Everything you need to know about a career as an Account Executive
The main goal for an account executive is to close new deals.
They spend their days focused on driving new sales opportunities including getting on calls, sending follow-up emails, and occasionally meeting with prospects in person. They typically have a sales quota that they are responsible for hitting each month or quarter.
Pro Tip: Check out this great guide we wrote about how you can crush your sales quota.
In many SaaS, software and enterprise companies, account executives are often paired with a sales development representative (SDR). The SDR focuses on filling the sales pipeline and qualifying leads through social media, email (both 1:1 and drip campaigns), phone calls, and increasingly video messages. Then, once a lead is qualified, they pass it over to the account executive to close the sale.
Increasingly, AEs are also responsible for managing relationships with customers post-sale. However, the level of involvement post-sale varies wildly across industries.
For example, media account executives work as full-cycle sales reps. They are responsible for handling 100% of support and account management.
In other industries like technology, SaaS, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and financial services, their involvement post-sale is distributed between them, account managers, and customer service professionals. They are expected to check in regularly to make sure they are still satisfied with the company, look for upsell and cross-sell opportunities, and ensure they don’t churn to a competitor.
While the role has evolved, the position has been around for decades. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of account executive jobs are expected to increase by 7% by 2024.
AEs have at least five years of sales experience. According to Payscale, the average base salary estimate is $51,905 plus commissions and performance bonuses.
Most AEs start as SDRs or junior account executives. Then, they move into account executive positions — the best progress into senior account executive or director-level roles.
The starting annual salary ranges from $45,000 – $70,000 USD with performance bonuses.
|San Francisco, CA||New York, NY||Austin, TX||Chicago, IL||Los Angeles, CA||Denver, CO|
|Base | OTE||Base | OTE||Base | OTE||Base | OTE||Base | OTE||Base | OTE|
|$60-85K | $120-170K||$60-80K | $120-160K||$50-60K | $90-120K||$55-70K | $110-140K||$55-70K | $110-140K||$55-70K | $110-140K|
Account executives play a critical role in the company. In many ways, they are the face of the company to customers.
Their core responsibilities can include:
Most sales organizations measure their account executives based on a combination of sales performance (i.e. hitting a quota) and customer retention.
The sales quota is either measured in the number of deals closed or hitting a certain revenue number each month or quarter.
To ensure the deals closed are the right types of customers, a portion of an account executive’s commission or performance bonus is tied to customer retention. This can include whether or not a customer sticks around for a certain number of months, how satisfied they are with the level of service, and any upsell and cross-sell opportunities to increase a customer’s lifetime value.
The average AE has a minimum of 5 years of sales experience.
Most account executives start as SDRs or junior account executives and become proficient at cold calling, cold emailing, and prospecting techniques. This also allows them to work closely with account executives and sales managers.
There are also many account executives, who transition into this role after spending time in account management or customer success positions. These roles are heavily customer-facing.
Another way to build sales experience is to work in sales for a small business (less than 10 people). It is not for everyone, but a great way to get a crash course in sales as you’ll be juggling a ton of responsibilities. You’ll also get a lot of experience working with the founder(s). These experiences can be invaluable when it comes to selling to big accounts.
Pro Tip: Check out this article for more tips for how to land a job as an account executive.
Here are the essential skills and personality traits we look for when hiring Account Executives.
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