Account managers and sales representatives are members of a company’s sales team. Some companies use both titles to describe the same job, according to O*Net OnLine. However, while both account managers and sales representatives sell products and services, they differ in their responsibilities and relationships with customers and other members of the sales and marketing team.
Winning New Business
Sales representatives are responsible for selling to existing customers and finding new customers. They visit existing customers to finalize deals that are under negotiation and to discuss sales of a wider range of products. They also meet new prospects to follow up sales leads generated by marketing. Account managers deal only with existing customers; they do not have new business responsibilities.
Retaining Existing Business
Account managers focus on retaining or increasing business with a select group of existing customers. Generally, this group consists of the company’s most important customers, known as key accounts. Any loss of these accounts would create a significant risk to the company’s revenue and profitability. The account manager’s prime responsibility is strengthening the loyalty of customers and protecting the business against attacks from competitors.
Planning Sales Targets
Account managers have an important planning role. Sales representatives work to meet revenue targets set by sales managers. Account managers have responsibility for the revenue and profitability of the accounts they manage. They put together strategic account plans that include revenue targets for each product the company sells, together with actions that the company must take to strengthen relationships with the customer.
Managing Customer Relationships
Sales representatives dealing with a company’s small to medium customers typically deal with purchasing managers who place a series of separate orders. Account managers deal with a more complex decision-making team and aim to negotiate long-term supply contracts rather than ad hoc orders. Account managers aim to build relationships with purchasing officials, technical decision-makers, and senior executives who influence the choice of supplier.
Coordinating Service to Customers
Account managers act as team leaders, coordinating internal resources to ensure that customers receive the highest standard of service from every department they deal with. They collaborate with marketing to plan regular communications with decision-makers and develop proposals for customizing products that meet customers’ requirements more effectively. Sales representatives’ role is mainly external, negotiating with customers and prospecting while sales coordinators manage order administration.