Updated July 2023
Business college opens up so many career paths for graduates. Sales, marketing, client services, accounting, starting your own business—the possibilities are both exciting and a little overwhelming.
Which path should you take? Which business career best suits your natural abilities, interests, and professional goals? Where should you start out after earning your diploma?
In this post, we look at the role of account manager, one of your possible pathways after business training.
Read on to learn what an account manager does, typical pros and cons of working in this role, and the key skills you'll need to excel on the job. Let's get started.
What exactly does an Account Manager do?
Simply put, an account manager is a liaison—a "bridge"— between a company and its clients. They are in charge of keeping existing clients happy and bringing in new business.
If a customer has a problem or request, they'll call up their account manager to discuss options and find a solution. For example, if you get hired by an advertising or marketing agency as an account manager, you would be in charge of a specific group of clients who purchased products and services from that agency. You would be their primary point of contact to review campaign performance, talk about new project ideas, and make sure roadblocks get resolved.
Companies across many industries hire account managers to keep projects on track and make sure clients get personalized attention.
If you pursue an account manager role, you'll be working closely with marketing and sales teams. Your tasks would likely include:
- Following up on new leads (landing new clients)
- Helping to prepare presentations and pitches (and sometimes making pitches yourself)
- Explaining/promoting new products and services to existing clients
- Keeping projects on track for each client (making sure the work your company was hired to do gets done correctly and on schedule)
- Responding to client complaints
- Monitoring budgets, spending, and revenue for each client account you manage
Overall, your goals as an account manager are to:
1) Work with existing clients to ensure their needs and goals are met by your company
2) Expand existing accounts by upselling clients on new products and services offered by your company
What's the Difference Between Account Management and Sales?
By now, you've probably figured out that there's a thin line between sales and account management. In some companies (usually large organizations) these roles are separate. It's the salesperson's job to find new leads and turn them into clients. At that point, they hand those clients over to an account manager.
But in a smaller company, sales and account management are often combined into one role. You bring in new clients and then stay with them throughout their entire relationship with the company. As a new business college grad, it's likely you would start out in a sales + account manager role.
Specific Skills You'll Need to Excel as an Account Manager
So what specific skills would you need to represent a company, bring in new business, and keep clients happy? What is the ultimate combination of hard and soft skills for account managers?
These are the qualities you should possess, or aim to develop, if you want to excel in this area of business:
Excellent communication skills, including writing, speaking, listening, and networking. If you can't build trust with clients and truly understand their needs and goals, how will you ensure they have a positive experience with your company?
Communication is key for addressing complaints, effectively promoting new products and services, and keeping projects on track. At its core, account management is truly a communications role. You need strong people skills to do well in this position.
Strong accounting skills are also important for understanding clients' budget constraints and financial goals. Monitoring budgets, spending, and revenue, and explaining cost factors to clients are important parts of account management.
Target audience and product knowledge are a must for account managers. You need to know what makes your clients "tick"—their pain points and goals. And you must have a very thorough knowledge of how your company's products/services can serve those needs and help meet those goals.
Time management and multitasking are obviously key for account managers, who typically oversee numerous clients simultaneously. On any given day, you'll have meetings, requests, and complaints to address, as well as projects to monitor, pitches to present, and reports to produce. Account managers are always on the move.
Pros & Cons of Pursuing Account Manager Jobs After Business College
One of the biggest pros of pursuing account manager jobs after business college is the diversity of tasks. Also, the chance to meet and build relationships with a wide range of people. Another top advantage is getting to build a solid client base, and watching those relationships flourish over time.
As the key point of contact between a company and its customers, an account manager sees the whole lifecycle of the relationship from start to finish. In some cases, these are years-long partnerships, and are truly rewarding to be a part of.
On the downside, this role can be stressful. Is a client unhappy with the service they've received from your company? Did a product underperform? Is your team behind schedule with an important project? Is your boss pressuring you to bring in more clients or upset that an existing customer walked away?
Being the liaison between a company and its clients means taking full responsibility for the ups and downs of doing business. If your clients are unhappy, you will have to face the consequences. If your company over-promises and can't deliver, you'll have to deal with the fallout. You need to have a thick skin and be a good problem solver to feel comfortable in this role.
learn more about account management and other business career paths
Consider the business administration programs offered by Herzing College. Training is available at our campuses in Toronto and Ottawa as well as online. Click on the links below to explore a detailed list of courses or chat live with a friendly advisor. We're here to help!