What Is an Account Executive? (Plus How To Become One)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 31 October 2022 | Published 23 August 2021

Updated 31 October 2022

Published 23 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Sales professionals are essential figures who ensure a company generates steady revenue while maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction. Therefore, pursuing a role in sales can provide you with an exciting career that allows you to connect with many people. If you're interested in sales, you may benefit from understanding the various career paths you can take to work in this sector. In this article, we discuss what is an account executive, what they do, how to become one, the skills they need, how much they earn and an account executive's typical work environment.

What is an account executive?

An account executive is a type of sales professional. They're typically responsible for achieving revenue targets or sales quotas by selling their company's products or services. Account executives work on sales strategies to ensure they consistently meet the needs of existing customers. These professionals also handle sales pitches and closing sales deals with new clients. This often includes holding discovery calls, providing product demos to prospective clients and completing deals.

Account executives may also work in industries like advertising, marketing or media at agencies. They have similar responsibilities to those who work in sales. They oversee signing new clients and serving existing clients. Additionally, account executives have a more full-cycle sales representative role, handling a variety of customer service, account executive and sales research functions.

What does an account executive do?

Account executives generally work in the sales, marketing and advertising industries, where they manage client acquisition and development. These sales experts are masters of customer service, market research and business strategy. As an account executive, you can expect to handle the following tasks:

  • Develop solutions for client problems: Account executives may assist sales representatives to develop customised packages to address specific client issues to help meet revenue and development goals.

  • Follow up with prospective customers: After a sales representative assesses prospective leads, account executives follow up with them via email, phone or video chat or may invite them for an in-person meeting or presentation.

  • Manage sales teams: Account executives may manage sales representatives, including monitoring their performance, meeting with team members or providing feedback or training to improve performance.

  • Nurture relationships: Account executives are responsible for communicating with clients regularly and delivering exceptional customer service to build long-term relationships to meet their sales goals.

  • Set goals and create action plans: With the assistance of their supervisors and peers, account executives may establish sales quotas, develop effective sales strategies, set goals and create action plans.

Related: How To Set Achievable Business Goals at Work

How to become an account executive

Follow these steps to become an account executive:

1. Complete your education

Degree-level qualifications aren't a requirement to become an account executive, but earning a degree may open more career options. Consider pursuing a bachelor's degree in an area like accounting, advertising, commerce or marketing. When taking these courses full time, this usually requires three to four years to complete. You may begin pursuing these courses once you turn 17 years old or complete year 12 and have the required Universities Admission Index.

2. Expand your network

As you begin your career, strive to build your professional network. Consider joining local professional organisations or online networks or attending networking events to meet like-minded professionals in your field. This may help you create important connections that may lead to finding mentorship opportunities or learning about potential new jobs.

Read more: Become a Networking Expert in 7 Steps

3. Gain relevant experience

Seek sales or account executive positions, especially if you didn't earn a degree qualification. Working in entry-level positions, such as a presales consultant or a sales representative, may help you gain essential skills and become more comfortable in the field. Look for opportunities to grow your skill set.

4. Apply for jobs

As you apply for roles, ensure you update your resume frequently so it meets the requirements of each role you're seeking. Refer to the job posting to verify your resume aligns with the job specifications, such as relevant skills and experience. Also, consider preparing for interviews by researching common account executive interview questions to help you develop plausible answers. You may also think about preparing a list of questions to ask your interviewer to display your enthusiasm for the role.

Related: 50 Sales Interview Questions (With Example Answers)

5. Work toward a promotion

Think about advancing your career. This may involve completing additional training courses or earning other qualifications. Some common advancement opportunities for account executives to pursue include becoming a sales director, a sales vice president or a similar position.

Related: How to Become a Sales Director (With Skills and FAQs)

Account executive skills

Becoming an account executive requires developing hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills, or technical skills, refer to the specific abilities required to be an account executive that you may learn through education, experience or training. Soft skills are natural traits that you display through your personal characteristics and habits you may organically perform. This can include your work ethic and how you communicate with others. Some important skills for account executives to develop include:

Sales skills

Sales skills refer to an account executive's ability to identify client needs and persuade them that their organisation has the products or services to resolve their problems. It's essential for these professionals to be able to sell products and services to clients. These skills help them understand why customers choose and buy certain products, frame sales messages effectively and create connections with clients.

Active listening

Active listening refers to the way a person listens to others. Account executives frequently rely on this skill to extract crucial information from a client to ensure they sell a product that is right for them. Active listening skills can also help these professionals to develop follow-up questions using keywords the client originally used.

Communication skills

Communication skills refer to the ability to share, receive and process information. Account executives regularly communicate via email, over the phone and in person. To efficiently communicate with clients, an account executive may perform engaging body language, such as nodding when the customer speaks, maintaining eye contact, and taking notes. Additionally, they can convey key points clearly and may ask for feedback to help develop these skills.

CRM software

Customer relationship management (CRM) software refers to the programs that companies can use to organise, access and manage data. This is essential for account executives to use to manage multiple customers throughout the different stages of the sales journey. It allows them to track critical aspects, like upcoming tasks and prior points of contact.

Data organisation skills

Data organisation skills relate to the ability to categorise and classify data in order to make it more usable. Accountant executives may use this skill to research and interpret important sales data and client information. They also typically need to know how to use word-processing software to write documents and contracts and spreadsheet programs to track goals and quotas effectively.

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills refer to a person's empathy and understanding of other people to make connections successfully. Account executives are responsible for building relationships and meeting client needs. It's important they're able to find things in common with others, practice active listening and see things from new perspectives.

Negotiation

Negotiation skills refer to the ability to have discussions to reach compromises between two or more parties. Account executives are responsible for building relationships to meet sales goals. They need effective negotiation skills to persuade clients and sell their company's products and services.

Presentation skills

Presentation skills relate to how well someone shares information with others effectively. To share concepts and results with clients and stakeholders, account executives need strong public speaking skills. Account executives may also need to know how to design slideshow presentations.

Account executive salary

Account executive salaries will vary. Factors like qualifications, experience and geographic location may affect your salary. However, the national average salary for an account executive is $84,666 per year. Also, some account executives may earn a commission in addition to their salaries.

Related: Sales Jobs and Salaries

Account executive work environment

Most account executives work full time. While they generally work within normal business hours on weekdays, they may work late hours during busy seasons or when they have major deadlines or large projects. Account executives typically work in offices. However, they may need to travel for their work or visit their clients' offices to conduct meetings.

Account executives often work in competitive, fast-paced environments. They may have a mixture of independent and collaborative responsibilities. For example, they may use one part of their day responding to emails or researching clients, but they may use the other part to meet with clients or collaborate with peers.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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