Understanding the different types of sales roles and the approaches to each is important as you raise in rank and transition in your sales career. Each sales position requires a specific set of skills and responsibilities in addition to upholding the general qualities that typically make for a great salesperson.
What are the different types of sales roles? Here is a list of eight types of sales positions and details outlining what they encompass. Knowing what each entails is the first step in understanding each role and will help you decide which is the right fit for you.
Inside Sales Rep
Inside sales generally explains a rep who reaches out to customers over the phone, email, and/or the internet or receives inbound calls. Additionally, inside sales reps are often responsible for maintaining existing client relationships. This role usually ranges from entry- to mid-level experience but can have more tenured reps on the team as well, depending on the organization. Many find inside sales a smart place to start a career because it involves working alongside others in a collaborative environment. It requires excellent written and verbal communication but doesn’t often demand as much face-to-face interaction or business travel as other sales roles.
The position calls for being a good problem solver and fast learner. It involves anticipating client needs and providing solutions based on new technologies or changes in the industry. An inside sales rep plays a crucial role in any sales department because they are responsible for new business development as well as maintaining and improving current accounts.
Outside Sales Rep (or Field Sales Rep)
An inside sales rep usually works from a company office or remotely. In contrast, an outside sales representative is dedicated to working “in the field” and meeting with clients and customers in-person. This role is important for companies that rely on product demonstrations and collaborative client meetings to gain new business or grow relationships. Like most other roles, this sales role involves needing to customize their approach when talking with different clients every day.
Outside sales reps often have a territory assigned to them in which their clients are based and where they can freely network and look for new opportunities. In addition, they often travel and frequently attend trade shows and expos to network with potential clients.
This type of sales job makes self-motivation mandatory. Much of the work is individual-based, with more minimal day-to-day oversight. While there is often a monthly or quarterly sales target to meet, how that’s achieved is left up to each salesperson. This requires discipline and efficiency with time management in order to consistently meet deadlines and sales goals.
Client Services Associate
A client services associate will sometimes work within the sales organization (or at times roll up to operations) to help maintain and nurture existing client relationships, often within days or weeks of establishing the new account. While their primary responsibility is to service the customer, they serve in a frontline position that allows them to identify additional opportunities to grow the relationship based on the conversations they have with the customer.
A successful client services associate should be equipped to ask the type of questions that elicit useful information from the client to help uncover needs. This allows the associate to continue building a lasting relationship. The role includes everything from navigating personnel and business changes to recommending new services and products. A client services associate may also be in charge of creating and sending out client surveys to gauge performance. These surveys help identify areas of improvement to share with the rest of the sales team for client retention purposes.
Sales Support Coordinator
When putting together different types of sales positions to create a successful team, there should be a balance between lead and supporting roles. A sales support coordinator is one that works behind the scenes rather than having direct client communication as with other sales roles.
Robust data analysis, strong writing capability, and research skills are critical for a person to succeed in this job. A person in this role takes care of the details to improve lead generation and help close more deals. Some of the responsibilities may include putting together competitive analyses, creating sales sheets, and customizing sales decks. Each of these tasks is part of what allows sales teams to optimize time and costs while upholding crucial deadlines to meet client demand.
Business Development Representative
The Business Development Rep (or Lead Development Rep, Sales Development Rep) is trying to identify and attract new business opportunities which, once qualified, are then handed to an inside or outside sales rep. The selling style of a business development representative encompasses both inbound and outbound sales methods. The focus of this role is to build a pipeline of qualified leads to pass on to a sales representative to secure deals. How is this achieved? By upselling to current clients and bringing in consistent sales from new ones.
The responsibilities require a mix of researching and prospecting potential leads through follow-up and proactive outreach. People in this type of role must be comfortable initiating conversation and identifying opportunities. Often, a business development representative meets one-on-one with a potential customer. In addition, they could meet with larger groups of prospects through networking events and conferences.
The role of a business development representative also requires good decision-making skills. They must know how to determine whether a potential customer is worth further investment and to what extent resources should be applied to gain the best possible results.
A sales engineer is a role that combines technical knowledge with business acumen. A sales engineer is responsible for walking prospects through product demonstrations and answering in-depth questions about the functionality of products and services. In most organizations, there are fewer sales engineers than there are sales reps, and they are often brought in during an advanced stage of the sales process.
This is a crucial position for any sales organization, in particular for companies that offer a complex product or service; for example in the SaaS, Biotech, or Medical Devices fields. The sales engineer is responsible for answering prospect questions and helping to draft the technical elements of sales proposals. Prerequisites for a sales engineer include excellent communication, particularly active listening, and strong presentation skills. Sales engineers often have a scientific or technical background, which allows them to discuss features and customization options on a much more nuanced level. This is an exciting role for those who enjoy connecting with and teaching customers while showcasing advanced technical knowledge.
An account manager typically manages a predefined number of clients with the main focus on maintaining and growing said accounts and relationships.
Their activities are heavily centered around cross-selling and upselling as well as expanding to other groups within an account; thus, they may work in tandem with Client Services Associates. Additional activities include projecting future buying potential and nurturing client relationships. An account manager continuously looks for networking opportunities within existing accounts. Resilience and determination are two key characteristics for a person to succeed in this type of role. A sales professional with a positive history of client relations while still taking care of the day-to-day details is part of what makes an ideal candidate for an account exec.
How to Know Which Role Is the Right Fit?
These are the general details for the most common types of sales roles organizations need. Qualifications are largely determined by years of experience, a proven history of success, and recommendations from previous co-workers and clients. Although many times sales positions seem like individual efforts, it takes being able to work together well on a team to achieve a common goal.
Knowing your personal sales aptitude and skillset will help you determine which role is the best for you. It can also help you get a sales promotion as you raise up the ranks. It’s best to concentrate on your strengths as well as areas for improvement. Determine how you can work on those in your current role to head to the next level of sales leadership.
Being an active participant in a sales enablement plan, including sales training and sales coaching, helps improve your sales technique and develops the skills and experience necessary to excel. Even the best sales operation has room for advancement. With changes in technology, buyer audiences, consumer expectations, adapting and continually gaining knowledge are part of what it takes to achieve ongoing success in any sales role. If you or someone you know is looking to advance their career in sales, Janek’s sales training and coaching programs are a great place to start.