Timing is important, so even though I'm working from home, I'm having it feels like twice as many meetings. So something that's over done in an hour is actually really helpful. Don't underestimate that because, actually, there's one agency in particular they do a breakfast meeting or they do it a the end of the day, which is much easier for me to manage my diary. And there are a number of webinars that I've missed because they're at 11 o'clock in the morning and I'm in the middle of something else and I just can't take the time. And then, of course, the content itself is really important. So people that were coming up with ideas around how other people are handling Covid-related communications was something I attended very early on. They were giving examples from really big companies like Apple and Marks and Spencer. And that was really helpful for me because sometimes you know, we've been operating a bit in a vacuum, so to get a sense of what the outside world is doing and communications you might not see otherwise has been helpful. And I think we're all a bit nosey, it's nice to see what other companies are doing and what's worked for them.Jenny: I think that's spot on, actually. I've seen with other clients, actually, that they want to know what everybody else is doing. So that's an interesting angle for agencies to approach clients is to first of all invite them to something that where they can showcase their knowledge. Presumably, that content webinar was kind of pure content rather than a pitch, right, Kate?Kate: Yes, it was, but of course, you expect the agency to tell you a little bit about themselves, and it's a clear commercial situation, so you'd actually feel a bit odd if they didn't do a little bit of a sales pitch either at the beginning or the end. But I'm also careful about where I accept hospitality, even in virtual which is slightly different to drinking glasses of wine and eating peanuts. But I do feel if I'm making a commitment and accepting someone's hospitality and receiving wisdom from them that I do have an obligation to give some feedback or to just continue the conversation. So I think you've got really warm prospects if they've accepted an invitation from you.Jenny: Fantastic. I'm just curious about this because I know that other clients enjoy attending these webinars. Is there any topic that you think would be even more relevant right now that you would be interested in?Kate: One of the challenges we have faced it is how do we get the messaging and honing the messaging right. Because everybody has been through locked down, but so many people have had very, very different experiences. I've been mostly on my own through lockdown, which I found incredibly challenging because I'm normally out and  about and with people all the time. And I've got colleagues who have a two hour commute that simply disappeared and are now spending quality time with their family and they've really enjoyed lockdown. So I think that for me is the biggest challenge of getting that balance right and making sure you're being considerate and compassionate with people. But at the same time, we've all got a business to run. So that, I think, is where I've looked for help from agencies. And that's driven which webinars I might have accepted to attend or not.Jenny: Fantastic. Okay, so I can see agencies coming up with their 'How to get the tone right with your messaging, your corporate communications' those webinars will be coming out left, right, and centre now Kate, I can just see it! Moving onto agency relationships and the agency account manager or account director specifically, can you give me a flavour or a few examples of where agencies have really earned your trust and have stood out for you for making themselves invaluable?Kate:  Absolutely, you know, this is particular special topic of mine because I think you could have great creative in an agency, but without account management it really just all falls apart. And good account management makes everything run smoothly, but great account management is what transforms the relationship from a client supplier to one of a real partnership and we're quite a specialist company so industry knowledge is really important to me. And the account director I work with in our current agency will often just drop me an email with information, snippets of news and industry news and competitor activity she thinks I might have missed. If I got a problem I need to solve, I will usually pick up the phone up and talk to her, even though it might not result directly in business for her, but the better she understands my business creates better work, and they do often go above and beyond organising calls and giving time, which actually isn't billed. But it's that stacks up and creates credits, and that trust is something that obviously has to build over time. But I have a really good example. Last year, we had an internal Leadership conference, which is attended by all the group companies and we had to produce a video for it. I created the brief, gave it to the agency. The solution they came back with included dancing cartoon cats and doughnuts on and that was obviously never in the brief, but it was absolutely amazing. It completely wowed the audience. People internally are still talking about this video as something that took them completely by surprise, changed their perception of our business and I think that's a really good example of them feeling comfortable enough to present something completely left-field and me feeling comfortable that they had got that judged correctly.  And also, hats off to my CEO whose signed off the concept. We trusted them enough for us to be brave and also for them to be brave and suggesting the concept. So I think it is something that comes with time, that trust and it has to be earned, but when it's there something you never want to give up.Jenny: Wow, I agree. That was a fantastic example, because I think for clients it is a risk, isn't it? Sometimes if an agency comes up with an idea that's particularly bold or to stand out, it's either going to be memorable or it has the potential to fall flat. Getting it just right, fantastic hats off to them for presenting the idea to you. But was there any moment in that transaction that you thought, oh, I'm not 100 percent sure, or were you convinced at the beginning?Kate: I was convinced, and actually the account director has more years in the insurance industry than I have to so I trust her judgement as well, but actually it was just the CEO's response to it.  I thought, iIf he goes with dancing cats then we're fine, we're all good and he loved it. The only challenge is we've got to repeat the impact that we have to do the event again this year.Jenny: Yeah, you've set the bar too high. You've mentioned a few times  about industry knowledge. And how important is is that a prerequisite of working with you? You mentioned that your account director had more experience in the actual industry. Was that because they were ex client as well? Or have they just acquired that industry knowledge through time?Kate: It's a mix, she was on the client side, but actually her and her partner have this agency they set it up, so that gives them more skin in the game as well. But I would say industry experience is important in certain sectors. So I work in the underwriting arm of insurance, so it's nothing mainstream, like selling car insurance or home insurance. Without understanding those challenges and the markets we operate in it's quite hard to actually create communications campaigns. But obviously in other sectors, like banking, you know, everyone's experienced banking and we've all got a bank account. So yes, industry knowledge is good, but it's not gonna be as essential as it is in the more specialist B2B areas.Jenny: You gave a little tip there, which I thought was fantastic, is to prove to your client that you understand the industry is to send them snippets of news on a regular basis. Just out of interest, going a little bit tactical here, but when your account director or manager sends you that snippet of information, do they then give you their point of view on whether this snippet of information represents may be an opportunity for you to do something? Or maybe it represents a challenge that you need to do something about that they give you their point of view?Kate: Yes, absolutely. Either it's going to be in response to a conversation we've already had, or are having or it's about something they know that is coming up. And that's the reason I see my agency is part of my team. They just happen to work somewhere else. In the same way that a team member said something you would say, 'Oh, I thought this about it', you get that from the agency as well, so they really do feel like an extension of us, which was where it adds real value., .Jenny: I suppose, also, from the agency's point of view it's an opportunity for them to remain visible, isn't it? If they are sending you regular snippets.Kate: Yes, I think this is about intent, isn't it? So I think you think we're doing it just to, you know, go 'Oh, I haven't written to Kate this week', I must send her an email about something then I think you would spot that. But it does absolutely keep them visible and present. Quite often they'll share something with me that I share on within the company as well, so you know, everybody's quite comfortable with the choice of agency and nobody's says why we're spending money externally, even through Covid, because they see how they add value across the business.Jenny: Did the agency account manager ask you whether you wanted her to be keeping you updated on what was happening in the market? Or was it talked about at the beginning of the relationship at all?Kate: No, it wasn't even in the slightest. I was just I think we've worked so closely together, it just feels like we're having a bit of a conversation and chat as you would with a colleague. So it does feel that informal and a close relationship.Jenny: I love that. That's really good. I think this is really good tip for most agency account managers to take note of. And just to go, sorry, I'm going a little bit too deep into this, but just to be specific so people can come away with some actionable things to do that information. When is it most valuable to you? Because obviously they could share an insight into your customer, into the market, into the industry in general, into your company or your competitors? Does it matter specifically what they're sharing with you from the market?Kate: No, it doesn't. I think that, back to the earlier conversation that I like to involve my agency in understanding, deeply understanding, our strategy. So I invest the time to explain what we're doing. So normally, what they share is relevant, even though it might be different topics and themes. The other thing, which I should have mentioned already, is that it starts a conversation because I'll reply and go 'that's interesting, I'll have a think about this'. And sometimes it does result in us sending out an email that we weren't planning to do or some other kind of communication. So it's done with the best intent, and it might result in a piece of paid work or it might not. But it's done as part of a team.Jenny: That's amazing, brilliant. Just changing tack, a bit, Kate. There's some great examples of where agencies getting it right. What about where agencies get it wrong and you share a couple of examples of the kinds of things to not do with their clients.Kate: I think it comes back to account management for me almost every time, and when it doesn't work, it just feels exhausting. So I remember in one situation I inherited an agency when I moved into a new role and it was a project based role, so I had no intention of changing agencies. While I was there, I was just really there to deliver a project and they consistently missed deadlines, poor communication, inaccurate contact reports, inaccurate invoicing. And it was exhausting and chipped away any trust they may otherwise have had. And I think no surprises on both sides is really essential. So if I'm committing to get back with comments by close of play today, and I know that's not going to happen, I try and tell my agency as soon as I can. So they don't actually book time in the studio that they're not going to be using, and I expect the same back, it's just a sort of situation of respect, really. Things do go wrong and deadlines slip, but we should work together to create solutions. But I think that communication is key - don't make me chase you for something that should have been delivered.Jenny: Very good point. You said something there that was, I think, quite apt, 'I inherited the agency'. Would you agree that if an agency has a new client coming into the role, that's quite a key time to kind of step up the activity or do something different?Kate: Yes, 100%. Because of my consultancy background and the number of roles I've had over that 15 years quite often, I was going into roles where I was inheriting (that's an interesting expression 'inheriting' isn't it?) but inheriting other people's agency choices. Nine times out of 10, that's absolutely fine. But occasionally, you know things aren't going well  and that's either because of an over confidence on the agency's side that they didn't feel the need to take the time to bring me up to speed with who they were and and what they've been doing. The ones that got it right would immediately, you know, welcome me. Tell me to come over and spend some time with him so I could understand what they offered. Because the other thing when you go into a new role, is your understanding of the agency is different than it would be if you've been through a pitch from them, because you don't understand the breadth and depth of the services they offer. So it's really helpful for me to know that the agency can do several other things other than the work they're really doing for me. And that's a great opportunity to kind of re-sell your business into the client side.Jenny: It's a no brainer, really, isn't it? That's a really great point, Kate. What about if, during the course of working with an agency, an agency has some new ideas to share with you? Do you welcome that? When is a good time to do that? How often should an agency do that and is there ever a bad time to do that?Kate: I don't think there's a bad time, really. The great thing about working with an agency is you put in a brief, you debate it, there's challenge around the brief and then the agency will come back with something which is better because you've had that collaborative process. And of course, there's gonna be times where the creative team say 'If we did this, it would be amazing'. And it would just turn what's an ordinary campaign into a great campaign, and I would always want those ideas to be suggested. If we don't have the money for it, I will be open and transparent. And I think that that acknowledgement that we know this wasn't in the brief but it sounds like a great idea - they're great conversations and they can take you down a direction you didn't expect, but is a better result in the end. I think the bad time to do it is where, I mean not so much these days, but agencies will add extra suggestions into their proposal because it's adding money to the end invoice, and I think clients will be usually quite adept to telling the difference between the two.Jenny: That's a really very good point there. You just said something a moment ago that I just wanted to ask you a bit more about. You said 'I will be clear if I don't have the money for it'. Has this ever happened to you, where an agency's come up with an idea that actually 'I'm going to find the money because we really need to do that'?Kate: Yes, and in fact, that conference video that I talked about a moment ago was a really good case in point, because we spent quite a lot of money on that. Originally, we were just going to do a talking head straightforward run of the mill insurance video and luckily there was an appetite to spend the extra budget and it paid off so well. We've used it at events, we've used it to win new business, we've used it externally as well as internally. So, yes, if there is a great idea if you are in a lucky position in the company you work for, you can usually find some extra budget.Jenny: And did the agency at the time of presenting that sort of slightly out their idea did they position it as this is going to get you more business? You know, if we can do this, did they sell it to you in that way? Or was it just Look, this is a fantastic idea, and it's just subsequently made you more money.Kate: The additional complications and really, really tight deadline, which I had made the decision to bring the scope back to something more ordinary because I didn't think we had enough time to do something extraordinary and actually what they came and pitched was 'we can do this, we can work weekends, we could work late hours because we think this is what you need'. And the fact that they were putting themselves to that trouble, but to produce something that they were going to be proud of as well, was what resonated with all of us.Jenny: Oh, I love that. We think this is what you need. I love that sort of confidence. Kate, in the course of working with your agencies and I know this came up at Agencynomics, I ask you the same question, so I kind of know what you're gonna say, but it's still blew everyone away when you gave the answer. How often do agencies ask you to refer them to somebody else?Kate: Hardly ever. It's really surprising because normally you'd think if you were in a position where you're working with an agency of a period of time it's because everybody's happy. You would think that would happen a lot. I've been giving some thought to it since we had that initial conversation and possibly for me, it's because I'm in a specialist market, and so would I be referring my agency to my competitors? No, because I don't want them to work with them. But I'm always happy to give endorsements and particularly if it showcases the work that we've done. I find that information really interesting when I look at agency websites or agency events, if you can look at case studies of similar clients and addressing similar issues, so I'm just really surprised people don't ask more.Jenny: It's a really good point, actually, as you say, if you're in a specialist area and who are you going to be referring them to? Probably not a competitor, because they did really good work for you. But what about within your company? Because if you're managing corporate comms, for example. But you have I mean, I don't know how your company's structured, but say you have individual brand managers in other departments or even other departments, per se, that would also benefit from working with an external agency. Would you see an internal referral as an opportunity for an agency to ask you?Kate: Yeah, in fact, I've done that. Interestingly, the famous video, that video the following day I had six emails from people all over the world asking me who had worked with on it, and asking for an introduction, so the agency introduced themselves with that piece of work. But also, what I try and do is if the agency has got something interesting to share then I will bring in my colleagues from other parts of the business. And we might have, you know, might have a discussion over lunch on a particular topic so they get to meet those colleagues of mine and create their own relationship.Jenny: I'm so glad you mentioned that, because that's another thing that I talked to my agency account managers about is instigating lunch and learn sessions. So what kinds of topics, particularly what are the topics that are most interesting?Kate: We'll given we work in insurance so probably none of it is very interesting for most people! We'll look at things like developing a brand personality, and making sure that communications are authentic and feel credible and consistent. Also specialist areas like developing email marketing campaigns that are effective, so top 10 tips. Just some simple things like that, bringing ideas from outside our business that other people are doing just thought provoking, and it's usually a really good use of your time. Jenny: I love that. It's also an opportunity for the agency to be in front of people that they don't know within the client company, isn't it, for them to establish relationships with other people that your colleagues that they could then perhaps develop and nurture those relationships.Kate: Exactly. And it does mean that I'm endorsing the agency and inviting them in and inviting colleagues. So it's a win win, I would have thought.Jenny: Really, really good point. Thank you for sharing that. This has been gold. It really has. I just want to ask you a couple more questions, if that's okay? What has changed for you, if anything, in light of what's happened with Covid, particularly around your agency relationships?Kate: Well, I think that right at the beginning of Covid is nobody knew what was going on. But actually the agencies I work with all reached out and touched in that first week. I was actually supposed to be on holiday in Argentina, so they knew I hadn't gone away and people were checking in. I think there was that personal touch first, and then they're was, 'can we help within communications? what are you working on on?' The biggest challenge for us as a business, but in our European businesses, less so in the US and Asia Pacific businesses where they're already dealing with big distances,  in Europe most of our meetings with our client has been based to face so suddenly with that not possible, we're all turning to Zoom and Teams and Skype and trying to make those more engaging. So our agency was coming up with ideas about how to make those more engaging, how we might pitch invites even if they weren't actually involved, or being paid for that advice. They were really, really helpful and also just going back to webinars and events, virtual events have been held just sharing information. That's been a really productive part of agency connectons through this time.Jenny: That's fantastic. And now we're kind of moving out of lockdown, potentially - let's hope we're not gonna go back into it - but what would you say is the tipping point now? What would be most helpful at the point that we're at now, given the circumstances you're in?Kate: Our particular challenge or maybe objective rather than challenge, is how do we keep our teams new thing, these new virtual ways of interacting with clients, and proving that they work? And our agency is helping us pull together our own internal case studies, because we still have some of our business heads who think email marketing is a newfangled idea. So actually proving effectiveness on how measurable some of the things we've been doing through lockdown is  what we'll focus on at the moment as we go through. We won't ever be back to business as normal, I don't think, or certainly not in the foreseeable future. So it's just staying in touch with how the industry is moving in and a better sense of what our sector is doing.Jenny: A really good point, and I'm sure that's translatable for agency account managers listening in, thinking about their own clients and how they can provide the most value to them. So that's really, really useful. This is the last question Kate for you. Honestly, you've been amazing. If agency account managers want to be seen by their clients as more of a trusted adviser, have you got any advice for them?Kate: Yes, I think, to two piece of advices I would give to account managers. First is really listen to your clients that you can better understand their business and their challenges. I mean, we're all flattered when people listen to what we have to say but actually also, if I've invested time with you explaining my business,what we do, then I've created that relationship already, and you're much more likely to be able to bring better solutions to me. And I'm much more likely to ask your views and advice going forward, so that's a bit of a virtuous circle, I think. And the second is please don't be afraid to challenge. I've got three decades of experience. That does not mean I'm right. And quite often, you know, I will say to people when I work with them, 'I need you to be questioning my thinking',  because there will always be a better result that comes out of that. And it's back to intent, Jenny. Because if you constructively challenge with the right intent, then is always a better solution and you work much more closely together if you've had that debate.Jenny: Amazing. That's fantastic advice, Kate. You sound like the ideal client. Are you in the market for a new agency right now?Kate: Sadly not. Do feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and make sure you do your research before you do.Jenny: They wouldn't dare, now, would they? Everyone of you researched up to the hilt. Kate, this has been amazing. Is there any question that I haven't asked you that I should have done ,as it relates to managing agency relationships?Kate: No, the only other thing I would say, Jenny, and I've said it already but I can't stress enough is that there must always be brief before you embark on a piece of work. Quite often, I've been in situations where clients have said, 'Oh, I didn't have time to do a brief'  and of course, you end up spending four times as long doing something because people make assumptions and you get a rubbish piece of work out of it and it's the agency's fault. Even if you have to write the brief yourself and replay it to the client to get them to sign off on it, so you're not making any incorrect assumptions, just do that. Don't do anything without a brief.Jenny: Very, very sound advice that we're ending on. Kate, you've been amazing. Thank you so much for being my first guest on my very first podcast. I hope loads of account managers have made loads of notes and have come away with loads of ideas to try out with their clients. So, thank you so much. I hope you enjoyed that interview and you've come away with some ideas and tips for you to implement in your role and with your client relationships. And if you'd like more information about the training to take your account from unpredictable project revenue to more predictable account growth, then come along to the Account Accelerator Programme, which is a three month weekly coaching course starting on the first of September. If you want more details, then you can go to, or drop me a line at jenny@account management skills.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Jenny Plant
Podcast Status
Aug 12th, 2020
Latest Episode
Oct 14th, 2020
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
43 minutes

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