What Is an Account Executive?

An account executive is an employee who has the primary day-to-day responsibility for an ongoing business relationship with a client.

The job title of an account executive is most common in the advertising and public relations businesses and in financial services. Technology companies that provide hardware and software support services assign account executives to major customers.

Key Takeaways

  • Account executives work in many industries but they most commonly are found in advertising, public relations, and financial services.
  • The job may entail working for only one important client or several clients.
  • Compensation usually includes a base salary, sales commission, and bonuses for exceeding targets.

Understanding the Account Executive

An account executive is the main contact person between the vendor and the customer. The account executive commonly is in the picture from the start of the business relationship. Having pitched the deal and negotiated the contract, the account executive is responsible thereafter for fulfilling the contract terms and keeping the client happy.

The account executive also may contact a client to introduce new products and services. That may involve arranging for technical, design, and other support staff to travel to the client to conduct demonstrations and assist with the sales pitch.

Regulations Apply

Account executives are encouraged to keep in touch with clients regularly.

In the financial world, account executives are expected to follow ethical guidelines from regulatory authorities. In the financial world, these include Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 3220, applicable to broker-dealers and investment advisors, which limits the payment of gifts and gratuities.

Account Executive Responsibilities

Account executives are usually expected to bring in new business and often are given annual quotas. They also may be assigned clients by the company.

In some cases, an account executive could be assigned just one very important client, who would be given the red carpet treatment. Other account executives have multiple clients to prioritize in terms of their importance to the firm. A single account executive might handle the advertising campaign of a food and beverage company and a fast-food chain.

In the financial world, account executives need to follow guidelines established by FINRA.

Where They're Found

In various industries, account executives might handle the cybersecurity hardware and software needs of a bank, the pharmaceutical needs of a hospital group, the wealth management needs of a private client, or the prime brokerage service requirements of a hedge fund.

Compensation for the account executive is typically a base salary with a sales commission and bonuses for reaching or exceeding sales targets. As of early 2020, the average base pay for the job was $60,260, with average additional compensation of $31,109, according to Glassdoor.com.

Account executives have a broad range of skills and a deep knowledge of the industry. These skills include the following:

  • Sales skills in order to bring in new clients and pitch existing clients on new products and services
  • Project management skills to keep on top of the work being done for the client
  • People management skills to work with various departments internally as the need arises
  • Exceptional communication skills to maintain the client relationship