We just wrapped up one of our account executive training workshops — we call it the Advanced Account Executive Bootcamp. A great group of dedicated account executives who all want to lead their team to even greater success. Whether I’m doing the advanced training or the Bootcamp for more entry level AEs — we spend quite a bit of time talking about being a strategic thinker.

Why? Because that seems to be agency owners #1 complaint about their account executive team — great at following directions and taking orders but not so great at leading the client and growing that business.

Are your AEs asking the right questions?  I’m guessing not.

Luckily for you and your agency, account executive training can fix that.

I think there’s a simple reason why your account executives are not performing as well as you’d like. They don’t ask enough or the right questions.

When a client calls and tells an AE they need to open a new project, the AE automatically goes into order taker mode. If they ask any questions at all, they’re tactical questions about the deliverables the client is asking for. Most AEs have not been trained on how to step back and ask the why questions. They aren’t comfortable suggesting that what the client is asking for might not be the right call. And they rarely know how to take that tactical request all the way back to the client’s goals and objectives.

Truth be told, depending on the sophistication of the client — they might not know the answers if your AE did push back. But that’s where the opportunities are buried.  The sophisticated client will elevate your AE’s status from vendor to thinking partner and your less sophisticated client will learn to actually let you lead the strategy discussions, learning from your AE with each conversation.

Account Executive Training

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Unfortunately — not so much. This takes training. If your AE doesn’t go to this naturally — it’s because they have no idea how to do it. They are the client-pleasing AE, not the client-leading AE. You and I both know which AE generates more AGI, has happier clients and loses fewer clients along the way.

Today’s job applicants are not coming to you with this skill. They didn’t learn it at college (instead they did projects  with Nike’s budgets and 12 weeks to prep — but they can talk about Zappos’ customer service!) Sadly, even some of your seasoned AEs aren’t equipped to lead your clients or even recognize that they need to be asking more/different questions. They’ve never been taught.

You have three choices:

  • Accept them for how they are and continue to have to step in when high level strategic thinking is needed
  • Create a training program for them — and coach them until they get it
  • Send them to our account executive training (either the less than 4 years experience or 4+) and let us not only teach them how to do it but help them understand why it matters in terms of AGI and their contribution to your agency.

What’s your next move?