Which Of These 8 Sales Roles (And Salaries) Are Right For You?

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If you’re unfamiliar with the SaaS sales world and are considering entering it, the various sales roles you may hear can become quite confusing.

To help you make the right career move, we’ve identified and categorized eight primary roles within most sales organizations, along with sharing updated salary information so you can stay competitive. What’s interesting to note is that only 3 of the eight categories are engaged in selling a product, while the other categories focus on supporting those doing the actual selling.

It’s also worth noting that a person will often hold two of these roles in small startups.

For example, a ‘Full Cycle Account Executive’ combines pre-sales and sales roles.

Likewise, at a small startup, a lone Account Executive may manage 2 to 3 SDRs, which would be a management and sales role combined.

If you think it’s time to move on from your current sales role and level up, this guide will help you visualize the different paths you could take.

8 Types of Sales Roles

  1. Account Executive
  2. Outside Sales Rep
  3. Sales Development
  4. Post Sales Account Management
  5. VP of Sales
  6. Sales Manager
  7. Sales Operations
  8. Sales Engineer

1. Account Executive

This, of course, is the central role of the whole sales organization. For example, if you are a SaaS Account Executive, you are interfacing with clients as they come closer to making a purchasing decision.

Whether or not they sign and whether or not your company makes money ultimately depends on your ability to align your company’s services with your potential client’s needs.

SaaS Account Executives can make anywhere from $60,000 to $500,000 annually.

How much you end up making depends on the following factors:

  • How much demand is there for your product?
  • How skilled are you at selling your product?
  • How expensive is your product?
  • What are your commission structure and base salary?

The most common job title for this role is ‘Account Executive’ and its variants, i.e., Enterprise Account Executive, SMB Account Executive, etc.

Account Executive salary

2. Outside Sales Rep

This role is an Account Executive who doesn’t work in the main company office (or at all).

Outside sales reps pursue deals with a company’s most prominent potential clients. They work ‘outside’ because they meet in person with their clients rather than over the phone.

A company based in SF may hire experienced Outside Sales Reps in NYC, Chicago, etc., to pursue business with companies in those areas.

This is an excellent role for people who like to be independent. If you’re hitting your quota, it’s a role where you can do whatever you want with your day because you’re not in an office full of co-workers and managers.

Outside Sales Reps for SaaS companies are almost always well paid, earning an average base salary of around $50,000, but with OTEs can earn between $150,000 and $300,000 annually (some can make up to $500k).

Outside Sales Rep salary

3. Sales Development

As most B2B software companies know, marketing alone is far from enough to fill the sales pipeline substantially.

Enter the sales development team. It would help if you highly had highly skilled SDRs to scale your outbound sales process.

To deliver on revenue goals, salespeople need enough qualified opportunities.

SDRs are responsible for cold calling and emailing various potential clients to spread awareness of the product and try to produce a meeting between the said potential client and someone on the sales team.

This role is typically a gateway toward a substantial sales role. Compensation, including commissions, usually ranges between $50,000 and $80,000 in the SF Bay Area.

The most common job title for this role is ‘Sales Development Representative (SDR)’ or Business Development Representative (BDR).’

Sales Development salary

4. Post Sales Account Management 

Once a contract is signed, a SaaS company must work to maintain the business relationship with a client. This is very important because the cost to gain a new client is often so high (marketing, sales commissions, etc.) that there is no profit from an initial year of doing business but only from a second year if there is a renewal.

In addition to technical support staff to fix bug-related software issues, SaaS companies employ sales-minded professionals to maintain business relationships post initial sales.

These ‘Account Managers are responsible for checking in on clients, teaching new client team members how to use the product, and identifying up-sell opportunities. In some teams, the Account Managers will also be responsible for executing these up-sell opportunities. Thus they engage in actual sales too.

SaaS Account Managers typically earn anywhere from $50,000 to $130,000.

Post Sales Account Management salary

5. VP of Sales

Sales leaders have a manifold job. For example, while a salesperson is responsible for her revenue, the Head of Sales (titled variously as VP of Sales) is responsible for the entire company’s revenue!

VP of Sales are primarily responsible for creating a strategy that will enable all individual salespeople to be successful.

This may include tasks like messaging strategies for the product, determining which customers to target, organizing the team across verticals, and much more.

At a smaller startup, the sales leader will also be responsible for hiring and managing the entire sales team.

This means holding salespeople accountable for quotas, training, coaching, etc.

At a large company, the sales leader will manage several sales managers, focusing more on strategy and less on actual management.

Additionally, for vast and essential deals, sales leadership may roll up their sleeves and get hands-on involved in some selling. This is rare, but it happens from time to time.

The compensation for sales leadership varies widely. High-level sales leadership at companies like Oracle and IBM likely earn close to seven salaries. Yet sales leaders at startups who gain equity stand to make a hefty payday if and when their company is acquired or IPOs. Expect to earn at least $120k if you land this role, potentially making 300k and above.

VP of Sales salary

6. Sales Management

When it is distinct from Sales Leadership, this role usually happens in medium-sized or larger companies. This is because the sales leader can generally personally manage up to 10 people.

As a company grows, usually, the first sales manager they’ll hire or promote that is separate from the sales leader is the SDR Manager, responsible for the SDR team. SDR Managers can earn up to $120,000 – $180,000 annually, with bonuses and commission included.

As a company grows more, the sales team becomes split along verticals. These verticals can be based on company size (SMB, Mid Market, and Enterprise) or industries (Insurance, Manufacturing, Retail, etc.). Often each vertical will have its manager, and these various managers will report to the sales leader.

While sales leaders create the strategy for the sales team, sales managers implement this strategy. They work with individual contributors and combine encouragement, education, and pressure to make the team deliver.

Sales managers for SaaS companies will earn between $100,000 to $200,000 annually, with commissions and bonuses included.

Sales Manager salary

7. Sales Operations

Support staff for the sales team in SaaS companies typically fall into two categories. The first category is those who work in ‘Sales Operations.’

At larger companies, sales leadership may not have the capacity to thoroughly analyze all of the different procedures on the sales team.

In this case, the operations team will, with the sales leadership, evaluate how things are done on the sales and pre-sales team to maximize effectiveness. The operations team is essentially responsible for making sure things are run smoothly.

People who work in sales earn between $80,000 and $100,000 annually.

Sales Operations salary

8. Sales Engineers

For companies that sell highly complex technical products, Sales Engineers will accompany salespeople to client meetings to answer specific client questions and to run product demos.

While the Account Executive will address business concerns and implications of using their product, the Sales Engineer will speak with the client’s engineers about their technical problems.

These folks are often paid as high as software engineers, earning between $100,000 and $250,000 annually.

Sales Engineer salary

The world of SaaS sales offers a range of diverse and specialized roles. While only three out of the eight primary roles directly involve selling a product, the others provide crucial support to the sales process. It is not uncommon for individuals to hold multiple roles, especially in small startups. Salary ranges vary across these roles, depending on factors such as demand for the product, sales skills, product pricing, and commission structures. Whether you are considering a career transition or looking to level up in your sales role, understanding these different paths can help guide your decision-making process.

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