Are you a driven and enthusiastic professional, a smooth talker and does a good bit of negotiating not scare you away? Then account manager is the ideal job for you. What important role do these sales experts actually play in the success of an organisation?
Glenn François, recruitment consultant at staffing specialist Walters People, takes a closer look at the job and tells more about the range of tasks, career opportunities and salary of an account manager.
What are the duties and responsibilities of an account manager?
"The job responsibilities of an account manager include 2 facets," Glenn explains. "On the one hand, there is the 'hunting' part, where the account manager is responsible for expanding the customer base with new customers. Specifically, he or she does this by very actively prospecting, following up business leads and visiting customers to promote the organisation's products or services.
On the other hand, there is the 'farming' part of the job. This involves strengthening existing customer relationships and increasing customer loyalty. The account manager is in close contact with the customer and regularly discusses what the needs are, and what, if any, adjustments need to be made."
What skills does a successful account manager have?
A good account manager is a master of communication: you need to be able to express yourself fluently and start conversations with different types of people. Equally important is your ability to really listen to your customer, so that you can anticipate their needs and requirements.
The focus is on selling, so a commercial attitude and great perseverance are essential. As an account manager, you must of course stand behind your products or services 100% and come across as enthusiastic and dynamic.
Someone who knows what they are talking about, does it with the necessary passion and thinks along with the customer about suitable solutions will find it easier to close a deal.
Negotiation skills are also indispensable when discussing conditions, prices and contracts.
"Furthermore, it is important to have a flexible attitude," Glenn continues. "Account manager is not a classic 9-to-5 job, in the sense that you sometimes perform longer days on the job, and regularly have to be on standby after hours for an urgency with one of your clients. Then again, the big advantage is that this job gives you a lot of freedom. You set your own schedule and can therefore perfectly coordinate your working hours and private life."
Do you need a specific degree for the account manager position?
"In theory, ideally you should have a bachelor's degree in an economic or commercial field and start in the role of salesperson or junior account manager after your studies. In reality, however, we much more often see account managers with a bachelor's degree in another direction, or even without a higher degree. Two to three years of experience in a relevant sales function, combined with the above-mentioned human skills and sufficient commitment and motivation, far outweigh study level and direction," Glenn knows.
What is the current demand for account managers in Belgium?
Demand for account managers is high in all sectors, but currently we see the greatest demand in the technology, energy and automotive sectors.
Glenn: "We notice a shortage of sales talent with strong language skills in particular today. In the Brussels and Walloon Brabant regions, for example, we see a high need for bilingual account managers (French/Dutch) in growing organisations that want to tap the Flemish market. In the Antwerp region, too, organisations increasingly demand a good knowledge of French - in addition to Dutch - when recruiting sales professionals. With this, they hope to take the quality of their customer service to new heights."
What career opportunities does the role of account manager entail?
"From the position of account manager, you can advance to the role of key account manager," says Glenn. "Here, you won't actively seek new customers as much, but the 'farming' part becomes more important. As key account managers, you will also, for instance, supervise the budget and regularly go into the sales figures to see where changes or improvements need to be made to guarantee the intended results.
The role of sales manager is also one of the career opportunities. In this role, you largely leave the hunting and farming part behind, and focus on leading a team of (key) account managers.
Another possibility is the role of project manager. Here you will be assigned large-scale projects within the company, and be responsible for their planning, communication and coordination."
How much does an account manager earn?
An account manager with less than 3 years' work experience can expect a gross monthly salary of EUR 2,300-3,000. Professionals with 3-6 years' experience earn an average of EUR 3000-4000 gross per month. More senior account managers can see their pay rise to EUR 5500 gross per month, according to Walters People's annual Salary Survey.
Glenn: "This is a commercial position, so this gross monthly salary is further supplemented by fringe benefits such as a company car and fuel card, commission or bonus, an insurance package, net allowance, meal and eco cheques, telephone with subscription and a laptop. Some organisations also offer discounts on company products.
Flexible working hours and the ability to work from home are also standard benefits of an account manager job."