When a client hires Big, it’s for a combination of reasons: previous work, our track record of success, the proposed strategy the team pitched. And when our personalities match, that’s a win-win.
Relationship building begins immediately. It’s the equivalent of meeting someone and just knowing in your heart that you hope to be friends for a long time because you have so much in common.
The entire account agency team is in on the getting to know you phase, learning about the industry, client objectives, and expectations. At the same time, the account executive subtly gets to work on learning the nuances of the people behind the client. Bringing them to life. Transforming them into humans and not projects. Learning what fuels them as both people and professionals.
Account executives are the primary client relationship managers at an agency. As an account executive myself, that’s often part of how I describe the role. I asked AEs at Big (and did a little soul searching myself) to sum up a few keys to a good client relationship.
The ultimate goal is to go from vendor to partner status. But what gets you there?
Being true to the client also means being true to your personality. It’s a package deal! Keep being all the things you were when hired. Energetic when hired? Stay that way. Jovial at the start? Be that. Personable and engaging at the first hello? Keep it up. Big has adopted the mantra of “Young. Hungry. Wide Open.” to describe our culture. A good relationship will allow us to be just that.
Listen and respond thoughtfully.
Be patient with clients and make sure communication is courteous, showing appreciation for the opportunity to work together toward a common goal. The benefit is that clients understand when you have to ask for a deadline extension or you need to discuss tough subjects like budgets. If there is an established good relationship there, it makes those conversations less painful to have.
Be personable. (Clients are people too!)
Be real. Be relatable. Ask about what’s going on with them outside of work. People love to talk about themselves—all you have to do is listen. Follow up next time you talk to them about what they said. How’d the move go? Who won their kid’s baseball game? Treat them like a friend, and not just a client.
Engage the agency team.
Whether someone works in account management or not, we are all in the business of serving clients. If the team is engaged with the client and related projects, it will show. Never have a teammate forget that everyone is successful when we all do our part.
Be honest and transparent.
Client relationships are professional, but they’re still relationships by nature. Core principles that work for you in your relationships with friends and loved ones apply to professional relationships as well. Honesty and trust are the foundations of any relationship that has a hope for success.
Live in the moment.
Clients and agencies aren’t together forever, so enjoy your time together. The client/agency relationship presents the opportunity to do some cool stuff. If you have a client in Memphis who wants to take you to Graceland because you’re always “taking care of business” for them, go. That’s a good thing. (This happened to one of our AEs—she found Graceland to be “perfectly weird,” and now she wears her TCB pin every day.)
Opportunities like these help us transcend into the desired relationship of being a partner and not a vendor. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want.