Account Management: theory and basics

Account Management - Toolshero

Account Management: This article explains account management in a practical way. Next to what it is, this article also highlights the role of an account manager, the responsibilities, the benefits and best practices. Enjoy reading!

What is account management? The theory explained

Account Management (AM) is the practice of supporting customers and providing them with service, support and improvement opportunities to increase their profits. It is often a post-sales role that focuses on maintaining customer relationships.

Account managers have about the following goals:

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  1. Maintain existing client relationships within a client company
  2. Identify new sales, growth opportunities and building relationships
  3. Set personal growth goals
  4. Prepare detailed reports
  5. Continue to develop new relevant skills

What does an account manager do?

Unlike a traditional sales role concerned with acquiring new customers, the account manager primarily acts as a long-term contact person and trusted advisor to the customer. Sales is therefore transaction-oriented and account management is primarily relational.

The account manager is a person who works for a company and is responsible for managing relationships with certain customers. They have no influence on the day-to-day business of the customer. They only manage the accounts assigned to them.

Account Manager Responsibilities

An account manager’s responsibilities may vary depending on the company they manage accounts for, the industry they work in, and the nature of the activities they perform. Account managers often report directly to the account director on activities and the status of accounts and transactions.

In general, there is a shared set of responsibilities depending on the exact position. This includes:

  • Generating sales opportunities and building relationships for a portfolio and achieving sales targets
  • Identifying new sales opportunities within existing accounts and client relationships and cross sell
  • Managing and resolving conflicts with customers, involving customer service
  • Communicating and coordinating with sales teams and other departments working with the same accounts
  • Budgeting and account planning
  • Meeting deadlines and achieve their goals

An account manager is responsible for one or more accounts. It is therefore possible that several customers are accommodated with one account manager. If several customers are in a region, the account manager can be assigned this region. This is referred to as a regional account manager.

Furthermore, an account manager can also be active worldwide. These managers manage multiple accounts of companies around the world. This is common in international companies. National account managers only deal with accounts in a country. This is more common in small to medium sized businesses with multiple locations.

These account managers at national and global level regularly work together in a hierarchical structure. Responsibility for large accounts is then often moved to global level.

Key account manager adn account Management

A key account manager oversees the team of account managers that is assigned to certain accounts. Key account management includes activities such as sales, as well as planning and managing complete relationships between a company and its account managers. Most of the time these peoiple are also known as sales managers.

Furthermore, it includes responsibilities in project management, coordination, relationship management, leadership, innovation, strategic planning and more.

Account managers often work for companies such as financial institutions, retail and even the government. Any company that does business with a specific customer can hire an account manager.

Typical employers are:

  • Direct marketing consultancies
  • Marketing departments
  • Large commercial organizations

Many account managers work in an office environment and work full time. The position usually requires a lot of travel. Nationally or globally active account managers will even spend a large part of their time traveling.

How do I get involved in account management?

The path to AM is usually lead through education in business administration, marketing or related fields. Personality and aptitude for sales is important, but anyone can basically start following the path. Every company has different requirements for the account manager, so having broad knowledge and interests is a plus.

There are a number of account management skills that every successful account manager possesses.

Some of them are:

Benefits of account management

AM offers many benefits when a mutually beneficial relationship functions well. For example:

  • Increase sales and profit through effective use of resources
  • Open doors to new opportunities to drive customer loyalty and cash flow
  • Ensure strong account relationships
  • Improve customer retention with strategic account management and account planning

The benefits of effective AM are not limited to the above. It offers surprising benefits that superficial account management strategies fail to deliver. Companies use such strategies to be more profitable and achieve strong growth with stable revenues.

Account Management Best Practices

Some of the best practices in account management include the following:

  • Prioritize communication
  • Get to know the company well
  • Stay informed of developments
  • Be goal-oriented
  • Protect interests

These are further explained below.

Prioritize communication

Communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship. This also applies to the management of accounts by account managers. It is important to be open and transparent towards customers.

For example, before making a financial commitment or investment, the customer must be fully aware of the decision and consider it a wise choice. Concerns about decisions or developments can be taken away by clear and honest communication.

Get to know the company well

Part of an account manager’s degree of success when it comes to results depends on how well they know the company. That means it’s important to know as much as possible about a company’s history, protocols, corporate culture, and performance.

One way account managers gain the trust of companies is by demonstrating that they can combine expertise and experience. Therefore, in order to obtain the information they need, they will thoroughly study their employer and prepare well for possible questions they may receive.

Stay informed on developments

Experienced and successful account managers continue to learn. An in-depth understanding of the industry and accounting techniques is essential for any accounting team. Knowledge and information about the competitive environment is also useful.

A good account manager is aware of all the important news in the sector and other important developments.

Be goal-oriented

An account management team is constantly working to achieve strategic goals. These include goals for clients’ businesses as well as goals for the team and personal goals.

Protect interests

Trust has proven to be a very important aspect of account management positions. This means that the interests of the customer come first in almost all cases. The account manager is the person who represents the interests of the company.

They must also be able to act as mediators in the event of a conflict. The goal is almost always to retain the customer by protecting the relationship of trust.

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Now it’s your turn

What do you think? Do you recognize the explanation about account management? Are account managers used in your area? What other things would you like to know about the work of an account manager or about account management in general? What methods and techniques do you think can be used to support account management?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

More information

  1. McDonald, M., Millman, T., & Rogers, B. (1997). Key account management: Theory, practice and challenges. Journal of Marketing Management, 13(8), 737-757.
  2. Wengler, S., Ehret, M., & Saab, S. (2006). Implementation of Key Account Management: Who, why, and how?: An exploratory study on the current implementation of Key Account Management programs. Industrial Marketing Management, 35(1), 103-112.
  3. Homburg, C., Workman Jr, J. P., & Jensen, O. (2002). A configurational perspective on key account management. Journal of marketing, 66(2), 38-60.
  4. Millman, T., & Wilson, K. (1996). Developing key account management competences. Journal of Marketing Practice: Applied Marketing Science, 2(2), 7-22.

How to cite this article:
Janse, B. (2022). Account Management. Retrieved [insert date] from Toolshero:

Original publication date: 09/04/2022 | Last update: 11/08/2023

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Ben Janse
Article by:

Ben Janse

Ben Janse is a young professional working at ToolsHero as Content Manager. He is also an International Business student at Rotterdam Business School where he focusses on analyzing and developing management models. Thanks to his theoretical and practical knowledge, he knows how to distinguish main- and side issues and to make the essence of each article clearly visible.


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