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What Is Account Management?

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Account management is a career path focusing on customer relationships after the customer has bought a company’s product or partnered with them. An account manager’s goal is to ensure all customers or clients — known as accounts — are happy with the partnership and want to continue the working relationship. If you have excellent communication skills, can multitask like no other, and are interested in sales, account management might be the right career path for you.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

Overview of Account Management

Account management is concerned with the relationship between a company’s customers or clients and the company. After the client has partnered with the company or bought the company’s product, account managers are there to support them. 

They talk with the client regularly to understand their needs, answer questions, and discuss relevant metrics. 

For example, let’s say you work for a retail company that partners with clients who make clothes and want your company to sell their clothes at scale. As part of the account management team, you’d talk with these clients about what items of their clothes are selling well, where they’re selling best, and how your company can help them drive even more sales.

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Account management also involves client retention. Every time a customer’s contract is up for renewal, account managers will try to convince the client to renew their contract for another year or more and even upsell to get them to buy more offerings and expand their partnership. Continuing from the above example, you might try to convince the client to sell more clothes through your company (and therefore pay you more to do so).

Account Management vs. Sales

Account management and sales positions typically sit within the same side of an organization and focus on revenue and customer growth. However, their main difference is what part of the customer journey they’re involved in. Sales professionals — usually called account executives — focus on bringing in new business, whether that’s introducing them to the product, setting up meetings with buyers, or closing a deal.

>>MORE: Explore a career in sales with Forage’s sales virtual experience programs.

Account management comes after the deal has been made. Account managers work with clients and customers who have bought from the company to manage that relationship. When the client’s or customer’s contract is up for renewal, account managers will ensure the account renews or expands its deal to protect the company’s annual revenue. 

Account Management Job Titles

Account management spans a wide range of industries, from retail and advertising to health care and technology. Any company that works with or sells to clients or customers likely has employees working in account management. 

While you might have the title of “account manager,” there are other synonymous job titles in this profession, including:

  • Client relationship manager
  • Account relationship manager
  • Customer manager
  • Customer success manager
  • Business development specialist
  • Customer quality manager

You don’t necessarily need a specific degree or license to get into account management. Experience and knowledge of how to interact with clients are most important. Some things that can help you succeed in account management include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in business administration, sales, communications, or marketing
  • Experience working with customer relationship management (CRM) tools like HubSpot and Salesforce
  • Customer service skills
  • Basic data skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills

>>MORE: Learn more about how to become an account manager.

Pros and Cons of Working in Account Management

If you love meeting and working with new people, account management might be a great fit for you. However, it might not be the right career path if you struggle with external communication and would rather be recognized for your individual contributions.

Pros

Ability to Work With a Range of Customers

Depending on what kind of company you work for and who they work with, you might be able to work across various industries or with a range of customers. 

“An account manager might be simultaneously executing campaigns across entertainment, fashion, and auto brands,” Maggie Reznikoff, vice president of account management at Open Influence, says. “It’s a great way to build a well-rounded toolkit of knowledge and expertise.”

Team Environment

Most account managers work within a team for a company’s account management department. Sometimes you’ll team up with another account manager to help you in a client conversation or put together a renewal package. Because the entire team is working toward the same goal — to increase company revenue — you’ll often collaborate and work closely with others within your company.

No Specific Degree Requirements

While some career paths have strict education requirements about what to study, account management is much more about your experience working with clients.

“The classroom can only teach you so much,” Jamie Schuppert, marketing manager at Niche, a web3 social media app centered on content creators and interest-based clubs, says. “Once you get out into the real world there is so much more to learn. Someone that has had many internships and jobs working at different levels on various projects forms a great [account management] leader.”

Cons

Lack of Recognition

“There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on in account management that is often unrecognized,” Jamie Levin, communications consultant at public relations firm JLevin Communication, says. “If you’re a team member who thrives on recognition, this may not be the best career choice for you.”

However, there are times when a client will praise you for going above and beyond, Levin says. “When you are recognized by a client, it is extremely rewarding.”

Busy Seasons

Account management can have periods of high-stress, demanding work. For example, there may be peak seasons when you’re trying to onboard many accounts or negotiate several renewals when numerous contracts end around the same time. 

“When it rains, it pours,” Reznikoff says. “Sometimes when that happens it can feel like you’re underwater, and other times, we dance in the rain.”

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