The Difference Between Salespeople and Account Managers

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jun 27, 2008 @ 08:06 AM

The team at David Kurlan & Associates, helped the Worcester Business Journal to plan, and strategize its Sales Summit, being held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel  in Worcester MA., on July 30. As part of our involvement, we helped to form the agenda and identify appropriate speakers.  Chris Mott and Rick Roberge from David Kurlan & Associates, will handle sales and sales management topics, along with Evan Taback from TEM Associates. Pete Caputa and Mark Roberge from Hubspot, and Dave Hurlbrink from Landslide will handle the online marketing to topics.

We were also asked to be judges in the Central Mass Sales Awards contest.  This morning, I personally reviewed several dozen applications, some of which were very worthy of consideration.  Yet I repeatedly saw some of the same patterns in the nomination applications as I see when Objective Management Group evaluates sales forces.

Most executives aren't able to differentiate between top salespeople and top account managers - and there is a huge difference!  An account manager is someone who manages specific accounts, takes care of one's customers/clients, solves their problems, holds their hands, maintains the business and keeps competitive hunters away.  They are very, very important to a business, but to call them salespeople is unfair to the salespeople who are in the field selling.  Account managers typcially aren't expected to generate much new business and as a result, aren't really producers.  Yet their managers look at the revenue their account managers "manage" and suddenly become hypnotized by the number - fooled into believing that these account managers are their top salespeople.  Wrong.

Another version of account manager, the Major Account Manager or National Account Manager, is really a farmer. Assigned just one or two accounts, the farmer's job is to grow these large, existing customers.  That's closer to selling, but...

The salesperson's or producer's primary responsibility is to grow sales by finding and closing new business.  These hunters and closers have a much more difficult assignment, often having to make cold calls and unseat incumbent vendors to reach and exceed their goals. Yet, their performance is usually compared with the simpler assignment held by their account manager cousins and management often fails to see that they aren't comparing apples to apples.  Look at it this way.  Salespeople are pushing container trucks - up-hill.  Account managers are passengers in the truck.  Salespeople are looking for people they can convert.  Account managers are preaching the choir.

Back to the nomimation papers. As the sales thought leader who has done more to bring attention to this matter than anyone else, it was painful for me to read the nominations of account managers for the recognition of one of the Sales Awards.  While I'm certain they are deserving of recognition for their terrific account management success, I can't nominate even the most accomplished account managers for salesperson of the year.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: leadership

Top 10 Ways to Drive Sales

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 25, 2008 @ 07:06 AM

Let's assume that you have the right people, compensation, incentives, systems and processes in place.  Are you all set?  Hardly.  You still have to drive sales because in most companies sales don't happen by themselves. The companies that do that the best follow these steps:

  1. Evaluate their sales force 
  2. Set clear expectations
  3. Identify necessary behaviors required for the results
  4. Get buy-in and commitment from their salespeople and managers
  5. Support the effort with training, development and coaching
  6. Hold their people accountable for behaviors and results
  7. Frequently and clearly communicate the expectations
  8. Demonstrate top management's commitment to the expectations, behaviors, training, development and coaching through participation and communication.
  9. Replace non-performers
  10. Hire A players

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, recruiting, accountability, leadership, assessment

How to Choose a Sales Consulting Firm

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Jun 23, 2008 @ 17:06 PM

How do you choose a sales consultancy firm?  That's one of several questions posed to me today by Leah Rust, who interviewed me for's podcast.  I was also asked if now is the time to invest in sales training - you should hear my answer. To hear the entire 8 minute interview, click here. If you're a regular reader but haven't heard the words directly from my mouth, it's probably worth checking out!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: leadership

Improve Sales Effectiveness at the Salesperson's Hall of Fame

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Jun 15, 2008 @ 23:06 PM

This weekend we visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY and I was struck by a few things:

1) Why don't we have a Hall of Fame for Salespeople?  I know that companies provide awards for their own salespeople but is that limited recognition enough for those who are motivated most by recognition?

2) Why don't we have a better historical record of the developments made in selling?  When I was writing Baseline Selling in 2004-2005, I had the advantage of being a 30-year student of sales plus a respect for the history of the profession. But memory and recollection are not enough to make the pages of a book accurate and there wasn't any one source I could rely on to get the facts, dates and experts nailed down.

3) Why don't we have a more effective marketing machine to promote the profession of sales to those who might enter the field?  As kids we were out there playing baseball whenever we could find the time and many of us continued to play through high school.  I haven't seen many kids playing salesperson.  Perhaps we need to promote and glamorize the greatest salespeople in our profession so that kids want to be like them when they grow up.

4) Our six-year old son thought the highlight of the Baseball Hall of Fame was Abbott and Costello's Who's on First?  While there have been quite a few movies whose characters were salespeople, the classic that people relate to is the depressing Death of a Salesman.  Why can't we have a movie or a short that represents salespeople in a memorable, positive and honorable way?

So what can you do about this?

  1. Recognize your salespeople.
  2. Promote the profession of sales in your community.
  3. Promote and call attention to your best salespeople beyond your company.
  4. Teach your salespeople about the history of selling and early sales gurus like Elmer Wheeler, Frank Bettger and Dale Carnegie.
  5. Comment right here on this blog with your ideas for how we can recognize salespeople for their accomplishments, but on a grander scale and stage.  What can we use for criteria?
  6. Make sure that everyone in your company understands how important your salespeople are to the health and well being of your company.
  7. You want your salespeople to be better at selling value and selling more consultatively, yet your advertising says that customers should buy from you because of your products, services, features, benefits and customer service.  If you have a kick-ass sales team, put them in your ads!
  8. Baseball players have hitting coaches, pitching coaches, baserunning coaches, bullpen coaches, base coaches, and infield and outfield coaches. Give your salespeople the world-class coaching, training, conditioning, and management that baseball players get. 
  9. Build more of a sales culture - demand that your passive salespeople, who take orders, become more effective hunting for and closing new business.
  10. Subscribe your salespeople to newsletters like Baseline Selling Tips or something else that provides consistent reminders and encouragement.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, leadership, Motivation

Magazine Rack for the Best Sales Advice on the Web

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Jun 11, 2008 @ 14:06 PM

Guy Kawasaki is at it again. This time he is behind Alltop, a magazine rack that points us to the best reading on the internet.  This week, debuted, pointing us to the best sales blogs on the web.  To make it even more interesting, to get people more engaged and undoubtedly to generate some buzz, they are running a contest

That's the good news.

The bad news is that it may just force me to change the name of my Blog.  You see, the sales blogs at are listed alphabetically and Understanding the Sales Force will always be at or near the bottom of the page.  For the three of you on the planet who start with Z and work backwards, this could be a good thing.  But for the rest... Oh wait!  An email from Guy!  He moved Understanding the Sales Force to the third position.  Guy writes a column for Entrepreneur Magazine called Wise Guy but today, he's Nice Guy!

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 

Topics: coaching, leadership, Motivation

Obama and McCain - Competing Salespeople Fighting for the Big Sale

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Jun 10, 2008 @ 16:06 PM

This afternoon, Chris Mott and I were discussing Obama and McCain. Since I don't like either candidate, I feel somewhat protected and free to provide my political sales correlation.  I've never dared to venture into a political editorial and I don't mean for this to be one either.  Please read the following thoughts as they would apply to competing salespeople fighting for the same big account.

McCain wasn't exposed too much during the primaries, jumping to an early lead and not facing much competition.  He'll finally go head to head against Obama this summer and fall while millions of people watch, listen and form opinions.  What they'll likely do, regardless of which candidate they initially preferred, is perform a side by side comparison, akin to what many companies do with their vendors.

They'll say that next to Obama, McCain seems really old, sometimes unsure of what he wants to say, supports the war in Iraq, and doesn't speak with nearly as much passion.  They'll also say that he has a lot of experience, both domestically and in foreign affairs, that could serve the country quite well.

They'll say that next to McCain, Obama has energy, charisma, ideas for change, the ability to shine either one-on-one or from the podium, and great leadership qualities.  They'll also cite his affiliation with Reverend Wright, lack of experience and the negative campaign he ran against Hillary.

This is a classic RFP "opportunity".  If you simply look at their response to the RFP's, they are similar humans, available at the same price, both able to step into the role of President and assume the duties. They are commodities.

If we look beyond the RFP's and interview the two candidates, Obama will likely come across as the more likable, memorable, dynamic and even quick on his feet.

If we look beyond the interviews, check their background, history and references, we may find that McCain has a better track record, better references, makes no empty promises and even brings up issues we may not want to address.

So the sales question is, as voters (prospects), do we simply compare their proposals (commodities), factor in the interviews (value added) or check references, background history and track record (trusted partner)? If we only choose to comparie their proposals, the decision will be made based on where the candidates stand with regard to the issues (pick).  If we go to the interview stage, the decision may be to go with the candidate who interviews the best (Obama?).  If we go as far as references, background history and track record, we'll get to understand the candidates' character, ability to perform under pressure, reliability and likelihood of success in the job (McCain?).

Now the question for you and your sales force is, do your salespeople provide you and your company the opportunity to get to the third level described above, or are they taking the easy way out, submitting their proposals and allowing their prospects to commoditize you?

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan 


Topics: coaching, leadership, Motivation

Salespeople Aren't Made of Glass

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Sun, Jun 01, 2008 @ 22:06 PM

I suspect that most parents with young kids have kitchen tables with wooden tops, not the glass tabletop that we have. Our six-year old son and his friends manage to get more of a mess on the underside of the tabletop than on the top side.  So, if the parents with wooden tabletops don't see the mess, does that mean it isn't there?

Many executives take the same approach with their sales forces.  The  problems that prevent salespeople from achieving the desired results,  are on the underside of the salespeople - under the skin.  Executives may see symptoms, like failing to hit quota, not enough new appointments, or low conversion rates.  They may even see more subtle symptoms, like too much talking and not enough listening and asking questions. But they don't see The Mess, the underside, the reasons for that behavior.  And if they don't see it, it must not exist.

That's where the uncertain economy comes in.  As more companies are affected by the economy and more salespeople struggle to get business closed, executives begin to realize that there is a mess underneath; they just can't see it because their salespeople aren't made of glass. But there are fingerprints under there, the DNA of sales effectiveness, and there will never be a better time to get that mess cleaned up.  Have your sales force evaluated, discover what's underneath, clean up your mess, and watch sales soar, even in an uncertain economy.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: coaching, leadership

The Future of Sales Presentations?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, May 28, 2008 @ 22:05 PM

Not too long ago, our only option for making a presentation, holding a meeting or conducting a seminar was to get in our car, hop on a plane, show up and shake hands.  Then came web applications like WebEx which, in many cases, allowed us to present without leaving our desks.  Pretty cool.

So what's next you ask?  What if I told you that in the not too distant future, you'll be able to present, at the actual meeting, without being there? I'm talking about a live, holographic image of - you!  Don't believe me?  Check out this video preview of the future.  Personally, I think this is awesome!

Is there a downside of all of this technology?  You bet.  First, if your salespeople aren't dynamic, passionate, animated, and memorable, then using and hiding behind this technology won't help their case.  Second, even with the breakthroughs accomplished with this technology, some customers and clients will need to look your salespeople in the eyes and shake their hands before agreeing to spend money.  No technology will ever replace that.  Finally, if your salespeople suck at selling, they'll suck even more this way because most of this technology provides additional opportunities to make presentations and when your salespeople are presenting, they aren't asking questions, listening and uncovering their prospects' compelling reasons to buy from them.

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: leadership

What Impact is the Economy Having on Sales?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 27, 2008 @ 23:05 PM

Are you interested in sharing with my readers how the economy is impacting your company?  I've posted a survey that asks the important questions and we'd love to get your answers.  You can take it anonymously if or provide information so that we can ask follow up questions if the need arises.

Just click here to take the survey.  I'll post the results in a future article.


(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: leadership

Sales Tops Fortune Magazine's Best Advice Issue

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, May 13, 2008 @ 07:05 AM

In the May 12 edition, 19 accomplished people told Fortune Magazine about the best advice they ever got.  16 of those 19 were prominent business executives and no fewer than six of them cited something having to do with sales.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg was advised to always ask for the order and when the customer says yes, stop talking. I would add that with the Inoffensive Close, you're asking without your prospect realizing it.

Mark Hurd, Hewlett-Packard's Chairman and CEO, was told that it's hard to look good if your numbers are bad.  I would say that in sales, people won't listen for very long if you talk the talk without walking the walk.

Sam Palmisano, Chairman and CEO at IBM, said he's observed that the most successful people, the greatest leaders don't make themselves the center of attention.  I would add that the same is true of the best salespeople; it's not about them, it's about their prospects and customers.

Thomas S. Murphy, former CEO of Capital Cities/ABC, said the advice was not to spend your time on things you can't control and instead, spend your time thinking about what you can. I would add that the only things your salespeople can control are the number of times they pick up the phone, the quality of their conversations, the number of great questions they ask their prospects, their execution of the selling process and their thoughts.

Nelson Petz, CEO of Trian Fund Management, said his dad told him to get sales up and keep expenses down. I wouldn't add a thing to that one.

Charlene Begley, CEO of GE Enterprise Solutions was told to spend a ton of time with your customers. 

(c) Copyright 2008 Dave Kurlan

Topics: leadership

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About Dave

Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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