[Cheat Sheet] 8 Critical Sales Roles Explained

As sales cycles become increasingly customized and nuanced, sales leaders are hiring specialized sales roles to focus on specific areas of the sales process. When executed well, this more targeted approach is proving to be a highly effective strategy for organizations. It also means there’s a growing number of sales roles and titles to keep straight.

Whether you’re new to the sales world looking to understand the wider ecosystem or a sales leader interested in specializing your team, here are eight critical sales roles explained.

Account Executive
Primarily responsible for closing, managing, growing and renewing client accounts, Account Executives are central to any thriving sales team. Afterall, it costs a company 5x times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one. Some organizations focus their Account Executives purely on closing, retention and upselling, while others have Account Executives hunting for new business.

Account Manager
Where Account Executives often lead the organization’s biggest clients, Account Managers play an integral role in managing and nurturing smaller to mid-sized accounts. On any day, you can find an Account Manager attending client meetings, answering client emails, creating pitch presentations for Account Executives, attending networking events, delivering internal sales presentations and more.

Also known as Client Account Manager or Sales Manager.

Business Development Representative
Focused solely on generating qualified prospects, BDRs spend their days forging new relationships and drumming up new business for the organization. Their day-to-day tasks include researching potential clients and new business; cold calling, emailing or messaging; networking with prospects and partners; and hosting qualifying calls and meetings with prospects. Once they’ve created a warm lead, they most often hand over the account to Account Executives to close the deal.

Customer Success Reps
Customer Success Reps and Account Managers have the same end goal: customer retention. In some organizations, the titles are interchangeable. In others, there’s a slight nuance: where Account Managers are focused on building and nurturing relationships with the decision-makers of each account, Customer Success Reps are focused on helping customers get the biggest ROI from their product and services. Where this difference exists, the success metrics for Account Managers are tied to their ability to hit upsell and renewal sales quotas. Customer Success Reps, on the other hand, have success metrics tied to the reviews and feedback customers share about their experience with the product or service and the company itself.

Also known as Customer Success Managers and Customer Support Reps.

Outside Sales Reps
With an increase in marketing and advertising avenues like social media, SEO, content and more, inside sales roles—those that sell remotely —are growing. Yet for many organizations, hosting in-person meetings, visiting clients onsite and attending networking and industry events remains an integral part of the sales strategy.

This is where Outside Sales Reps come in. Often organized by region and most popular in B2B and tech industries, Outside Sales Reps spend the majority of their time prospecting, selling and nurturing customer relationships face-to-face. Where BDRs and SDRs are focused on lead generation and Account Executives everything that comes after, Outside Sales Reps tend to manage the full sales cycle with their accounts because of the relationship-driven nature of their work.

Sales Development Reps
SDRs share the same ultimate goal as BDRs: generating qualified prospects and vetting them. So what’s the difference? Where BDRs are focused on researching and identifying outbound leads, SDRs are tasked with managing inbound leads—those coming in through the organization’s marketing and advertising, content marketing and SEO efforts (and more!).

Just like BDRs, once SDRs have created a warm lead, they’ll hand over the account to an Account Executive to close the deal.

Sales Managers
The leader of a sales organization, Sales Managers are ultimately responsible for the success of the sales function. Sales Managers set the overall objectives of the sales team, assign territories, set quotas, build role and team-specific sales plans, hire new talent and coach team members. Sales Managers most often report directly into the CEO.

Also known as Head of Sales, VP of Sales or Sales Director.

Sales Operations Managers
Sales Operations Managers bring a framework and process to selling. As sales cycles get more nuanced and sales roles more specialized, creating a streamlined, cohesive sales approach is increasingly important for organizations. Sales Operations Managers are primarily responsible for finding the best tools and technology platforms to support Account Executives and Managers, BDRs, SDRs and Outside Sales Reps. They also manage, organize and report on the team’s performance data, provide training for front-line sales staff, help Sales Managers implement new sales methodologies and practices and manage growth forecasting.