Overview: Candidates who fill sales executive jobs and account executive jobs tend to be the hunters within the organization—a segment of entry-level to mid-skill-level jobs that are focused on new business sales. Both titles are found at a variety of companies and industry verticals, including software companies and marketing agencies, and they’re often used interchangeably.
Sales executive jobs and account executive jobs focus on finding new business accounts and are less operations-focused than, say, an account manager, who tries to cultivate additional business from existing client relationships through up-selling and cross-selling. The titles sales executive and account executive may refer to anyone in the organization who is focused on selling the organization’s products and services.
While there’s little hard data to support any preference for the use of account executive over sales executive, one amusing explanation may be found in Peter Thiel’s book, From Zero To One: “Like acting, sales works best when hidden. This explains why almost everyone whose job involves distribution—whether they’re in sales, marketing or advertising—has a job title that has nothing to do with those things. People who sell advertising are called account executives. People who sell customers work in business development. People who sell companies are investment bankers. And people who sell themselves are called politicians. There’s a reason for these redescriptions: None of us wants to be reminded when we’re being sold.”*
Educational Requirements: Account manager jobs generally require a bachelor’s degree in marketing, business, communications, finance, economics or other related field. Though many in sales executive jobs and account executive jobs have worked their way up to success through exceptional performance and experience, possessing no more than a high school diploma. Communication skills are paramount, since robust interaction with clients is usually required. Proficiency in computer and software programs, including PowerPoint and sales CRMs like SalesForce.com and LinkedIn Navigator, are also essential. The ability to speak a second language is also desirable in many cases.
Employment for sales occupations like sales executive jobs and account executive jobs is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations, which will result in about 778,000 new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.**
Expected Salary: Candidates looking for sales executive jobs can expect an average annual salary of $60,000, with a slightly higher salary of $68,000 in places like New York City, according to GlassDoor.com. But Payscale.com notes that commissions make up a big slice (just under one in three on average) of the overall compensation for account executive jobs, and places the median pay for account executive jobs at $53,000. Other leaders in compensation levels for account executive jobs and sales executive jobs include IBM at $121,000, Amazon.com Inc at $84,000, and The Travelers Companies, Inc., where employees in these jobs earn $80,000 annually, according to a recent PayScale salary survey. ***
Typical Job Description: The folks over at TotalJobs provided the following sample job description for sales executive jobs. This is designed to assist HR talent professionals who need to create a job application that will attract qualified candidates, as well as job candidates who are seeking to understand the specific job duties and requirements of business development manager jobs.
If you enjoy the buzz closing a sale can bring and want more, then a career as a sales executive could be calling you. Think you want to answer the call and eventually become a sales manager like our interviewee above? Find out what to expect from a sales executive job.
- So, what will I actually be doing? Whatever your product, it’s your job is to sell as many of your company’s goods as possible as well as developing and maintaining a good relationship with clients.
- The pressure will be on to meet your targets, so expect busy days with a full to-do list. As a sales executive, you will need to:
- Visit potential customers for new business
- Provide customers with quotations
- Negotiate the terms of an agreement and close sales
- Gather market and customer information and provide feedback on buying trends
- Represent your organization at trade exhibitions, events and demonstrations
- Identify new markets and business opportunities
- Record sales and send copies to the sales office
- Review your own sales performance
The Finer Details…
- This is not a regular office job, so expect to be working long hours – especially when you have targets to meet. Many sales executives spend a lot of time on the road or traveling overseas.
- Want to know where you can go from being a sales executive? Well, you can look forward to a career as a sales manager, area or regional sales manager and eventually sales director.
- Money, money, money
- The long hours and pressure of meeting targets are well rewarded in this career. Starting salaries vary but will be in the range of £17k to £35k (about $24,973 to $51,416 in the U.S.).
- With a little experience you could earn up to £43k (about $63,169 in the U.S.), and at senior levels you could earn £50k – £100k plus (about $73,452 to $146,905 in the U.S.). Salaries are usually based on success in meeting sales targets and jobs may be advertised as OTE, which means ‘on target earnings.
The good points…
- “Sales executives will get the opportunity to meet many people and will be the driving force behind their business,” say the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM). “Although the usual pressures will apply, the end results will see the best sales executives on very good salaries and bonus schemes.”
…and the bad
- “Sales executives often need to spend a lot of time away from family and friends. It can be a lonely life out on the road and time spent travelling will also need to be made up.”
Is there study involved?
- “The best sales executives are hired on soft skills and experience,” say ISMM. While attitude, ability and experience count for a lot in this career, qualifications will always boost your CV. If you are looking to get ahead with some work-based qualifications there are a variety of courses you can take such as:
- NVQ Level 4 in Sales Management
- Level 5 Diploma in Sales & Account Management (ISMM)
- Level 6 Executive Diploma in Strategic Sales and Account Management (ISMM)
- The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and ISMM have full details of courses.
Your sales skills need to be unrivaled – but it also helps if you have:
- Excellent communication skills
- A confident and determined approach
- Resilience – and the ability to cope with rejection
- Self-motivation and drive
- A competitive streak ****
* Thiel, Peter. From Zero To One.
** Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sales Occupations. (Accessed June 22, 2016).
**** TotalJobs, Sales Executive Job Description. (Accessed Jun 22, 2016).
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