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How to Become an Account Manager

Responsibilities, working hours, what to expect and qualifications needed

Career guides » How to Become an Account Manager

What does an account manager do?

An account manager is sometimes also known as a customer relations manager or client manager. They look after client accounts, typically within sales, advertising and marketing departments. They will be the first point of contact for their clients and will need to build relationships with them and provide excellent customer service to excel in this career.

Account managers can look after a single client or manage hundreds of client accounts (portfolios). Their clients may be based in the UK or overseas. They can work in various types of account management and industries. They can also specialise in looking after specific clients or accounts. Therefore, what account managers do will depend on where they work and their specialisms.

An account manager’s main aim is to keep clients happy to ensure they stay with the company and minimise client churn (loss of customers). They will carry out many tasks, including keeping up to date with the industry, developing new business, building good client relationships, meeting with clients, identifying clients’ needs, managing existing accounts, dealing with complaints, responding to any issues or queries, managing budgets and payments, etc. The role will also encompass administrative and computer work, e.g. completing progress reports and conducting analyses.

Account managers will work with many people in different internal departments, e.g. sales, marketing and customer service, and their management team. They will also liaise with external stakeholders, such as clients, product and service providers, wholesalers, local authorities, regulators, etc. Depending on the accounts they manage, they may also communicate with other professionals and partners.

Account managers will typically work in office environments or call centres, but there has been an increase in remote and homeworking opportunities. They can work for different-sized companies, from large national manufacturers/retailers and telecommunications companies to small/medium IT, marketing and advertising firms. There may be self-employed/freelance opportunities and temporary roles with recruitment agencies, but most tend to be employed.

Responsibilities

An account manager’s responsibilities will depend on many factors, including who they work for, the type of accounts they specialise in and the industry in which they work.

Some examples of their day-to-day duties may include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Keeping up to date with new products, trends and competition that could affect clients.
  • Developing new clients and up-selling and cross-selling.
  • Meeting and communicating with clients.
  • Identifying and evaluating clients’ needs.
  • Putting proposals to clients that meet their needs.
  • Developing and maintaining long-term relationships with clients.
  • Managing single client accounts or a portfolio of clients.
  • Renewing and negotiating client contracts.
  • Following up on any requests clients may have.
  • Negotiating with clients and other stakeholders on their behalf.
  • Handling and solving client queries, issues and complaints.
  • Conducting analyses.
  • Meeting company targets, e.g. client retention and new customers.
  • Managing and monitoring budgets and payments.
  • Making clients aware of any other services or products that could benefit them.
  • Updating clients on any developments or changes that could affect their accounts.
  • Liaising with key stakeholders, both internally and externally.
  • Completing progress reports.

Working hours

An account manager can expect to work 37–39 hours a week, but they can do more or fewer hours depending on the requirements of their role.

Although Monday–Friday is typical, it is not usually a 9–5 job. An account manager can also work unsociable hours, e.g. evenings, weekends and bank holidays, especially when attending appointments or events with clients.

Most jobs are full-time. However, many employers are allowing employees to work flexibly, i.e. part-time, hybrid and remote.

Account managers may need to travel to meet with clients or to networking events and conferences, which can lengthen the working day. There may also be opportunities to work overseas, depending on the company and the type of clients.

What to expect

There are many positives to being an account manager, especially if individuals love working closely with people and overseeing projects. It is an exciting role, especially when meeting targets. This job would suit those who are sales-driven, great communicators and have business acumen.

It can be a rewarding career choice and give individuals a sense of purpose in their jobs. They will look after clients and sometimes manage large portfolios. They will help a business grow by keeping existing clients happy, retaining them and gaining new customers.

There are plenty of account manager roles in various industries and jobs are available nationally. The salary is also competitive compared to other career choices, even at the entry level. There is the potential to earn significantly with experience. There may also be bonuses, commissions and additional benefits, e.g. taking clients out to dinner and having free meals and drinks.

Boredom will never be a problem for account managers, as their work can be varied. There are also plenty of opportunities to specialise, so if an individual finds a specific area and industry they are interested in, they will enjoy their work.

Even though there are positives to being an account manager, there are challenges and cons, e.g.:

  • Difficult clients – some clients can be challenging to deal with, and account managers will still need to keep them happy to retain them. They will need to act professionally at all times, even when clients are being difficult.
  • Fast-paced and demanding – being an account manager can be stressful at times. They will often have multiple clients and must be able to juggle different demands. They will need to research and keep up to date with products and services and changes in the law and be available to advise clients when they need it. They need to know their stuff; it is not a job for the faint-hearted.
  • Unsociable/long working hours – some account managers will need to work unsociable hours or may have to work more than 8 hours a day where necessary, which will depend on the employer. Individuals must be prepared to go above and beyond for this role.

 

Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is for them. Juggling different demands can be challenging and stressful. It is fast-paced, and the hours can be unsociable and long. However, there are many positives too, and those who become account managers enjoy their work, as they are an integral part of business growth and success.

When considering whether to be an account manager and the type of role, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.

Personal qualities needed to be a baker

Some of the personal qualities an account manager requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Enjoys working with people.
  • In-depth knowledge of clients’ businesses and needs.
  • Knowledge of maths, budgeting and finance.
  • Assertive, confident, self-disciplined, responsible and has initiative.
  • Tenacious, determined and motivated.
  • Discrete and confidential.
  • Approachable, honest, trustworthy, reliable, ethical and professional.
  • Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Excellent customer service skills.
  • Negotiating and influencing skills.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Active listening skills.
  • Interpersonal skills.
  • Numeracy skills.
  • Decision-making skills.
  • Leadership skills.
  • Business management skills.
  • Time management and organisational skills.
  • Analytical and technical skills.
  • Sales skills.
  • Being thorough, accurate and having attention to detail.
  • The ability to sell services and products.
  • The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
  • The ability to develop and maintain relationships with clients.
  • The ability to work to tight deadlines and meet targets.
  • The ability to take responsibility.
  • The ability to deal with difficult clients.
  • The ability to maintain objectivity at all times.
  • The ability to work well under pressure and remain confident and calm in stressful situations.
  • The ability to use IT equipment, e.g. computers and hand-held devices, and relevant software packages.
  • The ability to work well with others in a team and alone using their own initiative.

Qualifications

There are many routes to becoming an account manager. Individuals could go to university or college, enrol on a private training course or do an apprenticeship. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.

University

An individual does not need a degree to become an account manager. However, having an undergraduate or postgraduate degree can help individuals stand out from the crowd. It is becoming harder to enter the profession without a degree.

The degree topic needed will depend on the type of account management an individual wants to work in and the industry.

Some examples of degree topics that may be helpful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Business administration or management.
  • Finance, financial services or financial studies.
  • Sales or marketing.
  • Public relations or human resources.
  • Statistics.
  • Communication and media studies.

 

Any courses relating to business are likely to be beneficial. Having a degree in other subjects may also help. For example, if an individual wants to be an account manager in food manufacturing or retail, or work in technology, having a degree in these subjects or a relevant one may increase their chances of success.

The entry requirements will depend on each university, and individuals should check before applying. They will typically need two/three good A Levels for an undergraduate degree or a certain number of UCAS points to get into university. Postgraduate degrees usually require a 2:1 or 2:2 in a relevant undergraduate degree or a degree in another subject and appropriate experience. Some institutions also invite applicants for an interview as part of the selection process.

College/private training

Undertaking a college course can help individuals become account managers. Some companies will ask individuals to have at least A Levels or a Diploma.

Some examples of courses that may be useful are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Level 2/3 Diploma in Business or Business Administration.
  • Level 3 Diploma in Sales and Marketing Management.
  • Level 3 Diploma in Marketing.
  • A Level in Business Studies.
  • T Level in Business.
  • T Level in Management & Administration.

 

Individuals usually need:

  • Level 2 – two or more GCSEs grades 9 to 3 (A* to D) or equivalent.
  • Level 3/A levels – five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English, maths and science.
  • T Levels – four or five GCSEs grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent, including English and maths.

 

Private training companies and business schools may also offer courses. It may also be worth enrolling on low-cost online short account management courses to see if a career as an account manager would be of interest. That way, if it is not, it will save an individual a lot of time and trouble. Even college and community courses can count, e.g. AAT in business skills.

Individuals are not guaranteed success with courses and qualifications. However, it will demonstrate to employers and companies that they are keen on the job and may give individuals a competitive edge. Always check the entry requirements before applying.

Apprenticeships

There may be an apprenticeship route to help individuals become account managers.

Individuals will usually need the following:

  • Intermediate apprenticeship – some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent.
  • Advanced apprenticeship – five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, or equivalent.
  • Higher or degree apprenticeship – four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A Levels, or equivalent.

 

Opportunities are found on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed.

Account manager taking on an intern

Work experience

Having a degree is not always mandatory. Some employers may decide to take on individuals as interns and train them as account managers if they have the necessary personal qualities and enthusiasm for the role. It would help individuals to have previous experience in sales, marketing, business or customer services. However, the requirements will depend on each employer.

Many individuals start their careers in sales or customer service while studying part-time. There may also be opportunities to work as a junior account manager and shadow/help experienced account managers. They may also be able to start as an account executive and move into an account management role.

Volunteering can also help people gain valuable experience. Individuals could volunteer with charities, i.e. in their finance, marketing or sales departments or help them with administration. They could also work in a customer-facing role, e.g. fundraising. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO and Volunteering Matters.

Individuals will need relevant work experience for higher-paying roles, as there is a lot of responsibility and competition.

Taking training course in statistics

Training courses

Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training companies can provide relevant training courses.

Some examples of courses that may be useful for individuals looking at a career in account management include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Equality and diversity.
  • Work-related stress.
  • Conflict management.
  • Display screen equipment (DSE).
  • COVID-19 awareness.
  • Office health and safety.
  • Health and safety for homeworkers.
  • Data protection and the GDPR.
  • Complaints handling.
  • Customer service skills.
  • Time management skills.
  • Team leading.
  • Business management.
  • Resilience training.
  • Anti-bribery awareness.

 

Additional IT skills, e.g. in office packages and other software, and training in customer relations can also be beneficial.

Professional bodies and associations relevant to the industry that individuals want to work in may also advise on reputable training courses, e.g. the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). Some also provide memberships, events and support to help individuals become account managers and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.

The type of training required will depend on who an individual works for and their specialisms. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for roles. Jobs are on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and many other sites. Also, look at recruitment agencies for account management roles.

More relevant training and competence (skills, experience and knowledge) will open up more opportunities for individuals. Refresher training is also advisable as it keeps their knowledge and skills up to date.

Criminal records checks

Some account managers may need to undergo a criminal record check. A criminal record, caution, warning, or conviction may put off prospective employers. However, they should account for the seriousness of the crime, when it occurred and its relevance to the role.

The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:

Driving

Most account managers will need to drive as part of their role, especially if they are regional or national. Therefore, they should have a full driving licence, preferably with no points.

Account manager working from own home

Where do account managers work?

Account managers can work in many industries, such as (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Financial services, e.g. banking.
  • Retail and wholesale.
  • Manufacturing.
  • Telecommunications.
  • Aerospace and defence.
  • Transport and logistics.
  • Information technology.
  • Advertising and marketing.
  • Sales.
  • Consultancy.
  • Energy and utilities.
  • Recruitment.
  • Public relations.
  • Pharmaceutical and biotechnology.

 

They can also be self-employed, freelance or work for recruitment agencies.

Account managers can work in a variety of establishments, such as (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Offices.
  • Contact centres.
  • Clients’ homes.
  • Clients’ business premises.
  • Their own home.

 

Some account managers may also travel during their working day, which may require some overnight stays. More experienced account managers may have opportunities to work overseas for international companies.

Experienced account manager

How much do account managers earn?

An account manager’s salary will depend on their role, qualifications, experience, geographical location, employer, working hours, contract and specialist area.

Some examples of salaries include the following (these figures are only a guide):

  • An entry-level account manager (less than 1 year’s experience) – £23,957 a year.
  • An early career account manager (1-4 years of experience) – £27,076 a year.
  • A mid-career account manager (5-9 years of experience) – £30,686 a year.
  • An experienced account manager (10-19 years of experience) – £30,825 a year.
  • An account manager in their late career (20 years and higher) – £31,201 a year.
  • The average salary for an account manager – £28,296 a year.

 

Some account managers can earn more than £50,000 and up to £100,000 in London, with more seniority and experience, especially if working for specialist divisions in larger organisations. In addition to a salary, account managers may also receive bonuses, commissions and other benefits.

Self-employed account managers will need to factor in various expenses when considering the salary, e.g. vehicle, tax, National Insurance, travel, other insurances (business/liability), equipment, qualifications and training, etc.

As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.

Regional account manager

Types of account management to specialise in

There are different types of account manager roles in which individuals can specialise (for example):

  • Regional (area or territory) account managers – will look after client accounts within a region. They typically have to travel more.
  • National account managers – manage the accounts of clients nationally. They will usually work with clients based in several locations around the UK.
  • Key (major) account managers – will look after key accounts held by clients who provide the most business to the company.
  • Global (international) account managers – manage the accounts of customers worldwide.
  • Field-based account managers – will be out meeting clients and visiting different sites. Most roles come with a company vehicle, as it requires extensive travel.
  • New account managers – will be responsible for delivering new business growth. It may require some cold-calling.

 

As stated earlier, there are many industries, products and services in which account managers can specialise. Some other roles may include media, IT, insurance, digital, social media or technical account managers. The specialisms available to account managers will depend on where they decide to work. They can also choose to work with single accounts or a portfolio of clients.

All specialist account manager roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All account managers will need to be excellent communicators and be able to build strong relationships with clients. They will also need a head for business and be confident in sales. Any additional areas of expertise depend on what a company is looking for and an account manager’s intended specialist areas. Further qualifications and training may be necessary for specialised roles.

If account managers do not carry out their roles correctly, it could result in existing clients leaving, opening accounts with competitors and deterring new clients from the business. If this happens, companies can lose money. It can also negatively impact their reputation, especially if there is an increase in customer complaints. Therefore, whatever the type of role, account managers must have the necessary competence to carry out the work professionally and safely. They should also know the limits of their competency, i.e. asking for help when something is beyond their expertise.

Account manager keeping up to date with developments

Professional bodies

Products, services, laws, trends, markets and technology are regularly changing. Therefore, account managers must keep abreast with the latest developments and changes to comply with the law and ensure they carry out their roles effectively and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives account managers the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, and progress in their careers.

Joining a professional body and association can help prospective and current account managers enhance their skills and overall career. They may offer different levels of membership, CPD, support and access to industry contacts and networking events.

There is ample opportunity for career progression for account managers. With more qualifications and experience, they can become a senior account manager or an account director. They can also decide to specialise in specific industries or account types or move from managing single accounts to a portfolio. Alternatively, they may become self-employed, freelance or work for agencies.

Knowledge, skills and experience gained from being an account manager can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could move into a sales, business development, customer service or marketing role. There may also be opportunities in education to train future account managers.

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