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The Art of Account Management: Why Jay Williams Isn't Overcomplicating the Process



Momentum Worldwide's VP group director, US business leadership and commerce on being able to pivot quickly and the importance of always being curious

The Art of Account Management: Why Jay Williams Isn't Overcomplicating the Process

Jay is VP group director, business leadership based in St Louis, US. He leads clients across the Commerce portfolio, in addition to this, he is responsible for Office Operations. Jay is a DE&I advocate and sits on Momentum’s Inclusion Committee.

LBB> How did you first get involved in account management and what appealed to you about it?

Jay> I changed majors in college halfway through and chose business administration with an emphasis in marketing. I updated my resume in career services and got a call from an ad agency for an internship, which I interviewed for and got. Within two weeks I knew it was what I wanted to do for my career. As someone who was typically the ringleader of group projects in college, being able to be at the centre of everything it took to produce great work was exciting. 

LBB> What is it about your personality, skills and experience that has made account management such a great fit?

Jay> I have always described myself as 'a Creative stuck in an Account person’s body.' While I may not have the skills of a designer or writer, I respect and enjoy the work they do, which allows me to understand the needs of the team from all points of view, including the client. I also have had a very organised way of thinking that brings clarity, but I am also able to pivot quickly when needed - not letting rigour get in the way of a potential path that leads to better work.

LBB> What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting their career in account management?

Jay> Be curious. Don’t know/understand the minimum to get your job done. The more you know about the client’s business, the more you are trusted by the client and can impact decisions. Knowing information beyond the basics will trigger the client to understand you, take you seriously and want you by their side.  

LBB> Thinking back to some of your most challenging experiences you’ve had in your career, what do you think tends to lie at the heart of the more tense or difficult client-agency relationships?

Jay> Not listening. Especially when it comes to feedback. Listen for nuance. Listen for what they aren’t saying. And in the future, when you are able to call back and reference something the client said earlier, they know you are a partner and not just a middle person taking notes.

LBB> And what are the keys to building a productive and healthy relationship?

Jay> Business/brand acumen, emotional intelligence and being able to understand that everyone likes to be engaged differently. You don’t have to give up who you are, but know how each individual likes to work and meet them where they are. 

LBB> What’s your view on disagreement and emotion - is there a place for it and if not, why not? If so, why - and what does productive disagreement look like?

Jay> Without these, I don’t think you get to great work as well as a great team dynamic. As long as you respectfully disagree and build upon the conversation, it is typically taken well. “Here is where I would push back…,” and then provide a thoughtful retort for a further discussion likely ending somewhere in the middle on the overall spectrum of outcomes. As far as emotion, as long as it is in the name of inspiring the group to see another point of view or re-energise an idea, it can be very powerful and cut through conversations that have reached a stalemate or gotten off track. 

LBB> Historically, account management has been characterised as the mediator in an adversarial client and creative relationship - what do you make of that characterisation, is there any nugget of truth in that or is it wildly inaccurate?

Jay> There can be some truth to that, but if this is the place everyone has gotten to, that is a failure on the account person. It is the job of the account person to offer perspective to the creative team on how the client sees things, as well as educating the client on the process and how the agency gets to great work. There needs to be trust from both sides that the account person is a fair arbiter. The client and creative teams show up to work with different drivers and motivation, and at the end of the day, the account person needs to align those to build the brand, drive sales, etc.  

LBB> These days, agencies do so much beyond traditional campaigns and as account management you’re pulling together creative, experience, data, e-commerce, social and more - and that complexity can often be mirrored on the client stakeholder side too? What’s the key to navigating (and helping the client navigate) that complexity?

Jay> It may just be my personality, but once we get past the initial introductions and what each agency person does, I tend to ensure we all come off like one big integrated team attacking the client problem versus a ton of individual discipline leads waiting for 'their section' in the meeting. And when the client needs something, all they have to know is that, as the Business Lead, I am the main point of contact they go to and I will bring in all the appropriate subject matter experts. Don’t overcomplicate it. 

LBB> What recent projects are you proudest of and why? What was challenging about these projects from an account management perspective and how did you address those challenges? What was so satisfying about working on these projects?

Jay> I recently worked on a project for a client of ours that is project-based and fairly inconsistent. Therefore, we really didn’t have a full-time team; it was a bunch of guest stars brought together from various offices. And it was a client that had very complicated content. It was a challenge to bring different work styles and team dynamics together and guide them through a sometimes daunting and frustrating client ask. However, setting expectations and building early trust was key. As account management, I was there to ensure the team had what they needed to succeed and built our own temporary team culture that allowed everyone to feel supported. It was one of the more successful programs I have worked on and, as a bonus, this team of “guest stars” became very close and look for ways to continue working on projects together. 

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Momentum Worldwide, Wed, 14 Dec 2022 11:29:32 GMT