You are driven, assertive, and passionate. These qualities make you well-suited to the exciting world of sales, but what if you want to step up in your career? The next logical rung on the professional ladder involves sales management, which builds on your past successes while allowing you to share all you’ve learned with team members who are just as passionate.
If you have any sales background, you can probably provide a basic answer to the questions, “What is a sales manager?” and “What does a sales manager do?” However, knowing how to become a sales manager can be trickier, as this is an in-demand career track that calls for an impressive resume. Below, we reveal the leadership and communication skills you’ll need to obtain as you take the next step in your sales career.
What Is a Sales Manager?
Sales managers play a critical role in the sales process. They are heavily involved in goal-setting, data analysis, and the general supervision of other sales-oriented employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps the definition of this role simple: “Sales managers direct organizations’ sales teams.”
The term “sales manager” refers to a specific job title and an entire career category encompassing several specific facets of sales. Examples include:
- Account Manager or Executive – As a client-facing role, account management largely revolves around the actions taken after a sale is completed. As long as the client partners with the company in question, an account manager will be needed to promote long-term satisfaction and client retention.
- Sales and Marketing Manager – Sales and marketing are closely linked, and often, managers with expertise in both areas are needed to plan marketing initiatives that help businesses meet their sales goals. Their work may involve development and project management.
- Sales and Operations Manager – Friction can arise at many points in the sales process, but thankfully, sales and operations managers know what it takes to alleviate these concerns. They hone in on the complex sales process details, including everything from tracking sales data to promoting alignment across departments.
- Regional Sales Manager – This is the Michael Scott of sales positions, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone passionate about working closely with sales representatives. The regional sales manager handles all the day-to-day concerns of the sales environment, overseeing everything from hiring to training, setting goals, and verifying sales performance. This job represents a natural step up for current sales reps.
- Chief Sales Officer (CSO) – An essential executive role, the CSO helps develop and communicate a compelling vision while developing sales strategies and overseeing various other company-wide functions. This role should not be confused with the chief revenue officer (CRO), who is involved in sales leadership and other departments (like marketing, operations, and so on) critical to attracting and retaining clients.
How to Become a Sales Manager in Four Steps
There are many paths to becoming a sales manager, but some require significantly more time and effort than others. As soon as you set your sights on this ambitious goal, it’s important to start planning a highly strategic rise through the ranks. Below, we outline the most prudent steps to help you prepare to make your mark as a sales manager.
Step 1: Build a Strong Educational Foundation
Although some entry-level sales jobs can be obtained without a degree, a solid educational background is a must for advancing in your career. Usually, however, it’s easier to land prestigious, in-demand sales jobs if you enjoy a competitive advantage in the form of a relevant college degree. This begins with enrolling in the right program. A bachelor’s degree should provide a strong start, and in most cases, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) is a safe bet for aspiring sales professionals.
Your undergraduate degree will help you score the best sales rep positions, but it might not be enough to clear the next hurdle: making the leap into management. This is where the Master of Business Administration in Sales Management comes into play. An MBA is always a wise choice for ascending into leadership positions, but specializing in sales management ensures you are fully prepared for the unique challenges this fast-paced field may deliver.
Step 2: Gain Practical Experience
As we’ve touched on, there are plenty of paths to success as a sales manager; if you have the proper education and enough transferable skills, you have the potential to move into one of the compelling career paths highlighted above. Aspiring sales managers typically begin by honing their skills as sales representatives.
This provides ample opportunities to build on previously developed skills, especially core competencies such as verbal communication, problem-solving, and creativity. The sales world can feel fierce in the best yet most challenging of ways—and there is no substitute for tackling all this head-on as a sales representative. This is also an excellent networking opportunity; the connections you establish at this stage could lead to various promising opportunities down the road.
Step 3: Develop Essential Skills
Continuous skill development is always important in sales. While, to an extent, this will occur naturally on the job and in the classroom, it’s preferable to make a concerted effort to build relevant skills. If you aspire to move into sales management, be particularly mindful of the following:
- Communication and negotiation – The best sales managers understand how to convey organizational visions and policies to employees and clients. More importantly, however, they have emotional intelligence (aka emotional quotient or EQ) that is fostered, in part, through active listening. Any effort to build EQ will pay dividends in the long run—especially during negotiation efforts when understanding the other person’s mindset is key to gaining the upper hand.
- Leadership and team management – Leadership abilities distinguish sales representatives from sales managers. Think Dwight versus Michael from The Office—but imagine what Michael might accomplish if he committed to developing high-level leadership skills. In the real world, this means understanding tried-and-tested leadership methodologies and applying them in the fast-paced sales world. Empathy is a must, but other soft skills (such as creativity and collaboration) must be continually honed.
- Analytics and decision-making – Sales has always been a data-driven field, but this reality has become even more evident lately. Accurate forecasting is crucial, as this allows for a better allocation of resources. Along the way, tracking data can provide in-depth insights into the sales process while revealing opportunities for improvement. Sales managers should be familiar with the latest analytics and forecasting techniques and technologies—and willing to embrace new solutions as they become available.
Step 4: Showcase Your Achievements
You’ve put in the work and developed an impressive resume that reveals your wealth of knowledge and experience in sales. Now, it’s time to let potential employers know what you can do. This means updating your resume with new degrees or job titles and quantifiable indications of your success. Don’t hesitate to make your wins stand out if you have a track record of exceeding sales targets.
You won’t want to rely on your resume alone to get the word out. Networking initiatives—which will ideally begin as soon as you enroll in your MBA program or score a job as a sales representative—should ramp up at this point. Attend conferences and other networking events while boosting your LinkedIn presence.
Career Outlook and Salary Expectations
Many aspiring sales managers set ambitious goals because they know the most successful sales managers earn an impressive income. Six figures are the norm in this field, with the BLS highlighting median annual wages of $130,600 as of 2022. However, various factors can influence sales managers’ salary potential, such as geographic location, years of experience, or education level. Specialties also matter, with finance and insurance, in particular, offering far greater earning potential.
Advance Your Career With an MBA in Sales Management
Are you eager to pursue a lively, fast-paced, rewarding career path? You’ll be better positioned to make your mark if you complete a degree that gets employers to notice. You could certainly accomplish that by joining Salem’s specialized MBA in Sales Management program, but you stand to gain far more: a wealth of in-demand skills and in-depth insight into the complex sales landscape. Key concepts covered during this program include:
- Enterprise strategic planning
- Change management
- Financial statement analysis
- Organizational development
- Requests for proposals (RFPs)
Through targeted coursework and applied learning opportunities, you will gain much-needed confidence. This could help you make your next big step up as a sales professional.
Your Journey to Success as a Sales Manager
While sales provide a world of potential, new heights are within reach if you earn your MBA and enter the promising field of sales management. This is your chance to elevate your career and pursue exciting new opportunities. At Salem University, we are here to support your career goals and help you take the next step on your professional journey. Contact us today to learn more about our MBA programs.