Salaries: what's an Account Manager worth?

February 01, 2016

Note: the following article has been written based on the New Zealand marketplace as at February 2016, and figures are in NZD.

Remuneration is one example of where an Account Manager's value competes mercilessly with "industry standards", leaving only a very small window in which to negotiate one's salary.

In New Zealand the salary bands for Account Managers have changed very little over the last 10+ years. It seems the only way for agency staff to keep pace with inflation is to keep getting promoted! Fortunately, agencies have a recognised pathway for Account Managers to follow as they move through their careers.


Account management pathway

The salary bands typically look like this (gross salary per year):

  • Intern: $0 (ouch!) or a small stipend for expenses.
  • Account Executive (no experience): $35,000
  • Account Executive (some experience): $38,000 to $45,000
  • Account Manager: $50,000 to $75,000
  • Senior Account Manager: $70,000 to $90,000
  • Account Director: $90,000 to $110,000
  • Senior Account Director: $110,000+
  • Group Account Director or Client Services Director: $130,000+


Where's the room for negotiation?

Good question! Your ability to negotiate your salary will depend on a number of factors (most of which will be completely out of your control):

  • Agency size - often the bigger the agency is the more closely they align salaries to industry standards.
  • Salary budget - the agency may have a cap they can't afford to go over.
  • Salary bands - some agencies (especially large internationals) often have fixed salary bands/levels for all agency staff. 
  • Supply and demand - are client service professionals in short supply or can agencies pick and choose who they hire?
  • Length of contract - salaries for very short-term contracts can often be higher than normal.
  • Your "value package" - how valuable will your set of skills, experience and knowledge be to the agency?
  • Urgency - salary negotiation becomes more fluid if the agency has been looking for a while, or if they need help urgently.
  • You're in high demand - if more than one agency has put an offer on the table that may work the dollars in your favour.


      The role determines the rate

      Most agencies adhere to the accepted industry standards for salaries. That means if you will be functioning as an Account Manager, then you should expect to sit within the salary range for Account Managers (Account Executives within the Account Executive range, etc).

      Negotiation within the accepted salary range usually comes down to your level of experience. How long have you been functioning at the level you are applying for? Does your experience put you at the lower or higher end of the salary range? Are you ready to "step up" to the next level in your career pathway?


      Don't let job titles fool you

      You'll notice that different agencies often call their staff by different (and sometimes misleading) job titles.

      For example, a small agency may call someone sitting at Account Manager or Senior Account Manager level an "Account Director" for a variety of reasons:

      • It sounds better for their clients.
      • They've always called their client service staff "Account Directors".
      • They have a flat team structure with no differentiation in the job titles.
      • They are not concerned with following industry standards.

      You may also come across Account Managers being referred to as Project Managers (junior, intermediate or senior). As titles become more blurred, determining salary levels and salary negotiation becomes more challenging. 


      How to get the best salary you can

      If you are doing the salary negotiation yourself, then you need to be clued up on the salary bands within your marketplace. Once you know the bands, then you can figure out exactly where you sit and whether what you are being offered is fair.

      If you have used the services of a Recruitment Consultant, then they will be able to advise you, and do the salary negotiation on your behalf.

      Finalising a contract agreement should be a two-way process. The decision to negotiate, accept or decline is ultimately up to both yourself and the agency together. Hopefully a stout mix of industry standards and ballsy confidence will get both parties the result they want. Win-win!




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