What is the difference between an account manager and a business development manager? I’ve heard this question more than a few times recently, which is why I decided to elaborate. A lot of people applying for jobs in sales don’t understand the difference between an account manager and a business development manager. It isn’t just the job hunters that misinterpret the roles of the jobs though. Some companies are calling their business development managers account managers and some business development managers seem to think they are account managers. Confusing isn’t it? The differences are explained below.
The job description of an account manager is that he is required to maintain and develop existing client relationships. That basically means that he looks after all commercial communications with existing clients. His job is to upsell and cross sell to the clients that have been assigned to him by the company.
A business development manager deals with prospective clients. He doesn’t develop relationships; he creates them. Business development managers deal with acquisitions only. There is no need for them to look after existing clients because of the way the company is set up or because of the product or service they are offering.
What is a Key Account Manager?
One other distinction that can be made is between the account manager and a key account manager. A key account manager looks after the entire relationship with the company’s most important clients. This can include project management, negotiation and strategic planning.
Earnings for account managers and business development managers are typically similar, although this depends on the industry. In some industries, business development managers can earn significantly more than account managers. This is typically true for industries where high value projects can be won, such as construction and IT.
Both roles are likely to be compensated with some sort of commission structure. However, in some industries business development managers roles can be performance based, or commission only. In this case, the business development manager works as an agent for the company and is effectively self-employed.
How to choose
Which role is for you? That depends. Business development managers are usually required to work completely independent. It is not uncommon for them to get little or no support in generating leads, or any other part of the sales process. If you like to work independently then this role may be the one for you. They often have to rely on either their own network, or cold calling. If you have a lot of connections in the industry you’re looking to work, this role would definitely be more suitable for you.
Account managers have to work with what they’re given, or better, whom they’re given. They clients they talk to their clients on a day to day basis are usually the same people. But if you don’t enjoy cold calling and if you don’t have the network to build new relationships maybe account management is more for you.