What does a key account manager do?
Before I tell you how much a key account manager earns, let me tell you what they do. Otherwise, how will you know if it's the job for you and if the amount of money you make is enough?
As a key account manager, you lead the relationship between your organization and your most important clients. Your priorities are to keep your clients and find new ways to use your solutions for mutual benefit.
Here are some things you'll do as a key account manager:
- Deliver your company's strategy and vision
- Manage client risk (defection, competitor threats, issue resolution)
- Gather market intelligence and evaluate emerging trends
- Drive client development
- Provide data and insights to help your clients make better decisions.
- Understand your client's business model and define value-added solutions.
- Develop influential relationships with decision-makers.
- Grow revenue through upselling, cross-sell, expansion and renewal.
- Ensure cross-functional alignment and coordinate resources to deliver your plans
And to succeed as a key account manager, you need to be good at:
- strategic thinking
- influencing and negotiation skills
- innovation and creativity
- project management
- change management
- presentation skills
- time management
- product knowledge
The quality of your relationships directly influences client loyalty, decision efficiency and better account performance.
It's a skilled, exciting, but demanding role that adds a lot of value to your organization's bottom line, and your salary should reflect that.
But few job vacancies publish the salary range. It's annoying to through the application process only to find out the money on offer is below your expectations.
Let me save you time with some research I've done on how much money key account managers make in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and India.
Are you a new key account manager?
Like other roles, the more key account management experience you have, the more you'll earn. If you're starting out it may take up to 5+ years to reach the top of the salary range.
Even if you already have a lot of work experience, don't expect to maintain your salary if you move to a new industry or are new to key account management.
I used to be an Operations Manager leading a team of 45, but when I first moved into key account management, I had to take a A$20,000 pay cut.
No regrets because 4 years later, I earned more than I ever had and was in a job I loved.
So be patient.
How much does a key account manager earn?
I looked at average key account manager salaries in four countries:
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
And compared how much key account managers with up to 5 years experience make compared to the average wage in each market.
Notes about the data:
- Key Account Manager 2020 salary data sourced from LinkedIn Salary and Glassdoor Salary, and the results averaged using the median salary.
- To calculate earning potential as you gain more experience as a key account manager, I've calculated the difference between the average and the highest salaries.
- LinkedIn and Glassdoor rely on anonymous surveys for their salary data. Why not visit them both and contribute your salary data? It will help us better understand earning potential of key account managers.
- National average wage data sourced from the respective bureau of statistics from each country except India, for which I used a global salary study.
- Regional and industry variations excluded. For example, wages in London are much higher (in all professions) than in other parts of the United Kingdom. The same will apply where you live too, so keep that in mind.
- Employee benefits, health, and pension schemes excluded. They vary wildly and challenging to compare. But don't ignore them when it comes time to evaluate your offer. These may represent a sizeable part of the overall package and could be a deal-breaker or deal-maker.
Key account manager base salaries
Key Account Manager Salaries in Australia in 2020
- In Australia, the average key account manager earns $90,000, which is 1% higher than the average wage of $89,003 for a full-time role (Source: Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, November 2020 | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au).
- Key Account Managers may grow their salary between 20% to 30% after 5 years as they gain experience and approach the highest salary limits.
Key Account Manager Salaries in India in 2020
- In India, the average key account manager salary is ₹ 617,724 which is 57% higher than the average wage of ₹ 393,600 for a full-time role (Source: Average Wages Around the World).
- Key Account Managers may grow their salary between 50% to 60% after 5 years as they gain experience and approach the highest salary limits.
Key Account Manager Salaries in the United Kingdom in 2020
- In the United Kingdom, the average key account manager salary is £43,783 which is 13% higher than the average UK wage of £38,600 for a full-time role (Source: Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, Office for National Statistics).
- Key Account Managers may grow their salary between 30% to 40% after 5 years as they gain experience.
Key Account Manager Salaries in the United States in 2020
- In the United States, the average key account manager salary is $77,629 which is 59% higher than the average wage of $48,672 for a full-time role (Source: Usual Weekly Earnings of Wage and Salary Workers).
- Key Account Managers may grow their salary between 40% to 50% after 5 years as they gain experience and approach the highest salary limits.
But wait, there's more. Key account managers can increase earning potential through additional incentives and bonuses (somewhere between 10% to 30% of your base.)
You'll be paid extra for:
- High Client retention/renewals.
- High Client satisfaction (NPS and CSAT scores).
- Achieving quotas (yes, key account managers have sales targets too through product upselling and cross-selling).
You might also get a little bit of money for:
- Great internal feedback.
- High performance scores.
- Keeping the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool updated.
- A good number of client meetings.
- Adherence to internal policies and procedures.
Watch out though, because there are penalties too.
Often incentives are structured so that you'll get the total amount if you achieve your targets and progressively less as you fall below them until you get nothing at all.
So the bonus pay out schedule might look like this:
If you achieve
- 100% of target = 100% of bonus.
- 90% of target = 90% of bonus.
- 70% of target = nothing.
"So when do I get my hands on the money?" I hear you ask.
The payment frequency of your bonus will vary too. One former employer paid my bonus 6 weeks after the quarter ended (yay). At another, it was a single payment in March (boo).
Check the fine print for incentives, commissions, bonuses and any other additional compensation if it represents a big chunk of your take-home pay.
Make sure it's achievable.
Beware that if you leave, you may not get your final bonus. If you've handed in your notice, there may be conditions in place that may prevent you from collecting what's yours.
Pros and cons of key account management
I love key account management because you're in charge of client relationships, and you have the authority and autonomy to manage them how you like.
Of course, there are expectations, and you need to operate within a framework of systems and procedures but it's exciting, challenging and rewarding.
And that's worth something, right?
The best part of key account management is it's not a 9 to 5 office-based role.
- You do things your way and manage your clients how you like.
- Your boss doesn't breathe down your neck. People rarely ask, "where were you?" or "what are you doing?"
- It's easy to make your schedule work for you and your lifestyle.
- You can work from home (or anywhere, really).
- You get to travel around the country and around the world to meet with your clients.
- You're doing creative, strategic work that makes an impact.
The worst part of key account management is it's not a 9 to 5 office-based role.
- Your boss breathes down your neck. The bigger your client is, the more opinions there are on how they should be managed. Sometimes it feels like you can't make a move without someone watching.
- Ultimately you're in charge of everything - the buck stops with you. So you work really, really long hours. I've often pulled 18-hour days (and there's no overtime!) I often say whenever I knocked off early, I paid it back double the very next week.
- You have to go where and when they need you. That might mean the office or a client in the middle of nowhere. It can take longer to get there than the meeting itself.
- You rely on your internal teams to help you deliver your creative, strategic work, but they make mistakes or don't deliver, and your plans are constantly under threat. You spend a lot of time putting out fires.
- There's lots of tedious admin work, and you're a slave to your inbox.
Give some thought to the nature of the work, if it's a good fit for you and the impact it will have (good and bad) on your work/life balance.
There are some things money can't buy.
I'd happily take a pay cut if it means I can work from home and make my own schedule, even if sometimes the trade off is long hours or lots of travel.
And no amount of money would convince me to take a job that needed me to be in the office 5 days a week, 8 hours a day.
But that's just me. What about you?
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What if my salary is below average?
We’ve talked what a key account manager does, the pros and cons of the job and how much you can expect to earn.
You may be thinking, "But I don't earn that much!"
These key account manager salary guides are an excellent place to start but before you go running to your boss demanding a pay rise, or telling the recruiter to sharpen their pencil, please dig a bit deeper.
Research salaries in your industry, location, and organization and overlay that with your experience and achievements.
Also consider your company going through? If there’s budget cuts, hiring freezes and restructures going on – it might not be the right time.
But if it is, then build a detailed business case with supporting evidence that proves:
- you're underpaid compared to the market;
- your performance is above average;
- you keep your clients and they're profitable.
Be realistic with what you ask for too. Somewhere between a 5% to 15% increase on your base salary is reasonable, depending on your business case.
You can negotiate on your additional compensation too. For example, at a former employer, I was on a 30% bonus, but I asked for a higher base and reduced my annual bonus down to 10%.
Your boss or the hiring manager needs to get approval for anything above the budget, so make it easy for them to plead your case.
By the way, it's a good habit to regularly benchmark your salary to the market so you aren't left behind. You don't know what you don't know!
If you're prepared to put in the hard work, a key account manager makes good money. The base salary is well above the national average, and bonus and incentive schemes top up your earnings. Plus, there's generous room to grow your income as you gain more experience.
Key account management is also an exciting and rewarding career. You learn transferrable and in-demand skills and use them to genuinely make a positive contribution to the results your clients and your company achieve.
What's not to love?