Sales is a popular career choice, with over 14 million of the 147.7 million employed US citizens holding Sales and Related Occupations. That’s almost 9.5% of US workers!
Of course, there are a wide variety of sales positions available. These include retail, automobile, insurance, real estate, advertising, and inside sales. And there are many different sales titles too, such as –
- Sales development rep (SDR)
- Account executive (AE)
- Account manager (AM)
If you’re considering getting into sales, it’s best to understand these positions so you can figure out where you fit in. And since there is an average of 2.6 AEs for every SDR, you may see more job postings for this position. So, let’s take a look at what an Account Executive does day-to-day.
What is an account executive?
Account executives are part of a sales team. It is a job title found primarily at advertising agencies, public relations firms, financial services companies, and technology companies.
Responsibilities for account executives vary from company to company. Some are primarily responsible for building great relationships with potential customers and closing business for their organization. Other account executives support existing client accounts to manage, grow, and renew those accounts. And some account executives are responsible for both closing new business and managing existing accounts.
Although they are called executives, they’re not executives in the traditional sense because they don’t typically manage a team. Instead, they represent the company as the primary company contact for new and existing clients.
What does an account executive do?
An account executives duties vary depending on the specific business and industry they work in. For example, if they’re responsible for closing new business and managing existing accounts, activities they engage in include:
- Negotiating and closing business with new customers.
- Retaining existing customers by supporting them and developing strong client relationships.
- Growing existing customer accounts to increase revenue.
- Coordinating all tasks related to their accounts.
- Identifying new potential clients for the company.
- Developing sales strategies based on industry trends and data.
- Guiding potential customers through the buying process.
- Preparing for and attending client meetings, including discovery calls, product demos, and presentations.
What is a typical account executive job description?
The ideal candidate for an Account Executive position can identify and attract new potential customers. Then they need to close the business, onboard new clients, and manage the customer relationship moving forward. This involves selling and relationship-building skills to maintain and grow customer business for the company.
Additional details you might see in a typical account executive job description include:
- Educate and guide prospects throughout the buying process
- Manage a pipeline of qualified leads and build relationships with prospective customers
- Work with existing assigned accounts to retain and grow their business
- Close business with new and existing customers while meeting designated targets
- Work collaboratively with marketing and product teams to develop sales strategies for new and existing products
- Project management experience for senior account executive roles can be requested as well.
An Account Executive’s day-to-day routine
Although a particular sales position may sound attractive, most job descriptions don’t tell you much about a day in the life of a role.
The job description may allude to the type of software you’ll be using or include a broad description of responsibilities but they usually don’t provide enough detail.
But you must understand how you’ll be spending your time before you apply for an AE position. So, what does an account executive do?
An account executives day is anything but boring. It is action-packed and non-stop from start to finish. No two days are exactly the same, but an AE typically starts their day early, around 7:30 AM, and ends around 4:30 PM with a few off-hours activities as well.
An account executive’s day includes tasks like :
- Checking and responding to emails from customers and prospects to ensure timely communications
- A daily sales meeting to solve problems and set the day’s priorities
- Social selling on LinkedIn
- Research and preparation for the day’s calls
- Discovery calls with new accounts
- Product demos
- Proposal preparation
- Email activities to follow up on existing deals in progress, check in with current customers, respond to questions, and start a conversation with a prospect.
Then there are internal meetings sprinkled throughout their weekly and monthly schedules, including weekly departmental kick-offs, team meetings, and one-on-ones with their manager.
Plus, there may be after-hours activities to handle, such as networking events or calling executives at the end of their days around 7 or 8 PM
Most highly successful AEs carefully plan their schedules and employ time-blocking to efficiently use their time to ensure productivity. Time blocking is where you block out specific parts of your calendar to complete a particular task.
What is the difference between an Account Executive and an Account Manager?
If you’ve been looking at job postings, you may be wondering if an AE is the same as an AM. Although they both work directly with customers, AEs often are responsible for converting potential clients into new customers.
In some organizations, Account Managers take over the customer support role from an Account Executive. But in other companies, an AE will continue to work with prospects after they become paying customers.
What skills does an account executive need?
An account executive needs a wide range of skills to succeed, such as:
- Communication and interpersonal skills: Excellent verbal and written correspondence with clients is a large part of an account executive’s job. Clear communications significantly impact an AEs ability to maintain and grow client relationships.
- Empathy: The ability to put yourself in the prospect’s shoes, understand their challenges and their desire to resolve them, is critical to fostering strong relationships.
- Problem-solving: The ability to work through issues and identify solutions on your own can significantly influence an AEs success. You often need to think on your feet without the assistance of your manager.
- Organization: The average account executive juggles a multitude of different activities daily. To successfully navigate each day requires effective organization and time management skills.
- Perseverance: Account executives encounter many challenges each day. It’s important not to give up and persist until reaching goals and targets.
- Teamwork skills: Sales is a team sport, so it’s essential to be an effective team player to succeed as an AE.
- Sales skills: Excellent sales skills are necessary to win new clients and sell new services to existing clients.
- Teachable: This is more of a characteristic, but it is essential to achieve success as an account executive. With product updates, market changes and evolving sales strategies, there is always something new to learn in sales. It is important to have the desire to learn and continually grow.
- Management: This is typically for senior account executive positions but a background in sales team management can be valuable.
These skills are essential as AEs encounter various personalities while striving to meet buyer expectations and hit monthly or quarterly revenue targets.
What is a typical Account Executive salary?
Clearly important for anyone on a job search for an AE role, account executives are typically paid a base salary plus commissions. According to the Bridge Group, the average base salary for an AE is $66 thousand with on-target earnings (OTE) or an estimated annual income of $132 thousand per year. This estimated amount is reached when quota targets are hit.
Of course, these are averages, and an AE’s salary varies based on industry, organization, and geography. According to Glassdoor, account executive salaries can start as low as $35 thousand a year.
Skills to include on an account executive resume
Each time you apply for an account executive role, you should customize your resume to ensure your wording aligns with what the potential employer is looking for. When you take the time to do this, the preliminary screening software won’t disqualify your resume for lacking specific keywords or skills.
For example, if a job description mentions the same skill several times, then chances are that will be one of the skills the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) will be looking for. And if your resume doesn’t include it you could be prescreened out before the hiring manager ever sees your resume.
Of course, you want to be honest about your skills, but if you possess the skills designated in the job posting and don’t list them on your resume, you’ll miss out. On the other hand, don’t go overboard when listing skills on your resume.
Listing more than your top five – 10 skills could also be a red flag to the hiring manager or recruiter reviewing your resume. So, which account executive skills should you include on your resume? Some of the most common skills employers look for on AE resumes:
- Written & Verbal Communication Skills
- Contract Negotiation
- Presentation Skills
- Microsoft Office (PowerPoint, Word, Excel)
- CRM (Salesforce, HubSpot)
- Problem Solving
- Public relations
- Customer satisfaction
- Relationship Building
- Detail Oriented
- Time Management
- Building Client Relationships
- Sales Reporting
- Phone Sales
- Inside Sales
How to get Account Executive jobs
There are many ways to get account executive jobs. First, it helps to have a bachelor’s degree or more in business administration, marketing, communications, or public relations.
A common way to become an account executive is to gain experience and develop contacts in an entry-level role, such as a sales representative or account coordinator. Then you can transition into an account executive role from there. For example, some organizations have junior account executives who work underneath a senior account executive. And if you excel in that role, you’ll be able to advance through the account executive ranks.