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The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Great Account Executive

Will Cannon
March 11, 2020
The Guide to Finding a Great Account Executive
Table of Contents

The recipe for sales success is a complex one, requiring lots of ingredients, such as tenacity, testing, tools, and no small amount of solid strategy. One of the most important ingredients is, of course, the appropriate sales talent, responsible for carrying out day-to-day tasks and closing deals.

There are a vast number of sales positions out there, and it can become somewhat overwhelming to try and sift through them all. This can quickly lead to confusion, blur the boundaries between profiles, and lead to inefficiencies and conflict.

But have no fear: we’re here to help you! In this piece, we’ll deliver a complete overview of the account executive position, covering:

  1. The responsibilities of an account executive
  2. The differences between account executives and account managers
  3. Critical account executive skills
  4. The average account executive salary
  5. How to hire an account executive 

What Is An Account Executive (and What Are Their Responsibilities?)

Account executives are sales professionals who apply their sales experience, product knowledge, and goal-oriented approach to support existing client accounts.

They will often proactively reach out to customers through the use of a whole range of channels – but they will also make themselves available to customers. This means that a good account executive must be extremely well-organized and engaged.

The exact responsibilities of account executives will vary, from one sales department to the next, but they will often be tasked with these key tasks:

Secure contract extensions

Account executives are responsible for maintaining contact with existing customers, keeping them satisfied, and ensuring that they ultimately sign contract extensions and/or purchase more inventory.

This task will often demand for account executives to keep up with the inner workings of your customer’s business; they should leverage that knowledge to make great recommendations and keep on top of the account.

Deliver product demos to upsell new features

In most businesses, account executives are responsible for sharing feature updates with existing customers. They will share timely and informative updates, in order to always keep existing customers in the loop.

Oftentimes, account executives will also be tasked with upselling those new features. To do this effectively, they’ll need to nourish their product knowledge and develop close ties with their accounts.

Care for existing customers

In many businesses, account executives are also often going to be the first point of contact for customers. Whenever a customer has an issue or complaint, they’ll likely share it with their account executive, who will then either handle or escalate the ticket.

This unique dynamic means that account executives must be timely and empathetic; they should also have a good level of product knowledge, which will help them to troubleshoot common issues and problems.

Account Executive vs Account Manager – What’s the Difference?

There are lots of jobs and titles in sales, which can definitely lead to some overlap and vague ambiguity. This can in turn create a lot of confusion… but it’s important that you fight against it, to develop a clear idea of the distinct roles within your team.

In the majority of businesses, the terms “account executive” and “account manager” are used interchangeably. In others, a single person will be used to fulfill both roles.

In some businesses, though, account executives have more of a pre-sale role, which involves prospecting, pitching, and closing deals. In those businesses, account managers are responsible for nurturing existing customers and growing those accounts.

Looking at this, it’s little wonder why there’s so much confusion out there!

But while the exact titles and role names will vary from one business to the next, ultimately it’s the tasks and results that truly count. To achieve the best results, then, you should make sure to be as consistent as possible internally, so that your team members will know what exactly is expected of them.

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Account Executive Skills That Are Crucial

Account executives are able to contribute massively to the growth of a business by upselling new products, securing renewals, and helping to reduce churn.

Their responsibilities are diverse and complex, so they’ll naturally need to have the appropriate suite of skills! Here’s an overview of the most critical account executive skills from:

Great communication

Account executives will spend the majority of their time following up with existing customers to make sure that they are satisfied.

This means that account executives must have excellent written and verbal communication skills – their ability to communicate will help to make sure that the right messages are shared at the right time, and that customers move along your sales pipeline seamlessly.

Utmost decorum

Further elaborating on those great communication skills, it’s also important that your account executives can use their sense of decorum to operate with a delicate touch. They should be able to read situations and the preferences of your partners, to communicate in a very fluid way.

This decorum will help your account executives to always represent your company in the best light, and achieve amazing results through whichever communication channel they decide to use.

Proactive and curious

Account executives will forge important relationships with your customers, which puts them in a unique position to take the initiative and connect the dots, to make those relationships as productive as possible.

Your account executive might learn, for instance, that an existing customer has a particular need which could easily be resolved with a particular product feature. In this circumstance, they could proactively upsell another feature or package!

Organizational abilities

Over the course of a typical day, account executives will have to move from one account to the next at a rapid pace. This demands a great deal of focus and very sharp organizational abilities.

Top-tier account executives can move elegantly from one account to the next, without making any mistakes or taking up too much time.

Negotiation skills

Account executives will spend months (and even years) in nurturing particular accounts, so it’s only natural that they will begin to develop close ties and relationships with those accounts. The best account executives will also be able to use those relationships to negotiate effectively, and help to bring about mutually beneficial results for both parties.

Those negotiation skills can also come in great handy when it comes to working with larger accounts and potential customers.

A desire to please

The most effective and respected account executives are often genuinely empathetic people who relish the opportunity to help others succeed. This precious quality empowers your account executives to go the extra mile for your customers – and this natural tendency toward empathetic service will also mean tremendous things for your overall relationships with customers.

A goal-oriented mindset

Account executives play an important role within any sales team, so it’s absolutely critical that they perform well and do their part in bringing about success.

The best account executives work to complement their strong social and communication skills with an analytical, goal-oriented mindset, delivering the best of both worlds and focusing on hitting their targets.

Account Executive Salary: Here’s What You Have to Pay For a Good One

The largest expense for any company is often the labor costs. This is why it’s crucial for you to negotiate realistic salaries, which will help you to get the best talent while avoiding installing an unsustainable wage structure.

But this is difficult when it comes to sales, given that there exists a great deal of difference between the capabilities of an entry-level employee and those of a seasoned professional. This dynamic means that the average salary can also vary greatly.

According to Glassdoor, the average salary for an account executive working in the USA is placed at around $59,416. This varies according to factors like location, industry, and business size.

How to Hire an Account Executive

Now that we have a clearer idea of the account executive role and the key skills that it demands, let’s take apart and examine the hiring process piece by piece.

Where to find account executives

The perfect account executive is out there – it’s only a matter of using the right tools and platforms to find them! Here are the key platforms and resources you’ll need to use:

Job boards

There are countless job boards out there, and they’re used extensively by your candidates. In fact, 42.9% of job seekers will actively start their search with a job board.

You should be sure to upload your advert to those top job sites, so that you can get it in front of as many suitable candidates as possible. There’s a good chance that there’ll also be some popular local job boards, so you should be sure to make the most of those as well.

Here are the key job boards you’ll want to consider using:

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has cemented itself as the web’s foremost professional network, and with over 260 million monthly active users, you can be almost 100% sure that your ideal candidates are on the platform.

There are a host of powerful features and functionalities here that you can use to find a great account executive. The advanced people search is one such feature and can be used to discover high-quality candidates.

If you want to learn more about leveraging the power of LinkedIn, be sure to read this piece on how to find the best candidates on LinkedIn from agency central.

Networking

According to numbers from Review42, an estimated 46% of people got their current position through networking. This a powerful channel that you should make the most of, to attract the best talent.

Here are just some of the places where you might decide to connect with candidates on a face-to-face dynamic:

  • Industry events
  • Social events in your office
  • Meetup events that you organize
  • Visiting local job fairs

Referrals

A great referral is the holy grail of recruitment. In fact, the perfect recommendation can slash your time to hire, and reduce your recruitment costs significantly. 88% of employers say that referrals are the leading source of superior candidates!

If you’re on the lookout for an excellent account executive, be sure to also incentivize referrals from your existing team members. To earn their referrals, you might, for instance, decide to offer them cash rewards or other prizes as motivation.

Account Executive job description examples, and a template to get started

The skill shortage means that it’s now tougher than ever before for recruiters and hiring managers to find the best talent; in order to effectively capture the attention of the most sought-after account executives, you’ll need to have an excellent job description.

Here’s a look at some inspiring account executive job description examples – and why they’re so great:

Account Executive – Talkdesk

Talkdesk

This account executive job description from Talkdesk is great for a few key reasons. Here’s what we think it does so well:

  • The job description maintains a consistent tone throughout
  • It shares the high-level responsibilities of the account executive
  • The requirements are clear and comprehensive

Account Executive – Intralinks

Intralinks

In this account executive job description from Intralinks, we can see that the business is looking for an account executive who will focus on pre-sales. Here’s what we think this job description does well:

  • The inclusion of desired qualifications helps to avoid intimidating the majority of candidates who don’t have that exact experience
  • It includes an introduction to the sales team that the account executive will join
  • Once again, the responsibilities and qualifications are very accurate

Account Executive – Student Beans

Student Beans

This account executive job ad from Student Beans is filled with character, and we can easily imagine that it’s very exciting to read, as a potential candidate!

Here’s what we really like about this ad:

  • The ad starts by offering appropriate context
  • The wording is light, and places a strong emphasis on character over qualifications
  • A significant portion of the ad is dedicated to employee benefits, which will be sure to attract some high-quality applications

Now that we’ve seen some marvellous examples, let’s put that best practice into action! Here’s a great template you can use as a foundation to get started right away:

[Business name] is looking to add an empathetic and results-driven account executive to its sales team.

The successful candidate will join our sales department where they’ll play a critical role in caring for our existing customers, providing regular product updates, and fielding common troubleshooting questions.

Responsibilities

  • Develop close ties with multiple customers
  • Use industry and product knowledge to generate new business
  • Leverage sales experience to upsell novel products
  • Act as the first point of contact for our customers
  • Present our business in the best light with empathetic service

Requirements

  • Bachelors’ degree or equivalent
  • 2+ years of sales experience
  • Immaculate written and verbal communication skills
  • A strong business acumen
  • A naturally empathetic approach to account management
  • A genuine desire to bring about great customer experiences

 

How to check the resume of an Account Executive

These days, resumes come in all shapes and sizes, and longstanding conventions have largely been done away with, so you’ll need to devote an appropriate amount of time to assess each resume that you receive.

You can expedite this process by identifying a few key things to look out for, however. Here’s a look at what you’ll want to see on every account executive CV that comes across your desk:

Impeccable spelling and grammar

Your account executives must have great written communication skills. You should be sure to check their CV thoroughly for any errors, because this can also give you an idea of their attention to detail.

Capabilities over qualifications

There are many different paths people can take to become an account executive. Some will study humanities subjects, for instance, while others might study marketing or business. There’s really no one-size-fits-all path, so you shouldn’t necessarily pay too much attention to qualifications.

Instead, you want to try and assess the capabilities of your candidates. Look at their previous experience and achievements, to see if they have what it takes.

Relevant experience

Ideally, you’ll want to find account executives who have proven sales experience. If they don’t have specific experience, then you should also look out for those candidates who can demonstrate an understanding of the role by relating their previous experiences to it in a logical way.

Proven soft skills

Account executives need a delicate blend of soft and hard skills. Try and keep an eye out for any experiences or achievements that point toward strong soft skills, such as speaking engagements or awards.

10 Account Executive interview questions you can use

Once you’ve found a viable candidate, now you’ll want to invite them in for an interview! This is the perfect chance to get to know your candidate on a deeper level, so make sure that you go into the interview equipped with the right questions.

Here are some of the best interview questions you’ll want to use to assess the suitability of your account executive:

  1. What is your proudest accomplishment as an account executive?
  2. What do you think is the most important skill for an account executive?
  3. What has inspired you to look for this opportunity?
  4. Which management style do you respond the best to?
  5. How do you think your previous manager would describe your performance as an account executive?
  6. How do you think our customers respond to account executives?
  7. Can you describe a challenging moment you had in the past, and how you handled it?
  8. What do you think our customers expect from account executives?
  9. Are you driven by numbers and concrete targets?
  10. How do you think the role of account managers might develop in the future?

Conclusion

We hope that reading this piece plays a helpful part in preparing you to go out and find the perfect account executive for your business! Always remember, it’s worth investing the appropriate time and effort into finding the ideal, perfect candidate – given the direct impact that they’ll be able to have on your business.

Of course, an account executive is only useful so long as you have great customers and a healthy sales pipeline: start your free UpLead trial today and start driving growth with targeted sales leads!

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