7 Types of Sales Jobs: Which Role Is Right for You?

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Sales Management : 11 min read

7 Types of Sales Jobs: Which Role Is Right for You?

There are loads of different types of sales jobs out there, and getting started in the industry can be a little daunting.

Each job has different working hours, structure and of course, varying salaries. But on top of that, every sales job has its own expectations and commissions.

Before applying for a sales job, you should know what to expect in an average day in the position, and if it's an ideal fit for your skills and personality.

Let's dive into what seven different types of jobs look like in the sales industry.

1. Sales development representative (SDR)

Sales development reps (which are also sometimes called business development representatives) are kind of on the frontline in a sales team.

The role involves reaching out to potential new prospects and making sure that they would be a good fit for the business.

What your typical day will look like and what you can expect to earn

An SDR is usually the first person in a sales team responsible for filling a prospect pipeline. A large part of an SDRs day will be researching, prospecting, and qualifying leads, so if you want to be an SDR, it's likely you'll be spending a lot of time chasing leads on LinkedIn and making cold calls.

You will also be responsible for chasing up leads who've entered a sales funnel through a mailing list, or information request. Once an SDR has qualified a lead, they then hand them to a sales rep in the company who can nurture them further down the sales funnel.

It's important to know that an SDR isn't involved in closing sales and they rarely have a sales quota they need to meet (those pressures are typically saved for sales reps and account executives who are higher in the food chain). Instead, an SDR's daily work output is measured by the number of calls and emails they make.

An SDR will always have a base salary (averaging 50k), and the commission will usually be built around how many solid leads you pass on to sales reps that become clients.

This role is a good fit if…

You love talking and can hold a conversation with a stranger. Most of your day will be spent on the phone and chasing leads which may or may not have already shown an interest in your product. You’ll need excellent verbal and written communication skills, as well as a high tolerance for being hung up on. So if you plan on being an SDR, you might want to read our guide on how to cope with sales rejection.

2. Outside Sales

In outside sales, you'll either be based on the road or in an office that is away from the company's main headquarters.

What your typical day will look like and what you can expect to earn

As an outside sales rep, you'll be taking care of and meeting with big ticket clients.

Larger accounts take more time and effort to land. Therefore, companies normally rely on outside sales reps to be on the road, travel to prospect’s offices, and bring bigger clients on board.

You’ll rarely be in a normal office environment. You’ll need to have a disciplined approach to your working day to make sure you have time to organize meetings and connect with prospects. As outside sales reps are on the road and making an effort to see people face-to-face, they are generally in charge of a companies biggest clients and keeping them happy.

But with the extra responsibility comes perks. Lots of perks. Outside sales reps are typically reimbursed for their car and mileage, their cell phones, computers, and almost always have a customer entertainment expense account for wining and dining company reps.

Outside sales reps earn about 46k a year, but the commission opportunities are where they can make some serious cash. Outside sales reps are typically rewarded for each new account they bring to a business and will either be paid by a percentage of the total sale, or a flat fee.

This role is a good fit if…

You thrive on working at your own pace, and you hate micromanagement. Outside sales reps need to be savvy, well organized and have a lot of stamina. You'll be on the road and organizing your own time, but if you keep on top of everything and manage your schedule correctly, you'll be able to plan your day however you want (as long as you still hit your quota).

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3. Account Manager

Every sales team has an account manager.

Account managers are responsible for nurturing, building, and maintaining relationships with customers. Plus, they are responsible for creating ideas on how to make company products better.

What your typical day will look like and what you can expect to earn

This role is very customer orientated. On a typical day, an account manager will spend their time reaching out to customers and asking about their overall satisfaction with the product, as well as any constructive criticism they have on how it could be improved.

A typical phone call to a customer might also involve asking them if they're interested in either renewing their subscription service and up-selling or cross-selling additional products. Essentially, account managers become the customer's primary point of contact and help to negotiate their future purchases from the company.

Much like SDRs, account managers are measured by the number of calls they make in a day. But they are also measured on how much information they can gather from a client, along with how much extra revenue they can bring in through upsells and repeated product subscriptions.

An average account manager will earn about 59k a year, and their commission will depend on whatever structure is in place at the company. For example, inside sales reps could be paid a commission based on a percentage of the amount of a sale or paid a flat commission on any deal they make.

This role is a good fit if…

You are good with people. Once a prospect becomes a customer, an account manager will be their central point of contact. Account managers need to be aware of how their customers are doing and be willing to take care of any problems that arise out of using their products. If maintaining relationships and keeping an eye on customer satisfaction sounds a bit bland, this role isn't the best fit for you.

4. Account Executive

This role is the career progression goal for SDRs.

They’re the ones who the SDRs handoff leads to after they’ve been qualified and are ready to move on to the next step of the sales process. Account executives will also be involved in negotiating the terms of contracts and creating custom proposals to land deals.

What your typical day will look like and what you can expect to earn

Account executives wear a lot of different hats.

Using your previous skills as an SDR, account executives will spend their days running product demos and giving presentations to prospects.

When you aren't presenting to prospects, you will spend your time looking for potential obstacles a prospect might face when buying your product, and how to overcome them. To land bigger clients, Account executives are also responsible for crafting custom propositions, getting prospects to commit to a purchase, and negotiating any finer details that signing a contract might involve.

Account executives generally work towards quotas. They are expected to bring in a certain number of new clients each week or month and are typically given a commission when that goal is reached. For the extra effort, Account executives should expect to bring in a base salary of roughly 72k a year plus commissions and bonuses.

This role is a good fit if…

You love sales, and you're ambitious. An Account executive role is a natural progression for anyone in an SDR role. But being good at sales is only half of the skillset needed to become an Account executive. You will need to be a leader, be happy to spend a chunk of your day in meetings and on the phone, and be able to bounce back from sales objections like a boss.

If you're the type of salesperson that looks at an account that might seem impossible to win and instead thinks “I bet I could close that deal,” this job might be the right type of sales job for you.

5. VP of Sales

The VP of Sales (or Head of Sales) is the top dog of a company's revenue stream.

If you're looking for a high-pressure sales job, this is it. A VP of Sales is in charge of a company's overall revenue and the performance of a business' entire sales team.

What your typical day will look like and what you can expect to earn

A VP of Sales has a ton of responsibility. A typical day will be so full you'll hardly have time to eat lunch.

Apart from interviewing potential recruits and looking over the previous day's sales figures, you'll be involved in (numerous) sales meetings to discuss the company's sales pipeline. You'll also be in charge of building, tweaking and implementing sales strategies, coaching reps to get them to perform better, and attending out of office events to promote the company.

You'll also need to dive into figures like quotas and commissions to see if your sales reps are performing up to the standard you expect. And finally, if the company is trying to land a huge client, you might even have to step in and attend a pitch to make sure the deal gets closed.

So what will you be paid for all of this? It varies, but it's usually on the higher end of the spectrum for sales jobs. You can expect an average base salary of 118k, with bonuses and commission in the tens of thousands every year.

This role is a good fit if…

You need to be in a fast-moving environment and to be challenged every single day. Obviously, you should be comfortable managing a team and handling the pressure of controlling a company's bottom line. But you also need to enjoy analyzing figures, targets, and pinpointing opportunities for the company to improve its sales numbers.

This role is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be committed and invested in a company's growth.

6. Sales Engineers

For companies that sell highly technical or scientific products, sales engineers have an essential role in helping explain the product in simpler terms to customers.

What your typical day will look like and what you can expect to earn

As a sales engineer, a typical day will involve going to client meetings or pitches with a sales rep to answer client questions and to help demo a product.

While account executives are more than qualified to handle general concerns about how a product will fit into a company's tech stack, a sales engineer is needed to answer any technical concerns the company's own engineers might have.

This could be anything from the company’s developer asking about integrations to assisting with onboarding (for example, installing and configuring code).

Sales engineers earn, on average, about 100k a year. But the high salary comes with a catch: without a degree in engineering or computer science, you'll struggle to land the job.

This role is a good fit if…

You have a background in tech and engineering, but you also have excellent people skills. The role will involve you having to explain technical parts of a product in a way that your prospect can picture their value to their business. If you can't imagine spending your days doing product demos or explaining parts of a product over (and over), this role might not be your dream sales job.

7. Sales Manager

A sales manager is a key player in any successful sales team. They’re responsible for managing a team of reps to make sure they’re achieving growth and hitting sales quotas.

What your typical day will look like and what you can expect to earn

As a sales manager, the buck stops with you.

A typical day in the job role will involve meetings (both with prospects and coworkers) analyzing data and conversions, and setting team expectations. But your responsibilities don’t end there. A sales manager will also be in charge of setting and managing sales territories, and training SDRs to make sure they’re stepping up to the plate.

A sales manager has a ton of responsibility and a lot either sink, or swim. But there is a silver lining: the average base salary for Sales Managers is over 90k a year.

This role is a good fit if…

You’ve been in the sales trenches yourself. The backbone of a good sales manager is a strong understanding of sales pressures SDRs and AEs are under, and how to analyze and build on quotas and expectations.

Because Sales Managers are relied upon to train and get the most out of anyone from SDRs to Account Executives, management experience is a must. If you don’t have any, take a course or ask someone to take you under their wing and teach you. You won’t land this role without it.

Even if you start from the bottom, you can make it to the top

The great thing about choosing a career in sales is the versatility of job roles and the promise of career progression.

A lot of the highest paid salespeople started as SDRs. In the sales world, determination, hard work, and resilience can often get you ahead further than a degree.

Pick a position that fits your strengths and don't be put off if a job requires a lot of time cold-calling or pitching to prospects. All of these skills will be needed to progress your career in sales, and if you focus on building your skill set, a VP role is within reach to anyone who has a knack for sales.