Account Executive

What Is an Account Executive?

An account executive is an employee who is primarily responsible for an ongoing business relationship with a client.

Account executives are most commonly found in advertising, public relations, and financial services. In addition, technology companies that provide hardware and software support services assign account executives to significant 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 or several clients.
  • Compensation usually includes a base salary, sales commission, and bonuses for exceeding targets.

Understanding the Account Executive Role

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

An 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.

Compensation for the account executive is typically a base salary with a sales commission and bonuses for reaching or exceeding sales targets. As of August 2022, the average base pay for the job was $61,516 in the United States, according to Glassdoor.com.

Account Executive Responsibilities

Account executive duties may include:

  • Negotiating with clients and closing contracts
  • Attending to clients' needs and developing relationships
  • Acquiring more clients through prospecting and canvassing
  • Coordinating internal tasks related to accounts to ensure clients receive products and services
  • Assisting new clients through any processes

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, and are also usually required to keep in touch with clients regularly to keep lines of communication open.

In some cases, clients might be deemed so important to the business that they are the only client an account executive is assigned. Other account executives might have multiple clients to prioritize regarding their importance to the firm.

In various industries, account executives might handle a bank's cybersecurity hardware and software needs, 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.

Regulations

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

Skills Needed to Be an Account Executive

Most account executives have an undergraduate degree in business administration, communications, or other related course of study. They also have a broad range of skills and deep knowledge of the industry they work in. Necessary skills include:

  • Negotiation skills: Account executives must be adept at handling concerns and negotiating with clients to maintain relationships.
  • Sales skills: Accounts will have turnover, so an account executive must be able to prospect for new clients and sell services to them while continuing the sales process with existing clients.
  • Project management skills: Account executives may have multiple accounts to manage, so they must understand how to keep projects moving.
  • Interpersonal skills: Account executives must have excellent people skills, allowing them to work with various internal departments and clients.
  • Analytical skills: As account executives become more senior, they may be expected to analyze industry data and trends to assist their teams.

Account Executive vs. Account Manager

You'll often hear account manager and account executive used interchangeably. However, there is one distinct difference. Both roles manage client accounts and relationships, but an account executive has to bring in new clients.

Account managers are responsible for maintaining accounts and client relationships after the sale has been made and clients onboarded.

Is Account Executive a High Position?

How high up in an organization an account executive is depends on the business and how it is structured. Some account executives are in leadership positions and have sales reps and account managers that work for them. Others might work for more senior account executives.

Is Account Executive a Good Career?

Account executives develop and maintain the relationships between businesses. Being an account executive can be a very rewarding career if you enjoy talking to people, solving problems, negotiating terms, and managing multiple projects.

Is Account Executive a Stressful Job?

Like many jobs, account executives deal with the pressures of deadlines, sales quotas, relationships, and general work stresses.

The Bottom Line

An account executive is the primary person responsible for building and maintaining client relationships. Most account executives work in advertising, public relations, financial services, and technology companies that rely on business-to-business relationships.

Account executives negotiate contracts, conduct sales presentations and calls, recruit clients, and walk new and existing clients through purchasing processes. It is a rewarding career for someone who enjoys talking to people, fixing problems, and developing relationships.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Glassdoor. "Account Executive Salaries in United States."

  2. Federal Industry Regulatory Authority. "3220. Influencing or Rewarding Employees of Others."

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