Account management vs sales (their roles and differences)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

You may conflate the roles of account management and selling as both roles involve interaction with clients or customers, assuming their jobs are similar, but they're distinctly different. They work closely together and share similarities, so it's natural for people to overlook their differences. Understanding what both professional roles entail is essential to delegate and execute the correct tasks. In this article, we discuss account management and sales and compare both to learn about their differences in business.

Account management vs sales

Discussing account management vs sales is essential for hiring managers and potential candidates. A hiring manager may determine the specific criteria to fill related positions and candidates may decide which set of responsibilities they prefer as a job. Smaller organisations or companies combine these roles and you may find a team or a person performing both duties. But, large corporations separate these roles, so differentiating the two is necessary.

What is account management?

Account management describes a customer-facing role after closing a sale. Account managers work closely with clients when they conduct business with a company or organisation. They assist the customers or clients achieve their goals, acting as a company representative during their interactions.

Account managers also handle the growth of customer accounts. They advise customers on growth strategies, up-selling and maintaining high-quality work, encouraging them to renew their contracts after a business season has elapsed. For instance, an account manager working with a tech company understands the client's short-term and long-term goals with the company's services and products.

Related: What is account management and how to be successful at it?

What are sales?

Sales describe the business deals made by a company or organisation. Members of the sales team entice potential customers to make a purchase or patronise the company by executing various strategies, depending on the company's requirements. Salespeople don't just sell products or services, even though that's a core part of their responsibilities. They're also responsible for all interactions with prospective clients to secure a sale effectively.

Related: What is a sales job? (With examples of common sales roles)

Differences between account management and sales

People who work in account management or sales interact with customers, but at different times. While sales personnel bring in new business for the company, account managers maintain a healthy relationship with the customers while being of service to them in accordance with the company's goals. Learning the responsibilities of these two groups is essential to differentiate between the two.

Responsibilities of an account manager

Anyone who directly works with a group of clients performs account management tasks, assisting them to achieve their goals while ensuring their satisfaction. Here are some duties account managers perform:

Effective communication with clients

During a business period, account managers communicate directly with clients. This action ensures that they satisfy all the client's needs, meet their expectations and even surpass them. Account managers understand a client's unique goal and attend to them accordingly. Effective communication leads to a strong customer relationship necessary to attract new customers and maintain the old ones.

Related: 7 ways to communicate effectively at work

Collaboration with other departments

While account management involves contacting customers directly, they may not handle every customer issue or request. In these cases, effective collaboration becomes necessary. Account managers connect clients and other departments in a company to ensure the company meets all their needs. The account manager may also collaborate with internal and external sales professionals to develop sales pitches.

Acting as a client representative

Account managers represent the client in a company or firm, focusing on their satisfaction and happiness. During meetings, account managers speak on behalf of the customers to propel the company into drafting or implementing policies from which their customers may benefit. Their interactions with customers provide them with sufficient information to perform this task.

Monitoring the client's budget and negotiating terms

An account manager works within a client's budget to provide the best experience possible during the business. Account managers may negotiate with customers to ensure the clients understand the modified company terms if there are new business terms. At every stage in business, the client and account manager are in accord to ensure a smooth process.

Upselling

Account management also involves upselling. Upselling is a strategy that involves selling a higher company product or service than the initial one the customer purchased. This process influences the growth and performance of a company. An account manager may utilise this strategy to influence a customer to purchase a more expensive product or service.

Managing customer projects

Managing customer projects from start to finish falls within the job description of an account manager. The account manager provides whatever the client requires to achieve their goal throughout their interaction with a company. The responsibilities of an account manager include advising in daily interactions with customers and managing a client's account and project until completion.

A sales account manager also controls client accounts and interactions once the sales team or representative concludes a business deal. They focus on helping clients maximise company offerings and achieve their personal goals. Account managers upsell, renew accounts, ensure client satisfaction and are the contact point for daily interactions with customers.

Skills required for account management

Success in account management requires you to possess a specific skill set. Employers may demand these competencies when hiring, so you may benefit from displaying them if you're applying for the account manager position. Below are the skills beneficial to account management staff:

  • multitasking

  • effective verbal and written communication

  • attention to detail

  • emotional intelligence

  • empathy

  • strategic thinking

  • good listening skills

  • problem-solving

Related: Account manager job profile: necessary skills and education

Skills required for sales work

Persuading customers and achieving sales requires a specific skill set. Sales professionals require these skills to thrive in the workplace. Here are some examples:

  • communication skills

  • product knowledge

  • problem-solving

  • information gathering

  • conflict management

  • active listening

  • time management

Responsibilities of a salesperson

A salesperson's responsibilities are gathering leads, following up with qualified leads and closing sales by convincing prospective customers to patronise the company. After the sales representative secures a deal with a customer, they inform the account manager of the new customer's goals and expectations. After that, the salesperson leaves them with account management. Here are some responsibilities a salesperson may have:

Guiding buyers

Prospective customers may require some help or advice to help them decide which product or service to purchase. You may centre this advice on their budget, current needs or future goals. A sales representative informs the buyers of the best company products or services to satisfy their needs.

Working with middlemen

Salespeople may have direct interaction with intermediaries, such as wholesalers. A company may purchase certain materials or goods to create its products. The sales team may be responsible for gathering the necessary information and relaying it back to the organisation.

Attending sales meetings

A company may organise sales meetings periodically to discuss sales policies, promotions, marketing issues and related subjects. As part of the sales personnel, it's one of your responsibilities to be present and make valuable contributions in these meetings. Decisions made in these meetings guide subsequent interactions between sales teams and customers.

Selling

The sales team's primary goal is to make sales to increase company revenue. Selling includes discussing with the prospective clients, presenting company products, convincing prospects to make a purchase, taking orders and completing sales. The entire process leading up to completing the sale involves the sales team.

Recording sales and giving reports

Members of the sales team track the company's sales to determine their performance. Professionals often use the amount of revenue generated by the sales team to calculate the profitability of a business. Having a system to record their sales and give reports when needed are tasks handled by sales teams.

Negotiating

The sales team handles negotiation with customers. A company may have specific terms and conditions regarding payment. For instance, a company may approve instalment payments for some products or offer a product or service for less than the known price. Negotiating with the customer on how they can make payments and what options are available falls within the job description of a sales associate.

Related: 15 sales jobs that pay well

Resolving customer complaints

Customers may have unexpected issues at any time during the sales process. It's the responsibility of the sales team to resolve these complaints rapidly and professionally. Treating customer complaints with utmost care and concern makes the company seem reputable and customer friendly to prospects.

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