Sales Account Manager Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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What are the pros and cons of a sales account management career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a sales account manager is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Sales Account Manager Career

As a sales account manager, you may sell products in a wide variety of fields, including manufacturing, insurance, technology and advertising. Read about the pros and cons of a career as a sales manager to find out if it is the right job for you.

Pros of a Sales Account Manager Career
Education requirements are low - a high school diploma or GED is sufficient for many positions*
Pay is reasonably high considering that no college degree is required (median annual pay for wholesale and manufacturing sales reps was $55,000 in May 2014)*
Sales account managers are sometimes allowed to set their own schedules*
Account manager positions are available in a variety of different industries (insurance, advertising, technology, etc.)*

Cons of a Sales Account Manager Career
Many sales account mangers work extended hours (about 25% of wholesale and manufacturing sales reps worked more than 50 hours a week in 2010)*
It's common for sales account managers to experience job-related stress**
Since pay is usually based on commission, a sales account manager's income can fluctuate*
Growth in the number of sales representative positions will only be average between 2012 and 2022 in most industries*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET OnLine.

Career Overview

Job Description and Career Options

Your job description as a sales account manager will vary depending on the type of product you sell, but you'll typically contact existing or potential customers to assess their needs and market appropriate goods or services. Some sales account managers primarily sell products over the phone (inside sales), while others arrange in-person meetings to promote their products (outside sales).

The sales process may involve recommending specific products or product configurations to customers based on their needs and negotiating the final price with the customer. Some sales account managers are also responsible for assisting customers with products after the initial purchase. For example, account managers for insurance companies may need to help with claims, and account managers who sell scientific, technical or manufacturing equipment may need to assist customers if problems arise with their purchases. Aspiring sales account managers can choose to launch their careers with companies that sell insurance, advertising, wholesale goods or technical products, just to name a few possibilities.

Job Prospects and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that for sales representatives and agents in most fields, job growth will be average from 2012-2022. However, job growth of 35% is projected for sales engineers in the computer systems design field.

In terms of pay, those who sell technical or scientific products tend to earn higher salaries. For example, the BLS reported that sales engineers (who may also be called account managers) earned a median annual salary of $96,000 as of May 2014. Sales representatives of non-technical wholesale and manufactured goods earned a median annual wage of $55,000 in May 2014, compared to $75,000 for those who sold technical or scientific products. The median salaries for ad sales agents and insurance sales agents were around $48,000.

Career Skills and Requirements

The education requirements for sales account managers vary by career field. Those selling technical or scientific products usually need at least an associate's degree, and a bachelor's degree is necessary for sales engineers. However, sales account managers in fields like insurance and advertising only need a high school diploma. Insurance sales agents need to obtain state licensure, which typically involves taking courses and passing exams. Although specific skill requirements vary depending on the type of sales environment you choose to work in, the following characteristics are required for most sales account managers:

  • Ability to listen to and understand customers' needs
  • Self-confidence to approach customers and deliver sales presentations
  • Skill in building relationships with many different types of people

Real Job Postings

Employers looking to hire sales account managers usually look for high school graduates, and they often prefer candidates with some sales experience and knowledge of computers. Here are some sample sales account manager job postings from March 2012:

  • A credit card processing and social media marketing provider in Virginia sought applicants with a high school degree and sales experience for an account management position. Successful applicants needed to be willing to perform outside sales duties, including developing relationships with local businesses and preparing sales proposals. The employer preferred applicants with basic computer skills and reliable transportation.
  • Another Virginia-based company specializing in installing and maintaining audio-visual equipment sought a sales account manager with 2+ years of experience selling high-value products to government clients. A high school diploma or GED was required, and candidates with a college degree and knowledge of Salesforce software were preferred.
  • A life insurance company was looking to hire sales account managers to promote its products to senior citizens in Michigan. No experience was required and training was provided; however, the employer noted that those with sales backgrounds were more likely to succeed in the position. A high school diploma was required.

How Can I Stand Out?

The steps you'll need to take to stand out depend on the sales field you'd like to go into. In many cases, sales experience is a preferred qualification. Since some sales jobs are available to those without experience, these positions can provide an opportunity to 'learn the ropes' and establish a track record that can make you a more desirable candidate for other sales jobs. For sales fields where postsecondary education is not required, such as advertising and insurance, earning a bachelor's degree can help you stand out. The BLS suggests that coursework in business, finance and marketing can be especially helpful. Insurance sales agents may consider standing out by earning specialized industry certifications from organizations such as The American Institute for Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriters.

Other Careers to Consider

Purchasing Manager

If you're looking for a career that still requires negotiation and people skills, but pays a bit more, a purchasing manager job might be right for you. Purchasing managers are on the other side of the sales equation. They purchase items that are either used by their companies (office supplies, computer equipment, raw materials, etc.) or resold to customers. They negotiate with sales account managers to secure the best possible prices and quality for their companies. Purchasing managers usually need a bachelor's degree in business, engineering or an applied science, and job growth is expected to be slower than average for this occupation between 2010 and 2020. However, the BLS reports that purchasing managers earned a median annual salary of $97,000 as of May 2011.

Retail Salesperson

If you'd like to get some sales experience and you're looking for a job with a flexible schedule, retail sales might be a good option. Retail sales jobs usually don't require much formal education or experience - you can expect to be trained on the job. You'll typically work some nights and weekends, and part-time opportunities are usually on offer. The median annual salary for retail salespeople was just $21,000 in May 2011, but there may be opportunities to move into management positions.

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Purdue University Global

  • MBA: Marketing
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Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • B.S. - Music Business
  • B.S. - Sports Marketing and Media

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • MBA: Marketing
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

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Utica College

  • MBA - General

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South College

  • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Marketing
  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

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Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing Specialization

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Southern Careers Institute

  • Management

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Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

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