What is an Account Executive: definition, responsibilities, skills

If you’ve been thinking of a job that combines the skills of selling, negotiation, diplomacy, and psychology, the role that comes first is an account executive. This gray eminence, whose average annual compensation, by the way, starts at $43k, knows what clients want and how to satisfy their needs. They are confident when reporting to either C-level executives or peers. 

Let’s dive deeper into the specifics of this job position.

What is an Account Executive?

An account executive is an intermediary between a company and its customers, whose role is to manage, grow, and renew accounts. 

What does an Account Executive do?

The job of an account executive includes two areas of responsibility:

  • interacting with existing clients — promoting new contracts, leading ongoing agreements, and ensuring the client remains happy with the product or service;
  • bringing in new accounts — aiding marketing and sales acquisition strategies and drawing fresh opportunities to pipelines.

The role presumes consultative functions as well. Account executives must not only understand the client’s needs but also conjecture how the company can satisfy them. Therefore, they should consult with Sales, Marketing, Production, and Finances daily.

An account executive can be considered both a senior and an operational role. A specialist should have a solid understanding of the company’s product and how the inner processes are arranged to develop fair client proposals

Besides, they should interact with top-level management to be knowledgeable about the company’s strategic goals and plans. Although an account executive is usually a Sales position, depending on the company’s organizational structure, it can also refer to Marketing or even Finances.

Account Executive vs. Account Manager

The account executive job is often confused with the account manager due to the titles’ name similarity and intersecting duties. In small companies, where there’s usually no demand for expanded managerial staff, these two roles may be combined within a single person. However, in terms of concentration of effort, these are two different positions.

The account executive’s role is making the first contact with a prospective client and moving them through the sales funnel from a potential lead to a customer. 

By contrast, account managers come into force as soon as a customer signs a contract. They maintain the deal’s successful completion and commercial relations between the client and the company.

Sometimes the difference may be a question of hierarchy as well. The most important clients are entrusted to executives, while smaller leads are in the area of responsibility of account managers.

Account Executive vs. Account Manager

Responsibilities of an Account Executive 

So what are the job responsibilities of an account executive? Considering that the role of an account executive may differ from one company to another, you’ll find a range of functions among job descriptions. Let’s talk about the most common duties:

  1. Communicating and meeting with clients
  2. Handling negotiations and overcoming objections
  3. Understanding and satisfying client needs 
  4. Resolving conflicts or misunderstandings
  5. Retaining clients
  6. Seeking opportunities for upselling and cross-selling
  7. Co-working with the company’s functional departments
  8. Keeping up with the latest market trends
  9. Monitoring competitors
  10. Reporting to C-level on sales KPIs
  11. Maintaining long-lasting company relations with clients

So, as you may see, the responsibilities of an account executive go beyond the traditional sales rep’s functions.

Qualifications of an Account Executive

Since the profession is very multifaceted, you can’t be straightforward when it comes to the academic specialty it demands. If you think of applying for the job in the US or UK, employers will most probably require the Higher National Diploma (HND) — an equivalent to the first 2 years of a Bachelor’s degree. Ideally, you should pass the courses in the following disciplines:

  • Marketing and Advertising
  • Match and Statistics
  • PR and Media
  • Business or management
  • Psychology.

Skills of an Account Executive

As for the account executive skills, it makes sense to split them into hard and soft skills. Let’s find out more about each group. 

Hard skills

Without a doubt, to advance the career ladder, an account executive should obtain a solid technological background. According to Payscale, TOP-3 professional skills that affect salary progression the most are Financial Modelling, Cloud Computing, and Business Analysis.

Skills that affect Account Executive salaries
Source: Payscale

1. Financial Modelling

An account executive isn’t responsible for preparing financial reports, for sure. However, because most financial statements are tied to sales, a specialist should understand how they’re formed and apply modeling for comprehensive sales projections. 

Working on calculations is about both math skills and software competency. The latter includes not only MS Excel, of course. There are many advanced programs like Quantrix or Maplesoft. They can be helpful for scenario planning, commerce forecasting, and overall data-based decision-making.

2. Cloud Computing

Cloud Systems are a modern approach for data storing, processing, and sharing, so account executives can’t but be able to work with them.

Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are two of the most appreciated cloud services for data analysis. Retailers can use Azure to build customer journeys with predictive AI and mixed reality solutions, while AWS is classic for data migration and data lakes.

3. Business Analysis

Changes in the environment often require change within the organization, and Sales are not an exception. A qualified account executive needs to be skillful in business analysis. That is why true gurus apply for IIBA Certifications to show they’ve obtained appropriate competencies and expertise.

Soft skills

Aside from honorable certificates or program knowledge, an account executive should have a substantial bunch of personal qualities to succeed in the profession, for instance:

1. Exceptional interpersonal and communication skills

Different clients require totally different communication approaches. A professional should be able to win over a person and, what’s more important, maintain the contact. Too shy or a very reserved person is unlikely to cope with this commitment.

At the same time, a qualified account executive isn’t prone to familiarity and obtrusiveness. Their conversation with clients should be based on a strong sense of balance.

2. Organizational skills

Project management techniques can be learned and tutored, but exceptional account executives are those with the innate ability to manage. This implies a willingness to always take responsibility and plan their day, no matter if it’s a weekend or a working day.

3. Multitasking

When it comes to project work for a client, ad-hoc and urgent tasks occur continually. Account executives should be able to prioritize them and delegate duties.

4. Leadership

This position perfectly matches born leaders — the ones who are capable of leading people by motivation, rather than commands.

Career path

Most account executives grow from sales representatives or account development representatives (coordinators). And this is the best way to start a career because it gives a solid sense of what working with the client is actually about. A proficient account executive can be promoted to Sales Director or VP of Sales positions.

Wrapping up

An Account Executive job position lies at the intersection of analytical and humanitarian mindsets and requires out-of-box thinking, lots of responsibility, technical, as well as communication skills.

So, if you feel a position of a sales rep is too confined for your potential,  why not try building a skyrocketing career as an account executive? Especially since there is a reliable tool to backup your everyday duties — Snov.io free CRM

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