What Does it Mean to be an Account Executive?

Some job titles leave a little something to be desired, lacking description or even just a bit of clarity.

For example: Controller.

Controller of what? The universe, or a company’s financial details? While the former would be way cooler, the latter is the truth, even if that is not apparent from the actual job title.

media sales jobsIt’s almost as if someone in human resources is messing with us all, crafting some inherently vague job title to make us think… maybe I could do that? Only to find out, nope, sure couldn’t do that.

I find the same to be true about the job title: Account Executive.

Account Executives are extremely common in the world of entertainment and media sales, but it is misleading to say the least. Executive? Sounds powerful…but not exactly. This is more of a 2 years of experience role than a I’ve got more stock options than there are people in the world role.

So what the heck does it actually mean to be an Account Executive? Break it down to its simplest meaning and you’d assume this is the person in charge of an account. But what type of account and for what purpose? Again, what does the role actually do?!

OK, I’ll take a deep inhale now and breathe out my frustration. I’m feeling better, so let’s get back to the job itself.

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So What Does An Account Executive Do?

An Account Executive in media sales (e.g. television, radio etc.) on a very macro level entices new advertisers to buy ad space and manages the relationship with existing advertisers.  Sounds simple enough, right? But let’s get more specific.

Being an Account Executive is a job made for people who thrive building relationships, while also mixing in business intelligence. The best Account Executives are able to see threats to their clients, and opportunities, before they become realized. It’s about knowing your customer, their wants and needs, and being able to deliver answers based on the products you have at your disposal.

In the world of media sales, the product you are often peddling is ad time, but it’s never as simple as calling up the local car dealership and letting them know you have a :30 second slot for sale during drive time on Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s – there is much more to it than that.

I’m a percentages guy, so let’s use parts of the whole as our methodology of choice here:

An Account Executive’s time breaks down something like this:


Selling available advertising time whether that be in radio, television or digital space and providing continuing service to accounts. That’s the big rock.

Here’s where the business intelligence comes in. Selling doesn’t necessarily mean using the tactics someone used on you to convince you to buy a certain car, it means understanding market research, projections and data points to make a convincing argument why your available ad space is worth it to potential advertisers. It’s about learning why your market opportunity fits the needs of certain businesses, and being able to communicate that clearly to a potential new account.

Taking it one layer deeper, it’s also about selling the available space to the right company, and by right, I mean the type of company that can afford to buy more in the future. Selling one ad unit to Bubba’s Bait Shop, isn’t nearly as impressive as selling one ad unit to a local restaurant, which happens to be owned by a famous chef who owns 15 other restaurants in the area.

Say it with me: Business intelligence.

Part of this time is also spent working cross-functionally with research, sales management, and production departments to help develop a sales presentation that will position your station or network professionally while convincing a client you are the team to work with.

You aren’t alone in your presentations; you have a support team working with you.


Actually making presentations to potential clients. If you aren’t in front of clients you should be working on something to get you in front of them, that is the philosophy in most sales jobs.

Account Executives have to utilize research and published information to approach advertisers with a reason to meet with them. Understand their business, their needs, their goals – and them help them get there.

A near majority of your time will be either convincing advertisers to meet with you, or actually meeting with them.


Special Inventory. There are always some special events on the horizon, maybe a company charity event or a special live concert being aired. When these come up, Account Executives are often thrust into the role of approaching their accounts with new opportunities within these special events.


Budgeting and forecasting. Account Executives are responsible for managing accurate monthly, quarterly and annual budget forecasts. All accounts must have detailed and accurate records of performance metrics and budget. Outside of the normal reporting you can expect some special reports to be requested at times by your superiors. In fact, expect every superior in the company to want a different format of each report, it’s the (inefficient) name of the game.


Knowing the competition. You aren’t the only sales person in the market, there is a finite amount of money companies dedicate to media buys, and all the sales people in the market are competing for it. If you work for the ABC affiliate, guess what, the CBS, NBC and FOX stations are out there beating the bushes for clients too.

As part of your job you need to know why your station is the best place for advertisers to spend their budget. Do you have the best ratings? What are the strengths of your network? Are their other products you can sell them (digital, events etc) that may make the difference?

To thrive as an Account Executive, you’ll have to dedicate some of your time to understanding market research, knowing what and how your competitors are selling and how to create your own unique positioning.

Final Thought on Becoming an Account Executive

As an Account Executive you are paid for your aggressiveness, the more you sell the more commission you get, so being a wall flower doesn’t work in this industry.

So what do you think…are you ready for it?

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.