One of the questions I get from agency owners all the time is “how many clients can an account executive manage?” 

On smaller accounts or where you don’t have multiple levels of AEs working on the same client, it’s pretty easy.  There are two different ways of looking at it.  The first one is an AE should be able to manage 5 – 7 times their annual salary.  

So if someone is making 50K, they should be able to manage between 250 – 350K.  That means they can handle the account/s AND have time to work ON their book of business to grow the book of business by at least 10% annually. 

The other way to look at it is — it is a very rare AE or client type/style that would allow an AE to effective manage and have time to grow more than 500K in AGI annually.  

But when you start thinking about having an account coordinator and other folks on the same account, now it gets a little muddier.  In theory, a client that requires that much attention is more layered, complicated etc.  And there’s some inefficiency/duplication in the hand offs between the AE team.  For example…two of them in a meeting, rather than just one.

So when you have two account people of different levels on the same account, It’s more than likely they can’t handle much more than 5 times their combined salary.  I’d say the same is true of three account folks.  Depending on their maturity level and how much else they’re juggling — that should hold.

In most cases, AEs who can’t manage that much business are struggling in one or more of these areas:

  • They can’t manage their time effectively
  • Your systems/processes are clunky, not followed or non-existent
  • They’re under trained (if that’s the case…check out our AE BootCamps)
  • They don’t have the chops for the job

But of course one of the biggest reasons AEs don’t manage their book of business well is because you, the agency owner, don’t share the numbers with them.  So now you’re asking them to work blind.

If you are going to hold your AEs responsible for growing their book of business, you have to help them understand their book of business.  They need to be able to see the billing trends, hiccups and opportunities.  They can’t do that without the data.

In most agencies, the AEs are under-utilized. They’re not managing as much business as they’re capable of doing so and they’re not focused on growing their clients.  They don’t have a plan and if you don’t ask them to hit some growth target — they won’t actively focus on it.

So the first question agency owners ask is  “how many clients can an AE manage?”  But the bigger questions are around how are you helping them grow the clients they manage and what do they need to make that happen.