Episode from the podcastCreative Agency Account Manager Podcast

The fundamentals of successful client management

Released Tuesday, 6th October 2020
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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 of

Carey: 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 phenomenal

Simon: 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 accountmanagementskills.com and take the quiz. It's called the Client Growth Quiz, and speak to you on the next episode.

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Episode Details

Length
48m 9s
Explicit
No
Episode
6

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