How To Become a Sales Manager

Why are sales managers valuable to a business? Explore how to become a sales manager along with the skills, experience, and education to succeed in the role.   
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Without individuals monitoring and managing an organization’s sales process, the chances of that organization thriving are next to none. Companies rely on sales managers to motivate, coach, and orchestrate sales teams responsible for bringing in revenue. Talented sales managers drive sales and play a key role in delivering profits. 

How does someone become a sales manager? Learn more about this exciting role, including its responsibilities and projected job growth. 


Role and Responsibilities of a Sales Manager

Sales managers lead teams responsible for selling a company’s products or services. They set sales goals and quotas, and recruit and train sales teams. They often play an instrumental role in developing the organizational sales strategy.

Because their teams constantly interact with customers, sales managers understand customer modes of thinking, concerns, and objectives. Additionally, because they keep informed about their customers’ buying behaviors, sales managers provide invaluable information that can help marketing departments effectively create messages that reach target audiences. Additionally, effective sales managers share essential customer feedback with research and development departments.

To target prospective audiences and identify promising sales strategies, sales managers gather and analyze data such as customer conversion rates, the time it takes a salesperson to close a sale, deals won and lost, and other vital metrics. Sales managers also align the activities of their teams to match larger organizational objectives.

Other responsibilities of sales managers include:

  • Managing stakeholder relationships
  • Handling customer concerns
  • Forecasting sales revenues
  • Predicting the profitability of services and products
  • Tracking customer needs to direct decisions about where to focus sales efforts
  • Organizing and delivering sales and product/service training  
  • Mentorship of sales professionals
  • Preparing and managing budgets
  • Analyzing sales statistics
  • Assigning sales territories

Education and Work Experience of Sales Managers

To secure a position as a sales manager, professionals need the proper education and experience. Most organizations require a bachelor’s degree in business administration, management, marketing, sales, or another related field. Studying business law, accounting, and statistics provides important knowledge that helps sales managers thrive.

To lead a sales team, sales managers need in-depth knowledge of the sales process. To that end, organizations typically seek job candidates with one to five years of sales experience. Sales managers also serve as leaders who mentor and support their teams, so job candidates need to cultivate  relationships, listen actively, and organize strategically.  

Traits of Effective Sales Managers

Sales managers are leaders. Consider the following traits that enable them to lead successful sales teams.

Ability to Motivate and Empower

Sales teams usually work under pressure. They need to find leads, meet quotas, and exceed sales targets, and they confront challenges along the way. Sales can fall through, sales leads can go cold, customers can express dissatisfaction. To charge ahead, team members look to leaders who motivate them.

Effective sales managers have a knack for inspiring their teams with encouragement and with problem-solving tools that empower them to take action. Successful sales managers present a vision that guides people to perform better, weather storms, and reach goals.   

Focus on the Details and the Big Picture

To lead successful teams, sales managers need to take into account each salesperson’s work in the broader picture of overall team performance. For example, individual assessments might reveal that some team members need help finessing their pitch; the strategy to persuade buyers. Perhaps the team’s outreach emails need an overhaul to hit quarterly targets. Whatever the situation, the best sales managers place themselves inside the headspace of individual team members and the client. This helps them appreciate each unique team member and work to improve each member’s potential.

Strong Interpersonal and Communication Skills

Sales managers spend their workdays meeting with team members to help them sharpen their sales tactics and navigate challenges. Sales managers also spend a good deal of time talking with customers as well as with colleagues in other departments. In all cases, sales managers need to communicate clearly and effectively, as well as build cooperative relationships.

To successfully kickstart and drive their teams, sales managers must demonstrate empathy, dependability, and flexibility. Sales teams that can rely on their sales manager to listen to and support them typically perform better. 

Likewise, customers who experience helpful interactions with sales managers feel more satisfied and become more loyal. Clearly, strong interpersonal and communications skills are indispensable for sales managers.

Salary and Job Outlook for Sales Managers

Organizations value the skills that sales managers bring to the table and reward them in kind. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), sales managers earned a median annual salary of $132,290 in May 2020. The highest earners made upward of $208,000 a year.

Discover What It Takes to Become a Sales Manager