Now that the summer is upon us, I thought this was an appropriate posting.
I just interviewed a young account supervisor. She was fabulous. She was not actively looking for a job (the best time to see me). She liked her account and she liked her agency, but had been told by a friend to meet me for the future. People like her are my favorite people to interview.
In the course of our conversation she had one negative thing to say about her account and the people she works with. She works on a major international account with a number of brands and divisions. She thought that her Group Account Director (an EVP) did not work very hard; after all, he went skiing in the winter with clients and went golfing during the rest of the year, often taking a day or two off to do so. She told me that her clients loved this account director, but she couldn’t understand why. After all, she reasoned, he hardly worked. (By the way, she had no issues with his contributions while in the office.)
I explained to her that golf is work. I could tell from the look on her face that she did not comprehend and disagreed. I asked her if she ever had lunch with her client, who happens to be here in NYC. She told me that once or twice a year, generally after presentations, the agency took a large group to lunch or dinner. I explained that that is not really dining with the client and that she should go out of her way to meet the client, one-on-one..
The whole notion of entertaining and getting to know a client on a personal level is foreign to her. It never occurred to her and it had not apparently occurred to the account director she worked for, who feels the same way.
I asked her if she watched Mad Men and she did sometimes but believed that the drinking and entertaining it portrayed was only Hollywood and television.
Entertaining clients is unfortunately an art that is being lost. But it is an essential part of business. Getting a client to know you as a person and to like you goes a long way towards building the credibility and trust necessary garner respect and to sell good work. It is also essential to learning the business. Clients are much more likely to take you into their confidence when they are relaxed and out of the office.
Is golf, or tennis, or skiing, or theater or dinner relaxing? You bet. Is it good for business? Absolutely. But, don’t kid yourself, when it is with client’s, it is work also.
I cannot tell you how many times I hear of accounts being lost because the senior management of agencies didn’t really have relations with the senior management of their clients. Entertaining is a proper and necessary way to do that – even the government recognizes that and gives tax deductions for entertaining.
I firmly believe that all agencies should encourage even their junior people to get to know their clients outside of business. That goes for creatives, media and planners/researchers as well as account people.