Ever wonder how you can possibly deliver a perfect product, on time, within budget, and beyond expectation? We learned this client approach at a recent conference, and it could be the solution you’re looking for.
As an account executive, or anyone who has worked on behalf of a client before, it’s easy to get lost on what I call the “hamster wheel.” You know, that horrifying place between panic and mania as you try desperately to be everything and do everything for your client, all while keeping a smile on your face and a sense of light-hearted joy in your emails.
Oh, and doing all that on time, on budget, and above and beyond original expectation. That’s right, the impossible. Luckily, I had the chance to take a moment – and catch a breath – by attending a recent conference.
AMI Advanced AE Bootcamp
Me+my bootcamp group in Chicago
Two weeks ago, fellow account executive Cody Blair and I had the opportunity to attend AMI’s Advanced AE Bootcamp in Chicago.
Led by Drew McLellan, long-time agency vet and owner, the conference aimed to sharpen our skills and teach us how to avoid the hamster wheel—all while delivering amazing results, of course. You might be thinking, “that’s nearly impossible!” but, as we discovered—it’s not impossible, it’s actually quite feasible.
1. Treat Your Clients Like a Franchise
One major concept that stuck with me was how Drew advised us to treat our clients like a franchise. As account executives, we are the franchise owners, making sure that our clients (or franchise “locations,” so to speak) are profitable, successful, and dare we say—happy.
What does this translate to in actionable tasks? For starters, you should know your clients’ business, just as you would know your franchisees’. And this isn’t just what they sell and what they want you to do for them, but truly understanding the business. This means – and it may sound crazy – go to the business! Spend a day there, shadow a few employees, eat lunch with the team. Or, get out in the field with them–go on a sales call, watch them make a product, attend a trade show. It sounds so simple, but it could completely change how you view your client and the work they do.
2. Learn by Asking Qualifying Questions
Again, another out of this world recommendation – ask questions. A lot of questions.
As account executives, we are so focused on knowing everything and constantly providing the right answer for our clients. Often, we don’t have much background (if any), but we’re so hyper focused on the answer that we forget to stop and learn. Simply ask and listen. The more you ask, the more you will learn. Simple as that.
3. Understand the Challenges Your Clients Face
Now that you know your franchise, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. What is your client’s deepest problem? What keeps them up at night? Or put another way, what is keeping them from being profitable and successful?
Again, we get so caught up on what we can bring to the table, we forget that the client actually has a reason for needing your help. Stop and figure out what that is – not just “I need SEO” or “I need a new website.” Find out why they are asking for these things.
All this information – the whole process of learning about your franchise – allows you to think differently and more in depth about their business. Now you have the tools to do more than simply approach them with, “Here are the 6 services our agency provides.” No – you have the tools to present them with, “Here is how we are going to solve your problem.” It’s not about the tactics, it’s about the bigger picture; dare I say it: it’s about the goal.
4. Provide a Quality Deliverable
Crucial and challenging, the final step of treating your client like a franchise is delivering results that are on time, on budget, and beyond expectation. You’re probably thinking, “isn’t this the goal, all the time?” Of course, but when you think about it from a “your client as a franchise” point of view, those results carry a heavier weight.
Sure, it sometimes is unrealistic to meet those standards with every single deliverable, but it becomes much easier to attain once you’ve completed the three previous steps.
We’re All In This – Together
Now that you’ve completed all the steps finding the sweet spot in client service, it’s time to step back and take a breath. Understand your ultimate goal and remember why you’re helping your client in the first place. They may not sit at the desk across from you, but make no mistake, they are certainly on your team. So be on theirs too.
Did you attend the conference? Have thoughts on client service? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!