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Sales Job Titles and Terms, Explained

Young saleswoman on a sales call wearing headphones on the phone with laptop open in front of her

For an outgoing, motivated person, a job in sales can be a pathway to a lucrative salary and a rewarding career. When you’re combing through sales job titles on career boards, however, the path can seem anything but straightforward. 

The problem is that many sales job titles don’t give much context to what the position entails. Typically, different companies tend to use different titles to describe very similar sales roles. This makes it a challenge to discern the level of responsibility it comes with and how much experience the position requires.

As a job seeker, you want to ensure you’re qualified for the role you’re applying for, otherwise, it’s a waste of time and can reflect poorly on your judgment. You also want to have a solid understanding of the job duties so you can accurately assess whether you’ll be happy in the role, which can be difficult when dealing with ambiguous job titles. 

We’re here to help with a guide to some of the most common sales job titles, terms you will see in sales job descriptions, and the answers to your frequently asked questions about different sales roles. 

What is inside sales?

The term ‘inside sales’ describes jobs done via phone, email, and virtual channels. Inside sales is the most common sales model for B2B, technology, and SaaS companies, though it can be used in any field. Inside sales are typically made remotely, with the salesperson working in an office, call center, or from their home. 

This sales field has a longer sales cycle, is often high-touch, and usually involves big-ticket items or services with long-term commitments, like contract-based products. More and more, inside sales representatives, work hand in hand with a company’s marketing department to move sales leads through a strategic funnel and ultimately close the deal. 

Inside sales is the preferred sales method for many companies that sell online, as this type of consumer likes to do their own research and arrive at a decision rather than having the experience of being “sold to” like you would in a product showroom or retail store. 

What is outside sales?

Representatives in outside sales physically go out into the field and meet with prospects, hence the term ‘outside.’ Think of the old-school door-to-door salesmen—this job is a quintessential example of outside sales. A more contemporary example would be a pharmaceutical sales rep who goes and visits different doctors’ offices to showcase their company’s products.  

An outside sales representative typically does much of their work in transit, at home, from the car, or occasionally in an office space. Their work often takes them farther from home, with travel being part of the job, sometimes to different towns, across the country, and even to other parts of the world. Outside sales reps frequently spend time entertaining customers and prospects, taking them to lunch, coffee, etc.

Outside sales jobs typically don’t come with a strict schedule. In this role, you’ll have a good amount of flexibility in your work hours, but you’ll also need to be available at nonstandard work hours if that’s when a prospect wants to meet. The most successful people in this role typically have a wide network and are skilled at developing relationships. 

Outside sales teams are more expensive for companies to maintain than inside sales departments, but they also bring in more revenue. In an average organization, an outside sales force out-earns its inside sales counterparts by anywhere from 12% to 18%. Outside sales is a challenging job, but the healthy commission and bonus structure typical to the field can make it very lucrative for those good at it. 

Sales job titles hierarchy

The sales department hierarchy is similar across all industries and companies. The front-line people are responsible for bringing the customers to the finish line and earning their business. They might have very specific knowledge areas or cover a specific geographical location, but they have set goals and drive business. 

Mid-level sales jobs require overseeing multiple sales reps and are responsible for sales numbers for a team. They work to hit specific sales numbers and are usually more experienced than entry-level sales reps. This group reports directly to high-level executives and can help train and develop entry-level sales teams. 

High-level sales job titles include executive-level leadership and are responsible for the administration. They oversee larger teams and mid-level managers, keeping the company’s long-term goals and plans in motion. These team members have experience and education that prepare them for leadership positions.

Entry-level sales staff titles

Sales assistant

Sales assistants are great entry-level positions for anyone wanting to gain experience in the sales department. Assistants can work alongside account reps and executives and assist them with various tasks. This role might help with scheduling and following up with clients and accounts. It’s great for people who want to learn but have no prior sales experience and need to build up their resumes.

Customer care representative

Customer care representatives are typically working in a contact center. This role might deal mostly with customer service issues, but each communication with a customer is a sales moment. Some companies encourage these reps to upsell services and products to customers and measure their sales numbers. This is a great entry-level position that provides a lot of industry knowledge and experience that can help these reps advance. 

Sales representative/consultant

Some titles are used interchangeably in the sales field and describe the same type of role: a general sales job responsible for conveying the benefits of a product or service to make a sale. This person might work in an office, from home, or in the field (more on these distinctions in a minute). Titles like these sometimes have a modifier that gives you more information about the industry or product being sold, like ‘pharmaceutical sales representative’ or ‘automotive sales consultant.’ 

Common sales representative duties include conveying a value proposition, making persuasive arguments, overcoming customer objections, developing new leads, and maintaining ongoing customer relationships. If you’re resilient, a strong communicator, and enjoy working with people, a job as a salesperson may be a great fit for you. 

Sales associate 

Though this title sounds a lot like some of the other ones we previously covered, the role of a sales associate is primarily reserved for the retail industry. This face-to-face role is responsible for interacting with customers, answering questions, showcasing merchandise, keeping the store clean and orderly, and meeting sales goals. 

A sales associate is often an entry-level position, with more experienced associates working up to roles like shift leader, assistant manager, or store manager. 

Mid-level sales job titles

Account executive/manager

An account executive may be a salesperson, but they usually also have additional duties related to servicing customer accounts. In an insurance company, for example, an account executive can sell a customer a policy, but they also help them navigate questions about their policy, solve outstanding account issues, interface with underwriters, and work with other team members to develop new sales opportunities. 

A good account executive will have a strong knowledge of their industry, whether insurance, software, advertising, marketing, etc. 

Sales development manager

The sales development manager works with salespeople to improve their skill sets. Development leaders will organize training schedules and provide continued education to the teams. This might include role-playing, ride-alongs, coaching, and courses. This position will help if there are any sales offerings or promotions changes to ensure that sales reps are communicated with and feel comfortable with any new information.

Large organizations might have an entire team of sales development and training managers. It depends on the sales team size and how often training and development is required. These managers will typically work with underperforming sales reps to help them boost their results and meet their targets. 

Sales manager

A sales manager leads a team of sales representatives or sales associates. They help set the goals and metrics for each team member and report those results to the executive team. Managers are responsible for tracking performance and helping develop sales reps that require additional training. They might conduct ride-alongs to observe their team members and provide immediate feedback and regular one-on-one meetings to review sales numbers and performance.

Assistant manager

This term is often more general and covers more than just the sales team, but a knowledge of the sales process is important. In retail stores, assistant managers help the store manager to train and develop the team and hit sales goals. Day-to-day tasks include performance management, training, working directly with customers, and removing obstacles and roadblocks to finish the work. 

High-level sales staff titles

Senior sales manager

A senior sales manager is the leader of the sales department, responsible for motivating the sales team and keeping everyone on track to hit the organization’s sales targets. In a smaller organization, a sales manager may still make sales themselves, while in a larger organization, they spend more time coaching their team members and managing the department’s activities.  

A sales manager reports to the organization’s higher-ups and thus is responsible for compiling sales reports, projecting future performance, analyzing opportunities for growth, and setting benchmarks against which to measure performance. A good sales manager is motivated, organized, and a strong leader with several years of experience in a sales role. 

General manager

The general manager position is responsible for many associates, including more than just salespeople. General managers will oversee the full business operations for a certain branch or area of the business. General managers are responsible for creating and following strategies to help grow the business and hit performance goals. This position oversees the day-to-day operations, so it covers many departments, and each day could look very different from the previous one.

Marketing executive

In large organizations, marketing executives report to the CEO and are responsible for creating sales plans and driving new leads into the business. This role will develop the strategies and oversee the execution of the strategies. They work with sales managers and development leaders to get the best information for the sales teams on the ground. This role works on advertising plans, communication campaigns, promotional events, analyzing trends, and understanding the competition. It’s a high-level leadership position that typically requires a marketing degree and experience in advertising and sales. 

Common sales job terms defined

B2B sales

B2B stands for business to business. This type of sale occurs between two businesses or organizations instead of individuals. Transactions in this space are typically much larger and require multiple stakeholders in the approval process. The sales cycle is much longer, but you’re typically working with educated buyers who can articulate their needs.

B2C sales

B2C stands for business to customer and is the standard sales model in which most retail sales associates participate. It involves a customer needing something and purchasing it from a business. Many other types of sales fall into this general category, like direct sales listed below. 

Direct sales

Direct sales describe the process of selling products directly to consumers in a non-retail environment. Today, direct sales take place largely on the Internet and social media. Rather than being employed by the company whose products they sell, direct sales reps are independent contractors who earn a commission on every product sold. The Pampered Chef, Mary Kay, and Avon are a few well-known examples of companies that employ a direct sales model. 

While there are plenty of legitimate direct sales jobs, this is a role job seekers need to be especially wary of accepting the role. A proliferation of direct sales jobs listed online requires reps to buy a certain amount of product from a company before they turn around and attempt to sell it. These so-called opportunities often come with a pricey up-front investment and little real chance of a payoff. Instead, they make most of their money from reps recruiting others to join the organization. 

This type of structure borders on being a pyramid scheme, which is illegal and will likely leave you with less money than when you started. Be sure to thoroughly vet any direct sales job you’re considering and be wary of any that require you to put up cash upfront.  

Business development

This sales job differs from your general salesperson role, focusing more on strategy than closing deals. A business development representative is tasked with driving new revenue opportunities for the company, including market research, relationship building, cold calling, networking, negotiating partnerships, and more. 

While salespeople focus on converting the customers that are in front of them, business development focuses on identifying creative new customer segments that might not even exist yet. They look at how each opportunity contributes to the company’s overall objectives and zero in on those that make the most strategic sense. In a typical organization, the business development lead brings new opportunities and hands them to the sales team to close.

Most business development roles require several years of experience in sales, marketing, or business.  

How to find the right sales job title

Utilize the many resources on zengig to help you in your sales job search. Check out our career guide library, where you’ll find guides on hundreds of positions; our sample resumes, which will be especially helpful if you’re thinking of changing fields; and our interview questions and answers, which will help you ace your conversation with a hiring manager.