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  1. Blog
  2. Career Development

What Does an Account Executive Do?

"It took me a long time to realize that the more I allowed myself to be authentic, the more powerful I felt and the better I performed."

Businesswoman with her hands in her pockets
Photo courtesy of René Ranisch

This article is part of InHerSight's What Do You Do? series. This series explores the working lives of women by job title. Readers can get a glimpse of what it's like to work as an account executive, software developer, restaurant manager, and more.

What does an account executive do?

An account executive, or AE, is a salesperson. They usually manage an existing clientbase while also performing outreach—such as cold calling, emailing, and following up on potential leads—to secure more revenue for their current organization. Relationship-building, confidence, persuasion, and time management are key soft skills in this role, as AEs juggle the personalities and expectations of buyers while also attempting to meet monthly or quarterly revenue goals. 

Many AEs earn additional compensation, called a sales commission, when they meet or exceed their minimum sales goals. Some are even paid solely off commission. Either way, the practice aims to incentivize and reward productivity and initiative, making this a highly competitive career, but a rewarding one if you thrive when challenged. 

Let’s learn more about account executives from women in sales roles right now. Here are four with varying backgrounds and experiences.

Read more: How to Answer: Sell Me This Pen

Ashley Ziya

Strategic Account Executive at with 13 years of experience in sales and sales-adjacent roles

What does an account executive do? 

Simply put, account executives are client problem solvers. We are responsible for creating new client relationships, generating net new revenue, and bringing value to clients through our solutions. We are equally customer and product obsessed! 

What’s your professional background, and why did you pursue sales?

I have a bachelor’s degree in sales and business marketing from Western Michigan University. It is a pretty rare degree in the business school world and an amazing program that I am super lucky to have been a part of.

I originally went to Western Michigan University to study interior design and follow my mom’s footsteps. After a rigorous application process to get into the program, I spent one semester in the program and realized it was not for me. I did follow some of my mom’s footsteps as being a successful interior designer means being an equally skilled saleswoman. 

Solving client challenges and helping them understand the value you bring was something I was passionate about from the get-go. I am curious, persistent, and passionate by nature so it was an obvious match. My first job out of college was as a recruiter / account executive at a very small staffing company in Chicago. I knew pretty quickly it was the right match.  

I have worn a lot of different sales-focused hats across a few industries the last 13 years, but when I transitioned into selling SaaS seven years ago, I found my sweet spot. 

How do you help the company?

I hunt for net new logos and directly generate revenue! 

What does a typical workday look like?

Everyday is different; I love that. I start my morning reading the Daily Stoic (366 daily meditations) every morning with coffee. I typically block every hour of my week to ensure I’m staying diligent on what I need to tackle that week. If I’m not on a client call I’m prospecting, executing activity, and prepping for upcoming calls. Preparation is critical. 

What are the three most important parts of your job?

The three most important parts of my job (in no particular order) are understanding the value of the solution and my pitch, how to work a sales cycle from prospecting to close, and being an expert at uncovering and solving the client’s pain. 

What’s the hardest part of your job?

There are a lot of uncontrollables. You can get to the very end of the sales cycle you were sure would close, and an unknown curveball can kill your deal. You have to do your best to recover quickly, protect your time, and focus on the things you can control. I have a continuous improvement mindset and work to get better after every single call. It requires a lot of honest self reflection and feedback from others. I always think to myself, "What will I do again in the next deal and what will I change?" 

What’s the best part of your job?

I have met the most amazing colleagues and clients over the years. I feel so fortunate to have been exposed to the inner workings of hundreds of the world’s most respected companies. I’ve also had incredible opportunities to learn from amazing teammates and mentors who have really shaped me into the saleswoman I am today. 

What’s one piece of advice you could give to someone interested in being an account executive?

Discipline and a repeatable process (that works) is hands down the most important thing a salesperson can have in their tool box. There is no shortcut to success no matter how long you’ve been in sales. If you choose sales, you have to love the details. Sales is like a chess game. You have to think strategically and tactically while you move the pieces on the board one square at a time. Control the controllables, be flexible, and the rest will fall into place. I think it’s the best career path on the planet!

Brittany Melton

National Account Executive, Large Market at Bandwidth with about six years of experience

What does an account executive do?

As a National Account Executive (NAE), we are responsible for identifying and creating new account relationships through all sorts of outreach channels like LinkedIn, cold calls, and other internal sources. While it's our responsibility to find net new accounts, we also help maintain and maximize revenue growth for the company. One of our main objectives is to maximize market needs, negotiate different pricing models, and build value with strategic business makers to bring on new business. 

What’s your professional background, and why did you pursue sales?

I started out my sales career in the staffing world, specifically IT staffing. My role started out qualifying candidates to place with our clients' job openings, but also maintain and build relationships with companies in the area to use our staffing services. I always found it easy to build personal relationships and connect with our customers while navigating the business aspect as well. I eventually transitioned into the software sales world and was always thankful for my prior IT knowledge to help navigate a new industry. When it comes to sales, it helps that my competitive side helps ensure I am always coming through for my customers and finding unique ways to succeed. While sales is certainly a challenge at times, I find the challenge fulfilling and really love what I do.  

How do you help the company?

Here at Bandwidth, NAE's help the company by growing revenue with net new business. In our role, it's vital that we are always analyzing customer and market needs, while also closing new business. 

What does a typical workday look like?

We normally kick off the morning with a quick team sync with my awesome director, Joe. Next, I will sync up with my BDR team to ensure we touch base on the day's agenda, go over their to-do list, and cover goals for the day, etc. After our sync, I will tackle my to-do list and ensure I am prepared for any meetings I have throughout the day (creating quotes, paperwork, covering technical questions). Once the day gets going I always thank myself later for being organized as some days I bounce from meeting to meeting. Throughout the day it's a mixture of discovery calls, prospecting and outreach, and continuing to drive deals in my pipeline forward. 

What are the three most important parts of your job?

Finding new business, mentoring my team of BDRs, and closing new opportunities! 

What’s the hardest part of your job?

The hardest part of my job is the uncontrollables, but that comes along with sales in general! At Bandwidth, I am lucky to have an awesome team that helps me think outside the box and overcome obstacles.  

What’s the best part of your job?

Best part of my job is getting the opportunity to work in an industry that is rapidly growing and being a part of something like that is really special. 

What’s one piece of advice you could give to someone interested in being an account executive?

Stay upbeat, create a connection, and be resilient!

Nicole Lonergan

Strategic Account Executive at with six years of experience

What does an account executive do?

Build product awareness among potential customers and (hopefully) convert them to paying accounts.  

What’s your professional background, and why did you pursue sales?

I got into sales at a young age through the co-op program at Northeastern—my first job was as a Buyer for Joss & Main, where I started cold calling companies on the side to source new furniture because it was fun and thrilling. My boss at the time told me, “If you like cold calling and selling the company vision, you could make more money doing that full-time,” and it turns out that was good advice. I moved into ad sales from there, then software sales at Intuit and have been in that space ever since. 

How do you help the company?

I imagine when you start a company, even if you aren’t a salesperson naturally, you can sell the vision because it’s yours and you believe in it so deeply. That’s a hard thing to scale. I see sales as the closest way to emulate that passion and mindset to advocate on behalf of the product, and that’s what I do day to day. 

What does a typical workday look like?

Most days are a lot of calls, either introducing or leading trials with potential customers. Any in-between time is mostly research and outreach to figure out where there’s opportunity on accounts. 

What are the three most important parts of your job?

Being organized, finding enthusiasm every day, and staying calm despite pressure.  

What’s the hardest part of your job?

I think the hardest part of sales is managing your headspace—for me, that takes constant effort. Sales is often considered “the transfer of enthusiasm,” which I think is an apt description, but it’s challenging to manage what energy you’re transferring. You have to find a way to process what you need to filter out, whether it’s anxiety or doubt, and operate from a place of confidence since you’re client-facing all day.

What’s the best part of your job?

The best part of sales is the constant buzz that’s a part of your everyday work. There is always a lot to be gained and a lot to be lost, which makes everything feel energetic—allowing that to be a motivating force when you wake up keeps things exciting. And even when you’re on the losing end, it beats the drudgery of feeling like you’re just clocking in and clocking out.  

What’s one piece of advice you could give to someone interested in being an account executive?

It’s not as hard as it looks, which isn’t to say that it doesn’t require a lot of effort, but in the first few years of my career I was so intimidated by the “typical” account executive who was smooth and confident, seemingly effortlessly. Meanwhile, I was scared of even being on the phone, and trying to maintain a cool facade zapped all of my energy. It took me a long time to realize that the more I allowed myself to be authentic, the more powerful I felt and the better I performed. Half the battle was just being willing to put my hat in the ring.

Sarah Gralton

National Account Executive at Bandwidth with two years of experience

What does an account executive do? 

An account executive on the emerging team (mine) follows up with all inbound leads and works to close all of the ones that are a good fit for us and qualifies then passes up leads that are over our monthly spend to the appropriate team.

We're often the first point of contact at the company so making sure to give them a good first impression and helping the prospect to understand why our company would be a good fit for them. 

What’s your professional background, and why did you pursue sales?

I came from a hospitality background (hotels) and worked my way into their sales team as a sales admin (mostly to have normal hours), but I loved the grind and have always been results- and numbers-driven so I continued to pursue my sales career.

How do you help the company?

I help identify and close good opportunities for Bandwidth and also disqualify leads that I know aren't a good fit for Bandwidth. 

What does a typical workday look like?

Reach out to new inbound leads (call, email, LinkedIn), follow up on opportunities in my pipeline to ensure they are moving forward and disqualify/ re-nurture ones that aren't, close any accounts that are at the closing stage, and prospect for new opportunities that didn't come inbounded.

What are the three most important parts of your job?

Qualifying, prospecting, and closing deals.

What’s the hardest part of your job?

Making sure I am managing my time appropriately and putting my time into accounts that have a high probability of converting. 

What’s the best part of your job?

Hitting my goal or overachieving.

What’s one piece of advice you could give to someone interested in being an account executive?

Make sure you are goal-oriented and determined—also shadow account executives who you have access to to help learn negotiation and closing skills.

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