sales roles

Sales Roles Defined

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Team Structure

Sales roles are often misunderstood and poorly defined. Yet, they’re crucial aspects of a sales team’s structure. 

One of the reasons many sales departments struggle is folks get attracted by titles, and don’t know what they’re actually supposed to do! They do what they think they should (or nothing at all), then chaos reigns.

Each member in a sales team has a specific job to do within the team and responsibilities to the other team members.

Do you know what the different roles actually do?

How does your current sales team structure work?

Does it make sense? Is it effective?

As a business owner, one of the most important things you’ll ever do is find the right sales team and set them up for success. 

Understanding how to do that can be a daunting process, but we’re here to help.

Here are the 4 basic types of sales roles, what they do, what you should expect of them, and how an effective sales process works.

Outside Sales

Outside sales reps go knocking on doors. They do the cold-calling, meet people in person and hunt for new relationships. When people think “sales,” it’s often an Outside Sales rep they’re thinking of.

Increasingly, they reach out via email, phone, and social media to make connections, but their primary focus is hunting for deals any way possible.  

Inside Sales

Inside sales reps usually work at a call center, answering the phones. They’re the first contact for new prospects who were brought in by marketing materials. In the past, they were considered “appointment setters,” but depending on your department structure, sales cycle, and sales process they can do so much more…

Their job is to convert an incoming request for information into a sale or an in-person appointment for the Outside Sales team. They aren’t directly involved in a hunting role and are instead in a reactive sales role.

Account Managers

Account managers keep the clients happy once the sale has been made. They handle the logistics and admin between your business and the newly contracted client.  

Oftentimes, they’re the ones delivering the work.  This means, that if you hire a digital marketing company, they’ll be the ones doing all things marketing and/or ensuring that everyone in the team is doing their part to complete the project.  

Account Managers free up the Inside/Outside Sales Reps to keep onboarding new accounts once a contract has been signed.

They act as a buffer between your company and the client, ensuring that both sides are satisfied.


Farmers play an interesting part in the sales process, and not all businesses have room on their team for this role. They’re a salesperson whose job it is to grow an account….they work to build relationships and deepen the connection with existing clients.

They’re not going out hunting for new clients. Rather they’re focussed on strengthening relationships and exploring needs with current clients in hopes of expanding the value of the account. They’ll seek to expand that relationship by having conversations with the account manager and the client on other solutions.

Because they’re able to easily add value to the customer’s business, they also create loyalty for your company. Once a client is loyal to you, it’s much easier to get them to purchase from you again. And again.

Oftentimes, the Account Manager is also the Farmer since they’re the ones directly talking with the client.  However, finding an Account Manager who can also be a Farmer requires specific Sales DNA and a sales skillset.  

Not all Account Managers can be Farmers and not all Farmers can be Account Managers.  As always, you have to qualify candidates in the interview process to determine if they are able to do what you NEED them to do. More on this below!

The only time you should combine sales roles!

Sometimes companies will create a hybrid Account Manager/Farmer position…and this is the only time we recommend combining roles on your sales team!

It’s possible for a smaller business to combine these two roles into one position since there is a fair amount of overlap. An Account Manager will naturally discover additional ways their company can support the client. In that role, they’re likely to be able to find new opportunities to expand the value of the client’s account over the natural progression of their working relationship.

In combining the two sales roles, you will lose some of the benefits of having a dedicated person for each position. But for smaller teams, it is a viable option.

Sales Process Overview

Now that we know what the 4 sales team roles are, let’s look at how the process works when you have a fully staffed and operational sales team…

  • A lead comes in, either from marketing or connections the Outside Sales rep has created.
  • Inside Sales converts the lead into an appointment for the Outside Sales rep.
  • Outside Sales closes the deal.
  • The Account Manager takes over the new account and ensures the delivery of services runs smoothly and the client is happy, while the Inside and Outside Sales departments get back to finding new clients. 
  • The Account Manager works with the Farmer to grow the account, deepen the relationship, keep the clients happy, and increase the value of the contract.


The most successful sales organizations use sales team structure as a key differentiator, and it offers them a tremendous competitive advantage. These teams are aligned to the company’s strategy, are optimized for efficiency, have higher levels of productivity, and generally create more revenue than poorly organized sales teams.

Not having clearly defined sales roles and preventing your team from working in their genius zone is a huge factor that contributes to burnout, poor performance, lagging revenue, and high turnover.

You do your business, your employees, and your customers a disservice by not having clearly defined roles within your sales team.

To discover how we can help you structure your sales team so that you are set up for success, contact us here. This one step can go a long way toward increasing your revenue, stopping the churn-and-burn hiring cycle, and improving client satisfaction.

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