Sales Rep or Account Manager – Is there a Difference?


Last week I was talking to the manager of a communications company about the trials and tribulations of sales staff and their lack of ability to look after their customers. I asked the manager whether he had sales reps or account managers to which he replied “they are the same thing …. aren’t they?”, we debated this theory for a good hour, I would like to carry this debate to you now. Having had both job roles over the years in my mind they are very different, with different goals and core responsibilities, but I do emphasise that it is only my opinion and I welcome to hear what you all have to say on this matter.

The Sales Rep

Sales reps are the “hunters” of the sales world, they are focused on generating a predefined income for their employer and where ever possible they will over-achieve because of the typical financial incentives that make it worth their while. Because of these financial incentives and the pressure they put the sales rep under, their ongoing customer service tends to be lacking. I am talking generally – if you are a sales rep reading this that does have great customer service then I apologise but I challenge you with one question, I bet you know many other reps that are like this!! Why?

Sales reps are after the next sale, the next new customer, their targets do not give them the time / luxury to spend much of their time looking after existing customers …….. that’s the boss job, right?

The Account Manager

Often businesses will categorise account managers long side sales reps and try to avoid them as much as possible too. In my mind, account managers differ from sales reps in that they are the “farmers” of the sales world.

Account managers focus is as much on retention as they do on new business. More often than not, an account manager’s financial package will have an element of new sales targets and current customer retention targets, making the account manager’s focus on ongoing customer service and relationship building far more important than that of the sales rep.

As an employer of a sales team decide what it is exactly that you want from your team and create a job role that compliments the goals and objectives of your business. If you own a car yard for instance, there will be less value in hiring an account manager over a sales rep because the vast majority of the work required is selling the next car, you couldn’t afford for your sales reps to be off visiting your customers to make sure the car they bought last year is still running well.

Equally if you are running a communications network an account manager would have more value than a sales rep because once that customer is on your network it makes sense to have them actively managed to ensure the competition don’t win them over and steal them on to their network.

In summary, a Sales Rep is a one hit wonder; they make the sale and move on to the next potential customer whilst the Account Manager makes a sale but is also responsible for retaining that customer in the longer term.

Agree or disagree, I would be interested in your thoughts.

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