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We’ve grown junior team members into solid account managers and passed meatier accounts to them. We’ve worked on aligning the best personality and geographic matches possible. Sure, we have checklists, timelines, and transition call agendas and all the administrative pieces, but we’ve also learned some less tangible – I call them “squishy” – tips that make the transitions as seamless as possible from the relationship management side and keep all parties feeling happy and good.
Always position your work as the work of your team. If you haven’t already done this, it’s too late. However, moving forward, make sure to position success with any client as teamwork. It can be tempting to take personal credit for big wins, and sometimes they really were all you, but in an agency environment, you are supported by a team of folks even if it’s just the higher-ups who matched you with the right client in the first place. Making sure to communicate that to the client engenders confidence not just in you personally, but in the company. This way, when it is time for a change, there is way less friction. Emphasize the agency process and your colleagues as much as possible in all client relationships to facilitate easier future transitions.
Align with client changes. In the digital world, things change quickly, so there is usually some kind of change happening with a client in the next couple months. It isn’t always possible, but aligning account management changes with client changes generally eases the situation. The ideal change is when the client’s internal ownership of the channel changes and new faces on both sides can establish rapport. But, even with something like a site redesign, a lot of the history and quirky stuff goes out of the window. This allows the new manager to really own this piece from the beginning and minimizes the potential problems with a person more “green” to the account.
Put some face in the game. Scheduling in-person time with new account managers and clients really helps smooth the process. It’s amazing how a handshake and a smile can serve to establish trust in a way that weeks or months of calls cannot.
Take time to think out the message. There is always something better about the new account manager. Sometimes, this is as simple a time-zone alignment with the client that eases daily communication. It might be the new manager has more depth of experience in the client’s vertical. There is something. Figure out what it is, and message it to the client as a key factor in the management change.
Learn to gracefully hand off your babies. It can be really hard to hand off an account that is your “baby” and you feel real ownership over. Just like sending kids out into the real world can be tough. Be a grown-up and learn to keep a brave face. Any lingering attachment that the client senses from you will cause friction. Breathe deeply, trust your colleagues, and let it go…
Transitioning accounts is no easy task. If you think beyond the purely administrative tasks and facilitate a feel good vibe with the client, you’ll find it gets a bit easier.