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account manager vs account executive

Account Manager vs Account Executive: What’s the difference?

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Whether you are looking for a job or trying to hire someone for a position, it is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of the job, specifically understanding what is an Account Manager vs Account Executive. There are many sales job titles and positions that sound similar and share some characteristics, but they can be vastly different in terms of specific responsibilities. Account Manager and Account Executive positions are also mistaken for each other or used interchangeable, but the two roles are quite different. 

Account Managers and Account Executives are typically both part of the sales team, but they carry out different functions. If you are interested in a career in sales or customer relations, it is important to determine which role is best for your experience and skills. For sales teams looking to expand, it is important to consider the needs of your organization to hire the right position. 

Keep reading to learn about Account Managers and Account Executives, including the differences and similarities between the positions for job seekers and companies looking to hire. 

What is an Account Manager?

Account Managers are usually on the sales team, but they are not directly involved in sales. In most cases, account managers come into play after a contract has been signed and a sale has been made. Account Managers are tasked with keeping client satisfied, especially larger clients or influential clients. 

Account Managers may be assigned multiple client accounts at once. They work with the sales team to learn about the client, including their needs and solution. Then, the Account Manager works to provide top-notch support for the client. They may hold regular meetings with the client to understand their needs and ensure their solution is working as best as possible. 

What is an Account Executive?

Like Account Managers, Account Executives tend to be part of an organization’s sales team – executive sales recruiters is a whole ‘nother niche which can elevate any company. However, they are directly involved in the sales process. Account Executives are tasked with identifying and converting clients for their company and establishing relationships with potential clients and new clients. 

Account Executives are not the same as company executives. They are usually not in charge of a team, but they may have more flexibility and say than a regular sales associate. Account Executives meet with potential clients to build relationships and ultimately make a sale. They are frequently used in business-to-business transactions to present a customized sales pitch for an organization. 

Account Manager vs Account Executive -Responsibilities

While Account Managers and account executives have similar sales titles, their responsibilities are very different when comparing an Account Manager vs Account Executive. As members of an organization’s sales team, both roles are responsible for increasing or maintaining a company’s revenue. However, account executives are trying to close deals and build new relationships while account managers work to maintain existing client relationships.

Account Executives are often the first point of contact with a new client, and they are responsible for understanding the client’s needs and developing the best solution. Account Managers join the sales process after a deal has been closed. They are responsible for keeping the client happy and ensuring their solution continues to meet their needs. 

Works directly with prospective clients  Works directly with existing clients
Attempts to make an initial sale Attempts to upsell or cross sell
Does not maintain contact with a customer after a sale Maintains regular contact with a customer after a sale
Frequently travels or meets with clients for pitches Typically stationary, meeting with clients for updates

What are an Account Manager’s responsibilities?

Account Managers work directly with existing clients to maintain relationships and ensure client satisfaction. Their responsibilities may vary by organization, but there are some common tasks and duties across industries. 

  • Regularly meet with the client to understand their needs and ensure the solution is still resolving their challenges
  • Meet with various members of the client’s organization to better understand their needs and challenges and ensure the solution is working for all employees
  • Resolve any challenges the client may be having with the solution
  • Attempt to upsell or cross sell additional solutions to resolve the client’s challenges 

What are an Account Executive’s responsibilities?

Account Executives work to move potential clients through the sales funnel and close a deal. They work directly with leads, trying to convert leads to customers. Account Executive responsibilities may differ based on the products or services they are selling, but there are some common responsibilities across industries. Here is an example from a Forbes job posting for account executives.

  • Travel or meet with potential clients in person to discuss their needs and challenges
  • Develop sales pitches that are customized for a potential client 
  • Relay information to the sales team to move a client through the sales funnel 
  • Hand off client information to an account manager
  • Sometimes use tools like ZoomInfo and Salesloft

What are the main differences between an Account Executive & Account Manager?

The main differences between an Account Manager and an account executive can be seen in their responsibilities and focus. Account Executives work to bring in new sales, identify new clients, and convert leads to sales. Account Managers strive to maintain existing client relationships and keep customers happy with their chosen solution. 

Account Managers vs Account Executives work within different sections of the sales process. Account Executives have initial contact with a potential customer, but they often do not maintain contact after a sale. Account Managers do not have contact with a client until after a sale, but they are responsible for maintaining client relationships. Both roles may report to a manager or a fractional sales management hire. They can also be roles for outsourced sales service providers.

Similarities of Account Managers vs Account Executives

Both Account Managers and account executives work with a company’s sales team and have a direct impact on revenue. Account Executives bring in new revenue through sales sometimes starting with creative outreach ideas, while Account Managers maintain recurring revenue and bring in new revenue through upselling or cross selling. 

Account Managers and Account Executives are also both responsible for maintaining relationships and representing an organization. Account Executives are often the first contact a client has with a company, and they can set the tone for the entire relationship. Account Managers then ensure a client thinks highly of the company and has a positive relationship with the organization. 

Industry Differences Between an Account Executive and an Account Manager in 2024

Account Executive and Account Manager roles can differ from industry to industry. Specific responsibilities and duties for each role may vary based on the products and services provided by a company. Some examples of possible industry differences are below. 

  • In some settings, an account manager may have to be very knowledgeable about a product or solution to provide customer support. In other cases, they may pass a case on to a dedicated customer support team. 
  • In some organizations, account executives oversee salespeople to funnel clients through the sales process. Other organizations may have account executives work independently. 
  • Account Managers and Account Executives may work closely in some organizations, while other companies separate their roles to different teams.  

Should you hire an Account Executive or an Account Manager? 

For organizations looking to expand their sales team, it is important to decide between account executives and account managers. Some organizations may require both positions, while other could need one role. When considering whether to hire an Account Manager or an Account Executive, organizations should focus on their specific goals for the position. 

Increase new sales Yes No
Increase upselling/cross selling Maybe Yes
Build new customer relationships Yes No
Identify new leads Yes No
Improve customer satisfaction No Yes
Maintain recurring revenue from existing clients No Yes

What to Consider When Deciding Between an Account Executive Job and Account Manager Job?

If you want a career in sales, you may be wondering whether an Account Executive job or Account Manager position is best. Each position has different roles and responsibilities, but they are both focused on strong relationships. Both positions may be great fits for outgoing personalities who enjoy getting to know people and interacting with others. 

If you like new challenges and research, an Account Executive position may be the better choice. Account Executives have to learn as much as they can about a potential client and customize a sales pitch to meet their needs. They are very outgoing and have to be well versed in the company’s products and services. While building a relationship with a potential client is important, Account Executives do not often maintain those relationships long-term. 

If you like maintaining relationships and solving problems, an Account Management position may be the right path. Account Managers work closely with existing clients and get to know them over regular meetings and interactions. A lot of information about the client is available from the start thanks to the sales team or Account Executive, so not a lot of research is involved. 

Account Executive and Account Manager: Job Outlook 

Job outlooks provide insight into which positions are growing and which are not. You can determine whether organizations are hiring account executives or account managers based on the job outlook. A job outlook also offers information on whether a field is growing. 

It is important to note that job outlooks can vary by industry, and they are only meant to serve as a broad overview for a particular position. If you are considering a career as an account executive or Account Manager, you can research more job outlook information for your desired industry. 

Account Executive Job Outlook

The Account Executive position is growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that account executives will grow by 5% from 2014 to 2024. While the growth is not very large, it does open up about 19,000 new jobs in the field over 10 years. 

In many cases, Account Executives are hired from within an organization and positions may be filled by promoted salespeople. Working as an account executive can open possible growth opportunities as well. Account Executives can be promoted within an organization or hired externally for senior positions. Some common tracks include account executives eventually becoming Vice President of Business Development or Chief Operations Officer.

Account Manager Job Outlook 

Information on the Account Manager job outlook is not as readily available as Account Executives. This could be due to varying definitions of the position across industries and organizations. There’s also been a shift to calling the role, “Customer Success” instead of Account Management. However, the general outlook seems positive. 

Account Managers can follow a variety of career paths with both internal and external promotions. Account Managers typically start their career as an entry level sales associate or a customer service representative. Over time, Account Managers can become directors and oversee other Account Managers or departments. 

Account Manager vs Account Executive – Job Requirements

When applying for an Account Manager or Account Executive position, it is important to pay attention to the job requirements. Job requirements will vary by organization as companies seek specific people to fill a role. However, there are often some similarities in job requirements for account executive or account managers across industries.  

Job requirements include a variety of information, including educational requirements, experience, and skills. This information can usually be found in a job description or requested from the hiring company. 

Account Manager Requirements

Account Managers work directly with clients on a daily basis. They have to be great communicators and listeners, understanding the needs and challenges of a client. They should also have strong problem solving skills and organizational skills to stay on top of a client’s needs and ensure they are met. 

Common job requirements for Account Managers include: 

  • Bachelor’s degree in marketing, communication, business, public relations, or a similar field
  • Experience as a sales associate or customer service representative 
  • Ability to multitask 
  • Attention to detail 
  • Strong communication skills 
  • Strategic thinking and problem-solving abilities 

Account Executive Requirements 

Account Executives often have similar job requirements as account managers, but their focus is slightly different within the organization. Account Executives have to be outgoing and strong communicators in order to understand a potential client’s needs and make a sale. 

Common job requirements for Account Executives include:

  • Bachelor’s degree or higher (master’s degree may be preferred) in business management, accounting/finance, marketing, communication, or a similar field
  • Several years of experience in the field, including sales and customer service 
  • Proven sales skills
  • Strong communication skills
  • Project management skills 
  • Ability to negotiate
  • Public speaking skills 

Account Manager Salary vs Account Executive Salary 

Salary is another area where Account Managers and account executives differ. Account Executives often have more experience or education, so their salaries tend to be higher than account managers. However, account managers can receive raises or bonuses based on tenure or performance. 

For Account Executives, the national median salary is $87,500 annually. In some regions, like Houston, the average salary can be about $65,000. For other markets, like Atlanta, the average can be higher at $80,000. 

For Account Managers, the average salary for the nation is $56,596. Salaries for account managers depend on the industry, size of the company, and experience of the employee. In some markets, the salary for an account manager can be more than $90,000 annually. 

The TLDR on Account Managers vs Account Executives:

Account Managers and Account Executives have different responsibilities and goals, but both roles are important for organizations. Account Executives serve the crucial role of identify leads and converting clients to sales. They can have a great impact on an organization’s revenue by bringing in new clients. 

Account Managers are essential for maintaining client relationships and protecting recurring revenue. They focus on keeping customers happy, solving client problems, and upselling or cross selling other solutions. They can also help protect a company’s reputation and improve word of mouth marketing among clients. 

The differences in each role can help you choose which career path is best for you or help an organization hire the right position. One position is not better than the other. Both Account Managers and Account Executives are important and highly sought after by organizations that sell products and services, especially business-to-business sales. 

For other posts on sales roles, check out these articles:

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