"Will You Kick Ass For Us?"
“How many accounts do you work on?”
This question comes up in virtually every newbiz meeting. In an agency environment, the “answer” is variable and sometimes hard to explain.
First of all, it varies by level. For example, the junior person in the room might have three accounts, the senior person on the team might serve six accounts (3 of which probably overlap with the junior person). How many is too many?
See? Already you’re confused.
The thing is – “How many accounts do you work on?” is actually not the question we’re being asked.
The prospective client is actually asking, “We are going to be spending a lot of budget dollars with you: are you absolutely sure that you have enough bandwidth to kick ass with us?”
There’s a good reason this comes up.
Historically, many agencies have indeed taken on a bit more business than they can handle. They count on backfilling with newly-hired staff, once the new revenues are secured.
This creates a bit of a vicious cycle, though: the current staff feels overburdened not only by the new client workload, but by the additional cycles expended on interviewing and training brand-new staffers. Thus, the newbies are rarely trained adequately – giving rise to the oft-cited perception that PR people are poorly-trained flacks.
The answer to The Question, then, is two-fold.
#1 – We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have the bandwidth to kick ass.
#2 – We’ve developed a rigorous training schedule to ensure that all of our employees are well prepared to handle their respective assignments.
Of course, as an agency leader, in order to give these answers you ought to a) have the bandwidth, and b) create a gold-star training program. The truth will out.
And if you’re a prospective client, be sure to meet the entire team and ask questions not just about their workloads, but also about how they’ve been prepared to handle those daily tasks. They ought to be eager to discuss it … if not, look closely to see if there’s any fear in their eyes!