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Account Manager Career Guide

What is an account manager?

An account manager is the primary point of contact between a company and its clients. Their job is to oversee client accounts to ensure satisfaction with the company’s products or services. They handle communication, manage client expectations, and seek to build a strong, lasting relationship between the client and the company.

Account managers play a crucial role in client retention by closely monitoring account health and proactively addressing any issues. They are essential in nearly every industry, from tech to healthcare, fostering loyalty through personalized attention and service.

Duties and responsibilities

An account manager wears many hats to keep clients happy and engaged. Here’s a breakdown of their key duties and responsibilities:

  • Serve as clients’ main point of contact, keeping them informed about product updates, service changes, and more.
  • Develop and maintain strong relationships with clients, understanding their needs and ensuring their satisfaction with the company’s offerings.
  • Address and resolve any issues or concerns that clients may have, often before the client is even aware there’s a problem.
  • Gather client feedback on products and services, channeling this information back to relevant teams to inform improvements or new developments.
  • Oversee contract renewals and identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell services to enhance the client’s experience and the company’s revenue.
  • Monitor and report on the health of accounts, analyzing client data to identify trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement.

By juggling these responsibilities, account managers play a pivotal role in the success of both the company and its clients, ensuring a win-win situation for all parties involved.

Work environment

Account managers can work in various industries, including advertising, technology, finance, retail, and healthcare, among others. They typically work in office settings, but their role may require travel to meet with clients or attend industry events. As managers often collaborate with different departments within the organization, they must be adaptable and comfortable working in a team-oriented environment.

Typical work hours

The typical work hours for an account manager are generally standard office hours, usually 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday. However, depending on the organization’s needs and client expectations, they may need to be flexible to accommodate meetings, events, or urgent issues. Depending on the industry and client relationships they manage, this could involve occasional evenings, weekends, or travel.

How to become an account manager

Becoming an account manager involves a combination of education, skill development, and gaining relevant experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to launching your career in this role.

1. Complete relevant education

A bachelor’s degree is often the first step toward becoming an account manager. Degrees in business administration, marketing, communications, or similar fields are highly regarded. These programs cover essential topics like market research, consumer behavior, business strategies, and communication techniques, providing a strong foundation for understanding business operations and client management.

It is important to note that some positions may require or prefer candidates with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a related advanced degree.

2. Develop essential skills

Build communication and interpersonal skills

Success depends greatly on your ability to communicate effectively and build relationships. This includes both verbal and written communication, active listening, empathy, and the capacity to negotiate and persuade. Engaging in activities like public speaking clubs, writing workshops, or volunteer positions can enhance these skills.

Learn sales and marketing principles

This will help you identify client needs, craft personalized solutions, and effectively present products or services. Online courses, workshops, and seminars can provide valuable insights into the latest sales techniques and marketing trends.

Here are some of our favorite online courses:

3. Gain relevant sales experience

Seek an internship while pursuing your degree

Internships in your chosen industry offer a hands-on opportunity to observe and participate in account management activities. They can also help you understand industry-specific challenges and client expectations.

Start in entry-level positions

Entry-level positions in sales, customer service, or marketing can provide practical experience with client interaction and understanding the sales process. These roles often offer training programs that can be invaluable for a budding account manager.

4. Obtain certifications

Professional certifications can significantly bolster your resume. Certifications from recognized organizations in sales, marketing, customer relationship management (CRM), or specific account management programs demonstrate your commitment to the profession and your expertise. They often require passing an exam and may require ongoing education to maintain.

Here are a few of our suggested certifications:

  • Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP): Offered by the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP), this certification focuses on enhancing sales skills through understanding customer psychology and effective communication strategies.
  • Strategic Account Management Certification (SAMA): The Strategic Account Management Association offers this certification, focusing on strategies for managing and growing key client accounts.
  • Salesforce Certified Administrator: This certification covers the fundamentals of Salesforce administration, including managing users, data, and security, customizing Salesforce to fit a company’s needs, and more.

5. Specialize and advance

Account management skills are versatile and applicable across a wide range of industries. However, specializing in a particular industry allows you to deepen your knowledge of industry-specific challenges, trends, and client needs.

Whether it’s technology, healthcare, finance, advertising, or any other sector, choosing an industry that aligns with your interests and strengths can lead to a more fulfilling career. For example, in technology, you might focus on software as a service (SaaS) products, while in healthcare, your focus could be on medical devices or pharmaceuticals.

Next, you should start positioning yourself for roles that go beyond the entry-level. Look for job titles such as account coordinator, sales representative, or junior account manager. These positions often serve as a bridge between entry-level duties and the more complex responsibilities of an account manager. They offer a chance to hone your client management skills, deepen your understanding of sales processes, and start managing smaller accounts or portions of larger accounts under supervision.

6. Apply for account manger positions

After experience in an intermediate role, you’re ready to apply for account manager positions. Tailor your resume and cover letter for each application, highlighting your relevant experience, skills, and how you can bring value to the company.

How much do account managers make?

Account manager salaries can vary widely based on several factors, such as geography, commission structure, bonuses, education, experience, industry, company size, and more.

Highest paying industries

  • Software Publishing – $93,000
  • Computer Systems Design – $90,000
  • Telecommunications – $86,000
  • Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents/Brokers – $85,000
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises – $83,000

Highest paying states

  • California – $88,000
  • New York – $87,000
  • Massachusetts – $85,000
  • Washington – $84,000
  • New Jersey – $82,000

Browse account manager salary data by market

Types of account managers

Understanding the different types of account managers can help you find your niche and tailor your career path accordingly. Here’s a look at some common types:

Key account manager

A key account manager handles the most important client accounts in a company. These clients contribute significantly to the company’s revenue. Managers in this role build and maintain strong relationships with these clients, understand their needs and challenges, and provide tailored solutions. Their goal is to ensure client satisfaction and retention.

Sales account manager

These account managers operate at the intersection of sales and customer service. Their responsibilities includes understanding customer needs, promoting suitable products or services, and overseeing the sales process. They nurture relationships with assigned customers and aim to generate sales for the company.

Technical account manager

They work primarily in technology-focused industries. Professionals in this role act as the bridge between clients and the company’s technical team. Their role includes:

  • Understanding clients’ technical needs
  • Conveying these requirements to the development or engineering team
  • Ensuring that the technical solutions provided meet the clients’ expectations

National account manager

National account managers handle accounts on a country-wide level. Their clientele usually consists of large corporations with a national presence. They strategize and implement plans to service these accounts, often coordinating with regional or local account managers.

Global account manager

Global account managers have the responsibility of managing client accounts on an international scale. These professionals work with multinational corporations and must understand and navigate the complexities of international business relations. Their role requires a strong understanding of diverse markets, cultures, and business practices.

Advertising account manager

These professionals work in advertising agencies, overseeing client accounts and campaigns. They liaise between the client and the creative team to ensure that advertising campaigns meet clients’ expectations and help achieve their marketing objectives.

Top skills for account managers

Becoming a successful account manager requires a blend of hard and soft skills that enable effective client management and contribute to the growth of the business. Here is a list of skills that are crucial for anyone looking to thrive in this role:

  • Active listening: Mastering this skill ensures you accurately capture clients’ needs and concerns, fostering trust and enabling tailored, effective solutions.
  • Time management: This will empower you to efficiently juggle multiple client accounts, prioritize tasks, and meet deadlines, ensuring every client feels valued and supported.
  • Effective communication: This skill equips you with the ability to clearly convey ideas, expectations, and solutions, ensuring transparency and alignment with client goals. Both written and verbal.
  • Organization: Having strong organizational skills will allow you to streamline workflows, manage client information systematically, and ensure timely follow-ups, enhancing overall efficiency and reliability.
  • Adaptability: Being flexible and quick to adapt will allow you to adjust strategies and approaches in response to changing client needs and market dynamics.
  • Customer service: Proficiency in customer service will allow you to quickly resolve client issues, exceed their expectations, and foster a positive, lasting relationship built on trust.
  • Negotiation: Skilled negotiation will help you secure favorable terms aligning with client expectations and company objectives, fostering agreements that promote long-term success for all parties involved.

Account manager career path

An account manager’s career path typically begins with an entry-level position, such as a sales representative, customer service representative, or marketing coordinator. Gaining experience in these roles helps develop the necessary skills in customer relations, sales, and business development. 

As they progress, they may be promoted to junior account manager or account executive positions, where they will handle a smaller portfolio of clients and work closely with a senior account manager.

Continued success and increased responsibilities in managing client relationships can lead to a promotion to a senior or key account manager role. In these positions, they oversee more significant clients, manage a team, and contribute to the company’s overall strategic direction. 

After gaining extensive experience and demonstrating strong leadership skills, they may advance to a director or vice president position overseeing an entire department or region.

The role of an account manager is evolving rapidly, driven by technological advancements, changing client expectations, and shifts in the global business landscape. Staying ahead of these trends is crucial for aspiring and current account managers aiming to excel in their roles and advance their careers. Here’s a glimpse into the current trends shaping the account manager position and what they mean for professionals in the field.

  • Leveraging AI-driven platforms to help track client interactions, predict client needs, and personalize communication.
  • The rise of remote and flexible working drives more virtual meetings, digital presentations, and remote collaborations instead of traveling to a physical location.
  • With markets becoming more segmented, there is a growing need for account managers specializing in specific industries, product types, or customer segments.
  • As automation and AI take over routine tasks, the value of human-centric skills like empathy, emotional intelligence, and creative problem-solving is on the rise.

Employment projections for account managers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of account managers is projected to grow 5% through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Factors like the ongoing need for businesses to maintain and expand their client base and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of customer interaction and commerce contribute to this growth.

Account manager career tips

Stay updated on industry trends

As an account manager, keeping yourself updated on the latest industry trends and market developments is essential. To stay informed, subscribe to relevant newsletters, attend webinars, and join industry-specific online forums. This will allow you to better serve your clients, anticipate their needs, and provide valuable insights to help them grow their business.

Build strong relationships with clients

Developing and maintaining strong relationships with your clients is key to your success in this role. Regular communication, active listening, and understanding their unique needs will help build trust and foster long-lasting partnerships. Schedule regular check-ins, be responsive to their concerns, and deliver on promises.

Improve your communication and presentation skills

Effective communication and presentation skills are vital, as you’ll often be the bridge between your clients and your company. Enhance your verbal and written communication skills by taking courses or attending workshops. Practice presenting to colleagues or friends to boost your confidence and refine your technique.

Build a professional network

Networking is essential to identify potential clients and stay informed about industry developments. Join professional associations and networks to connect with like-minded professionals, learn from their experiences, and expand your business opportunities. 

Some relevant associations and networks include:

  • American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP)
  • Association for Business Process Management Professionals (ABPMP)
  • Sales Management Association (SMA)
  • Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA)

Commit to continuous learning

Continuous learning is crucial for staying ahead in the competitive account management field. Seek opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge by attending industry conferences, enrolling in online courses, and obtaining relevant certifications. Some suggested areas for continuous learning include:

  • Sales techniques and strategies
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software
  • Negotiation and conflict resolution
  • Industry-specific knowledge and trends

Seek feedback and be open to change

Embrace change and be willing to adapt to new methods or strategies that can enhance your performance as an account manager. Solicit feedback from your clients, colleagues, and supervisors to identify areas for improvement and adjust your approach accordingly. This will demonstrate your commitment to growth and professional development.

Where the jobs are

Top companies

  • Salesforce
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • Procter & Gamble
  • Amazon

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Florida

Top job sites

  • Zengig
  • LinkedIn
  • Indeed
  • Monster
  • SimplyHired


How do account managers collaborate with other departments?

Account managers work closely with various internal departments to ensure the smooth delivery of products and services to clients. They often liaise with sales and marketing teams to develop client acquisition and retention strategies. 

Additionally, they collaborate with product development and project management teams to provide client feedback, ensuring products and services meet client needs. Strong cross-functional communication and teamwork skills are essential to be successful in this role.

What is the difference between an account manager and a sales representative?

While both account managers and sales representatives work in customer-facing roles, their responsibilities and objectives differ. Sales representatives primarily focus on generating new business, acquiring new clients, and selling products or services. 

In contrast, account managers are responsible for maintaining and nurturing existing client relationships, ensuring client satisfaction, and identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling within the client’s organization.

What are some common challenges faced by account managers?

Account managers may face challenges such as managing client expectations, navigating difficult conversations, and addressing customer complaints. Additionally, they may face pressure to meet sales targets and revenue goals, which may require strong negotiation and problem-solving skills. 

Balancing multiple accounts and prioritizing tasks can also be challenging, as they must ensure the satisfaction of all clients while meeting their individual needs.

How can account managers measure their success?

Account managers can measure their success using performance indicators such as client retention rates, revenue growth from existing accounts, and upselling or cross-selling success. Client feedback and satisfaction scores can also provide valuable insight into their performance.

Additionally, meeting or exceeding sales targets and contributing to the company’s overall success are indicators of a successful manager.

Is travel typically required for account managers?

Travel requirements can vary depending on the industry and the nature of the client relationships. Some account managers may need to travel frequently for in-person meetings, presentations, and networking events, while others may primarily conduct business remotely or over the phone. 

Regardless of the specific requirements, they should be prepared for some travel, as maintaining strong client relationships often involves face-to-face interactions.