Become a Sales Account Executive: Education and Career Roadmap

Aug 15, 2018

Learn how to become a sales account executive. Research the career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as a sales account executive. View article »

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  • 0:01 Should I Become a…
  • 0:38 Career Requirements
  • 1:31 Get an Education
  • 2:09 Gain Work Experience
  • 3:04 Training & Certification
  • 3:42 Career Advancement

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Sales Account Executive?

A sales account executive (SAE) is responsible for marketing a company's products or services to potential and existing clients. They also manage client accounts by answering questions, offering additional products or services, and generally meeting clients' needs. Sales account executives might work in retail, wholesale trade, finance, or manufacturing. These professionals often have to travel to represent their various clients. Overseeing an entire marketing campaign can be stressful, and many managers must put in overtime hours.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies; bachelor's degree often preferred
Degree Fields Business or sales related discipline
Experience Varies; at least 1-2 years of experience may be required
Certification Voluntary professional certification is available
Key Skills Managerial, communication, analytical, customer-service, and interpersonal skills; ability to use customer relationship management and presentation software; familiarity with data analysis and sales or marketing principles
Salary (2016)* $49,547 per year (median annual salary for sales account executives)

Sources: Monster.com job postings (December 2012), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, Payscale.com*

So, what are the career requirements for this field? Though requirements vary, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that many employers prefer sales account executives who have earned bachelor's degrees in business or sales disciplines. Experience requirements also vary. Typically, 1-2 years of experience is preferred. Professional certifications are available and can be beneficial to individuals who wish to advance in this career. Sales account executives must have strong managerial, communication, analytical, customer-service and interpersonal skills. They must also be familiar with data analysis and marketing principles and have strong proficiency in using customer relationship management and presentation software. According to Payscale.com, as of January 2016 the median annual salary for sales account executives is $49,547.

Step 1: Get an Education

The first step in becoming a sales account executive is getting the proper education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, for most wholesale or manufacturing sales representative positions a high school diploma is sufficient. However, a bachelor's degree may be necessary to sell technical or scientific products. Degree programs could include a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts and should focus in areas that include business administration, sales, and marketing. Typical coursework covers topics like customer service, selling, merchandising, distribution, advertising, and accounting.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

The next step is to gain some experience. Many sales account executives start out as sales agents or sales representatives, achieving promotion to account executive status after years of sales experience. The duties of a sales account executive can vary according to the size of the company. Common duties include doing market research to find potential clients, product promotion, answering client questions, making the final sale, and handling the client's account thereafter. These entry-level positions require sales representatives to hone the communication and marketing techniques required for advancement to a SAE.

One success tip for sales account executives is to know the product. It is beneficial to be familiar with the products and this familiarity can be gained through education or experience. A technical expert can also help a sales representative with technical knowledge, allowing them to focus on the sale.

Step 3: Training and Certification

Individuals who wish to become sales accounting executives, might consider advanced training or a professional certification. Companies encourage sales representatives to participate in professional seminars or take courses in marketing and sales. Another option is to obtain certification through the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP). The Certified Professional Salesperson designation consists of three levels, each of which include a multi-week training session followed by an exam that must be passed in order to reach the next level. Sales professionals can earn certification in sales, influence, and strategy.

Step 4: Career Advancement

After years of experience, sales account executives with strong skills in both leadership and sales records may have some advancement opportunities. Earning an NASP certification and obtaining a master's degree may also make advancement more likely. Some of the advancement positions could include sales management opportunities.

Sales account executives market products or services to clients, typically have a bachelor's degree, though some have advanced degrees and professional certifications, are talented communicators with great customer service skills and may have experience working as sales representatives.

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