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Sales Rep or Account Manager – Is there a Difference?

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sales vs account management

Does your business have dedicated account managers and salespeople? Small companies usually go with just salespeople and expect them to do both roles, which will be a stretch as different skills are required for each role.

Additionally, your small business may also expect your salespeople to be marketers. That’s now three roles rolled into one. You may feel slightly uncomfortable reading this article, knowing you expect too much from salespeople like many small business owners. However, persist as you’ll work out which of your salespeople could be more suited and, therefore, more productive in one of the abovementioned roles.

Do as your larger competitors do – ideally with dedicated professionals in marketing, account management, and sales.

Your business will generate more qualified leads when you have expert marketers. Plus, convert more leads to new customers with your dedicated salespeople, and your account managers will work on getting more business from your existing customers. This is the setup your small business needs to compete and grow its market share.

An excellent example of why you’d have dedicated roles within sales is to use skillsets best suited to specific tasks.

Hunters and Farmers

Salespeople fall into two categories – hunters and farmers.

Hunters – are the salespeople who love going after new business from new customers.

Farmers – are the salespeople who love getting repeat business from existing customers.

Upselling customers to buy more from your company and as often as possible is the core focus of a salesperson specializing in selling to existing clients.

Your business needs salespeople who are both farmers and hunters. So do you also need an account manager? Yes, in an ideal setting, you’d employ an account manager.

Account Managers

Account managers are the most farmer-type salesperson. This is because account managers have honed their skills in building relationships, and they have deep networks within a customer organization.

As an account manager, you manage the relationship between the customer and your business. Therefore, an account manager has developed higher-level executive management skills understanding of supply contracts, pricing, and profit.

Forecasting sales and presenting to the executives (the ‘chiefs’ of the business) requires expert communication skills. Also key is an account manager’s input into where the relationship is heading with core customers and what the company needs to do to sustain and grow.

Therefore the roles require different mindsets, goals, and core responsibilities.

The Sales Rep

Sales reps usually start as the “hunters” of the sales world. They are competitive and love the challenge of reaching sales targets and competing with other salespeople.

The good hunter-type salespeople will be high earners. They will over-achieve because of the typical financial incentives; however, it’s not good for the business. Don’t expect these salespeople to be focused on customer service.

Hunter-type sales reps are after the next sale, the following new customer, their targets do not give them the time/luxury to spend much of their time looking after existing customers …….. that’s the account manager’s job, right?

Account Management

Often businesses will categorize account managers’ long-side sales reps.

There are many levels of account management, from the entry-level farmer-type sales rep to the ‘boss,’ i.e., the executive account manager.

Account managers need to know how to sell; they will have been hunters and farmers early in their careers. So while account management is focused on retention, change is inevitable.

Customer requirements and their need for your products and services change, so account managers need to justify why they should be suppliers. A part of that is innovation and providing different or better products and services.

What Does Your Business Need?

As an employer, your sales team should have skills in all three disciplines.

However, you may get away with one or two salespeople to cover all areas, from hunting to farming, and as your sales grow, your sales team grows too.

Marketing and Sales

Your marketing team will also include personnel with specialized skills to manage online and offline marketing campaigns, and you may also need a marketing manager responsible for the strategy. This person will liaise with the sales team to communicate offering to the market to attract new customers.


There is a distinct difference between salespeople and account managers. What you need for your business will depend on its maturity, market share, and goals for growth.