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Key Account Executive Duties and Responsibilities

The nature of the hiring organization and the specific needs of its clients determine the responsibilities assumed by key account executives. However, a look at job postings reveals some central tasks that typically go along with the position, including the following:

Maintain Relationships Employers expect key account executives to know their assigned clients inside and out. Execs fully understand their charges' products, services, objectives, competitors, and brand image. They frequently check in with them to discuss needs, concerns, and satisfaction. If questions or problems arise, clients know exactly who to contact for a prompt response. That attention to and excitement for client growth strengthens bonds.

Sell Additional Services Knowing customers well enables key account executives to generate additional business. For instance, a key account executive at a photo distribution firm might work with a magazine publisher to add coverage of a royal wedding to its agreed-upon list of provided images.

Handle Contracts Spelled-out details provide an accurate record for both sides. Key account executives negotiate terms such as price and delivery, then draw up the appropriate paperwork. When accounts come up for renewal, execs draw upon past successes to draft new mutually satisfying arrangements.

Collaborate with Colleagues While the key account executive takes charge of a client's account, others in the company are also involved in delivering results. An exec, for example, may interact with the marketing department to ensure their campaign is in line with customer requests. Key account executives also attend meetings with other leaders to offer reports and discuss company matters.

Network with Potential Clients With the goal of generating new business, key account execs attend events or connect with potential target markets. Looking for "ins" promotes interest. For example, someone a key account exec meets at an auto convention might express that his current parts supplier is hard to reach. This creates an opportunity to talk about how the key exec's company prides itself on availability.


Key Account Executive Skills and Qualifications

Being trusted with valuable clients is a large responsibility, so key account executives need spectacular interpersonal skills. They must listen well, communicate clearly, and maintain a positive, polite demeanor at all times. Picking up the phone, dropping an email, or meeting face-to-face are all second nature to a customer-centric exec, whether the person on the other side is a regular employee or a CEO. Other factors critical to the job include:
  • Organization skills - keeping on top of each account requires focus, prioritization, and excellent follow-through
  • Attention to detail - mistakes cause clients to go elsewhere, so key account executives double-check everything and avoid letting anything slip through the cracks
  • Salesmanship - looking for ways to increase business and getting clients to buy in to new ideas makes employers happy
  • Self-motivation - key account executives are go-getters always looking for ways to grow business and operate more efficiently
  • Computer competency - in addition to using standard Microsoft Office products, execs frequently input information into a CRM (customer relationship management) system, such as Salesforce.com, that stores valuable details about clients and interactions

Key Account Executive Education and Training

Key account execs possess a bachelor's degree or higher in business, advertising, marketing, communications, or a related field. Proven ability handling smaller clients serves as the main gateway to moving up to this higher-level position. New hires spend a good deal of time learning about their organization's products and services in order to become experts.

Key Account Executive Salary and Outlook

Compensation varies considerably in this career based on factors such as company size, location, experience, and expectations. The median annual salary for key account executives, according to PayScale, is about $68,000. Execs on the low end of the pay range earn about $37,000 per year, while the highest paid make more than $102,000. Common benefits include medical, dental, and vision insurance; paid time off; and retirement plans.

Helpful Resources

As you further ponder a career as a key account executive, these sources can provide valuable information:

The Handbook of Key Customer Relationship Management: The Definitive Guide to Winning, Managing, and Developing Key Account Business - hone your skills and learn more about the importance of CRM systems with this book written by a customer relationship planner and developer who has worked with nearly 400 corporations worldwide

Malcolm McDonald on Key Account Management - create better value between your company and its most important clients with this publication devoted to best practices

Key Account Management and Planning: The Comprehensive Handbook for Managing Your Company's Most Important Strategic Asset - reviewers like this book for its practical tools, examples, and step-by-step instructions

Account Manager Group: Sales Executives and Management - this large LinkedIn group of 200,000-plus members provides a platform for key account executives and similar professionals across all industries to connect and learn

Strategic Account Management Association - this nonprofit, known as SAMA, has offered training, networking, and professional events worldwide since 1964

AKAM: The Association for Key Account Management - from industry trends to what qualifications key account execs need, this website covers plenty of interesting subjects

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