My Career in Account Management. UoM graduate Emma tells her story.

by Emma HammondEmma

What do you do now?
I graduated from the University of Manchester in 2016 with a BSc (Hons) in Management. I am currently an Account Manager working at HeadBox. In general, an Account Manager is someone who is responsible for the management of sales and relationships with particular customers. In relation to HeadBox, I maintain look after existing relationships with a client or group of clients, so that they will continue using the HeadBox for all their business events.

I have Key Account clients who I help with every event enquiry they have throughout the year. I need to understand the type of events they do and how I can find the right space specific for their needs. I then research potential venues that fit those briefs and create event proposals for the corporate customer. HeadBox is the UK’s only SAAS (software as a service) enabled marketplace for creative meeting, off-site and event spaces. We are a technology start up, so SAAS basically means we are on online marketplace or shop, think Air BNB but for event spaces. HeadBox allows you to instantly search, book and pay for a venue online, which was a ground-breaking concept for the events industry. Our main clients are corporate bookers who are searching for event spaces, meeting rooms or adhoc spaces for their company events. Some of our biggest clients include Sky, Pret and UBS. The website started in London but then set its sights on other cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and Manchester. As an Account Manager for HeadBox, I am also responsible for hitting monthly sales targets and providing outstanding customer service to our most important clients. My day to day comes down to looking at incoming enquiries from emails, phone calls and via the HeadBox platform from people who are looking to book one of our 5,000 spaces.

What are you working on at the moment?
At this time of year, I am mainly dealing with big summer party briefs for our key corporate clients as well as smaller more urgent private dining briefs, meeting room hires and workshop events. This shows the variation in the workload as an Account Manager, every day is different, so you are never bored. Although summer parties haven’t even begun, big corporate companies are already thinking about their Christmas party, so I am constantly working on briefs for my Key Account clients as well as other corporate companies. On top of regular briefs and venue sourcing, a big part of my role at the moment involves developing relationships with our corporate customers and growing their accounts in terms of bookings.

So how did you get to this point in your career?
Before starting at HeadBox I knew I wanted to work closely with people in the customer service sphere. My first job was behind the bar at my local rugby club which was where I first learnt how to be polite and helpful to customers as well as how to negotiate with the more difficult ones. During my time at the University of Manchester I took part in an Internship at an Oil Company which was my first real experience into the corporate world, and although it was not the industry for me I got to experience lots of different roles within a business which helped me make my final decision to enter the Account Management field.

I then applied for lots of different Sales and Account Management roles to help build up my practice and confidence and eventually landed an interview with HeadBox. It’s always a good idea to speak to the careers advisor at University before you graduate, as they will have some great advice on how to write the perfect CV, covering letter and interview advice and this really helped me in the job searching process.

What are the highs & lows?
Before HeadBox, I would say that my least favourite role was bar work. Although it was lots of fun and I got to meet some great people it could be unsociable at times due to the hours I was contracted. I was also working on a zero-hour contract which meant I could often be sent home without being paid. Personally, I saw no future prospects in this role so I knew I needed to get out of that line of work as soon as I graduated.

The job search can be very disheartening when you’re sending out application after application. In the process of trying to find my dream job I had many late nights sending out applications and would often only get a reply from a very small percentage. However, perseverance is key because when I finally got the call for an interview it’s definitely a high point, especially if it was for a job I really wanted.

In regard to an Account Manager role at HeadBox, the highs are getting to talk to lots of different people every day, building relationships with them as well as getting to check out cool places and venues on a daily basis. It’s also very rewarding helping them find the perfect venue for their event as they’re always very grateful. The lows however, would be that it can be a stressful job at times as things are constantly changing. It’s gutting when you lose a big deal especially if it’s because of something that is out of your hands. How smoothly the process runs is not always within my control but will directly reflect my work load and my monthly targets. However, this also makes the job more challenging and pushes me to work hard at all times which is probably one of the most enjoyable aspects of the role.

What training or experience are essential to get in?
Most account management roles want at least one-year experience in a sales, customer service or an account management role prior to your application. However, I found when applying for a start-up job, there was also a huge emphasis on a candidate’s personality, potential and enthusiasm. They want someone who is energetic, resilient and organised – with the ability to provide outstanding customer service. If you prove you’re a fast learner and can work off your own initiative and importantly, have proven examples of this, then you will have a definite edge.

Having a degree is not necessarily a must to land an account management job but would make you stand out from the sea of CVs that your company would have received. There is also no specific graduate training as it’s more of an emphasis on your experience and personality. To be a successful Account Manager there are a few attributes which are very important for the role. Being a good communicator is essential for a role that is heavily customer focused. You should be customer and relationship oriented because essentially this is what will help you close the deals and ensure you are providing your client with the best possible experience. It is also handy to be confident in negotiating, although more often than not you will learn this on the job but if you can go into an Account Manager position interview and show examples of previous negotiation skills or even just the confidence to do so, you’ll definitely go far. Don’t forget your first job is all about learning and a start-up is a great place to learn a lot fast all you need is a can-do attitude and the initiative to do things yourself.

How have you found opportunities in this field?
There are heaps of opportunities working as an Account Manager, especially in the events industry. I have found myself surrounded by a group of other recent graduates who all share the same enthusiasm for making their way up the career ladder. In the field we are working in we also get the added benefit of being invited to exciting events and take part in fun FAM trips to lots of cool and exciting venues across London. From pop-up restaurants, experiential bars and fancy hotels, the events industry is great for exciting things to do after hours.

I would say that another benefit of working as an Account Manager within a start-up is that you are really thrown in at the deep end which is challenging but also a very rewarding opportunity. You get to learn on the job, in a fast-paced environment and use your own initiative. It’s also great to be able to work on a commission scheme so that the money you make is directly reflected by the work you put in. There is also a big opportunity for progression as well as the everyday excitement of working in an advancing tech company.

What advice would you give someone considering a similar career?
My advice for any graduate who wants to pursue a career as an Account Manager is to make sure you show your initiative and enthusiasm in every interview you go to, as well as demonstrating a competitive drive to succeed at all times. I also think it’s important to make sure you’re passionate about the company you are looking to work for.

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