sales vs account management

Sales vs Account Management: What’s the Difference?

sales vs account management

In business, there are two main roles that are often used interchangeably but have distinct differences: Sales and account management. While both are important for a company’s growth, understanding the nuances between the two can make all the difference in achieving success.


In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between both roles and how they can work together to help you win and retain customers at scale.


Who is a sales manager?

A sales manager is responsible for driving sales and revenue growth for your organization. They are in charge of developing sales strategies, identifying new business opportunities, and building relationships with potential clients. 


Sales managers work with their teams to develop sales plans, set sales targets, and track their progress toward achieving those targets.


Who is an account manager? 

An account manager, on the other hand, manages your company’s relationships with its clients. They ensure your company’s services meet the needs of the client and that the client is satisfied. 


This involves building strong relationships with clients, understanding their needs, and working with other departments within the company to deliver the services that clients need at their desired level. 


4 differences between sales and account management

Sales and account management share many characteristics, but they play separate roles in your organization. On a high level, salespeople primarily focus on prospecting and closing deals, while account managers nurture these deals to become repeat customers.


Let’s look at four key distinctions between these two roles. 


1. Behavior: Hunting vs. Farming

An easy way to differentiate sales from account management is through the analogy of hunting and farming. 


A salesperson is a hunter. They scout their prey (prospects) and capture them (converting them into customers). On the other hand, account management is a farmer. A farmer nurtures their crops — watering, pruning, and weeding them as required — so that they grow healthy and bear fruit. In the same way, an account manager owns the entire customer relationship — escalating client issues to the right team and empowering customers with all information they need to use your product or service successfully. 


If a farmer fails to nurture their crops, the crops will die. Similarly, your business loses customers if the account managers fail to cater to their needs adequately. In fact, 61% of customers would switch to a competitor after one bad experience, according to Zendesk’s 2022 Customer Experience Trends Report


2. Customer journey stage: Pre-Sale vs. Post-Sale

The sales team owns the pre-sale customer journey stage. They actively seek leads, nurture them into prospects, and eventually into paying customers. Once a prospect becomes a customer, the sales team hands them over to the account managers. 


The account managers take care of the post-sale stage — focusing on delivering a positive experience throughout the customer interactions. They onboard the customer, answer any questions they have, and set up regular check-ins to make sure the customer is satisfied with their experience.


Learn: Expert prospecting advice that will transform your sales game


3. Timeline: Finite vs. Indefinite

Sales has a finite and shorter timeline compared to account management. 


The sales cycle length differs from one industry to another. For example, most B2B brands spend 4–6 months on average to acquire new customers. And enterprise sales can take as long as twenty-four months


Unlike sales, account management does not have a finite duration. From the moment the sales team closes a new deal, account management kicks in and continues indefinitely — even beyond the customer journey in some cases. Say a customer churns; their account manager might attempt to win them back. 


Sales is often a one-and-done process. Account managers, on the other hand, nurture customer relationships continuously to drive repeat patronage and, ultimately, word-of-mouth marketing. 


Related: How to convert leads into sales pipeline


4. Profit Timeline: Immediate vs. Long Term 

Sales yields short-term profit, while account management provides profit in the long run. In sales, the strategy circles around profit upfront. You close the deal and earn your commission immediately.


Account management is much more long-term. You spend months developing relationships with customers with the hope that they will upgrade, renew, extend contracts, and stay with you for the long term. You won’t see a payout right away, but after you develop the relationship.


Your sales and account management teams should work together to grow your business 

In high-performing revenue teams, sales and account management work interdependently to acquire and retain customers. The sales team keeps the customer pipeline full. And the account managers provide customer relationship data to help sales managers identify leads with a high chance of conversion and retention. 


For the above-mentioned setup to succeed, collaboration is key. And the best way to achieve seamless collaboration is to use CRM software like Pipeline CRM. With Pipeline CRM, your sales team can easily track leads and prospects and hand off closed deals to account management — from a central software. Account managers get first-hand knowledge of deals in the pipeline and can plan ahead to support these soon-to-be customers. 


Try Pipeline CRM for free

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