The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants: The Role of Account Manager

This post was written by Kadri Schutting, Media Account Manager.

In a company you have the financial department, you have customer service, you have sales. And then you have the account manager, with one foot in each department. Account managers act as the liaison between a company and it’s clients, and it is their responsibility to manage existing clients relationships, as well as develop new businesses.

Account management for me can be explained, although in an over-dramatized way,  with The Simpsons episode called “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants”. If you haven’t seen it, it is the part where Homer is offered a job as an “Accounts man” and gets many of the perks along with this, such as a fancy corner office in a skyscraper. But there is also a downside there and Homer will soon realise that doing the job incorrectly will ultimately rob you of your soul.

While The Simpsons depict the accounts man job as pure evil, there is actually some truth in this episode. There are many high points you get to experience in this role, but most likely it means you need to do a lot of work in the backstage beforehand. When taking the role of an account manager, you need to be prepared to be 100% there for your clients. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you must be available via phone 24/7, but especially when dealing with international clients, it means occasionally you need to stretch your working hours to fit their needs. And many people are not cut out for such a job.

Those of us who are already familiar with the job of an account manager and didn’t just learn it from The Simpsons can relate to a number of basic Do’s and Dont’s that you come across in this business.

The Do’s

Have a service-oriented mindset

First and most important, an account manager typically serves as the face of the company in the eyes of the clients. In most cases, he/she is the primary, if not only, company representative who communicates with clients. Therefore it is important for an account manager to create and maintain a positive customer service experience.

Be a professional

This goes for every aspect of an account manager’s job. A big part of this business involves networking so you should know your business and learn how to present it. When writing reports, analysing, interpreting and presenting results, organize them in an orderly fashion. No matter if you get a one-sentence response back to your hour long work, at least you have done your part of the job. This doesn’t rule out the occasional small talking though. Think of yourself as a third person and then act in a way that you would like to do business with yourself.

Earn the trust of those you manage

In the Simpsons there was a scene where Homer went to do some drinks with the client and ultimately closed the deal with them. While this was a corny example that has been depicted in many movies, it had a point. You cannot expect a client to give you the best product/service in one go. When starting to work with a new client, your aim is to get the best deal possible, which often means you need to take your time with this. Get to know the clients and their businesses, schedule a meeting or at the very least organize a video conference in order to „see the person behind the numbers“. You want a long term partnership not just a quick sale and goodbye. Build trust and earn respect which does not come in a single meeting.

Communicate back

Once you have managed to start working with a new client, it is important to keep them updated as often as necessary. Share with them the results/outcomes: when something isn’t working out, say so; when things are going well, let people know; when you have concerns, share them. If you keep your clients in the dark they won’t trust you and most likely won’t bring their business to you next time. On the other hand, if you are too pushy you might scare them off completely.

The Don’ts

Don’t distort the truth, withhold information, or make things up

Even if it’s for a good reason.  Always be honest with your clients and strive for transparency.  Whether you might think that long convoluted explanations make you look like someone who knows what they are talking about, it is the straightforwardness that people actually appreciate. Let your clients know the issues and work out a solution together.

Don’t avoid admitting and owning up to your mistakes

Truth is that there will be problems and mistakes along the way. Working as an account manager can be quite stressful as the account manager is the front man who gets the call when the clients have any problems with the company and it is the account manager who is held responsible for any issues that may come up. If you make a mistake, admit it and take the necessary steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Ultimately what people will remember is not the problem but the way you solved it.

Don’t promise the things you cannot deliver

While no one objects you to sometimes go the extra mile to provide a better solution for the client, it is not wise to promise things that are impossible to do with your resources, especially when those things make or break the deal. It is always better to exceed everyone’s expectation and do more things than what was expected from you in the first place.

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