WEIGHING OPTIONS: The Great Disconnect

I’m sure I’m not the only agency head that’s faced the problem of recruiting and keeping  account representatives. It has made some hair turn gray and bald spots look like alien crop circles.

What I’ve noticed is a disconnect because most of the candidates come in and immediately place themselves into one of two camps: The one that proclaims: “I’m more than a salesperson – I can be a creative, too!; Or, the one that listens patiently to the terms and conditions of the job, then says, “Well that’s all good and well, but I hope the company car I’ll be driving is a Buick.”

(I’m tempted to say, ‘Sure. Only if you were driving one when you showed up’.)

The latter demands a salary that not only exceed what you’re offering, but wages in excess of what you’re paying yourself. By the way, the former candidate also makes some comment about how they will be an excellent art director and departmental supervisor.  This is done with a straight face.

I wonder if these people understand that there is a serious recession out there shutting them out of most industries; and the fact is, an account representative is a career with the promise of permanence. I explain that our agency will make opportunities available as they arise.  The account representative is the engine that drives the business. They don’t listen.

It can’t be the water, but it could have something to do with generational factors. College students have a different understanding to what a job entails, requires of them, and salary compensation methods in the advertising industry. Face it, life experience makes a difference. Perhaps agency heads like me have forgotten that.

We can blame the out of step account rep, but it’s our job as agency heads to establish parameters of the job and performance standards.

This may sound simplistic, but an account representative is an ambassador. He or she is the liaison between the client and the agency.  This job requires several things.

  • Keep in step with the clients, know their needs and inform the agency;
  • Have basic knowledge of the clients, services and products;
  • Initiates, ideas and suggestions rather than just take orders;
  • Be assertive when right;
  • Don’t be a doormat because it makes the agency look weak;
  • Anticipate problems;
  • At agency client meetings listen first, talk later;
  • Work with creatives and the creative director to service the account.

To sum it up, the agency and client must have a mutual understanding of what services are required, and what can be delivered. To our detriment, a former account rep made off-the-cuff, or out the ass promises to a client, but never told a creative staff about them. Needless to say, this created an uproar or nastiness and loss of the business.

We often fail to understand the sensitivity and fear the client has over spending large sums of money. It’s our obligation to be thoughtfully creative in the delivery of our work, and go one step beyond what we feel our capabilities might be. If everyone in the agency understands this, holding on to a client is very likely.

The lack of communication is a product of disconnect, just like the account representative candidate that comes to an interview with a wrong understanding of what the job involves.

Bernard A. McNealy, President

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