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.
A sales manager in business attire leads a discussion with a sales team at a conference table.

Without sales managers, the chances of a business thriving are next to none. Companies rely on them to motivate, coach, and orchestrate sales teams that are responsible for bringing in revenue. Simply said, 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 the teams that are responsible for selling a company’s products or services. They set sales goals and quotas, as well as recruit and train sales teams. They often play an instrumental role in developing sales strategy.

Because their teams constantly interact with customers, sales managers understand customer modes of thinking, concerns, and questions. 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 key information about 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 key metrics. Sales managers also align the activities of their teams to match larger organizational objectives.

Other responsibilities of sales managers include:

  • Handling customer complaints
  • Forecasting sales
  • Predicting the profitability from the sale of services and products
  • Tracking customer needs to direct decisions about where to focus sales efforts
  • Organizing and delivering training and mentorship programs for sales teams
  • Preparing 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 at least a bachelor’s degree in business management, marketing, or another related field. Studying subjects such as 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 it’s important for job candidates 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, 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. 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 head space of individual team members. 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 work days 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.

The BLS forecasts a job growth rate of 7% between 2020 and 2030 for sales managers.


Discover What It Takes to Become a Sales Manager

How do you become a sales manager who can take decisive action in a changing business landscape? Discover St. Catherine University’s array of business degree programs, from organizational leadership to marketing to fashion merchandising to sales. Especially notable is the University’s BA degree program in business-to-business sales, the only program of its kind in Michigan and the only one in the U.S. created especially for women students. Learn how the University, including its dedicated leadership development program, equips graduates to lead, communicate, and strategize in today’s marketplace, including empowering sales teams and forging strong client partnerships. Consider how the ethical, sustainable, and rewarding future of business includes you — explore the University’s School of Business.

Recommended Readings:

How to Become a Transformational Business Leader

How to Negotiate for the Salary You Deserve

Why Organizations Need More Women in Sales

Sources:

Career Explorer, “What Does a Sales Manager Do?”

Chron, “Importance of Sales Management”

Close, “3 Sales Team Structures for Building a High-Performing Sales Organization”

Close, “7 Skills You’ll Need to Become a Sales Manager”

HubSpot, “10 Types of Sales Analysis Reports to Manage Performance”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sales Managers