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What is an Account Executive and How to Become One

By Ajoke Aminu

Published:

Retaining clients is arguably the most important aspect that a business needs to keep alive. Becoming an account executive means serving as the bridge between clients and your company. In this article, we’ll answer the question “What does an account executive do?” by discussing the processes to become one, what an account executive responsibilities entail, and an account executive salary.

Career Summary

Account Executive Salary 

When considering the career path, you’ve likely pondered the potential pay of an account executive. Glassdoor provides insights into the range for an account executive salary in the United States.

Below are the ranges:

  • Entry: US$137K
  • Median: US$175K
  • Executive: US$231K

The account executive salary significantly exceeds the average income in the United States, as per data from Forbes, where the national average stands at approximately $59,428.

What is an Account Executive?

An account executive is a professional responsible for managing relationships with clients, understanding their needs, and ensuring the successful delivery of products or services. They often serve as a key liaison between clients and their company, representing an integral aspect of a business’s success.

What Does an Account Executive Do?

Account executive responsibilities include fostering client relationships, understanding their needs, and promoting products or services. They serve as the primary liaison between clients and the company, collaborating with internal teams to ensure client satisfaction. This role involves sales, negotiation, and strategic planning, intending to drive business growth and maintain long-term partnerships. 

Account Executive Responsibilities

  • Client Relationship Management: Build and maintain strong client relationships.
  • Sales and Revenue Generation: Meet or exceed sales targets through effective sales strategies.
  • Account Planning and Strategy: Develop account plans to achieve sales goals.
  • Product Knowledge: Maintain expertise in company products/services.
  • Sales Reporting and Analysis: Track sales activities and analyze data.

Account Executive Career Progression

  • Sales or Account Coordinator: Entry-level position involving foundational tasks, such as administrative support, client communication, and basic account management.
  • Sales Development Representative (SDR) or Junior Account Executive: Focused on generating leads and initial client contact.
  • Account Executive: Responsible for managing smaller accounts or specific territories, focusing on client needs, and promoting products or services.
  • Senior Account Executive: Advances to handling larger clients or more complex projects, often taking on additional responsibilities and strategic planning.
  • Account Manager: Involves overseeing a team of Account Executives, ensuring client satisfaction, and contributing to broader account strategies.
  • Account Director or Senior Account Manager: Takes on more strategic responsibilities, possibly overseeing multiple teams.
  • Director of Accounts or Vice President of Sales: The highest level, where individuals play a crucial role in shaping overall business strategy, leading teams, and contributing significantly to the company’s growth.
Account Executive Career Progression

Best Aspects of Working as an Account Executive

  • Fulfilling client needs and making a positive impact.
  • Engaging in diverse tasks for a dynamic work environment.
  • Being informed about market trends.
  • Clear path for leadership opportunities.

Worst Aspects of Working as an Account Executive

  • Potential client conflicts and dissatisfaction.
  • Sales targets and performance pressure.
  • Variable income and commission uncertainties.
  • Balancing client expectations and internal challenges.

Useful Skills to Have as an Account Executive

  • Communication
  • Negotiation
  • Problem-solving
  • Relationship-building
  • Strategic thinking

Popular Account Executive Specialties

  • Enterprise Sales
  • Strategic Partnerships
  • Account-Based Marketing
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • SaaS Sales

How to Become an Account Executive

Account Executive 5 Steps to Career

In this section, we’ll navigate the essential steps and insights that pave the way for a successful career in this pivotal role. Whether you’re starting from scratch or aiming to elevate your current position, we’ll put you through the whole journey of becoming an account executive, starting with the first major step:

Education

Education is a formal prerequisite to becoming adept as an account executive. While it typically involves getting a degree at a university, an account executive enthusiast can choose to opt for other forms of education that might include informal approaches like web resources, practical learning, etc.

Do I need a degree to become an Account Executive?

While a degree can be beneficial, it’s not always a strict requirement to become an account executive. Many employers value relevant experience, skills, and qualities such as strong communication, relationship-building, and sales abilities. Some individuals enter the field with degrees in marketing, or a related field, while others may have diverse educational backgrounds.

Gaining practical experience through internships, entry-level sales positions, or relevant certifications can also be valuable in establishing yourself as a strong candidate for an Account Executive role. Networking and showcasing your ability to understand client needs and drive results are crucial in this profession. Ultimately, you may not need a degree to become an Account Executive, but a degree is highly beneficial— we’ll tell you why.

Why is it important to get a degree as an Account Executive?

The decision to pursue a degree as an Account Executive involves weighing various factors, and the importance of obtaining a degree can depend on individual circumstances.

Here are some key reasons why getting a degree will prove desirable for an account executive:

  • Knowledge Base:  A degree in business, marketing or a relevant field equips individuals with a solid foundation in business principles, marketing strategies, and communication skills, providing a comprehensive understanding of the field.
  • Professional Credibility: Employers may view a degree as a sign of commitment, discipline, and the ability to undertake a structured learning program, enhancing your credibility as a candidate.
  • Career Opportunities: Some companies explicitly require a degree for certain positions or offer advancement opportunities to individuals with higher educational qualifications.
  • Networking: College can serve as a platform for networking with peers, professors, and industry professionals, potentially opening doors to valuable connections and opportunities in the future.
  • Skill Development: Apart from subject-specific knowledge, a degree program often fosters critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills—attributes that are beneficial for navigating the complexities of account management.
  • Global Perspective: Higher education can expose individuals to diverse perspectives, international business concepts, and industry trends, providing a broader understanding that can be advantageous in a globalized business environment.

How long does it take to get a degree?

The duration to obtain a degree varies depending on the type of degree pursued and the educational institution’s program structure.

Typically:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: A traditional bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, or a related field often takes about four years of full-time study. However, some universities offer accelerated programs or allow for part-time study, which may impact the timeframe.
  • Online Bachelor’s Degree: Online bachelor’s degree programs often offer flexibility, allowing students to pace their studies according to their schedule. Depending on the program structure and the student’s pace, completing an online degree can take a similar timeframe as a traditional program.

How much does it cost to get a degree to become an Account Executive?

The cost of pursuing a master’s degree in business marketing can range from $28,500 to $75,000 annually, and online master’s programs vary from $230 to $1,000 per unit, totaling $7,000 to $36,000 for tuition.

For undergraduates specializing in business marketing, in-state programs can cost around $8,000, while out-of-state institutions may charge up to $24,000. Top-tier and private schools typically come with higher expenses. On the contrary, the total tuition for an online associate’s degree preparing for higher education in business marketing ranges from $8,000 to $19,000, while on-campus programs may cost between $2,000 and $15,000.

Individuals opting for short online certificate programs in business marketing can anticipate spending a few thousand dollars. For instance, certificates in digital marketing may range from $1,500 to $9,600, depending on the school and the number of units. It’s important to note that these estimates only consider tuition and do not include living expenses, books, or other associated costs.

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

Several web resources can help you acquire the skills needed to become an Account Executive.

Here are some valuable platforms:

  • Salesforce Trailhead: Focuses on Salesforce-related skills but also covers broader sales and customer relationship management concepts. It’s interactive and includes hands-on exercises.
  • Toastmasters International: While not strictly an online resource, Toastmasters can help enhance your communication and public speaking skills, which are valuable for client interactions.
  • Gong.io Blog: Offers insightful articles and resources on sales and communication strategies. Gong.io specializes in conversation analytics and provides valuable insights for sales professionals.
  • Sales Gravy: Provides training resources, podcasts, and articles on sales techniques, prospecting strategies, and account management skills.
  • The Sandler Training Blog: Offers articles, podcasts, and webinars focused on sales methodologies, objection handling, and building long-term client relationships.

Practical Experience

Practical experience matters for an account executive because it’s like hands-on training that turns textbook knowledge into real, effective skills. It’s the key to mastering client relationships and navigating the ins and outs of sales with confidence. One of the best opportunities to gain hands-on experience is through internships.

What are internship opportunities for an Account Executive?

Internship opportunities for an Account Executive vary across industries, but they generally involve gaining hands-on experience in sales, account management, and client interactions. To find these opportunities, check job boards, company websites, and network through professional platforms like LinkedIn.

Some common internship paths include:

  • Sales Intern: Working closely with the sales team, learning about lead generation, prospecting, and communication strategies.
  • Account Management Intern: Assisting in managing client accounts, understanding their needs, and ensuring customer satisfaction.
  • Marketing and Sales Support Intern: Involvement in collaborative projects, assisting with marketing campaigns, and supporting sales initiatives.
  • Business Development Intern: Focusing on identifying new business opportunities, market research, and contributing to growth strategies.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Intern: Learning to use CRM tools, managing data, and understanding how technology supports account management.
  • Industry-Specific Internships: Depending on the industry, there might be specialized internships, such as finance, technology, or healthcare sales internships.
  • Startup Internships: Joining a startup can provide a broader understanding of various roles, as startups often require employees to wear multiple hats.
  • Remote Sales Internship: With the rise of remote work, many companies offer virtual internship opportunities, allowing interns to gain experience from anywhere.

What Skills Will I Learn as an Account Executive?

As an Account Executive, you will develop a diverse set of skills essential for success in client management and sales.

These skills include:

  • Communication Skills: Effectively conveying ideas, building rapport with clients, and articulating value propositions are fundamental to an Account Executive’s role.
  • Negotiation and Persuasion: Mastering negotiation techniques and persuasive communication to close deals and secure mutually beneficial agreements.
  • Sales Techniques: Learning various sales methodologies, understanding buyer behavior, and tailoring sales approaches to different client needs.
  • Client Relationship Management: Building and maintaining strong relationships with clients, understanding their goals, and ensuring ongoing satisfaction.
  • Strategic Thinking: Developing a strategic mindset to identify opportunities, solve problems, and contribute to the overall business objectives.
  • Time Management: Effectively prioritizing tasks, managing deadlines, and multitasking to handle multiple client accounts simultaneously.
  • Adaptability: Being flexible in response to changes in client needs, market trends, and internal priorities.
  • Problem Solving: Analyzing challenges and providing effective solutions, showcasing resourcefulness in addressing client concerns.
  • Product and Industry Knowledge: Acquiring in-depth knowledge about the products or services offered and staying informed about industry trends.
  • Data Analysis: Utilizing data and analytics to evaluate performance, identify trends, and make informed decisions to optimize sales strategies.
  • Team Collaboration: Collaborating with internal teams, including marketing, product development, and customer support, to ensure a cohesive approach in meeting client needs. 
  • Tech Proficiency: Familiarity with sales tools, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and other technologies that streamline account management processes.
  • Networking: Building a professional network within and outside the organization to enhance business opportunities and stay informed about industry developments.
  • Resilience: Developing resilience to handle rejection, overcome challenges, and maintain a positive attitude in a dynamic sales environment.

What is the work-life balance of an Account Executive like?

The work-life balance of an account executive can vary based on factors like industry, company culture, and individual preferences. Typically, account executives face a dynamic and demanding work environment, involving client meetings, sales presentations, and continuous communication. This may lead to periods of intense workload, especially during critical project phases or when meeting sales targets.

While the job often requires dedication and flexibility, many organizations recognize the importance of a healthy work-life balance. Successful account executives often manage their time efficiently, setting clear boundaries to prevent burnout and handle stress. Additionally, remote work options and flexible schedules are becoming more common, allowing for a better balance between professional and personal life. Ultimately, the balance achieved depends on individual preferences, company policies, and the specific demands of the industry.

What’s the Career Outlook for Account Executives?

The growth in the sales manager field presents promising prospects for aspiring account executives. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of sales managers is expected to increase by 4 percent from 2022 to 2032. This positive trajectory indicates a demand for professionals in roles closely aligned with account executive responsibilities.

Additionally, in high-demand industries or metropolitan areas, account executives may command higher salaries due to increased competition for talent. For instance, tech hubs like San Francisco or New York often offer more lucrative compensation packages for sales and account management roles.

Understanding these statistics provides valuable insights for an aspiring account executive, helping them gauge industry trends, set realistic salary expectations, and strategically plan their career paths in alignment with the evolving landscape of the sales and account management field.

Account Executive Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of an Account Executive?

Job opportunities for account executives are diverse and can be found across various industries.

Some common avenues include:

  • Sales and Marketing Agencies: Account executives may work for agencies that specialize in sales and marketing services, serving multiple clients across different sectors.
  • Technology Companies: In the tech industry, account executives often play a crucial role in selling software, services, or solutions to businesses.
  • Advertising and Media: Account executives can be involved in selling advertising space, managing client relationships, and ensuring the successful execution of advertising campaigns.
  • Financial Services: Banks, investment firms, and other financial institutions often employ account executives to manage client accounts and promote financial products and services.
  • Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals: Account executives in these industries may focus on selling medical devices, pharmaceuticals, or healthcare services.
  • Manufacturing and B2B Sales: Account executives may find opportunities in manufacturing companies, where they sell products or services to other businesses.
  • Retail: Some account executives work in retail, especially in roles involving business-to-business (B2B) sales.
  • Telecommunications: Telecom companies often hire account executives to manage business accounts and promote communication services.
  • Real Estate: In the real estate industry, account executives may work for property management firms or real estate agencies, handling client relationships and property sales.
  • Consulting: Management and business consulting firms may seek account executives to drive client engagement and sales of consulting services.

Should I Become an Account Executive?

Account executives are the linchpin to any customer-centric enterprise, orchestrating the delicate dance between client needs and business deliverables. Account executive responsibilities include finesse in negotiations, strategic vision in account management, and an ability to pivot seamlessly between corporate boards and coffee-shop catch-ups. If you thrive in a high-energy, rapidly-shifting environment and love the satisfaction of cross-functional collaboration, this may be the career path to pursue. 

With experience, the account executive salary can soar to impressive heights, making it a rewarding journey for the impassioned professional willing to invest their time and talent. The role is also a gateway to understanding the nuances of corporate strategies and diversifying one’s skill set within the sales domain. Whether you’re squarely in the sights of this role or just pondering a step in this direction, the essence of an account executive’s tireless dedication to customer satisfaction is a lesson in professional tenacity.

Careers Related to Account Executive


Ajoke Aminu

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