Become a Sales Account Executive: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a sales account executive. Research the career requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as a sales account executive.
Sales Account Executive Requirements
A sales account executive (SAE) is responsible for marketing a company's products or services to potential and existing clients. They are also responsible for managing clients' accounts by answering questions, offering additional products or services and generally making sure customer service needs are met. The following table contains some common requirements for becoming a sales account executive:
|Degree Level||Varies; bachelor's degree preferred*|
|Degree Fields||Business or sales related discipline*|
|Experience||Varies; at least 1-2 years of experience may be required*|
|Certification||Voluntary professional certification is available**|
|Key Skills||Managerial, communication, analytical, customer-service and interpersonal skills***|
|Computer Skills||Ability to use related technology, such as customer relationship management and presentation software***|
|Technical Skills||Familiarity with data analysis and sales or marketing principles***|
Sources: *Monster.com job postings (December 2012), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***O*Net Online
Step 1: Get an Education
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), for most wholesale or manufacturing sales representative positions a high school diploma is sufficient; however, a bachelor's degree may be necessary to sell technical or scientific products. Degree programs typically award a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts and offer a focus in areas that include business administration, sales and marketing. Typical coursework covers topics like customer service, selling, merchandising, distribution, advertising and accounting.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Many sales account executives start out as sales agents or sales representatives, achieving promotion to account executive status after years of sales experience. The duties of a sales account executive can vary according to the size of the company. Common duties include doing market research to find potential clients, promoting the product to the client either over the phone or during face-to-face meetings, answering a client's questions, making the final sale and handling the client's account thereafter. These entry-level positions require sales representatives to hone the communication and marketing techniques required for advancement to a SAE.
- Know the product. Sales account executive may benefit from familiarity with the products they sell. This familiarity can be gained through education or experience. A technical expert can also help a sales representative with technical knowledge, allowing them to focus on the sale.
Step 3: Take Advantage of Professional Training and Certification Opportunities
Companies encourage sales representatives to participate in professional seminars or take courses in marketing and sales. Advancement is also more likely if sales representatives take advantage of certification options, such as those offered by the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP). The Certified Professional Salesperson designation consists of three levels, each of which include a multi-week training session followed by an exam that must be passed in order to reach the next level. Sales professionals can earn certification in sales, influence and strategy.
- Look for career advancement opportunities in sales. After years of experience in the sales industry, many executives aspire to become a sales manager. Along with 1-5 years of experience in sales, a bachelor's degree is typically required and some employers prefer a master's degree. In addition, larger organizations may offer more opportunities for advancement to sales management.
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