Understanding different sales positions and rolls

Whether you’re aspiring to expand into a new sales position and are wondering what are the different roles available and the skills needed for each, or you’re trying to plan and recruit a sales team, or even if you want to brush up on current sales industry knowledge – regardless of your intention, you’re in the right place.

SOCO Sales Training trains 10s of thousands of sales professionals across a variety of roles each year so we know the ins and out of the different sales positions out there and the skills needed for each. Read on to understand different sales roles and positions.

Different Sales Roles

In this guide, we break down each sales role in terms of their responsibilities and skills needed to excel in each position. 

  1. Sales Operations
  2. Sales Leader
  3. Inbound Sales Representatives
  4. Outbound Sales Representatives 
  5. Business Development Representative (BDR)
  6. Sales Development Representative (SDR) 
  7. Account Executive (AE) 
  8. Hunter
  9. Farmer
  10. Account Manager (AM)
  11. Key Account Management (KAM)
  12. Final Thoughts

Sales Operations

Sales Operations positions are an entry-level role that is often assigned tasks like generating reports and managing the sales tech stack. Although it may seem simple, Sales Operations are responsible for ensuring the sales’ efficiency and effectiveness. 

Skills required by those looking to enter this sales role include but not limited to: multitasking. As Sales Operations are hectic and diverse, you’ll need to be able to apply a varied set of skills simultaneously. At the same time, tip-top planning abilities are crucial for  Sales Ops as they are responsible for planning their own time and deadlines. 

Summary of their primary responsibilities:

  • Support the broader team by managing sales administration.
  • Oversee analytics. 
  • Attainment planning.

Skills Needed:

  • Analytical Analysis 
  • Sales Ops need to analyze large sets of data continually. 
  • Trend Analysis 
  • Communication 
  • Motivation 
  • Negotiation 
  • Dedication 

Role Summary: 

  • Entry-Level Role.
  • Experts in maintaining company-wide efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Responsible for generating reports, analytics, and administration. 

Sales Leader

Sales Leaders are at the helm and are required to be excellent multi-taskers: Planning, leading, and nurturing a team of sales representatives, with most of their time dedicated to empowering the team to drive sales. Naturally, interpersonal skills are a must. They’re also responsible for creating an organization’s Sales Strategy to generate predictable and repeatable revenue. 

Summary of responsibilities:

  • Setting Goals.
  • Sales Negotiations.
  • Leading development of Sales Strategies.
  • Nurturing and motivating the sales team to achieve targets. 

Skills required:

  • Natural Mentor.
  • Passionate about collaboration.
  • Values training and development.
  • Great interpersonal skills.
  • Critical thinkers.
  • Communication Experts.

Inbound Sales Representatives

Inbound Sales is a sales methodology that prioritizes individual buyers’ needs, challenges, goals, and interests. Instead of focusing on closing the sale as soon as possible, Inbound Sales Representatives work to meet consumers where they are. 

A typical day for an Inbound Sales Rep involves answering calls or queries, resolving customer complaints, scheduling appointments, assisting existing customers, and following up on outbound calls. Pretty busy, right? Inbound Sales Reps need to be incredibly driven, resourceful, and highly independent. They need to have impeccable communication skills along with being masters of organization. 

 Responsibilities Summary: 

  • Keep track of potential leads.
  • Assist existing customers with queries. 
  • Resolve complaints.
  • Ensure excellent customer satisfaction.
  • Answering calls or queries. 
  • Recommending products or services.

Skills Needed:

  • Excellent Multi-Taskers.
  • Endless energy.
  • Natural communicators.
  • Passionate, motivated, and resourceful. 
  • They are organized and self-sufficient. 

Outbound Sales Representatives

Outbound Sales is the process where a seller, usually represented by a sales agent, initiates customer engagement from its end. Initial contact is made by placing cold callsto potential buyers (more commonly referred to as “leads” in sales). So, what does a typical day look like for an Outbound Sales Rep? They’ll be making a ton of calls to promote the product or service, building and maintaining the customer base, and handling customer inquiries and problems. 

Responsibilities Summary:

  • Connecting with potential leads.
  • Maintaining existing customer relationships.
  • Answer any inquiries and complaints. 
  • Represent the face of the company. 

Skills Needed:

  • Excellent Listening Skills
  • Confident, Tenacious,, and perfect Interpersonal skills.
  • Highly organized, self-motivated, and hardworking. 

Business Development Representative (BDR)

Business Development Representatives are laser-focused on the organization’s customer base and excel in producing Prospecting Strategies. The goal for the Business Development Rep is to identify prospects, initiate the first outreach with potential customers, book meetings, and fill the pipelines for the sales team. 

Responsibilities Summary:

  • In charge of bringing new opportunities to the business.
  • Initiate contact with prospects.
  • Fill the team’s sales pipeline. 

Skills Needed:

  • Excellent active listening abilities.
  • Expert critical thinkers.
  • Perfect time-management.
  • Impeccable communication abilities.

Sales Development Representative (SDR)

Responsible for qualifying all leads at the initial stages in the sales funnel. Sales Development Representatives are required to research potential clients, connect with and educate prospects, and qualify leads before handing them off to the sales team’s closers. You’ll usually find Sales Development Reps helping to scale up start-ups looking to grow quickly or even when inbound leads aren’t enough to fill the pipeline.

Responsibilities Summary:

  • Finding new leads.
  • Qualify Leads.
  • Research potential clients.

Skills Needed:

  • Endless creativity.
  • Impeccable active listening abilities.
  • Easily adaptable. 

Role Summary:

  • Mid-Level Position.
  • Research potential leads while advising existing customers with queries.

Account Executive (AE)

Account Executives, also known as Account Handlers, serve as the direct link between a company and its existing client – typically by managing day-to-day affairs and ensuring customer satisfaction. Spending most of their time understanding the customers’ needs and wants to upsell and cross-sell to increase revenue successfully.

Ideally, Account Executives are CEOs of their own business with extensive negotiation, sales experience, and project management experience. Honed leadership skills are a must for this position. Account Executives are critically required to mentor their team to achieve their goals. 

Responsibilities Summary:

  • Managing the account budget. 
  • Creating detailed business plans and campaigns. 
  • Manage the entire sale cycle, right up to closing the deal. 
  • Finding new potential clients through extensive networking. 

Skills Needed:

  • Problem-Solving. 
  • Extensive knowledge of Marketing and Negotiation practices. 
  • Analytically minded.
  • A Natural Leader.

Hunters

Hunters love to chase leads – so much, so they’re known as the do-ers of sales. They focus on channeling their energy into achieving goals, with a tendency to rely on initiative alone—typical tasks center around gathering new leads, pitching to them, and securing that first order. Hunters are your go-getters, the ones out in the field uncovering opportunities in which to sell. 

Different Sales Roles Suited: Account Executive, Field Sales Representative, and Development Business Rep/Manager. 

Farmers

In stark contrast to Hunters, Farmers focus on the human element to selling. They prefer to create, maintain, and grow relationships with the customer. They love delivering high-level customer service. They’re in no rush to close a deal, preferring to understand their needs and explain their solution. They keep a keen eye on looking out for new opportunities within the account. They are required to up-sell and cross-sell with accounts throughout the year.


Different Sales Roles: Customer Service Representative, Account Representative/Manager, and Sales Representative.

Account Manager (AM)

The Mid-Level role of an Account Manager is to manage a portfolio of accounts to ensure the business achieves long-term success. They focus on developing positive relationships and handling customer needs. However, their role also entails generating new sales using existing and potential customer networks.

Account Managers are tasked with growing these accounts through up-sells and cross-sells, keeping quality of work high, so clients want to renew/expand contracts, and advising clients on long-term growth strategies.

Responsibilities Summary:

  • Develop and maintain impeccable relationships with key accounts, customer stakeholders, and executive sponsors.
  • Regularly forecast account metrics – the quarterly sales results and annual forecasts.
  • Upselling and Crosselling effectively. 

Skills Needed:

  • Expert active listener. 
  • Demonstrable Presentation, Negotiation, and Communication abilities. 
  • Able to multi-task with several projects at the same time. 
  • Impeccable attention to detail.

Key Account Management (KAM)

Key Account Managers are responsible for building long-term relationships with your company’s most valuable accounts, which typically make up the majority of the business’ income. Naturally, Key Account Managers also need to develop multiple relationships within critical accounts – strong communication and interpersonal skills are necessary for this sales role. 

While focusing on turning buyers into business partners, Key Account Managers concentrate on providing dedicated resources, unique offers, and periodic meetings. Key Account Managers require an analytical mind when producing regular progress reports of crucial account metrics for their stakeholders, a vital relationship. 

Responsibilities Summary:

  • Creating and maintaining key relationships with high-value accounts. 
  • Create reports based on account metrics.
  • Create and promote offers and resources. 

Skills Needed:

  • Finely tuned communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Demonstrable analytical ability.
  • Ability to use creativity and multitasking in tandem. 

Final Thoughts

The Sales Industry is an entire world of its own, with its own language. If you’re new to sales, it’s effortless to get lost in a conversation about how we’ve got to shorten the sales cycle for high-ticket items by having the SDR qualify prospects better…I mean, you get the point! 

If you’ve enjoyed this guide on different sales positions, we think our Glossary of Sales Terms might serve you well. And that’s exactly why we created this! So you can easily understand the conversation at your next sales meeting. Enjoy our ultimate encyclopedia of sales terms.

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Author Profile

Tom Abbott
Tom Abbott is the author of 'The SOHO Solution' and 'Social Selling' and the creator of the online sales training platform SOCO Academy. Sales leaders engage Tom for his proven solutions to building high performance sales teams that exceed targets and for motivational keynotes that energise their audiences.