What is the Difference Between Account Management and Sales?


On the surface, account management and sales have a similar set of goals: build strong relationships with clients and increase profitable revenue.

Both functions are important in order for your organization to be successful, but they require two different skill sets.

Let’s begin by defining the two roles, and then exploring the differences.

What is Sales?

Most of us know what the role of a salesperson includes. A sales rep is typically responsible for prospecting to find new clients, and meeting their sales quotas by converting prospects into buying customers.

What is Account Management?

Account management is a client-facing, post-sale role. Once the deal is won, the account manager continues to build a strategic relationship with the customer—ensuring they’re achieving the highest level of satisfaction, and advising them on long-term growth strategies.

Account managers keep customer service and customer success top of mind. They also focus on business development and growing accounts through upselling and cross-selling opportunities.

Are the Two Roles Ever Combined?

Both sales and account management are critical roles, but not every company will have a dedicated team of account managers. Depending on the size of your company and sales force, the two roles may be combined. 

Even if your sales team is responsible for strategic account management, it’s important to understand the different skills required so that both roles can be executed successfully.

Skills a Sales Representative Needs for Success

As always, there will be some variation to what a specific job or role requires because every company’s environment and goals are unique.

A strong sales representative will typically have a “hunter” mentality, and should have the skills to move a prospect through each stage of the sales process:

  • Prospecting: self-management and persistence is key
  • Developing rapport: a rep should be able to identify a buyer’s behavior style and tailor their communication to match
  • Questioning: asking open-ended questions to uncover a prospect’s wants and needs and listening to understand, not to respond
  • Influencing: a sales rep must have strong product knowledge and confidently demonstrate how the benefits align with the buyer’s wants and needs
  • Closing: a salesperson must feel confident asking for the sale

Skills an Account Manager Needs for Success

The role of an account manager requires more of a “farmer” mentality. After a prospect has converted to a customer, the account manager focuses on nurturing the relationship and helping it grow to its full potential.

An account manager must be able to identify key accounts and prioritize their time based on which accounts have the most potential for growth and longevity. AM’s need the following skills to be successful:

  • Relationship building: this requires communicating effectively and taking a consultative, buyer-focused approach with all client interactions
  • Prioritization: account managers should be happy to help their clients, but they must understand which accounts to prioritize in order to maximize revenue potential
  • Long-term thinking: unlike sales reps who tend to think shorter term (i.e. converting prospects into customers and making sales) AM’s must focus on building strategic and long-term relationships and defending their accounts from competitive encroachment


Both Account Management teams and Sales teams have the end goal of increasing revenue, but the paths they use to get there can be very different.

Whether your business has a dedicated team of account managers or you’re relying on your sales reps to fulfill both roles, you should be sure your people have the skills necessary to build and maintain long-term relationships with key clients.

The Brooks Group’s Strategic Account Management training program teaches participants a highly-practical system for identifying key accounts and developing them in ways that will strengthen the client relationship—and drive additional sales revenue for your company. Learn More.



Behavior Style Communication Guidelines

Understanding the behavior style of your team members and prospects is essential to better communication and sales effectiveness. Use this easy communication guide to learn the RIGHT and WRONG ways to interact with each behavior style.

This guide will show you:

  • The behavior tendencies and preferences for each of the 4 behavior styles in the DISC model
  • Ways you can improve communication with each style
  • Communication approaches that may potentially cause conflict with each style

Laura Lloyd

Laura Lloyd is a Regional VP of Sales for the Brooks Group. Laura is passionate about enabling every sales team she works with to achieve its full potential. Using her strong communication and consultative skills, Laura connects with an organization’s stakeholders to understand where the company is today, and where it needs to be in order to grow and thrive into the future.

Published on April 11, 2018

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