What did you call me? The power and peril of salesperson titles
The Business Journals

Lee Salz is a Featured Columnist for The Business Journals.

What did you call me? The power and peril of salesperson titles

When it comes to assigning titles to sales roles, executives often pay little mind to the inference associated with them. Yet, when a salesperson is handed a title, he immediately derives a message from it — and so will his clients.

One commonly used title is account executive. This title implies that the company has a well-defined strategy and process in place. It also suggests the position is a rank-and-file role filled by salespeople who are provided both an objective and a roadmap to achieve it. The one-word descriptor for the account executive is executor. Account executives execute the company’s sales plan.

Another often used sales title is business developer. This title implies that the role requires creativity. Business developers rarely get a roadmap from the company. Instead, they get an objective, and are expected to chart the course to achieve it. When I hear this title, I think about Indiana Jones: “Here’s the treasure we want. Figure out how to get it.” The one-word descriptor for this sales role is pioneer. The business developer both creates the plan and executes it.

Executives may be tempted to offer the salesperson titles such as: manager, director or vice president. These titles send a “management message” to both the salesperson and the clients. And it is highly likely that both parties misinterpret the salesperson’s authority because of the assigned title.

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