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Sales Manager Career Guide

What is a sales manager?

A sales manager serves as a key leader within an organization’s sales department, overseeing and directing the sales team’s activities and efforts. They play a pivotal role in achieving revenue goals, driving sales growth, and maintaining competitive positioning in the market.

These managers ensure that sales strategies align with the organization’s overall objectives, targeting specific markets, customers, or products. Their efforts are not only essential for immediate revenue generation but also for building long-term relationships with clients and sustaining the organization’s presence in the market. Through their leadership, motivation, coaching, and strategic planning, they help shape the success of the sales team and, by extension, the entire organization.

Duties and responsibilities

Sales managers perform a wide array of duties focused on guiding their sales team to success. They develop sales goals and strategies, aligning them with broader organizational targets. They monitor sales activities, analyze performance data, and adjust strategies as needed to maximize results.

A significant part of their role involves leading and motivating the sales team. They provide training, coaching, and feedback, nurturing a positive and competitive environment. These managers also oversee the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding of new sales staff, ensuring the team has the right skills and competencies to achieve its goals.

In addition to their internal responsibilities, they often engage directly with key clients, negotiate deals, and resolve issues. They may work closely with other departments, such as marketing and product development, to ensure a cohesive approach to reaching target markets.

Work environment

Sales managers typically work in an office setting, although the nature of the work can vary widely depending on the industry and type of products or services being sold. They spend much of their time interacting with sales representatives, clients, and other stakeholders, both in person and through various communication channels.

Travel may be required for meetings with clients, attendance at trade shows, or visits to different sales territories or branches. The role often requires adaptability, as they must respond to changing market conditions, competitive pressures, and the unique challenges faced by their sales team.

Typical work hours

Sales managers usually work full-time, often demanding longer hours than the typical 9-to-5 schedule. This is due to the need to be available to the sales team, meet with clients, and respond to the dynamic nature of the sales environment.

Weekend or evening work may occasionally be required, especially during critical sales periods or industry events. Despite the demanding schedule, many managers find the role rewarding, as it offers opportunities for leadership, creativity, and direct impact on the organization’s growth and success.

How to become a sales manager

This career guide section outlines how to become a sales manager. The path involves a combination of education, real-life sales experience, and tactical leadership expertise.

Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree

Most managers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. The field of study can vary, but degrees in business administration, marketing, economics, or a related field are the most applicable. These programs offer education in subjects such as business law, management principles, and economics which are foundational knowledge areas for the role.

Step 2: Gain sales experience

Becoming proficient in sales is critical, as sales experience is typically required for this position. This experience is usually obtained by starting in entry-level sales positions. While in these roles, individuals learn vital skills like negotiation, product knowledge, and customer service.

Step 3: Develop leadership skills

Leadership skills are necessary for a sales manager because they will be leading a team of salespeople. They can develop these skills by taking initiative in their current roles, leading team projects, and seeking leadership training opportunities.

Step 4: Seek out sales management training

Pursuing additional sales management training can improve an individual’s chances of getting promoted to a manager role. This can be accomplished through workshops, seminars, or short courses focusing on effective sales management techniques and strategies.

Step 5: Advance to a manager position

After gaining the necessary education and experience, those aiming for a sales manager position should start applying for these roles. It can be beneficial to look for opportunities within one’s current organization or branch out to other companies. Persistence, networking, and demonstrating results-driven performance can lead to landing the desired managerial role in sales.

Step 6: Consider further education

While not always required, obtaining a master’s degree, such as a master of business administration (MBA), can help these professionals advance their careers. This higher-level education can provide a deeper understanding of business operations and strategic thinking and may set individuals apart in competitive job markets.

How much do sales managers make?

Sales manager salaries will vary based on experience, industry, education, location, and size of the organization. Factors such as the ability to meet sales targets, their unique sales strategy, and effective team leadership and coordination can significantly affect the earning potential for this role.

Highest paying industries

  • Securities and Commodities Brokerages – $178,770
  • Enterprise Management – $141,250
  • Natural Gas Distribution – $135,200
  • Oil & Gas Extraction – $128,000
  • Computer Systems Design – $127, 550

Highest paying states

  • New York – $150,930
  • Delaware – $147,280
  • Virginia – $144,830
  • New Jersey – $143,660
  • California – $140,820

Browse sales manager salary data by market

Types of sales managers

This career guide section highlights the various career types and areas of specialization for sales managers. Below, we explore the unique attributes and responsibilities of each job title.

Territory sales manager

Often managing sales within a specific geographical area, territory sales managers oversee a team of sales professionals while implementing successful strategies to increase revenue within their assigned region. They often work closely with customers and suppliers in their region to identify and capitalize on sales opportunities.

Channel sales manager

Tasked with developing relationships with third-party organizations, channel sales managers help facilitate sales through outside entities, such as vendors or resellers. Their role bridges the gap between the product or service provider and an external sales team, ensuring the message and product quality are consistent across all channels.

Corporate sales manager

Focusing on selling products or services to other businesses instead of individual customers, corporate sales managers play a critical role in the B2B (business-to-business) realm. They require in-depth industry knowledge and must forge relationships with other business decision-makers to secure large-scale deals.

International sales manager

Focused on overseeing sales operations beyond domestic boundaries, international sales managers develop and execute strategies that cater to global markets. Their responsibilities often include adapting products or services to meet the needs and tastes of international customers and navigating complex regulatory and logistical challenges.

Technical sales manager

With their work centered around technology-centric products or services, technical sales managers combine sales expertise with deep technical knowledge. They not only sell but also offer technical consultation to customers. Their interaction with clients extends beyond sales, often aiding clients in leveraging the product or service effectively post-purchase.

Top skills for sales managers

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a sales manager, including effective leadership qualities, sales expertise, interpersonal skills, and a strategic mindset.

Leadership capabilities

A vital aspect of this role is the ability to guide and motivate a team toward common goals. These managers must exemplify a positive attitude, show confidence in the team’s abilities and encourage them to surpass their individual targets, all the while providing constructive feedback and necessary training.

Sales expertise

A robust familiarity with sales principles and practices is indispensable. This knowledge allows them to understand market trends, identify growth opportunities, and devise strategies that align with the company’s sales objectives.

Interpersonal skills

Building strong relationships with team members, clients, and other stakeholders is key. They can foster a positive working environment and develop enduring professional relationships by displaying excellent verbal and written communication skills, demonstrating empathy, and showing genuine interest in others’ ideas.

Strategic thinking

Thriving in this role requires the ability to analyze sales data, identify trends and potential challenges, and create viable solutions. This strategic mindset aids in setting realistic sales targets, designing effective sales plans, and making informed business decisions that drive growth.

Sales manager career path

Sales managers often have a number of potential pathways to advance their careers. One common route is toward more senior management positions. With demonstrated success in their role, they could work their way up to regional sales manager, overseeing multiple sales teams across a larger area. On a grander scale, this career development may lead to a position as a national sales manager, directing sales operations over an entire country, or even an international sales manager, presiding over global sales activities. However, the jump from regional to national or global comes with significantly higher responsibilities and requires extensive experience and a comprehensive understanding of market trends across broad regions.

Alternatively, they may move into a different area of business. Their experience in driving sales and managing teams makes them well-suited to other leadership roles, such as a marketing director or business development manager. Either role would allow them to use their sales knowledge and leadership skills while exploring a different facet of the business. Transitioning into these career tracks usually demands a solid grasp of business analytics and strategy, focusing on long-term growth and sustainability.

A third progression path is stepping into executive leadership as a vice president of sales or, ultimately, a chief sales officer. These positions demand an exceptional degree of industry wisdom and leadership abilities, maintaining and guiding the overall sales strategy of a company. To reach this level, these professionals must show not just an aptitude for sales but a talent for strategic thinking, long-term planning, and insightful decision-making that serves the best interests of the business as a whole.

Innovations in customer relationship management (CRM) tools, analytics, and communications platforms allow sales teams to work more efficiently. Today, a sales manager’s success greatly depends on their ability to adapt and utilize these digital tools to understand customer behavior, monitor performance, and drive sales strategy.

Increasingly, these professionals must play a strategic role within organizations. As the business environment becomes more competitive, their traditional role is shifting from a primarily operational management position to a strategic one. Functions such as identifying new market opportunities, understanding customer needs, aligning the sales strategy with the company’s vision and goals, and leading the team to achieve sales goals are now part of a sales manager’s job description.

As customer expectations continue to rise, the importance of a customer-focused sales strategy is higher than ever. This role now involves understanding the customer journey and ensuring a seamless buying experience. This includes the after-sales process, where these managers play a crucial role in nurturing customer relationships and encouraging customer loyalty. Their success is now more directly tied to customer satisfaction indicators than just sales numbers.

Employment projections for sales managers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for sales managers is projected to grow 5 percent through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As industries become more competitive, organizations are increasingly relying on their sales teams to generate revenue, and this demand drives the need for more managers.

Sales manager career tips

Understand your product or service thoroughly

A deep understanding of what you’re selling is not just advantageous but also imperative. Comprehend not only the product’s features but the benefits it offers to consumers. A profound understanding supports your team in selling effectively and allows for a better selection of potential customers based on the precise needs of the product or service.

Focus on team building and development

Your success largely depends on the strength of your team. Select, train, and motivate your team members wisely. Lead by example and encourage ongoing training and development. Foster an open, collaborative, and supportive work environment that consequently leverages the team’s collective strengths.

Establish clear objectives and sales plans

Setting clear and realistic sales targets is of the essence. Develop comprehensive sales plans that outline effective strategies to meet these goals. Involve your team members in this planning process to enhance their commitment and ownership. Review these plans periodically to make necessary adjustments based on market conditions or team performance.

Build a professional network

Networking is essential in driving the sales profession. Connecting with industry professionals can help foster personal development, expose you to new opportunities and trends, and provide resources for problem-solving and innovation. Some networks and associations beneficial to sales managers include:

  • National Sales Network
  • The Sales Association
  • Sales Management Association
  • American Association of Inside Sales Professionals

Invest in continuous learning

Never stop learning in a rapidly evolving field like sales. Strengthen your expertise and further your career by embracing continuous learning. This could take various forms, including:

  • Certificates in sales leadership or sales management
  • Online courses on sales strategies and data analysis
  • Seminars and workshops on contemporary selling techniques

Where the sales manager jobs are

Top employers

  • Oracle Corporation
  • IBM
  • Microsoft Corporation
  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Procter & Gamble Co.

Top states

  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • Florida

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Monster
  • CareerBuilder
  • LinkedIn


What skills does a sales manager need?

A sales manager requires a distinct set of skills, including strong interpersonal, leadership, communication, negotiation, and decision-making skills. A good manager must also have a well-developed understanding of sales techniques and possess the ability to motivate their team.

What does a typical day look like for a sales manager?

A typical day for a sales manager might include meetings with salespeople, making data-driven decisions using sales reports, setting and tracking goals for the sales team, networking, customer meetings, and training and developing team members. They also often work with other departments, such as marketing and finance.

What kind of education is needed to be a sales manager?

A bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing, or a related field is typically required for a sales manager position. Many gain experience by first working in a sales role. Most companies provide on-the-job training to new managers.

Are there any certifications that can benefit a sales manager?

While it’s not mandatory, some sales managers choose to pursue certifications to augment their skills and stay current with sales strategies and technologies. Certificates such as Certified Sales Leadership Professional (CSLP) or Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP) can be helpful.

What traits make a successful sales manager?

A successful sales manager is goal-oriented, confident, and passionate about sales. They have strong communication skills, both for speaking with their team and with clients. They are good at multitasking and handling stress and are excellent problem-solvers and decision-makers.

What kind of work environment does a sales manager have?

Sales managers typically work in an office environment. Travel might be required for meetings with clients or other company branches. They may also work long hours, including evenings and weekends, especially when trying to meet sales targets.

Can a sales manager work remotely?

Many sales management tasks can be performed remotely, such as overseeing sales performance, training staff, preparing reports, and setting sales targets. However, it could be necessary for sales managers to occasionally travel or be on-site for meetings with clients or company executives.

What are the usual responsibilities of a sales manager?

The primary responsibilities of a sales manager include setting and achieving sales goals, supporting and managing sales staff, establishing sales strategies, and analyzing sales data. They also collaborate with other teams to optimize marketing efforts, improve customer experience, and ensure customer satisfaction.

How does the role of a sales manager differ from a sales representative?

A sales representative’s main role is reaching out to potential customers, promoting the product or service, and closing deals. In contrast, a sales manager oversees the sales team, sets sales goals, devises sales strategies, and coordinates between the sales department and other departments within the company.