When the average person thinks of a salesperson, what goes through their mind?

They probably envision someone closing deals and celebrating wins.

At most companies, especially B2B SaaS companies, the ones closing the deals are often called Account Executives (AEs). In the past, field sales reps have been the ones pushing deals over the finish line, but times are changing. Now, sales reps rarely meet in person with their prospects – most communication takes place online (via email) or over the phone.

So you’re a competitive person, and you want to be a rockstar AE who closes deals and rakes in commission. But how do you get to that point?

(To learn more about where your sales career might be headed, check out our Sales Career Paths Chart.)


How to Become an Account Executive

Most Account Executives began their sales career paths as Sales Development Reps (SDRs) or Business Development Reps (BDRs). These entry-level roles are basically synonymous – they are both tasked primarily with booking meetings and scheduling demos for AEs. This is where aspiring salespeople earn their stripes and prove they have what it takes to succeed in sales.

Once an SDR or BDR has consistently hit their quota and shown they’re among the best of the best on their team, they are ready to be promoted to Account Executive. This is a significant accomplishment and a big stepping stone for those pursuing a career in sales.

But SDR/BDR and AE are fundamentally different roles. This transition isn’t as easy as you might think.

What does an Account Executive do?

The primary goal of AEs is to close deals and generate revenue for the business. This is very different from the goal of SDRs, whose main purpose is to book meetings and schedule demos. It’s a lot harder to convince someone to take out their wallet than it is to book half an hour of their time.

This infographic goes into more detail about the differences between SDRs and AEs.

Account Executives are constantly trying to close deals. But how do they do it?

Well, they spend much of their time conducting demos, giving prospects a deeper dive into the product they’re offering. Meanwhile, they attempt to reveal pain points that a prospect is experiencing. Once they know what a prospect is struggling with, presenting their solution becomes drastically more meaningful and effective. Further down the road, AEs negotiate terms with prospects to work towards sealing the deal.

When someone establishes a proven track record as an Account Executive, they open up numerous career paths.

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Account Executive Career Paths

So you’ve been an Account Executive for a couple years now and can give product demos in your sleep at this point. What’s next?

Those interested in becoming sales leaders often get promoted from AE to Sales Manager. As Sales Manager, you’re in charge of running a team sales reps and helping them develop their skills and improve their performance through sales coaching. But what do they do on a daily basis? See this list of 9 things the best managers do everyday.

After proving yourself as a Sales Manager, you can get promoted to Sales Director. In this role, you have more responsibility and spend more time thinking about the big picture. Sales Directors are typically in charge of AEs, while Sales Managers usually take care of the SDR team. Directors also spend more time working with senior management and executives at the company.

The best Sales Directors go on to become Sales VPs. At SMBs without a C-level sales leader, the Sales VP is responsible for the entire sales team. They find ways to make the boat go faster. They are constantly strategizing innovative ways to drive sales results and keep the company’s revenue growth on track.

Proven Sales VPs eventually move into the role of Chief Revenue Officer (CRO). This C-suite position is at the top of the sales career path latter. Similar to VPs, they are always contemplating how to increase revenue and grow the company both short-term and long-term. Since the success of the entire company depends on selling product, there’s a lot of weight on their shoulders. This position isn’t for the faint of heart.

Alternative Paths

Not every Account Executive wants to be a sales leader – and that’s okay. Some people just like to sell. And there are plenty of opportunities for people who pride themselves on being savvy sales reps who live to close deals.

New Account Executives typically start off working prospects at smaller companies. But once they’ve got the hang of things and are due for a promotion, they can become senior account executives who work mid-market or enterprise accounts. This makes the thrill of the chase that much more exciting for Account Executives – there’s a lot more money on the line, both in terms of potential revenue and commission. This is where Account Executives can really bring home the bacon. With a raised base salary and quota, they’re bound to make more money, both for themselves and for the company.

But what if an AE gets sick of their day-to-day and doesn’t want to be a sales leader? There are plenty of other sales career opportunities for successful AEs. They can transition into roles in channel sales, sales operations, or even marketing.

Take a look at our Sales Career Paths Chart to find out how you where you can go from your role as an Account Executive.

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