If you’re considering a career in account management, having a thorough understanding of the field is the first step to deciding if it’s right for you.
In this guide, we’ll discuss the basics of the industry, potential career paths, explore the in’s and out’s of a day in the life of an account manager, as well as the skills and qualifications needed to succeed. Let’s jump into it!
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What is account management?
In simplest terms, account management refers to the act of working with and overseeing client relations. Account managers are typically the main point of contact between a company and its clients. Professionals in this role are tasked with communicating with clients, creating proposals, coordinating services between cross-functional teams, and nurturing client relationships.
Because retaining existing clients is dramatically cheaper than acquiring new clients, account management is a vital aspect of a business’s long-term success.
Careers in account management
Careers in account management can be particularly rewarding for marketers, as the field provides ample opportunities to combine strategy and analytical skills with client-facing interactions. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the industry, there are numerous career options to explore.
Many professionals begin their careers in entry-level sales or marketing roles before their introduction into formal account management – most often as a Junior Account Manager (also called Junior Account Executive).
Junior professionals can be promoted to Key Account Manager and Senior Account Executive positions that manage a higher caliber of clients that require a larger degree of involvement. Senior account executives at this level may also oversee teams of junior account managers assigned to a variety of clients.
Eventually, people in senior account management roles may rise to leadership positions such as Account Director.
Although account management roles are directly tied to client relationships and operations, a person’s specific duties and responsibilities can vary depending on the level of the position and the industry in which a company operates.
Let’s take a closer look at the different roles available in account management:
Junior Account Manager
Junior account managers are among the most common entry-level roles in account management. Generally, junior account managers assist the senior account management team by maintaining client relationships and conducting outreach to new prospective clients. This might include preparing proposals and presentations, scheduling meetings, tracking progress, and administrative tasks.
Because this can be an entry-level position, junior account managers may not require previous experience in an account management position. Although prior experience in sales or related fields is a plus, the most common requirement for this role is a bachelor’s degree. Strong communication skills, attention to detail, and interpersonal skills are a must to supplement a lack of hands-on knowledge.
Key Account Manager
Also known as principal account managers, key account managers offer a more personalized approach to managing relationships with the company’s most important clients. Their duties center around improving customer satisfaction while securing upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Key account managers also work closely with other departments, such as the sales and marketing teams, to ensure client needs are met.
Key account managers generally have 3-5 years of experience in account management. Many in this role also have a background in sales and are skilled in developing and maintaining important client relationships.
Senior Account Executive
Senior account executives are often in managerial positions that oversee a team of account managers, project managers, and junior account managers. Typical duties for professionals at this level include implementing sales strategies aimed at growing company revenue, setting account targets, and acting as a primary point of contact for high-level clients.
On average, people in this role have 6-9 years of experience in account management. Senior account executives are often analytically driven, knowledgeable about sales strategy, and excellent communicators. At this level, companies may require candidates to have an MBA or graduate degree.
As the most senior leadership role in account management departments, an account director’s responsibilities are focused on a company’s long-term revenue goals. This includes developing sales and accounts strategies, leading projects from start to finish, and ensuring profitability.
They also oversee the work of cross-functional teams, including sales, marketing, account managers, project managers, and senior account executives, to satisfy clients’ needs.
Account directors are typically required to have 8-12 years of experience in account management. Candidates with an MBA or graduate degree are also highly favored, although this requirement varies from company to company. To succeed in this role, account directors typically have a background in sales, an analytical mindset, and seasoned team management skills.
Like any client-facing role, an account manager’s day-to-day responsibilities can be highly variable. At its core, the day-to-day responsibilities of account management are best attributed to building and maintaining client relationships. This is achieved by regularly communicating with clients, overseeing progress and fulfillment, coordinating account operations across cross-functional teams, and executing strategies to ensure client satisfaction.
One of an account manager’s most prevalent duties is acting as the primary liaison between a client and your company. Scheduling meetings, effectively communicating progress, addressing concerns, and understanding the client’s needs are essential to establishing strong client relationships.
Administrative tasks such as monitoring progress, tracking metrics, writing reports, and preparing presentations are also regular elements of an account manager’s everyday tasks. For this reason, strong organizational and time management skills are key to successfully managing an account portfolio.
Additionally, regularly analyzing data, identifying trends, and making data-driven adjustments to your strategy are integral aspects of both marketing and account management roles. Using data-informed optimizations to guide your strategy can be the deciding factor in elevating your client’s performance from “good” to “great.”
Skills and qualifications
First and foremost, strong communication skills are crucial for any role in account management. An account manager needs to be able to effectively communicate with clients, formulate a dynamic strategy to meet their needs and nurture pre-existing relationships. Whether you’re conducting outreach to prospective clients or upselling your company’s services, building trust is the crux of account management. In this regard, strong verbal and writing skills cannot be understated in account management.
Effective project management skills are highly transferable and valuable in account management positions. Generally, as more people become involved, the likelihood of problems also increases – particularly across multiple companies and departments. Being able to manage expectations, implement production timelines, and develop clear project plans can greatly streamline the account management process.
A career in account management also requires a variety of technical skills. Computer savviness, proficiency with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software such as Hubspot, and analytics tools like Google Analytics are integral in this field. Experience with data visualization tools is a plus for candidates, as these platforms can improve your reporting and analytics for your client.
Is a career in account management right for you?
Whether account management is the right path for you comes down to your skillset and personal preference. If you’re energized by the thought of managing multiple clients and want to apply your marketing expertise in a new fashion, account management might be the career for you! As long as you are driven and have the organizational and communication skills to support your efforts, you can learn the necessary skills for success along the way.
Learn more about pursuing a career in account management with our Marketer’s Guide to Success in Account Management!