6 Differences Between Sales and Account Management

4 Jul 23

Discover key differences between sales and account management and how they complement each other to drive revenue and build strong customer relationships.

Sales and account management are vital in driving revenue growth and cultivating strong customer relationships. Although these functions may overlap in some ways, there are distance differences in their objectives, responsibilities, and skillsets. Let's take a closer look at the differences between sales and account management and how to leverage them to optimize sales strategies, train teams, and effectively nurture the existing client base.

What’s the Difference Between Sales and Account Management?

A traditional sales organization focuses on generating new opportunities and acquiring new business. The sales team is primarily concerned with securing new logos and closing deals. The sales professional's role includes prospecting, qualifying leads, conducting discovery, and ultimately presenting, negotiating and closing deals.

On the other hand, account management emphasizes nurturing and expanding existing accounts. It entails developing long-term client relationships, cross-selling products or services to the account, and strategically expanding its footprint. The focus here is on fostering a year-over-year relationship that contributes to the sustained growth of the account over the long term.

Let’s look at 6 areas where the differences between sales and account management are clearly visible.


#1 Responsibilities

Sales professionals are responsible for initiating prospecting activities, such as making calls and scheduling meetings with qualified prospects. They strive to generate a healthy pipeline by engaging in meaningful conversations that lead to potential opportunities.

Account managers take a holistic approach to managing existing accounts. Rather than solely focusing on individual deals, they aim to ensure overall account satisfaction and growth over time. They monitor customer satisfaction levels, striving to exceed expectations and nurture long-term relationships.

#2 Skills

Sales professionals must exhibit tenacity, displaying the grit necessary to make calls, get their foot in the door, and win over prospects. They must ask insightful questions, demonstrate curiosity, actively listen, and articulate the value of their solutions while building a relationship with the customer.

Account managers, on the other hand, draw upon a broader skill set that includes strategic thinking. They need to consider the entire account landscape, understanding the various stakeholders, departments, and potential areas where additional services could be offered. Consequently, account managers require skills in project management, strategic planning, and the ability to analyze and identify trends within the account. They typically need good selling skills as well to be able to convert opportunities they uncover into ongoing revenue.

#3 Relationships

Top sales professionals excel at conducting thorough research, making meaningful connections, asking insightful questions, and actively listening to prospects.

For account managers, relationship-building goes beyond the initial connection or sales pursuit. Their role is to continue cultivating and expanding the relationship by consistently delivering on commitments, nurturing the relationship over time, and ensuring high-levels of customer satisfaction.

#4 Process

Sales professionals grow their pipelines through outbound prospecting efforts or leveraging inbound leads to book appointments and qualify opportunities. They conduct discovery to understand customer needs, present solutions, and employ negotiation and commitment techniques.

In account management, a strategic plan is essential. Creating a comprehensive account plan involves mapping the key players within the account, understanding the business priorities of the organization, assessing the potential opportunities, exploring expansion possibilities across different departments, and determining how to grow the account over time.

#5 Managing Performance

Booking meetings with qualified targets is a leading metric for sales professionals. The more meetings they secure with qualified buyers within existing accounts or new prospects, the greater their chances of identifying opportunities and closing deals. Other key metrics to assess sales performance include pipeline growth, conversion ratios, and total business closed.

On the other hand, account management centers around ensuring customer satisfaction and fostering growth within existing accounts. Recurring revenue and renewals serve as critical performance indicators for account managers. Maintaining high-customer satisfaction levels is critical to growing revenue within an account year over year. Account managers demonstrate their effectiveness by expanding the relationship, identifying additional opportunities, and maximizing the value for the customer.

#6 Career Opportunities

There are two paths for sales professionals. Some evolve into strategic sales professionals, taking on larger deals and complex accounts. They may transition to only focus on a limited number of target accounts or strategic opportunities, and they manage their time appropriately.

Others transition into sales management roles, overseeing teams of business development representatives (BDRs) or account executives. Front-line sales managers, focus their time on leading the team, managing performance and coaching. FLSMs may progress into sales leadership positions focused on a region or industry vertical, which may ultimately lead to Chief Sales Officer or Chief Revenue Officer position.

On the account management side, career progression can also take different routes. One path leads account managers into more and more strategic accounts or portfolios of enterprise accounts, or Another path results in account managers managing other account managers, leading to director or, vice president. Top Account Managers may end up leading a customer success organization or become the chief customer officer to drive overall client success and ensure exceptional service delivery.

How Sales and Account Management Complement Each Other

While there may be a handoff between the two functions or ongoing collaboration, the key lies in leveraging the strengths of each role to maximize sales outcomes.

The sales professional often takes the lead by identifying initial opportunities. They work closely with the client success team to ensure a seamless transition and then bring in the account manager to evaluate future potential.

The sales professional often re-engages when new opportunities arise in different parts of the organization. Their hunting skills and specialized knowledge allow them to navigate diverse business units and secure additional business.

This dynamic allows the account manager to concentrate on servicing and supporting the existing account while the sales professional focuses on expanding the organization's footprint and capitalizing on new opportunities.


The sales professional takes the lead in identifying opportunities and collaborating with the client success team to ensure the engagement is delivered, while the account manager ensures overall client satisfaction, identifies new opportunities to add value, and maintains an ongoing relationship with the customer.

Managing performance differs between the two roles, with sales professionals focusing on booking meetings and identifying new opportunities, while account managers prioritize customer satisfaction and revenue growth within existing accounts.

Sales and account management complement each other through collaboration and leveraging each role's strengths. Strong and open communication between the Account Executive and the Account Manager is critical for overall success. This dynamic maximizes outcomes and contributes to business success by expanding the organization's footprint while nurturing client relationships.

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