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Sales Rep or Account Manager – Is there a Difference?

goal setting

Does your business have dedicated account managers and salespeople?

Larger enterprises will have both account managers and salespeople, as well as a dedicated marketing team. You may be wondering – is that a lot of double up?

No, if you can organise your sales and marketing team into specialised areas like account management, sales and marketing, then your business has the right set up to grow the business.

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 who specialises 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 the farmer-type salesperson. This is because account managers have honed their skill in building relationships, and they have deep networks within a customer organisation.

As an account manager, your role is to manage the relationship between the customer and your business. Therefore, an account manager has also developed higher-level executive management skills, understanding 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 out 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 categorise 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, and they will have been hunters and farmers early on in their careers. So while account management is focused on retention, change is inevitable.

Customer requirements change, as do their need for your products and services, 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.

Summary

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.

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