10 types of sales jobs: How to choose the right career in sales

Not all sales jobs are created equal. The day-to-day work life of a sales director will look vastly different than that of a sales development representative. Choosing the right sales career path requires developing a clear understanding of the differences between each type of sales job. Only then can you decide which sales career path is truly the right fit for you.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most common types of sales jobs to apply for, starting with the most entry-level positions and ending with the more tenured sales jobs. We’ll talk about what each type of sales job involves in terms of day-to-day responsibilities and what hiring managers look for in candidates, along with average yearly salary.

Disclaimer: Average salaries vary widely by location and company. Our estimates are based solely on data collected by Indeed and Glassdoor.

Let’s get started with types of sales jobs!

Sales development representative (SDR)

If you’re new to sales, a great entry-level position to consider is sales development representative (SDR). Many hiring companies don’t require applicants to have previous sales experience, making sales development positions particularly appealing to people either straight out of college, or to those looking to change career paths.

SDR roles and responsibilities

As an SDR, your main role will be to prospect and move leads through the sales funnel. Typical day-to-day responsibilities include cold calling, emailing, and lead qualification. When it comes to hiring new sales development representatives, companies generally look for applicants who are:

  • Highly ambitious
  • Eager to learn
  • Easy to coach and mold
  • Strong team players

Sales development representative job description

Below is a real listing for a sales development representative at Zendesk. Pay close attention to the wording they use to describe the traits they look for in applicants:

Types of sales jobs: Sales development representative job description
Types of sales jobs: Sales development representative job description
Sales development representative job description

Most companies consider an SDR position the starting point for a long-term career in sales. For this reason, you’ll see a lot of SDR job descriptions emphasizing the importance of a positive, go-getter, eager, can-do attitude.

Keep this in mind when applying to an SDR position. Many companies would rather hire a candidate with less experience who is excited to learn and grow rather than a candidate with more experience but less drive. Consider listing these attributes front and center on your resume and job application.

Note: Many companies use “sales development representative” and “business development representative” (BDR) interchangeably. In fact, although companies may list job postings for both titles, you may find that both postings list the same roles and responsibilities.

Sales development representative salary

According to Glassdoor, the average U.S. base salary for a sales development representative in 2019 is approximately $50,198 a year, not including commission. Remember to factor in commission when calculating total yearly salary. See below:

Sales development representative salary

Inbound sales

The term “inbound” as it relates to sales usually refers to leads who have already expressed interest in your product or service. For example, someone who has signed up for your company’s newsletter, registered for a free trial, or sent an inquiry through your website’s chat box.

Inbound sales reps are responsible for reaching out to, following up with, and qualifying interested leads. Often, inbound sales reps have already had some kind of prior interaction with the prospect, whether through social media or as a result of the actions listed above. Reps sometimes refer to this interaction as “warm-calling” rather than “cold-calling.”

Inbound sales roles and responsibilities

Day-to-day tasks for an inbound sales rep include the following:

  • Using a CRM to connect and follow-up with prospects
  • “Warm-calling”
  • Qualifying leads
  • Responding to inbound calls, emails, and other inquiries
  • Prospecting
  • Occasionally interacting with marketing to obtain leads won with marketing campaigns

Inbound sales reps work extensively within the CRM or other digital sales applications. For this reason, hiring managers are going to expect candidates to possess skills and proficiencies in

  • CRMs (customer relationship management software),
  • written communication and typing,
  • computer applications, and
  • social media.

Additionally, inbound sales reps must possess excellent communication skills and a positive, welcoming attitude. Let’s take a look at a real example of a job listing for an inbound sales rep:

Inbound sales rep job description

Types of sales jobs: Inbound sales rep job description

Inbound sales reps are dealing directly with potential customers on a day-to-day basis. For this reason, most job descriptions will emphasize the importance of maintaining a positive and supportive atmosphere at all times. Consider demonstrating a warm, problem-solving attitude when applying for an inbound sales position.

Inbound sales rep salary

According to Glassdoor, the average U.S salary for an inbound sales rep in 2019 starts at a base of about $26,395 a year, not including commission.

Inbound sales rep salary

Outbound sales

SDRs and BDRs technically fall under the category of outbound sales. Definitively, outbound sales is when initial contact with a prospect is made by the sales rep rather than the other way around (inbound sales).

Outbound sales roles and responsibilities

The day-to-day tasks of an outbound salesperson include cold-calling, emailing, and other types of prospecting, as well as lead qualification. The main difference between SDRs, BDRs, and other types of outbound sales jobs is the close.

SDRs and BDRs don’t generally make the sale. Rather, they qualify leads and push them through the funnel so that higher-up sales executives can close the deal. Outbound sales, however, is a broader term encompassing other types of sales jobs, many of which are tasked with the actual closing of a sale.

When hiring outbound sales reps, hiring managers usually look for applicants who have:

  • Strong communication skills
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Personable and approachable personalities

Outbound sales job description

Here’s an example of a Zendesk job listing for an outbound sales position, explaining what they look for in a candidate, along with typical day-to-day responsibilities:

Types of sales jobs: Outbound sales job description

You’ll notice an emphasis on researching and generating new business opportunities for Zendesk’s team pipeline. As an outbound sales rep, you must be a team player first and foremost. If you’re excited about helping facilitate the success of your sales team, outbound sales may be perfect for you.

Outbound sales rep salary

According to Glassdoor, the average U.S. salary in 2019 for an outbound sales rep starts as a base of $38,635 a year, plus commission.

Outbound sales rep salary

Inside sales rep

Not to be confused with inbound sales, inside selling has to do with where sales activities take place. Inside sales reps work exclusively behind a computer, usually at their place of business or from home.

Inside sales rep roles and responsibilities

Inside sales reps generally use CRMs to conduct their selling activities. Day-to-day tasks include the following:

  • Cold-calling and cold-emailing
  • Prospecting
  • Qualifying leads
  • Following up with prospects
  • Closing deals
  • Storing and tracking customer data in the CRM

Inside sales rep job description

Along with the same sought-after characteristics of a general SDR or BDR, hiring managers often look for the following in applicants:

  • Strong writing skills
  • Ability to be animated and engaging over the phone
  • Multitasking abilities
  • Proficiency with CRMs (or a quick learner)

If you prefer a more stable work schedule and work–life balance, inside sales may be the right fit for you. Just remember, you must also be comfortable spending the majority of your days working behind a computer.

Inside sales rep salary

Indeed lists the average base U.S. salary for an inside sales rep in 2019 at $50,483 a year, plus an additional average of $10,000 a year in commission.

Inside sales rep salary

Outside sales reps

Outside selling, not to be confused with outbound sales, is considered the traditional way to do sales. All activity of an outside sales rep occurs in person, out in the field.

Sometimes, outsides sales looks like door-to-door selling. Other times, it’s simply the act of a sales rep traveling to meet with a prospect in person. While outside sales tactics are becoming less and less utilized, there are many companies who still consider outside sales to be their main source of business.

Outside sales rep roles and responsibilities

The day-to-day life of an outside sales rep is incredibly varied and often unpredictable. Workdays may include:

  • traveling to meet clients, near or far,
  • attending conferences and other corporate events for networking purposes,
  • cold-selling door-to-door, and
  • working within physical territories to meet quotas.

Outside sales rep job description

Due to the unique working life of an outside sales rep, the most qualified applicants will

  • love to travel,
  • be highly motivated and proactive,
  • thrive in unpredictable situations,
  • have exceptional organizational and time-management skills,
  • possess exception people skills and manners, and
  • be unfazed by harsh rejection.

If you love working with people face-to-face, an outside sales rep position may be a better fit for you than an inside sales rep. That being said, any rejection you do receive will also be face-to-face. If you get easily discouraged by failure, outside sales may not be right for you.

Outside sales rep salary

The average base U.S. salary for an outside sales rep, according to Indeed, is currently listed at $70,809 a year, plus an average $18,000 a year in commission.

Outside sales rep salary

Account executive

Becoming an account executive is the natural next step for SDRs and other nonmanagement sales reps. As an account executive, you will be expected to take more ownership of your accounts. Additionally, you will be expected to take on more complex tasks such as planning, reporting, and identifying new growth opportunities.

Account executive roles and responsibilities

Typical responsibilities of an account executive may include the following:

  • Forecasting sales
  • Generating leads
  • Bringing in new business
  • Upselling current clients
  • Reporting on sales activities and achievements

Account executives are also expected to have some previous experience working in sales. Hiring managers also look for the following traits in applicants:

  • Proficiency using internal sales tools such as CRMs (customer relationship management tools)
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Great track record of closing deals and hitting quotas (preferably in the industry you’re applying for)

Account executive job description

Let’s take a look at a real job listing for a Zendesk account executive in the U.K.:

Types of sales jobs: Account executive job description
Types of sales jobs: Account executive job description
Types of sales jobs: Account executive job description

As you can see, account executives are expected to perform at a much higher level than those in SDR and other entry-level positions. Also, take a look at the requirements section. You’ll notice that Zendesk is specific about the type of experience the ideal candidate should have (proficiency using the same technology and experience in the same industry).

If you’re planning on applying for an account executive position, make sure you are able to demonstrate an existing knowledge base for the applications and industries specific to the company you’re applying for.

Account executive salary

Indeed lists the average salary in 2019 for an account executive at $67,476 a year, plus a potential additional $23,000 in commissions annually.

account executive salary

Account manager

After a sale is made, it’s the account manager’s responsibility to manage and maintain the customer relationship. Primary goals include customer retention, upselling of a product or service, and referrals.

Account managers are the main point of contact for current customers. Their top priority is to ensure consistent and peak customer satisfaction.

Account manager roles and responsibilities

Day-to-day tasks include the following:

  • Identifying new sales opportunities with current customers
  • Speaking directly with customers to identify needs and answer questions or concerns
  • Building positive relationships with customers

Account manager job description

The main difference between account executives and managers is that account executives are still expected to bring in new business, while account managers work with existing clients only. Hiring managers usually look for candidates who are

  • approachable,
  • skilled at helping customers identify their needs,
  • dedicated to customer happiness, and
  • excellent at monitoring and following up with current customers.

If you’re passionate about building relationships with customers, you may want to consider a career as an account manager.

Account manager salary

Indeed’s estimated salary for an account manager in the U.S. in 2019 is $59,867 a year, plus an additional average of $15,000 in commission annually.

Account manager salary

Sales operations manager

If you love sales but prefer working behind the scenes, a career as a sales operations manager may be the perfect fit for you.

The main role of a sales operations manager is to ensure that your sales team and reps have the tools they need to be as efficient and effective as possible. This entails evaluating and improving sales processes. For example, a sales operations manager may determine that a sales team’s CRM is out-of-date. If they determine that an outdated CRM is negatively affecting sales rep efficiency, it is their job to find a better solution.

Sales operations manager roles and responsibilities

Other responsibilities may include the following:

  • Managing data
  • Forecasting sales
  • Researching CRMs and other sales tools
  • Creating strategies for organization and workflow
  • Monitoring processes for effectiveness and reporting

To perform well as a sales operations manager, you should possess

  • the ability to solve complex problems,
  • experience with tracking and analyzing KPIs (key performance indicators),
  • experience as a strategist (often 5+ years),
  • a can-do attitude, and
  • an ability to multitask.

Below is an example of a real Zendesk job posting for a sales operations manager:

Sales operations manager job description

Sales operations manager job description
Sales operations manager job description
Sales operations manager job description

Having a career in sales operations (and enjoying it) means being very data-driven. In order to properly assess and improve existing sales processes, you must have the patience to compile and analyze large data sets.

If you have experience and enjoy creating strategy based on data analysis, a career in sales operations may be the right fit for you.

Sales operations manager salary

Indeed’s average salary for a sales operations manager in 2019 is $63,075 a year, plus an average of $15,000 extra a year in commission.

Sales operations manager salary

Sales manager

Sales managers are just below sales directors in terms of seniority. In general, it is the sales manager’s job to implement a sales director’s strategy and vision. As such, managers directly oversee the sales team, monitoring all sales rep activity and ensuring that goals and quotas are met.

Sales manager roles and responsibilities

A sales manager’s tasks may include:

  • Monitoring KPIs (key performance indicators) and individual sales rep performance
  • Overseeing the daily activities of a sales team
  • Refocusing sales reps when needed to ensure that they stay on target

Obtaining a managerial role in sales requires extensive knowledge of how sales processes work, as well as a knowledge of what sales reps need to be successful. As such, many sales managers are hired internally and begin as SDRs, BDRs, or account executives. Skills hiring managers look for in candidates include the following:

  • Extensive knowledge of the sales process
  • Strong leadership skills
  • 8-10 years of sales experience
  • Creative and analytical thinking
  • Sense of accountability for your team members
  • Motivation and capability to help reps achieve success

Take a look at the types of qualifications Zendesk expects of its sales manager applicants:

Sales manager job description

Types of sales jobs: sales manager job description
Types of sales jobs: sales manager job description

In general, you can expect most companies to assume applicants for a sales manager position possess at least 8-10 years of experience in sales, and at least 2 years experience in a management role.

If you’re looking to build a long-term managerial career in sales, aspiring to be a sales manager is a logical career path.

Sales manager salary

In 2019, the average U.S. salary for a sales manager is $74,750 a year, plus a potential $23,000 extra a year in commission.

sales manager salary

Sales director

A more tenured role, sales directors are responsible for recruiting and leading sales teams. Becoming a sales director requires years of experience in a management position, along with an extensive background in sales processes in general.

Sales directors occupy a much more strategic role than other types of sales jobs, so if you prefer a more complex leadership role, sales director may be the best fit for you.

Sales director role and responsibilities

Main responsibilities include the following:

  • Creating the sales strategy for your sales team
  • Recruiting, onboarding, and training sales reps and managers
  • Motivating your sales team by being a strong team leader
  • Reporting
  • Forecasting sales

To be considered for a role as a sales director, you must possess

  • years of experience building, managing, and leading a team (10+),
  • analytical thinking skills,
  • long-term planning skills/vision, and
  • sales forecasting experience and expertise.

The Zendesk job posting below is an example of what companies expect when hiring a sales director:

Sales Director Job Description

Types of sales jobs: sales director job description
Types of sales jobs: sales director job description
Types of sales jobs: sales director job description

Aspiring to be a sales director is an ambitious goal that will require many years of experience in sales. However, with experience comes expertise, which merits a much higher salary than other types of sales jobs.

Sales director salary

On average, sales directors in the U.S. make $97,785 a year, plus a possible addition of $30,000 a year in commission.

sales director salary

How to find sales jobs

Now that you have a better idea of what types of sales jobs are available, you’re ready to start looking for new opportunities.

First and foremost, knowing how to get a sales job means knowing where to look. That’s why we’ve provided a list of some of the best websites and job boards for finding and applying for sales-specific jobs.

Pro tips:

1. Keep in mind that some companies may use alternative or made-up job titles in place of traditional ones. For example, you may come across a job post for an SDR with an alternative title like“deal-closer extraordinaire.”

Searching for jobs based on traditional titles alone may not yield the full breadth of opportunities available to you.

2. Utilize multiple job boards. Don’t limit yourself to searching for sales jobs in one place only. Although it may seem overwhelming, exploring multiple job boards at a time will ensure that you don’t miss out on any good opportunities.

3. Try multiple search techniques. Job boards like Sales Gravy (linked below) allow users to search for sales job based on multiple different criteria. For example, you can search by skills, title, keyword, company name, city, state, etc., or by a combination of these.

Searching by multiple different identifiers or key phrases will ensure that job opportunities aren’t pigeonholed by location or title.

Sales job boards

Sales Gravy: Their main website is a sales job community where users can receive free resources and courses. They also have a “job board“ subfolder dedicated to listing different types of sales jobs around the country. Applicants can search for sales jobs by state, city, company name, title, or other sales-related keywords.

Sales Jobs: Also an online job board dedicated to posting sales jobs only, this site allows users to create profiles, upload resumes, and be notified of new openings by email.

Sales Heads: This online job board is much more minimalistic than Sales Gravy or Sales Jobs, which search capabilities limited to “What” and “Where.” Nevertheless, users can sign up to be notified of new sales job openings based on location and title.

Additionally, general job search sites such as Indeed, ZipRecruiter, and Glassdoor are useful resources for finding sales job opportunities. Users can search for sales jobs specifically and can narrow results by industry, location, keyword, and more.

Choosing the sales career path

Understanding the nuances between different types of sales jobs will eliminate the chances of walking into a situation much different from what you had been expecting. Additionally, choosing the right sales career fit will mean understanding the differences in skills sets and day-to-day tasks unique to each type of sales job.

Think about what your life will be like in that role. Are the skill sets required a match for your personality? Can you see yourself in a similar type of role 5 or 10 years down the road? These are all things to consider when choosing between types of sales jobs and the sales career path that’s right for you.

Subscribe to the Sell Blog

Be the first to hear about product updates, as well as sales, productivity and CRM strategies.