Enterprise accounts usually bring in a higher lifetime value, but these come with additional customer needs and responsibilities.
Enterprise account managers need to go above and beyond with major accounts to develop strong, mutually beneficial relationships. They look after these customers, generate trust and ensure client satisfaction.
In this article, we explain exactly what an enterprise account manager does and how you can become one. Then, we provide some high-level tactics for managing enterprise accounts.
What is an enterprise account manager?
An enterprise account manager (or key account manager) is responsible for nurturing and expanding relationships with the company’s most valuable customers.
These highly valued customers are known as “enterprise accounts”. An enterprise account is extremely valuable because it does at least one of the following:
Brings in a large percentage of your revenue
Constantly refers new prospects to your company
Adds value to your business in other ways
Each company will have different criteria to decide on key accounts. Generally, they are the customers that represent the most growth potential for your company.
Becoming an enterprise account manager can increase your understanding of key customers so that you can sell more effectively. It’s also a great opportunity to increase your network and play a critical role in the growth of a company.
Enterprise account management vs. account management
An account manager’s job is to maintain the relationships between the customer and the company. The main difference between an account manager and an enterprise account manager is that the latter focuses on more valuable customers.
In other words, an enterprise account manager is a more specialized role than a general account manager.
Here are some other differences between account management and enterprise account management:
The number of accounts
One of the main differences between account managers and enterprise account managers is the number of accounts they overlook.
An account manager might oversee 15 customer accounts, developing these relationships as far as possible.
Meanwhile, a key account manager (enterprise account manager) might oversee only 2 or 3 accounts, but these require more expertise, time and effort to manage, and bring in a much larger percentage of the company’s recurring revenue.
Account managers focus on short-term, specific opportunities. They use regular sales tactics to convince their customers to buy their offerings.
In comparison, enterprise account managers focus more on long-term objectives. For example, they’ll provide deeper support and try to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with the customer.
Enterprise account managers have much higher expectations than general account managers. Key accounts expect to receive more attention and take priority when it comes to support requests.
Normal account management relationships are more transactional – there isn’t as high a level of interaction between the manager and the customer. Account managers are still expected to grow their accounts and provide great service, but not to the same extent as for enterprise accounts.
Your competitors will have their eyes on your high-value accounts. Losing one of these accounts can seriously impact your business. Enterprise account managers need to take special care to look after these customers, ensuring satisfaction and retention.
While retaining as many customers as possible is important, normal account managers don’t need to take as much care to prevent their accounts from switching.
A key account manager tries to work with the customer’s entire business rather than one specific person. They need to make multiple contacts and establish rapport with key stakeholders. Likewise, they need to determine customer pain points and provide helpful solutions proactively to keep their customers happy.
In contrast, a regular account manager generally has one contact at their client’s organization, and they usually stay in contact to drive repeat sales.
The sales compensation plan for account managers versus enterprise account managers is significantly different.
According to Glassdoor, the average base salary of an enterprise account manager in the US is about $90,000. However, as in all sales-related roles, salaries can vary quite significantly between companies.
For example, many enterprise account managers will receive a large chunk of additional pay in the form of bonuses and commissions. Glassdoor sets this at about $70,000, making the total take-home pay of an enterprise account manager about $160,000.
In comparison, an account manager makes between $57,000 and $95,000 on average, which is significantly less than the average enterprise account manager salary.
What do enterprise account managers do?
Landing an enterprise account isn’t easy. When you do land a key account, special actions must be taken to ensure that account stays with you. This makes an enterprise account manager’s job challenging and diverse.
Enterprise account managers don’t have a simple job description. They oversee almost every interaction the customer has with the account manager’s company. Their day-to-day roles go toward nurturing strong relationships with key accounts.
Here are some of the high-level responsibilities that enterprise account managers have:
Research new opportunities and ways to expand accounts. It’s a key account manager’s job to find new ways to drive value from existing customers. This includes identifying and developing key sales strategies to improve productivity and drive revenue growth.
Establish multiple points of connection. Having a single contact at a customer’s organization is risky. If they leave the company, no one else there will know your name. Account managers must find and nurture relationships with multiple contacts, including key stakeholders, executives and decision-makers at the company.
Develop an effective management roadmap. An enterprise account manager needs a comprehensive account management plan that outlines how they’re going to achieve long-term goals with each customer. You also need to stay on top of industry trends and address any competition that might impact your relationships.
Provide excellent customer service. An account manager needs to be able to answer questions, address problems and provide solutions when required. This includes acting as a liaison between the customer and other departments at your company. It also includes working with key accounts to help them achieve the success they want.
Maintain accurate sales and revenue forecasts. Reporting on and meeting the projected sales quotas is vital to an account manager position.
Manage customer records. It’s an account manager’s job to maintain customer records, ensuring that contract changes and renewals are reflected accurately. This log forms the basis of your relationship with the account so that if someone else has to take your position, they have all the information required to keep the relationship going.
Provide guidance and training. Enterprise account managers may also be called on to provide sales training for new employees at their organization.
When it comes to daily tasks, an account manager must maintain constant communication with their clients. This means regular meetings, making visits to clients and fielding sales calls as required.
Like most others in sales-related fields, enterprise account managers typically work a 40-hour week in an office environment. However, they’re often required to work overtime to accommodate the schedules of their customers. They may also be required to travel to meet customers or attend important events.
Key skills you need to be an enterprise account manager
To become a successful enterprise sales manager, you need a very specific set of skills. Also, most enterprise account managers have a strong educational background, meaning you may need to take additional steps to progress your career.
Many enterprise account managers have a bachelor’s degree in a business-related field (like business management, marketing or communications). Some high-level account managers have technical sales certifications or master’s degrees.
Other skills an enterprise account manager must have include:
Excellent negotiation skills. Account managers need to convince sales prospects to sign contracts with your company. They need to be able to negotiate the best deal and persuade existing customers to try new offerings.
Above-average communication abilities. An account manager’s primary job is communication. They must remain in touch with a wide variety of people, including customers, colleagues and key stakeholders. Effective communication skills help reduce friction, improve relationships and solve customer problems.
Technical knowledge. Enterprise account managers need a strong background in managing complicated sales pipelines. They also need a technical understanding of the product or service they’re selling, including how to troubleshoot problems.
An understanding of key tools. Account managers need to know how to use various tools, including customer relationship management (CRM) software, spreadsheets, email automation tools and performance analytics software.
Strong problem-solving and analytical capabilities. Enterprise account managers need to meet their company’s sales goals. To do so, they need to find ways to drive new sales with their existing accounts. They also need to find creative solutions for challenges to reduce churn and increase customer satisfaction.
Leadership skills. As an enterprise account manager, you may be responsible for several other employees, ranging from admin staff to general account managers. Strong leadership skills will help you motivate and inspire your sales reps to achieve better results.
Juggling the demands of several accounts can be stressful and successful enterprise account managers need to be able to handle rejection and deal with difficult customers tactfully.
A quick guide to enterprise account management career progression
Sales careers, especially at a high level, are hugely competitive with high stakes. To become an enterprise account manager, you need the right mix of experience and skills.
The general pathway to becoming an enterprise account manager is via another sales-related field. Normally, you’ll become an enterprise account manager by gradually taking on larger and larger accounts.
The typical career progression in account management looks like this:
You receive your bachelor’s degree in a sales and business development field and take an entry-level sales position. For example, you might take a job as a sales representative, assistant account manager or junior account executive.
After a few years of experience in a junior sales position, you enter a mid-level enterprise account manager job.
After at least five years of sales experience in this role (and with a strong track record), you might switch to a supervisory role like principal account manager or director of accounts.
Following this, you might jump to a senior management position like regional or national sales management. From here, you could seek promotion to an enterprise account executive position like Director of Sales or Vice President of Sales.
Once you land an enterprise management position, you’ll receive on-the-job training from your new or existing employer. This is crucial as every company approaches its accounts differently. In this training, you’ll learn the company’s specific procedures, tools and strategies.
As an experienced account manager, you’ll have several skills that are valuable in other departments. This makes it possible to switch career paths. For example, many key account managers switch to managerial positions in business development or operations.
5 key tips for managing enterprise accounts
One of the main objectives for enterprise account managers is to transition from a vendor to a trusted advisor in the eyes of their customers. To do this, account managers need to take a strategic approach to their key accounts.
Here are five best practices for strategic account managers:
1. Create comprehensive customer profiles
As an enterprise account manager, you need to understand your customers in and out. The best way to do this is by creating in-depth customer profiles. These help you to learn customer needs and keep track of their behaviors.
This process starts with research. Investigate the company’s business, goals, values and offerings. Once you fully understand their business, look into the key stakeholders and their roles and responsibilities. Check analyst reports and note their major competitors.
Your customer’s pain points
Their needs and how these overlap with your company’s needs
Any obstacles that might get in the way of a good relationship
Remember: Strategic accounts are long-term partnerships. You need to create initiatives that will keep the client around for the next two to three years (at the least).
2. Develop detailed selection criteria for key accounts
All customers are valuable, but not all accounts are equal. Enterprise accounts should be reserved for the customers who have the potential to drive your company toward its goals.
To select strategic accounts effectively, you need to set selection criteria. These criteria will help you determine how well customers are aligned with your company. The more aligned they are with your goals, the more work you should put into keeping them happy.
For example, consider your customer’s:
What matters for your company will depend on your goals, offerings and the type of customers you have. However, time should be taken to consider these aspects when developing key selection criteria that fit with your high-level strategic goals. You need to make sure that key accounts are the best fit for your company.
At the same time, you also need to regularly review existing key accounts to determine if they’re performing as expected. If they aren’t, you can work out whether you need to provide additional resources or scale back.
3. Create an effective handoff protocol
Something account managers often overlook is how accounts are handed over from sales to account managers and then to enterprise account managers. Streamlining this process is important for developing trust with your customers.
It can be jarring when your contact at a company suddenly changes to someone else and the existing relationship goes out of the window. Having a formal, scripted handoff procedure can help alleviate this.
You should communicate clearly with each customer, explaining who their new points of contact are going to be. Introduce yourself and explain how often you’ll be in touch, how they can reach you and who to reach out to if they have issues.
Follow up with them after the handoff to ensure that they’re happy with the new arrangement. Setting clear expectations and maintaining consistent messaging is the best way to build a trusting relationship going forward.
4. Measure account performance and anticipate future needs
The long-term goal of account management is to grow the account in both profitability and the customer-business relationship. Value chain analysis helps you assess whether your strategy is working or not.
Schedule a time each month to review your accounts and check in with them to get their feedback. Here, you should use KPIs that align with your long-term goals.
For example, if your selection criteria include revenue potential, you need to measure the change in revenue since making that customer a key account.
Likewise, if your selection criteria included product fit, you could measure the adoption or usage rate for your product. This will help you determine how useful your offerings are to the customer and enable you to spot opportunities for improvement.
The aim is to anticipate any future needs that your customer might have so that you can be proactive. For example, you might identify a new pain point. With that in mind, you could develop a product that alleviates the pain point and have the customer beta-test it.
Your account’s engagement and loyalty should trend upward. Are your key accounts not generating as much return as you expected? If so, you may be using the wrong selection criteria.
5. Invest in the right tools
The key is to work smarter, not harder. The right tools can make your life much easier as an enterprise account manager. They can automate tedious work, track communications and generate actionable insights.
Here are some key tools to consider:
CRM software. A CRM lets you keep track of your customer data, communications and sales pipelines. It provides full visibility over what’s happening with your key accounts. Powerful CRMs like Pipedrive also provide features like Workflow Automation, lead generation and email capabilities to help you save time while maximizing output.
Collaboration and meeting tools. Software like Zoom Meetings, Skype or Microsoft Teams can help you maintain communication with your clients. They can also be used to streamline team meetings when salespeople are away from the office. These can be used as standalone apps or as integrations in your sales tech stack.
Sales intelligence software. Using tools like the LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help you establish and grow relationships with your key accounts. Likewise, it can help you keep track of changes in your customer’s organization or in the market as a whole.
Project management tools. Project management apps like Asana and Trello provide powerful ways to keep track of ongoing projects. This can help account managers monitor activities for multiple accounts. It also makes it far easier to manage sales teams, with every member having a 360-degree view of the sales process.
Becoming an enterprise account manager isn’t a walk in the park. It’s a highly competitive and challenging position. However, it’s also a position with many perks and an opportunity to progress into high-level roles later in your career.
By becoming an enterprise account manager, you’ll keep your customers satisfied, find opportunities to grow and ultimately, drive revenue for your company.