What makes a great Account Executive? A Cunning Plan guide

June 19, 2019
What makes a great Account Executive? A Cunning Plan guide

It can be pretty daunting when starting a role as an Account Executive (AE) in an Advertising or Marketing agency – perhaps fresh out of University and in your first job. It’s not always clear what agency life is like, how you should approach each day at work or what’s expected of you. Fear not, help is here! We’ve put together a guide on what makes a great AE with some top tips to help you succeed.

First up will be to meet the team and Inductions into the agency, processes, clients, their industry and agency work. It’s important to learn about your clients business so that you have solid background knowledge and a basic understanding of their needs. Once up to speed the next step is to be involved in the day to day handling of client accounts where tasks will be entrusted to you. You will be introduced to clients where you will be responsible for delivering excellent client service. You represent the agency and the account team, so you must be attentive and responsive to client requests. 

As an AE, there are particular traits that prove invaluable to the account team and are integral to your success. Some of these traits will already come quite naturally, whereas others will require more experience and take time to be developed – it all depends on the individual. Here are our thoughts on the top traits that will help any aspiring AE grow in their role:

  • Pro-active approach: It is good when an AE is asked to undertake a task and does this well. However, great AE’s will pro-actively ask if they can undertake a task or think independently about how they can add value. Being pro-active requires a considered mind set. This means that as a task lands the AE thinks about what action is required, how this could be approached and then offers to take responsibility for completing the task. When quiet, take time to think about what you could do that is helpful or a good use of your available time. This could be setting up reports, pulling together case studies, researching industry news or general office admin. If you hear of any new business opportunities or upcoming pitches, put your hand up to get involved. This attitude will certainly be noticed by your peers. If you’re ever unsure on what you can do, ask your line manager how you can help.

  • Inquisitive: Never be afraid to ask questions. You should always ask questions to clarify or understand. The worst thing you can do is not understand something and then sit at your desk and worry about. If you are unclear about a task then you will inevitably do it wrong and waste time. By asking relevant questions you are demonstrating a desire to learn and understand. Clarifying requirements of a task with your line manager also fills them with confidence that you understand what needs to be done.

  • Clear communication: Communicate regularly with colleagues and keep them updated on the progress of a task or project. An example of this would be to keep relevant colleagues copied in on emails so that they have visibility of your progress and can offer you support where required.
    Being clear when dealing with clients is very important. Clients are busy and agencies help them to reduce their workload. If communication is unclear then clients will quickly become frustrated. Take time to review emails and challenge yourself; is this clear? Is my point obvious? Is the email concise? Have I asked relevant questions? When is the deadline?
    Make sure that your grammar is correct. Grammatical errors on email can give a poor impression to your client and it’s important they think you are capable and smart. If you have a phone call with a client, take time beforehand to familiarise yourself with the key discussion points, possible questions and plan out the call. This will also make you feel confident as you know what you want to say and will have answers prepared. 

  • Organised: Being organised is perhaps the most important skill for an AE. AE’s are typically very busy with lots of tasks each day (often referred to as plate spinning). If you are not organised then you’ll quickly find yourself in a stressful, pressurised situation which will lead to mistakes. 
    Taking time to plan your day, write down a ‘to do’ list and prioritise your tasks gives you clear visibility of what you need to do. Then you can approach each task in priority order. If you feel overwhelmed with your task list when planning your day, you should raise this with your line manager so they can offer support in good time. Organising yourself and your day allows you to have a more considered approach, resulting in better quality output of work (simply because you have taken the time to think about it). Aim to be organised in everything you do. Be on time for meetings, always bring pen and paper, take notes and list out actions, create timing plans, file your work from the beginning (hard or electronic), sort emails (delete or file), tidy desk space, plan your time etc. You’ll find that by taking the time to be organised in the first place you will buy yourself time later, perhaps when you most need it.

  • Attention to detail: Carefully checking your work before sending to a client is vital. Clients hire agencies for their expertise or to undertake tasks they do not have time to complete themselves, so they typically do not have the time to carefully check agency work is done correctly. If an error has been made or a mistake brought to attention, clients may place blame on the agency. Be thorough, cross reference where possible and take the time to double check everything. Follow sign off processes  – they are in place to make sure mistakes are avoided.
    Review client documents and highlight any errors in a modest manner, clients will thank you for correcting any mistakes. It is good practice to ask a colleague to review something for you, as a second pair of eyes.
    If you are asked to review anything, be sure to do so thoroughly. Your colleagues will certainly appreciate any last minute mistakes picked up.

  • Responsible: When entrusted with tasks you should take responsibility away from your line manager, ask when the task needs to be done by and make sure your tasks are completed on time. If a task requires input from your line manager or other colleagues, you should drive them on actions required to complete the task. Don’t be worried to remind your line manager or colleagues to do something. They will welcome the reminder and it demonstrates that you are in control of managing the task and deadline. Keep on top of suppliers and drive them to deliver in good time. Factor in contingencies where possible to cover yourself in case any unforeseen problems arise. Take accountability for the tasks you are responsible for.

  • Behaviour: Your behaviour in the office affects your colleagues and how your clients view you, so it is important to have a good attitude and consider how your behaviour will come across to others. Your clients must like you! Below are some examples of important behavioural traits:
    • Positive: Having a positive attitude creates a healthy/happy office atmosphere.
    • Confident: Having confidence in what you do and believing you are capable will inevitably result in success. Having a confident approach also gives both your team and client reassurance in your ability.
    • Enthusiastic: Enthusiasm shows willing and a desire to be involved. If you have an enthusiastic approach your line manager will be reassured that you are happy in your role and clients will feel you are passionate about your work for them.

A lot to take in, I know. But don’t worry, these traits will require time and experience to develop. The key is being aware that these traits are important for you to succeed as an Account Handler. Regularly challenge yourself against these traits (and your job description) and think what you can do to improve them. If you do this there’s no doubt you’ll be a great Account Executive and successful in your role.

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