An account executive, or AE, is a member of a sales team who nurtures qualified leads through the sales funnel and closes deals. In contrast to an SDR, an account executive doesn’t focus on lead generation or top-of-funnel sales strategies. Instead, account executives zero in on revenue-generation and closing deals by building relationships with customers.
What Can Account Executives Bring To Your Company?
A good account executive is the lifeblood of your company’s revenue stream. By giving customers a personalized experience with a dedicated guide, account executives enhance the customer’s sales process and encourage them to make a purchase. An account executive acts as a lead’s support system as they first navigate your product or service, and can answer questions and give in-depth demonstrations to encourage sales.
Account executives have more in-depth product knowledge than SDRs. But they also have more contact with leads, and thus have more of a chance to find a client’s pain points and tailor a unique solution to their needs. Because of this, they have the negotiation skills, as well as the product knowledge, necessary to close deals.
Over 65% of B2B account executives at SaaS companies meet or exceed their monthly quotas. As the guide along the final steps in the journey from lead to customer, good account executives make the difference between profit and operating at a loss, and are largely responsible for your company’s bottom line.
What Do Account Executives Do?
Once an SDR passes a lead to an account executive, it’s their duty to guide that lead through the rest of the sales funnel. This can include additional lead screening, but it always includes customer research.
In order to tailor a solution to each client, an account executive must get to know them well and determine which features present the best solutions to the lead’s pain points. To build on the teaser that the SDRs give, an account executive gives in-depth product or service demos, and negotiates deals.
But in between the initial discovery call and a closed deal lies a lot of relationship building. Account executives typically have multiple calls, emails, or meetings with leads. Their job is not just to present your company’s solutions, but to build trust and make leads feel like valued parts of your business.
Can’t The SDRs Close Deals Themselves?
While it may seem tempting to have all-in-one salespeople who find and nurture leads, splitting the sales funnel between multiple employees allows for specialization that helps customers feel valued and heard. It also allows sales team members to specialize and hone their skills – SDRs can improve their canvassing and outreach skills, while account executives can build product knowledge and negotiation skills.
Splitting your sales funnel not only helps your salespeople avoid being jacks of all trades but masters of none, it also helps reduce stress levels and allows team members to focus on specific duties. With this model, your sales team can function as efficiently as an assembly line.
How Do Account Executives Make Sales?
Account executives are all about solutions and results. They present unique, feature-based solutions to clients based on an understanding of their pain points. They develop relationships through multiple conversations and discover the best ways to be of service, and empower leads with the knowledge they need to make a purchase.
What Does An Account Executive’s Sales Process Look Like?
While most account executives have slight variations on the sales process, the basic stages of a deal are consistent. They begin with customer research to really understand a client’s goals and obstacles. A lot of this information will come from the SDR team’s initial reporting, but a good account executive will take it a step further and do customer and industry research on their own.
Next comes the discovery call. At this stage, the account executive begins to get a feel for the lead’s disposition, desired purchase timeline, and expected outcomes. Though the account executive will talk about your business’s solution at this time, the purpose of a discovery call is to help the account executive find out how they can best serve the lead.
After the discovery call, the account executive will meet with the lead for a demo. To do this successfully, they have to combine their in-depth product knowledge with great speaking and presentation skills, customer knowledge, and a good deal of intuition. The account executive’s demo might be the first time a lead gets familiar with your company and how you can help them meet their goals.
From there, the sales process can vary depending on the lead. Some may be ready to make a purchase right away, but others may require follow-ups in which the account executive answers questions, addresses concerns, and continues to nurture the relationship.
The final step is to negotiate and close the deal. Depending on your business and your pricing model, the negotiation stage may take a couple of rounds. But because the account executive has invested in creating a personal connection with the customer, they may continue to check in and help your new customer navigate your product or service after the deal closes.
What Do Account Executive Salaries Look Like?
Compensation for account executives varies based on industry, company size, seniority, and region. Here are some overall salary trends in the field:
- Average annual salary: $98,623
- Average base salary: $60,676
- Average commission rate: 10% of generated revenue
What Is An Account Executive’s Typical Career Path?
Account executives often begin as SDRs, although executives who have specialized industry knowledge or education may not. As they advance, account executives typically move to one of three positions:
- Account executive team lead
- Customer success specialist
- Account manager
What Skills Does An Account Executive Need?
The primary role of an account executive is to communicate effectively with leads. Because of this, their communication and interpersonal skills need to be top notch. Negotiation skills are also crucial, as well as general sales skills and a knowledge of the sales funnel.
But account executives also need to be master analysts. A good account executive can interpret a lead’s situation and personality in order to tailor an effective solution. They should be able to analyze and understand a lead’s pain points and find the best way to demonstrate your solution to these specific problems.
Being an effective account executive can feel like spinning plates. Most account executives balance multiple client relationships at once, so being able to keep track of multiple deals, which may be in various stages, is key. Organization, project management, and thoroughness are crucial to an account executive’s success.
What To Look For When Hiring An Account Executive
When interviewing a potential account executive, try to think from the perspective of a customer. Remember, the account executive may not be the first point of contact for a customer, but they will be the designated guide as a lead travels through the sales funnel. Ask yourself:
- Is this person pleasant and easy to talk to?
- Would I trust this person to sell me a product or service?
- Does this person communicate clearly and answer questions well?
- Are they thoughtful, and do they give detailed answers rather than skimming the surface?
When you’re recruiting a new account executive, be sure your job description is as clear as possible. Our account executive job description template can help you make sure all your bases are covered.
Account Executives Are The Backbone Of Your Revenue Stream
An account executive team can make or break your business. Great account executives take a lead’s initial interest and transform it into the confidence they need to make a purchase. In order to make sure you have the right set of people closing your deals, make sure you:
- Are confident in the people you hire.
- Provide thorough onboarding.
- Give your account executives the support they need to thrive.
- Set reasonable quotas and goals.
- Compensate your team fairly.
- Reward success.
Together with your SDR team, account executives can keep your company moving forward and encourage growth, one customer at a time.