Home / Career Guides / Account Manager

Account Manager Career Guide

What is an account manager?

An account manager is a professional responsible for maintaining and nurturing relationships between a company and its clients. They act as the main point of contact, understanding the client’s needs, providing tailored solutions, and representing the company’s best interests. Their primary objective is to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty while maximizing revenue generation from existing clients. 

These managers play a vital role in any organization, as they contribute to customer retention, business growth, and the company’s overall success. Their extensive knowledge of the organization’s products and services and strong communication and problem-solving skills make them indispensable for fostering long-term relationships with clients.

Duties and responsibilities

An account manager’s duties and responsibilities include:

  • Managing a portfolio of client accounts
  • Building and maintaining strong relationships with key decision-makers
  • Identifying opportunities to upsell or cross-sell products and services

They are responsible for understanding clients’ unique needs and goals, collaborating with internal teams to develop customized solutions, and ensuring timely and successful delivery. 

These professionals also monitor and analyze clients’ performance metrics, providing valuable insights and recommendations for improvement. Additionally, they handle client issues or concerns, coordinating with other departments to resolve problems promptly and efficiently.

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. The role demands strong interpersonal skills, as they must communicate effectively with clients and internal stakeholders alike. 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

To become an account manager, you will need a combination of education, skills, and experience. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:

Step 1: Obtain a relevant education

A bachelor’s degree is generally required for this career. Common fields of study include business administration, marketing, sales, and communication. These programs provide foundational knowledge in business strategy, customer relationship management, and marketing principles. 

Some positions may require or prefer candidates with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a related advanced degree.

Step 2: Gain experience in sales or customer service

Experience in sales or customer service is essential for aspiring managers. These roles provide valuable experience communicating with clients, addressing their needs, and building relationships. Look for entry-level positions or internships in sales, customer service, or client relations to build a solid foundation for your career.

Step 3: Develop strong interpersonal and communication skills

Professionals in this role must have excellent interpersonal and communication skills to manage client relationships effectively. Focus on developing your ability to listen to clients, empathize with their concerns, and present solutions clearly and persuasively. 

Consider taking courses or attending communication, negotiation, or conflict resolution workshops to hone these skills further. 

Step 4: Pursue industry-specific knowledge and take additional courses

While you gain experience, continuing your education and staying up-to-date on industry changes and cutting-edge techniques is critical. Some great online courses can help you stay informed on relevant topics. Here are some recommendations to explore:

  • Account Management for Beginners covers all the basics of practicing partner relationship management and communication strategies. The course will help you choose the most effective language to use in difficult conversations. It will give you the proper tools to maintain healthy relationships.
  • Udemy offers a course called KAM – Key Account Management Made Simple. This course reviews the implications and benefits of implementing KAM and covers the different stages. Learn the differences between KAM and traditional sales methods. 
  • The Account Management and Sales Force Design course teaches learners various sales methods. Gain knowledge about the steps of strategic planning and sales management. 
  • Udemy has a class called Become a Master of Client and Account Management, which is perfect for anyone in this career path. Learn new tactics for managing clients in all situations. You’ll be able to present with confidence, handle project changes, and learn all the best tools and techniques for time management and capacity planning.

Step 5: Obtain relevant certifications (optional)

While not always required, obtaining certifications can help demonstrate your expertise and commitment to the profession. The Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP), Certified Sales Leadership Professional (CSLP), or Certified Strategic Account Manager (CSAM) certifications can help you stand out among other candidates and enhance your career prospects.

Step 6: Apply for jobs

With your education, experience, and skills in place, you are now ready to apply for account manager positions. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your relevant experience and achievements, and network with professionals in your industry to identify job opportunities. Prepare for interviews by researching the company and practicing your responses to common account manager interview questions.

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

This career guide section highlights the various career types and areas of specialization for account managers. Below, we highlight the unique attributes and responsibilities of each job title.

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

Sales account managers operate at the intersection of sales and customer service. Their responsibilities include 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

Technical account managers 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

Advertising account managers 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

Account managers need a diverse skill set to excel in this role, including excellent communication, problem-solving abilities, time management, and relationship-building skills.

Communication is vital for these professionals, as they are the primary liaison between the company and its clients. They must convey information effectively, listen actively to client concerns, and respond with empathy and understanding. Strong communication skills allow them to establish trust, identify customer needs, and provide the appropriate solutions, ultimately ensuring customer satisfaction and maintaining long-term relationships.

Problem-solving abilities are also critical, as they must identify and address client issues quickly and efficiently. They should be able to analyze situations, consider various solutions, and implement the best course of action. This skill helps them to resolve issues, prevent potential problems, and improve client satisfaction.

Time management is another essential skill for these managers, who often juggle multiple tasks, priorities, and deadlines. They must balance their workload effectively, allocating time to manage client accounts, respond to inquiries, and attend meetings. Good time management skills enable them to work efficiently and meet client expectations without compromising the quality of their work.

Relationship-building skills are at the core of their role, as they are responsible for cultivating and maintaining strong connections with clients. Account managers must be personable, professional, and genuine in their interactions, fostering trust and rapport with clients. By building solid relationships, they can understand clients’ needs better, anticipate their requirements, and ensure their continued loyalty and satisfaction.

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.

Professional certifications, such as the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) or Certified Professional in Sales Management (CPSM) certifications, can also benefit career advancement.

This role has been steadily evolving due to technological advancements and the growing importance of customer relationships in the modern business landscape. As businesses focus more on customer retention and expansion, the demand for skilled account managers is rising. These professionals now play a crucial role in maintaining client satisfaction and driving business growth.

Digital transformation and data analytics are also influencing the role, with account managers increasingly utilizing data-driven insights to optimize their strategies and provide tailored solutions for their clients. The emphasis on soft skills such as communication, empathy, and adaptability is growing, as these are essential for building strong client relationships and navigating complex business environments.

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.

Master time management and organization

Effectively managing your time and staying organized are crucial for juggling multiple clients, projects, and deadlines. Use time management tools like calendars, to-do lists, or project management software to help you prioritize your tasks. Prioritize your workload and learn to delegate tasks when appropriate to ensure you can deliver on your commitments.

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 account manager 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


What qualifications are needed to become an account manager?

While requirements may vary by industry and employer, most account managers have a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, communications, or a related field. Some positions may require industry-specific knowledge or a degree in a specialized area. Relevant work experience, particularly in sales or customer service, is also valuable for aspiring managers. 

Professional certifications, such as the Certified Strategic Account Manager (CSAM) or the Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP) certifications, may be advantageous.

How can I improve my chances of success as an account manager?

To increase your chances of success, focus on developing your communication, negotiation, and relationship-building skills. Additionally, cultivate a strong work ethic, take initiative, and demonstrate your ability to exceed client expectations. 

Stay current with industry trends and best practices by attending workshops, conferences, and networking events. Continuous learning, through professional certifications or additional training, can also help you remain competitive in the job market.

What are the typical day-to-day tasks of an account manager?

Their daily tasks may include: 

  • Responding to client inquiries
  • Addressing issues
  • Providing updates on ongoing projects
  • Identifying opportunities for upselling or cross-selling
  • Preparing sales proposals
  • Negotiating contracts
  • Monitoring client satisfaction and identifying areas for improvement

They often collaborate with internal teams, such as sales, marketing, and product development, to ensure the delivery of high-quality products and services.

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.