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How to Become an Account Executive

If you’re looking for a career opportunity in sales, becoming an account executive would be a fantastic place to start. An account executive supports the marketing and sales departments of an organization by talking with customers about their company’s products and services. To succeed in this role, account executives need strong interpersonal skills to create meaningful conversations with their clients.

As an account executive, you are the primary point of contact for customers, and therefore responsible for bringing on new clients and taking care of existing customers’ needs. This job typically requires meeting a revenue quota, so it is vital for you to connect with your customers and keep customer satisfaction high.

Account executives are rewarded for good performance by receiving commissions each time they sell a company’s product or service. It is important for individuals in this position to understand their company’s objectives and products to create different sale strategies and activities to increase value for their targeted clients. 

Sample job description

Come grow with us! [Your Company Name] is currently seeking an account executive for an exciting opportunity. In this role, you will be charged with identifying and closing sales opportunities with the clients you manage. This includes contract renewals, up-sells, and cross-sells. Additionally, you will provide a high-level quality of service to our customers. The ideal candidate will be motivated to succeed, well-organized, able to prioritize, and work well with a team.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Creating detailed sales strategies to meet predetermined goals and quotas
  • Managing the sales cycle, from locating a prospective client to securing a deal
  • Making sure client needs are met
  • Uncovering new sales opportunities through networking and turning them into long-term partnerships
  • Presenting products and services to prospective clients
  • Providing excellent support to existing clients to maximize customer loyalty
  • Maintaining a close relationship with clients to build close relationships and meet customer needs
  • Resolving issues and handling complaints to the customer’s satisfaction
  • Maintaining the company’s reputation
  • Negotiating sales agreements 
  • Compiling and analyzing data to find trends
  • Staying current on company offerings and industry trends

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, or related field
  • Some fields may require additional certifications or licenses
  • 3 years experience in sales

Required skills and qualifications

  • Creativity and organizational skills
  • Negotiation skills
  • Strong interpersonal and customer service skills
  • Excellent leadership abilities
  • Sales expertise
  • Problem-solving and management skills
  • Strong communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience landing new clients
  • Experience managing clients and promotions
  • Excellent time management
  • Experience negotiating with clients for products or services 
  • Experience involving negotiation contracts
  • Experience networking to find potential clients

Typical work environment

Do you enjoy getting to the heart of a topic? Are you an expert troubleshooter and instructor? A position as an account executive might be your ideal role! Account executives may work out of a corporate setting or home office, with their days often spent conducting client meetings and briefings. They might have to work overtime during busy seasons or to meet critical deadlines. Account executives may also have to travel, sometimes extensively, to client meetings, presentations, or to meet with prospective customers. With today’s technology, many account executives conduct their meetings virtually, while some still meet with clients face-to-face.

Typical hours

Most account executives work full-time, 8 AM to 5 PM. You may be required to come in early or stay late occasionally to meet with clients in different time zones. Travel might also be necessary, potentially being away from home for days at a time or on weekends.

Steps to become an Account Executive

As account executives work in a wide range of industries, many accredited institutions offer classes or certifications. If you’re looking for online courses to help you with your sales skills we recommend platforms like Coursera or Udemy. Additionally, here are some of the best certifications available for account executives:

  • Certified Sales Professional (CSP) – The Certified Sales Professional (CSP) certification is the mark of excellence in the sales field and is designed for sales professionals who want to be recognized for excellence in how well they handle even the largest accounts, and how consistently they meet or exceed sales targets. This program provides candidates with a solid understanding of consultative selling. As a CSP, you will demonstrate your ability to improve time and territory management, set goals, and prospect for new clients, among other things. 
  • Certified Inside Sales Professional (CISP) – The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals designed this course for sales executives and account managers to develop essential qualities, competencies, and tactical skills required to perform the role of inside sales. A CISP will acquire and master the skills necessary to identify target accounts and customers, research, prospect, and handle objections, manage voicemail and email etiquette, win meetings, and learn the basics of territory, account, and channel management. This program covers a wide range of topics from successful processing to objection handling, and demonstrates the goal of achieving the highest standard of excellence as a sales professional through the desire to keep learning.
  • Certified Sales Executive (CSE) – This certification is offered by Sales and Marketing Executives International and covers topics such as essential sales skills, how to communicate with customers, and how to manage a sales team. The CSE demonstrates knowledge and understanding of core sales competencies, such as sales management, sales strategies, and buyer-seller relationships. Completion of the course gives you access to online forums, educational webinars, and peer connections for knowledge sharing and continued education.

Career path

To become an account executive, begin with a bachelor’s degree in marketing, advertising, business administration, or a related field. Some larger organizations might require a master’s degree. An account executive generally starts in a junior position, such as a sales representative or pre-sales consultant to gain exposure and sales experience. After a few years with a proven track record of meeting and exceeding sales targets, they can move into an account executive role. Opportunities for account executives to further their careers include becoming a sales director or a sales vice president.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 11-2022

2019 Employment397,900
Projected Employment in 2021425,800
Projected 2019-2029 Percentage Shift 7% increase
Projected 2019-2029 Numeric Shift27,900 increase

As companies focus more on remote work, account executives will need to be very familiar with digital communications platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and others to conduct virtual client meetings, present presentations, close sales deals, etc. The need for account executives to be well versed in the demands of working remotely, including sales, planning, and seeking out prospective clients, will continue to be important. The ability to reach across the country and the world instantly is opening up many more global opportunities, and account executives will need to be committed to engaging a diverse number of cultures and countries.