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Close sales as an account representative
CareerBuilder | November 17, 2017
What does an account representative do? It depends on the employer—every business has its own hierarchy of sales professionals—you might have more responsibilities with some companies than others. sales as possible.
An account representative or sales agent closes sales for his or her employer. If you pursue this career, you'll become the primary voice for your company when it comes to customers, helping them choose products and services and encouraging repeat business. Depending on the industry and business model, you might work inside the office or on the road. Regardless, your goal remains the same: Turn as many prospects into sales as possible.
What Is an Account Representative?
As an account representative, you'll work directly with prospective and existing customers to meet their needs and to increase revenue for your employer. You'll also consult with other members of your internal team, from account managers and directors to marketing and advertising professionals, to align your goals and your brand message.
While each employer establishes its own list of account representative responsibilities, some of the most common include:
- Qualify leads based on their position in the buying cycle and readiness to purchase
- Cold-call prospective customer to generate interest in your products and services
- Meet with prospective customers to pitch ideas and close sales
- Help prepare marketing materials that frame your products and services in a positive light
- Help customers choose products or services that meet their specific needs
- Gain an understanding of each customer's account requirements and managing the account to meet those demands
- Get to know clients and their personal preferences
- Identify decision-makers to increase the potential for sales
- Maintain high level of product knowledge and awareness
- Expand accounts by up-selling existing customers and helping them understand the benefits of new products or services
- Relay observations and data to the marketing and advertising department so they can take that information into account
- Reconnect with past clients to woo them back to the company
- Address client or customer concerns and resolve disputes quickly
- Brainstorm new ideas for closing new customers and retaining existing customers
- Take customers on trips or to entertainment venues, such as golf courses, hunting leases, and more
- Attend conventions and trade shows to promote the employer's products and services
- Represent the company at industry events and in meetings
- Build rapport with prospects and learn quickly about their motivations, goals, and barriers to entry
Although most account representatives have offices or cubicles in their employers' office buildings, they often spend most of their time in the field. They're constantly meeting with prospective customers to deliver presentations and pitches and to nurture relationships. The more time they spend with clients, the greater the chances of landing a sale. They might also take customers on extended trips, such as to hunt, fish, or gamble.
However, an account representative also has to focus on administrative tasks in the office. They spend considerable time prospecting for new customers, whether they're cold-calling leads or interacting with their audiences on social media. Other prospecting strategies include following up with people who have expressed interest but not yet made a purchase and managing an email or content marketing campaign. At smaller firms, account representatives often wear multiple hats, venturing into marketing, advertising, and public relations territory.
Account representatives should dress and groom themselves professionally. Since this constitutes a high-pressure, high-stress role, they have to practice self-care and stress management. If you don't work well under the threat of a deadline or if you get nervous in social situations, you might want to consider a different career. However, if you're extroverted and high-energy, this job could become an excellent fit.
Most account representatives work traditional business hours, such as from eight to five. However, they might have to work overtime if they want to meet their quotas and close more sales. Taking clients to dinner, for instance, might push the workday well into the evening. An out-of-town trip could last several days and involve the weekend, as well.
If your employer allows you to telecommute, you might enjoy tremendous flexibility in your work hours. You'll set your schedule and decide when to meet with clients. Since your salary and job security depends on your ability to produce results, employers often trust account representatives to manage themselves on a day-to-day basis.
What Qualifications Are Required to Be an Account Representative?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, doesn't offer data for account representatives, and the education requirements for an account representative will depend largely on how the employer classifies the role. For instance, some account representatives serve primarily as customer service representatives. These professionals don't need more than a high school diploma to find employment.
At other companies, an account representative fills the role of a sales manager or agent. These companies often require a minimum of a bachelor's degree to consider a candidate. They might also want more experience in sales or customer service. Additionally, some firms provide on-the-job training, while others expect applicants to hit the ground running.
You might further your opportunities as an account representative by obtaining an associate's or bachelor's degree in a business-related field, such as:
- Business administration
- Sales and marketing
- Business management
- Public relations
If you have a bachelor's degree or higher, you might find a job as an account representative right out of college. Entry-level positions might not pay as well, but you'll get your foot in the door and gain an opportunity to advance within the company. Starting as an account representative can give you the experience necessary to become an account manager, director of accounts, or senior account director.
An account representative needs skills related to customer service and sales, so it's essential to prepare yourself both personally and professionally for the rigors of this career. Since your job security and income potential will depend on your ability to meet quotas and goals, the following skills will come in handy:
- Technology: A working knowledge of web browsers, word processing programs, spreadsheets, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and accounting software often prove essential for account representatives.
- Communication: You'll need to communicate ideas effectively to both colleagues and customers. Verbal and written communication skills allow you to maximize every meeting and discussion for improved revenue.
- Active listening: Any sales professional must know how to read between the lines when conversing with customers and prospects. If you can understand what motivates and drives a customer, you can more effectively close the sale.
- Accounting: Knowing how to interpret balance sheets and manage budgets will help aspiring account representatives to make better decisions.
- Problem solving: Customers will come to you with questions and issues related to your products or services. If you can resolve those issues quickly and easily, you'll earn their trust and their appreciation.
- Presentation: You must have the presentational skills necessary to adequately explain your product or service to the customer and elicit a sale.
- Attention to detail: When filling out documents, such as contracts and invoices, you must ensure that every detail appears correctly to avoid confusion and future disputes.
The median annual salary for an account representative hovers around $66,500. The most successful 10 percent of professionals in this career earn $69,434 or more, while entry-level jobs might pay $39,866 or less. Your salary might depend on your educational background, work experience, and ability to generate results for your employer.
Some account representatives earn bonuses for meeting certain goals. This could increase your annual pay considerably, especially if you receive multiple bonuses each year. However, for some account representatives, the company expects you to receive those bonuses and reduces your base salary accordingly.
Job Outlook for an Account Representative
The projected growth for account representatives depends largely on the industry. For instance, CNN Money reports that pharmaceutical sales representative jobs will grow 16.4 percent over the next 10 years. If you're interested in becoming an account representative or sales representative, research your chosen industry to learn about job security in the future.
An account representative can look forward to several advancement options. Many of these professionals become account managers, which means that they take control over a particular territory and assume responsibility for its success. Customers within that territory become the account manager's responsibility. From there, you might decide you want to become an account director or supervising account manager.
Alternatively, you might choose to advance on the marketing or advertising side of the business. You could leverage your account representative experience to become a marketing manager, advertising executive, or marketing strategist. Some account representatives also proceed down the sales career path, taking supervisory and managerial positions that involve more responsibility as well as improved salary potential.
An account representative plays a key role in developing customers' and clients' relationships with their employers. If you're looking for a client-facing position that creates a high-energy, fast-paced environment, you can't go wrong with a career as an account representative.
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