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What is an Account Manager and How to Become One

By Oluwadamilola Osisanya

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Have you ever wondered what it takes to become the bridge between a company and its clients, mastering the art of client satisfaction and business growth? The journey to becoming an account manager, a role pivotal in shaping business success, is fraught with questions about the necessary skills, education, and experience. Dive into our guide as we unravel the essentials of what an account manager does and lay out a step-by-step path to launching your career in this dynamic and fulfilling field.

Career Summary

Account Manager Salary

Account Manager Salary

Knowing the account manager salary across various experience levels offers insight into the financial aspect of this career path.

The account manager salary can vary widely, but here are the average figures according to Glassdoor:

  • Entry-Level: US$ 73,000
  • Median: US$ 96,000
  • Senior: US$ 128,000

All account managers receive a higher salary when compared to the national average, which is $59,428 according to Forbes.

What is an Account Manager?

An account manager is a professional role within companies, particularly in the sales, marketing, and service sectors, focused on managing and nurturing a company’s relationships with its clients

They are responsible for maintaining high customer satisfaction, meeting client’s needs and expectations, and working closely with other departments to deliver products or services efficiently.

What does an Account Manager do?

So, the next question is: What does an account manager do exactly? The responsibilities of account managers include understanding client needs, developing strategic solutions to meet those needs, coordinating with internal teams to deliver services or products, and conducting regular check-ins to ensure client expectations are met. 

They play a crucial role in retaining existing clients and potentially increasing sales by identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling.

Account Manager Career Progression

  • Junior Account Manager: In this entry-level position, your focus will be on supporting senior account managers, learning the basics of client relationship management, and assisting with day-to-day account operations.
  • Account Manager: You will manage and nurture relationships with assigned clients, understand their needs, and ensure the delivery of services or products to meet those needs.
  • Senior Account Manager: In this role, you will take on larger, more complex accounts, demonstrating advanced problem-solving and strategic planning abilities. You might also mentor junior team members.
  • Key Account Manager: As a key account manager, you will specialize in managing a company’s most important clients. You will also work to maintain a strong relationship and in-depth understanding of key accounts’ strategic needs and ensure their long-term satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Account Director: You will oversee multiple account managers, ensuring client satisfaction across a broader portfolio. You will also be involved in strategic decision-making and high-level planning to achieve long-term objectives.
Account Manager Career Progression

Best Aspects of Working as an Account Manager

  • Opportunity to build strong, long-lasting relationships with clients.
  • Dynamic role with diverse tasks and challenges that prevent monotony.
  • Access to performance-based bonuses and incentives.
  • Opportunities for creative problem-solving and strategic thinking.
  • Collaboration with a variety of departments within an organization.

Worst Aspects of Working as an Account Manager

  • High stress levels due to constant pressure to meet sales targets.
  • Long and irregular working hours, often extending into evenings and weekends.
  • Conflicts and difficult conversations when client expectations do not align with company capabilities or policies.
  • Juggling multiple client accounts simultaneously can be overwhelming.
  • Limited control over external factors, such as product issues or service delays.

Essential Account Manager Skills

  • Relationship Building
  • Strategic Thinking 
  • Problem-Solving
  • Negotiation Skills
  • Time Management

Popular Account Manager Specialties

  • Sales Account Management
  • Key Account Management
  • Digital Account Management
  • Technical Account Management
  • Advertising Account Management 
  • Strategic Account Management

How to Become an Account Manager

Account Manager 5 Steps to Career

Education and practical experience serve as foundational pillars in the journey to becoming a successful account manager, highlighting the importance of understanding exactly what is an account manager and the competencies required for success in this role.

Education

A solid educational foundation is pivotal in equipping aspiring account managers with the essential skills and knowledge required to excel in this dynamic and client-focused role.

Do I need a degree to become an Account Manager?

Yes, to become an account manager, education is typically required. Most employers look for candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree in fields such as business, marketing, communications, or a related area. 

This educational background provides foundational knowledge in business practices, client communication, and strategic planning, which are crucial for the role. Additionally, certain positions may require specific qualifications or certifications related to the industry or sales management. 

Why is it important to get a degree in Business Administration?

Obtaining a degree in Business Administration is highly relevant and beneficial for aspiring account managers for several reasons:

  • Comprehensive Skill Set: A Business Administration degree equips individuals with a broad range of skills crucial for account management, including strategic planning, leadership, financial analysis, and marketing. These competencies are essential for effectively managing client accounts, understanding business needs, and driving growth.
  • Understanding of Business Operations: This degree provides a deep understanding of how businesses operate, which is critical for account managers as they need to navigate various departments, from finance to marketing, to serve their clients effectively.
  • Enhanced Communication Skills: Effective communication is key in account management. A Business Administration program often includes courses that hone verbal and written communication skills, negotiation techniques, and presentation abilities, which are pivotal in building and maintaining strong client relationships.
  • Networking Opportunities: Pursuing a degree offers numerous networking opportunities with peers, faculty, and industry professionals through internships, events, and projects. These connections can be invaluable for career advancement in account management.

How long does it take to get a degree in Business Administration?

Getting a degree in Business Administration typically takes four years for a full-time student to complete an undergraduate program. This duration applies to a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) or a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA).

These programs cover essential business disciplines such as finance, marketing, management, accounting, and economics, providing a well-rounded education that prepares graduates for various roles in business, including account management positions.

Some positions might also favor or require a Master of Business Administration (MBA), which typically requires an additional two years of study after completing a bachelor’s degree. However, accelerated and part-time programs are also available, altering the time to completion.

How much does it cost to study Business Administration at university?

The cost to study Business Administration varies depending on the institution and whether you are a state resident or an out-of-state student. 

On average, the undergraduate tuition and fees for a Business Administration and Management program are $9,243 for state residents and $25,950 for out-of-state students at public institutions. 

On the other hand, the average graduate tuition & fees is $10,867 for state residents and $19,485 for out-of-state students.

Can I become an Account Manager through online education?

Yes, you can become an Account Manager through online education. Many universities and educational platforms offer online bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in Business Administration, Marketing, Communications, or related fields that are essential for a career in account management. These programs often cover the same curriculum as their on-campus counterparts, ensuring you gain the necessary knowledge and skills.

Look for accredited online programs that offer courses in sales management, customer relationship management, and strategic planning, as these will be particularly relevant to a career as an account manager. 

What are some web resources to learn skills to become an Account Manager?

For those seeking to enhance their account manager skills, several specialized resources are available that focus specifically on the needs and challenges of this role. 

These resources range from comprehensive training programs to courses designed to sharpen specific competencies vital for success in account management.

Here are some notable resources tailored exclusively for account managers:

  • Richardson’s Prosperous Account Strategy Training Program: It focuses on customer-centric account management strategies, offering insights into identifying priority customers, analyzing account information, and developing strategies to expand and grow existing customer relationships​​.
  • Large Account Management Process (LAMP) Training Program: It is designed to help account managers develop long-term roadmaps for their most important clients, focusing on planning and managing customer relationships and building actionable account management plans for customer success​​.
  • RAIN Group’s Strategic Account Management Training: It addresses the dilemma between customer acquisition and retention, helping account managers identify accounts with the greatest revenue growth potential and protecting those customers from churn​​.
  • Strategic Accounts Management Association (SAMA) Academy: SAMA offers various certification programs, training options, and online account manager training, including an Individual Competency Assessment to customize the training program based on the professional’s specific needs​​.
  • Factor8’s Account Management Training Courses: These courses provide skills and tactics beyond theory, focusing on retaining and managing clients and driving product/service penetration, profitability, and growth. They offer levels of training that cover the basics of account management, expanding the base, getting what’s yours, and watching it grow to improve account base growth, higher revenue per account, and better forecasting​​.

Practical Experience

Practical experience is invaluable in becoming an account manager, as it equips individuals with account manager skills and insights needed to navigate client relationships and business challenges effectively.

What are internship opportunities for an Account Manager?

Securing an internship is a strategic step to gain firsthand insights into what an account manager does, offering a glimpse into the day-to-day challenges and rewards.

Here are some common internship opportunities for individuals looking to gain experience in account management:

  • Account Management Intern: Many companies offer internships specifically for individuals interested in pursuing a career in account management. These internships provide hands-on experience working closely with clients, managing accounts, and learning the basics of client relationship management.
  • Sales and Business Development Intern: These internships focus on building sales and business development skills crucial for account managers. Interns may work on lead generation, prospecting, and supporting the sales team in acquiring new clients.
  • Customer Success Intern: Customer success interns work closely with account managers to ensure client satisfaction and retention. They help identify and address customer needs, provide support, and gather feedback to improve the customer experience.
  • Marketing and Account Management Intern: This internship combines marketing and account management, where interns work on marketing strategies for existing clients, create marketing materials, and assist in client campaigns.
  • Client Services Intern: In this role, interns support account managers in executing client projects, coordinating deliverables, and managing client communication. They gain exposure to the day-to-day responsibilities of an account manager.
  • Digital Advertising Account Intern: If you are interested in the digital marketing industry, you can find internships focusing on managing digital advertising accounts, including Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and other online advertising platforms.
  • Retail Account Management Intern: For those interested in retail, there are opportunities to intern with companies that manage retail accounts. These roles may involve inventory management, customer relationship management, and sales support.
  • Technology Account Management Intern: Technology companies often offer internships to manage accounts for software, hardware, or IT services. Interns assist with technical support, product training, and customer relationship management.
  • Advertising Agency Account Intern: Internships at advertising agencies provide exposure to managing client accounts, creating ad campaigns, and collaborating with creative teams to deliver effective marketing strategies.
  • Financial Services Account Management Intern: Interns in the financial industry may work with clients on investment portfolios, financial planning, or insurance policies. They assist account managers in client meetings and data analysis.
  • Real Estate Account Management Intern: Real estate companies may offer internships that involve managing property portfolios, assisting with lease agreements, and providing customer support to property owners and renters.

To find internship opportunities, consider exploring job search websites, company career pages, and networking with professionals in your desired field. Additionally, check with your school’s career services department for guidance and opportunities specific to your academic institution.

What skills will I learn as an Account Manager?

The following list encompasses the core account manager skills you will develop through education and practical experience.

  • Communication Skills: Effective verbal and written communication is essential for building and maintaining strong client relationships. You will learn to convey ideas, negotiate terms, and address client concerns clearly and professionally.
  • Relationship Building: Building and nurturing client relationships is at the core of account management. You will develop the ability to establish trust, understand client needs, and tailor solutions to meet their requirements.
  • Problem-Solving: Account managers often encounter challenges and obstacles when working with clients. You’ll learn to identify problems, analyze root causes, and develop creative solutions to address issues and maintain client satisfaction.
  • Strategic Thinking: Account managers need to think strategically to identify opportunities for growth within existing accounts. You will learn to develop account plans and strategies that align with your clients and company’s goals.
  • Sales and Upselling: Account managers often play a role in sales and upselling products or services to existing clients. You’ll acquire sales techniques, including product knowledge and persuasive communication skills.
  • Time Management: Managing multiple client accounts requires strong time management skills. You’ll learn how to prioritize tasks, set goals, and efficiently allocate your time to meet client needs and deadlines.
  • Customer Service: Customer service is crucial in account management. You’ll develop the ability to respond to client inquiries promptly, resolve issues, and ensure a positive customer experience.
  • Data Analysis: Analyzing data related to client accounts can help you identify trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement. You’ll learn to use data analytics tools to make informed decisions.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Account managers often work closely with various departments, such as sales, marketing, and customer support. You’ll gain experience in collaborating with these teams to meet client objectives.
  • Negotiation Skills: Negotiating terms, contracts, and pricing with clients may be part of your role. You’ll develop negotiation skills to secure favorable deals while maintaining a strong client relationship.
  • Adaptability: The business landscape is constantly evolving, and you’ll need to adapt to changes in your industry and your clients’ needs. This includes learning new technologies and industry trends and adapting your strategies accordingly.
  • Presentation Skills: Account managers often need to deliver presentations to clients or internal teams. You’ll develop presentation skills to convey information and proposals effectively.
  • Conflict Resolution: When disagreements or conflicts arise with clients, you’ll learn to navigate these situations professionally and find resolutions that satisfy both parties.
  • Financial Acumen: Understanding financial metrics and profitability is essential for managing accounts effectively. You’ll become skilled in analyzing financial data related to your clients’ accounts.
  • Organizational Skills: Organizing and keeping track of client information, contracts, and documentation is vital for successful account management. You’ll become proficient in organizing and maintaining records.

What is the work-life balance of an Account Manager?

Account managers often face demanding schedules due to the need to meet client expectations, leading to long hours and potential encroachment on personal time. Their role is client-centric, requiring availability outside standard hours and sometimes involving frequent travel, which can impact work-life balance. 

However, the position also offers flexibility and autonomy, allowing for some control over their schedules. Despite the pressure to achieve sales targets and maintain client satisfaction, account managers can find the role rewarding through building meaningful relationships and contributing to company success. 

Effective time management, setting clear boundaries, and leveraging technology are essential for maintaining a healthy balance between professional responsibilities and personal life.

What’s the Career Outlook for an Account Manager?

The career outlook for account managers in the USA, specifically within advertising, promotions, and marketing management (which closely aligns with many account manager responsibilities), is positive

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in this broader category is projected to grow 6% from 2022 to 2032, faster than the average for all occupations. 

This growth is driven by the need for companies to maintain and expand their market share in a competitive business environment, requiring skilled professionals to manage and strengthen client relationships, oversee accounts, and lead marketing efforts. 

The demand for advertising, promotions, and marketing managers, which encompasses roles similar to that of account managers, indicates a healthy and growing field for those in account management positions. This growth suggests promising career prospects for account managers, with opportunities for advancement and the need for their skills across various industries.

Account Manager Popular Career Specialties

What are the job opportunities of an Account Manager?

Account managers are pivotal in fostering client relationships and driving business success.

Let’s explore distinctive job opportunities within this field:

  • Key Account Manager: Key account managers focus on managing a company’s most important clients or accounts. They develop strong relationships with key clients, understand their needs and goals, and ensure the company meets their requirements.
  • Enterprise Account Manager: Enterprise account managers work with large corporations and enterprises to manage their accounts. They often handle complex sales and service agreements, negotiate contracts, and coordinate with various teams within the company to meet the client’s needs.
  • International Account Manager: International account managers specialize in managing accounts for clients in different countries or regions. They may deal with international regulations, currency exchange, and cultural considerations to ensure successful account management on a global scale.
  • Strategic Account Manager: Strategic account managers focus on developing and executing long-term account strategies. They analyze data and market trends to identify opportunities for growth and expansion within their accounts.
  • Supplier Account Manager: In some industries, account managers may work with suppliers or vendors as their clients. They ensure the company maintains strong relationships with these suppliers and manages the procurement process effectively.
  • Nonprofit Account Manager: Nonprofit organizations often have account managers who manage donor relationships, ensuring donors are engaged, informed, and satisfied with their contributions.
  • Education Account Manager: Educational institutions and EdTech companies may hire account managers to work with schools, colleges, or other educational clients. They help implement educational solutions and provide ongoing support.
  • Franchise Account Manager: Franchise businesses may have account managers who work with individual franchisees to ensure they follow the company’s standards and guidelines while managing their operations.
  • Wholesale Account Manager: In industries like manufacturing or distribution, account managers may work with wholesalers or distributors to manage their accounts, orders, and inventory.
  • E-commerce Account Manager: E-commerce companies hire account managers to work with online retailers or marketplace sellers. They help these sellers optimize their listings, manage inventory, and drive sales.

What type of companies hire an Account Manager?

A wide range of companies hire account managers across various industries.

Here are some types of companies that commonly hire account managers:

  • Financial Institutions: Banks, investment firms, and credit unions hire account managers to manage client portfolios, provide financial advice, and ensure a high level of customer satisfaction.
  • Technology Companies: Tech companies, including software providers, hardware manufacturers, and IT service providers, hire account managers to oversee client accounts, provide technical support, and promote adopting their products or services.
  • Healthcare Organizations: Hospitals, medical facilities, pharmaceutical companies, and healthcare service providers employ account managers to maintain relationships with healthcare professionals, manage accounts, and ensure compliance with industry regulations.
  • Manufacturing and Distribution Companies: Manufacturers and distributors hire account managers to work with wholesalers, retailers, and distributors, ensuring smooth supply chain operations and managing client accounts.
  • Retailers: Retail companies may employ account managers to manage relationships with key suppliers or vendors, negotiate contracts, and ensure product availability.
  • Advertising and Marketing Agencies: Advertising and marketing agencies hire account managers to liaise between clients and creative teams, ensuring that advertising campaigns meet client objectives.
  • Education Institutions: Schools, colleges, and EdTech companies may employ account managers to work with educational clients, helping them implement educational solutions and providing ongoing support.

These examples highlight the diversity of industries and sectors that value the skills and expertise of account managers to maintain client relationships, drive revenue growth, and ensure client satisfaction.

Should I Become an Account Manager?

Deciding whether to embark on a career as an account manager is a pivotal choice that demands careful consideration of the insights and core aspects explored throughout this article. It’s crucial to weigh these elements against your personal interests, innate skills, and long-term professional objectives.

As we’ve dissected, the role of an account manager is multifaceted, blending the need for exceptional communication skills, strategic thinking, and the ability to foster and maintain robust client relationships. It’s a career path that offers a unique intersection of challenge and reward, requiring a balance of soft skills and industry knowledge to succeed.

Before making this career decision, reflect deeply on how the key account manager responsibilities and day-to-day activities align with your passions and strengths. Do you thrive in dynamic, relationship-driven environments? Are you adept at problem-solving and navigating complex customer needs? If these questions spark a sense of excitement and anticipation, then a career as an account manager could be a fulfilling path for you.

Additionally, consider the long-term career trajectory and how it aligns with your professional goals. The role of an account manager can open doors to numerous opportunities for growth and advancement within the corporate world, offering a clear pathway to leadership positions and specialized roles within different industries.

Ultimately, the decision to become an account manager should be grounded in a comprehensive understanding of the role’s demands and rewards and a personal introspection of your ambitions, capabilities, and where you envision your career journey leading you. 

Careers Related to Account Manager

  • Account Executive
  • Business Development Manager
  • Client Success Manager
  • Customer Support Manager
  • Sales Manager

Oluwadamilola Osisanya

About the Author

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