In the ever-changing sales tech space, it’s too easy to get lost in the structure and responsibilities of every sales job you encounter.

What is it that distinguishes the SDR’s role from the BDR’s? Are the job functions of account executive and sales development representative interchangeable? What’s the difference between Chief Revenue and Sales Officers?

To answer these (and many other) questions, we’ve come up with simple yet extensive infographics for sales pros to show who’s who in the sales world.

Whether you’re exploring potential career opportunities or building your own team from scratch, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the common roles within any sales organization along with their main functions. 

Let’s start from the top and talk about the executive roles in sales.

Sales executives job titles and functions

The three common executive roles in sales are Chief Sales Officer (CSO), VP of Sales, and Sales Director/Head of Sales.

While they might slightly differ in their level of seniority, their key functions include:

  • Developing strategic plans and organization-wide sales targets
  • Communicating those to other C-level executives and reporting on their progress
  • Evaluating sales effectiveness and making the necessary changes to improve it
  • Identifying industry-specific trends and keeping an eye on market conditions

All in all, top sales executives define the organization’s high-level strategy and oversee its implementation at different levels, making the necessary changes along the way. 

This doesn’t mean a Head of Sales, for example, shouldn’t get their hands dirty with the daily processes and tasks if necessary. It’s a common practice for smaller teams, when a sales leader is in the trenches, to set up outreach sequences or close deals along with the rest of the team.

If we’re talking about top sales management roles, not all of them are necessary or should be represented in each and every team. Depending on the size and complexity of your sales organization, just one or two execs might suffice to handle all of the listed tasks. 

One more interesting thing to consider here is the role of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) that is gaining popularity with the adoption of revenue operations.

Compared to a Chief Sales Officer who is in charge of the organization’s sales/growth strategy and typically leads the sales team, the Chief Revenue Officer oversees all revenue-generating processes within the organization, including marketing, sales, and customer service functions.

Sales management roles and responsibilities

Next up, let’s talk about the middle management roles – those who lead the teams and are directly involved in the sales operations.

The common job titles you might see here are Sales Manager (or Sales Development Manager) and Sales Team Lead (or Sales Development Team Lead).

First off, there’s practically no difference between a manager and a team lead – although I feel like the second option describes the hands-on aspect of the role. The “sales” and “sales development” parts of the title, on the other hand, refer to the specific function the person oversees – i.e., account executives vs SDRs respectively (more on that later).

Generally speaking, these roles have the following responsibilities:

  • Oversee the execution of the sales (or sales development) strategy
  • Make sure the sales goals and KPIs are consistently met
  • Handle the team hiring, onboarding, and training
  • Monitor team and individual performance 
  • Build and refine the processes within the team

This means, sales (development) management is in charge of the day-to-day processes within the team, whether sales-related tasks or team management in general, e.g., SDR hiring, onboarding, coaching, and retention.

Some teams might also have a Sales Operations Manager role. This is a person in charge of the internal operations, processes, and tools used by the sales team. This is a more technical role, often responsible for managing data and creating reports and forecasts.

Sales development representative vs account executive

Now, let’s talk about the backbone of any sales team – SDRs and AEs. If management comes up with the strategy and oversees the implementation, it’s these sales professionals, the rank and file, who carry out the practical tasks related to it.

But what’s the difference between these two roles?

A Sales Development Representative (SDR or Sales Rep) is usually in charge of the initial stages of the sales process, i.e., lead generation, prospecting, qualification. Their direct duties are:

  • Handle initial contacts with the prospect (inbound or outbound)
  • Create and enrich targeted prospect lists 
  • Build and run engagement sequences across different channels
  • Qualify leads and deliver them to AEs

Account Executives (AEs), in turn, handle the rest of the sales stages like discovery, demo, negotiations, and closing. Accordingly, the list of their responsibilities includes:

  • Conduct discovery and deliver demos or presentations
  • Identify and address sales objections
  • Create and communicate value proposition
  • Negotiate terms and close the deal
  • Ensure smooth hand-off to customer success

There’s also one more role that is often confused with that of an SDR – Business Development Representative. 

A BDR is typically responsible for identifying and nurturing new business opportunities. So, unlike the sales reps who focus solely on new prospects, the BDRs can also work with existing customers to upsell and cross-sell other products or services as well as develop strategic partnerships with other companies.

Some teams might also separate the roles based on their focus, i.e., inbound or outbound opportunities. In this case, an SDR will traditionally handle the cold opportunities while BDRs will be responsible for communicating with the warm leads.

Wrapping up

When it comes to an effective sales organization, size doesn’t matter – as long as your team has a solid internal structure and properly allocated responsibilities, it’ll work like a well-oiled machine, regardless of its size.

Hopefully, this handy guide will help you navigate the tricky paths of different sales roles, titles, and responsibilities.

Here’s also a visual breakdown of the info to have at hand when you update your CV or interview candidates for your team.