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Account Manager jobs
What's it really like?
Alison Pilling is 45 and an account manager for a legal publishing company. She gives us the inside story …
I have been working as an Account Manager for thirteen years. Prior to that I taught English as a Foreign Language in Indonesia. My daily routine varies depending on whether I’m working in the office or on the road meeting with customers. When I’m in the office I drink a lot of coffee (!) and spend most of the day e-mailing customers, dealing with queries regarding prices, products, trials and any other problems they may have. I also arrange meetings, try to sell books (our products) and talk to customers and potential customers about our online services. If I am out on the road I usually see four or five customers each day. During our meetings I talk to them about the new books we have published, demonstrate our online services or try to come up with creative ways for our customers to pay for what they need. During lunchtime I often take customers out for lunch to get to know them a bit better but if I have my own time I try to get out to an art gallery or other place of interest.
There are lots of things I enjoy about being an account manager. I really value the flexibility and being able to plan my own time and manage my diary. I also love meeting the customers and building up relationships with them, and then working with integrity to meet their needs. The worst aspect of my job is selling products on the phone so I tend to leave that to other colleagues who prefer it. I also dislike making appointments.
To those thinking of doing this job I would say be sure that you like working independently and have self discipline. You shouldn’t be an Account Manager if you like the comfort of being in the office all the time and don’t do it if you need other people to motivate you or you like daytime TV! Having targets is a constant pressure so be sure you’re prepared to live with that. Choose a quality product to sell, with limited competition.
Sales is a great place to work and can accommodate all sorts of people. I’m very much into the work-life balance so being an account manager is great for that, providing I hit my targets. On the other hand I have younger colleagues who work harder and are more ambitious - the role suits them because account managers can earn more commission the harder they are willing to work.
I’m not really a team player so will probably stay in sales rather than move to managing a team though that would be possible. I’ve had a life coach for the past eighteen months so may try to set up an additional part time business doing that. I would also like to start working fewer days!
Working within the sales and marketing department of a business or organisation, account managers are responsible for the management of client accounts.
The role of an account manager varies depending on the nature of the business, but, put simply, the account manager acts as the interface between the customer services and sales departments within a company. This involves maintaining the company’s existing relationship with a client or group of clients in order that they will continue using the company for business. It also involves identifying potential new clients and business opportunities and persuading new customers to place business with the company. Account managers are responsible for working with clients to identify their needs and work out how the company can best meet those requirements, in order that the client does not decide to place business elsewhere. Depending on the size of the company, account managers might manage a single account or they may have a whole portfolio of clients.
Account managers earn anything from £18,000 to £70,000 depending on their experience and the size and nature of the company but typically their salary will fall within the £24 - £34 000 bracket. As sales are a key dimension of the role, account managers usually earn commission if they hit sales targets.
The responsibilities of an account manager vary depending on the needs of the client and the nature of the company. Typically they include:
In general, account managers are required to have a good first degree, preferably in a business or marketing related subject, although graduates of other disciplines will usually be considered, providing they can demonstrate the necessary skills and commitment to the post. Companies which have an international dimension to their work may also require employees to have a qualification in a foreign language.
Account managers need to have a good understanding of sales and marketing, as well as an excellent knowledge of the company they work for and the products or service they sell. More specifically account manager should have:
Working as an account manager can be quite stressful as the account manager is the first port of call when clients have any problems with the company and it is the account manager who is held responsible if a client chooses to place their business somewhere else. Typically, account managers work normal office hours (9 – 5.30 pm) but they may be required to work overtime during busy periods. Additionally, account managers are expected to attend networking events, product launches and exhibitions in order to generate new business, which usually happen outside office hours, during the evenings or weekends. Account managers are office based but they will often have to travel to meet clients, attend conferences or liaise with other sales and marketing professionals.
Account managers are not necessarily required to have direct experience of working in a related role but they will need to be able to demonstrate a good understanding of the job and an enthusiasm for working within a sales and marketing department. Experience of working in a customer-facing role will always be advantageous, as will experience of handling finances and working to deadline. Account manager jobs are often very competitive so it may be worth undertaking an internship within a marketing, communications or sales department, in order to develop useful contacts and the necessary skills for the job.
Account managers are employed in a wide variety of companies and organisations: any field that has a product or service to sell to clients. Account managers could work for a small business, corporate company, financial service, retail chain, manufacturer, university or local authority.
With enough relevant experience there is always the opportunity for career progression as an account manager. With suitable experience, account managers could progress to the role of account director, marketing manager or brand director, all of which involve making decisions about sales and marketing strategies, supervising staff and delegating tasks to other members of the team. The skills required of an account manager are extremely transferable and allow employees to move on to many different jobs that are not directly associated with account management.