Account Executive Vs. Sales Representative

Account executives and sales representatives meet their company's sales goals, but the products they offer are very different, as are their education levels, median earnings, and job growth projections.

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Comparing Account Executives to Sales Representatives

Account executives build lasting relationships with companies seeking marketing opportunities, while sales representatives attempt to close sales with new clients. Readers will compare the degree requirements, salaries, job outlooks, and duties of these two professionals.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
Account Executives Bachelor's Degree $50,499 9% (Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers)
Sales Representatives High school diploma $42,672 6% (Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Account Executives vs. Sales Representatives

Both account executives and sales representatives sell goods and services to organizations, which means they should meet sales quotas dictated by their companies. Account executives sell advertising and marketing services. Sales representatives sell consumer goods to both individuals and companies, including everything from pharmaceuticals to cellular phones. To close a deal, these professionals both prepare and sign sales contracts.

Account Executives

The go-between for organizations and advertising companies are account executives. Before designing the advertising campaign, these professionals discuss a client's business goals. Once they are familiar with an account, they are able to coordinate teams of graphic designers, project managers, and web architects during the campaign development. These executives also build relationships with third party companies like print and web advertisers. Part of their daily routine includes calling or emailing clients to ensure they are happy with the marketing techniques and outcomes. This helps the account executive meet sales goals for their assigned accounts because updates can be made to the campaign.

Job responsibilities of an account executive include:

  • Researching new marketing trends, keeping their repertoire fresh for returning clients
  • Updating account files on client interactions, either digitally or hardcopies
  • Scheduling face-to-face meetings with potential and current customers
  • Contacting a client's product managers to establish sales target

Sales Representatives

Many sales representatives sell home products to individuals, such as air conditioners, but others use business directories to contact purchasing agents at other companies. The latter representatives typically sell office supplies, bulk food, and even medial equipment right from wholesalers. It is important for sales representatives to be familiar with their company's target market, whether that consists of inside sales among trading partners or outside sales with independent customers. Either way, they follow up leads on promising markets through sales calls. During these conversations, the representatives show their knowledge of product specifications by demonstrating how the product features will suit the needs of the client.

Job responsibilities of a sales representative include:

  • Attending conferences to demonstrate products and find new customers
  • Learning a potential customer's specific business regulations related to the product
  • Getting customers involved in incentive programs to increase loyalty and retention
  • Submitting orders on a customer's behalf, especially custom orders

Related Careers

Those curious about a future as an account executive could also enjoy a position as a marketing manager, as both find ways to sell products. Similarly, people serious about a career as a sales representative should check out a position as a sales manager, as both attempt to meet sales quotas.

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