Talent Acquisition

How to Hire an Account Executive in Software Sales

Accounts executives in an office

You’ve created a great SaaS product, you’ve taken it to market and are getting some traction. You need an Account Executive.

An account executive is the anchor of all your software sales operations. An AE manages the entire sales process – all the way from discovery calls to negotiating and closing deals – while also keeping your customer base happy and engaged.

Want to know how to hire an account executive? Let’s dive right in!

  1. Check If You’re Ready to Hire an AE
  2. Build a Job Spec Geared Toward AEs
  3. Assess the Candidate
  4. Interview the Candidate & Make a Final Decision
  5. FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

#1 Check If You’re Ready to Hire an AE

Not every scaleup is ready to take on an account executive. Before you make any rash decisions, it’s vital to ask yourself 2 questions:

Do we have enough customers and lead generation? An AE’s primary role is to manage an already-existing base, so if you’re still searching for customers, it might be better to hire a sales development representative.

Is our budget sufficient? According to David Rogg, Founder of Reformation Partners and former Vice President at FirstMark Capital, most companies consider the $1M ARR milestone as the right time to begin hiring AEs.

#2 Build a Job Spec Geared Toward AEs

Naturally, the next step is to post on a job board. Your job spec should include the usual elements, but don’t just focus on the basics – feel free to give it your own flair!

  • “About Us” section that explains your product and your place on the market. This may sound obvious, but in SaaS sales, or any tech sales jobs, the quality of the product is huge, so if you can demonstrate to talent that it’ll be easy to sell your product, they’ll more likely want to join. 
  • Responsibilities & daily tasks (qualifying and closing leads, negotiating and closing contracts, maintaining a sales pipeline via CRM tools…)
  • Requirements (experience with CRMs, past accomplishments, strong communication and organization skills…)
  • Benefits (what you offer the candidate – benefits, holiday packages, opportunities to learn and grow, career progression)
  • How long the hiring process will approximately take

Alright, now that we’ve ticked off the essentials, it’s time to add some personality. Let’s take Fountain as an example – their job ad on Y Combinator says at the end:

“Even if you do not meet all the requirements above, we still encourage you to apply for this position. While we try to be thorough with our prerequisites, not everything about you as a candidate can be condensed into a list of bullet points.”

This angle adds humanity to the job ad, encouraging applicants to click on Apply even if they don’t meet every single criterion.

And what does that mean for you?

A larger pool of applicants. Always a plus!

Optimise for ED&I

Another way to broaden your reach and optimize your ad for ED&I is to run your text through a Gender Decoder app and include a short statement about inclusivity.

Let’s circle back to Fountain:

“We welcome applicants of any educational background, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, age, socioeconomic status, disability, and veteran status.”

Finally, don’t forget to keep your employer brand up to shape. You might be vetting your candidate, but the candidate is also vetting you.

#3 Assess the Candidate

Guess what the three primary soft skills of an amazing AE are.


Alright, here’s the answer:

  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Empathy

Given the fact that account executives are responsible for managing client relationships and negotiating deals, this makes complete sense.

But unlike when you’re testing software engineers – who can do a coding task that demonstrates their aptitude pretty clearly – soft skills are a bit more difficult to evaluate.

No need to worry, though. 

Assessing your candidate’s skills can be done by asking situational questions (what would you do if…), roleplaying scenarios (imagine I’m a customer…), or asking them to so a presentation. As long as the task reflects real-world on the job scenarios they will likely face. 

Plus, there are some great services that do the job for you. Check out Vervoe or TestGorilla.

#4 Interview the Candidate & Make a Final Decision

Congratulations, you now have a shortlist of candidates!

Moving on to the dealbreaker – interviews. Since you’re interviewing for an AE role, it’s vital that your candidate knows how to manage an entire sales operation while also thriving on details.

For instance, they should be able to keep your whole sales process optimized while knowing how to send just the right follow-up emails with just the right wording when needed.

First, here’s a set of operational questions that test their knowledge and experience:

  • How do you build a successful relationship with a client?
  • What CRM tools have you used in the past and which one do you find most effective (and why)?
  • If you had to solve problems for multiple clients at the same time, how would you prioritise your tasks?
  • How do you successfully build a pipeline of engaged customers?
  • What other SaaS products have you sold in the past and how did you go about doing so?

Next, delve into some behavioural questions:

  • What was the most difficult deal you ever had to close?
  • How would you handle an aggressive customer?
  • What is your proudest accomplishment?
  • Have you ever failed to close a deal? If so, what did you learn from the experience?

To minimise any unconscious bias, we recommend you use structured interviews. Ask each candidate the same set of questions and evaluate them on pre-set criteria.

As for making your final decision, it’s a great idea to engage your team and let them in on the hiring process. This not only mitigates bias but also promotes engagement within your company.

Final Words

And that’s how you hire an account executive! Easy peasy, no? :) 

Keep in mind that AEs are often hired in the later stages of building a business – first, you’ve got to create an amazing product and build a customer base.

Then…let your new account executive work their magic.


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FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the base salary for an account executive in the UK?

The average base pay for an account executive in the UK is £36,016 per annum as reported by Glassdoor.

What is an account executive?

An account executive (AE) is in charge of the sales process. Unlike sales development representatives who generate leads and look for new clients, account executives primarily manage an already-existing customer base and negotiate and close deals.

What questions should I ask an account executive?

Ask a mix of operational and behavioural questions. Operational: How familiar are you with CRM tools? Behavioural: Describe one of your past accomplishments and what you’ve learned from the experience.

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