Last updated on July 9th, 2024 at 03:24 pm

Sales drive our economy and even our personal lives. It is through effective sales strategies that we determine who to do business with or which products or services to invest in. Sales managers help to shape these decisions by equipping their teams with the tools, resources, and support necessary to hit targeted goals and meet or exceed expectations.

This can be an exciting career path, but challenges abound. Below, we provide a well-rounded introduction to sales management and all it involves. Our goal is to help answer questions like: What does a sales manager do, and is this career track right for you? 

What Is the Role of a Sales Manager?

A sales manager serves as the head coach of the sales team, overseeing every aspect of the sales department. This includes hiring new sales associates, assigning personnel to specific clients and customers, and creating strategies and pitches for those clients. Sales managers are also instrumental in establishing the culture of the sales department and can provide the guidance that team members need to reach their full potential. 

Key Responsibilities of a Sales Manager

Sales managers encounter new challenges and opportunities every day. This keeps the job interesting, but it also means that these hardworking professionals need to develop a comprehensive skill set that emphasizes agility. Additionally, roles can differ between sectors and based on organization size and scope — but these responsibilities are especially common: 

Overseeing Sales Operations

Sales managers handle the day-to-day intricacies of the sales process. This can mean different things for different businesses or departments. Common essentials include delegating roles to various team members or meeting with current (or prospective) clients. In general, managers provide in-the-moment support and strategic planning to eliminate friction whenever and wherever possible. 

Hiring and Training Sales Team Members

Sales managers understand what, exactly, constitutes an effective sales representative. They can recognize critical qualities even if potential hires have limited experience. These hiring decisions produce a solid foundation so that sales managers can create cohesive and effective sales teams. From there, targeted training and ongoing support can ensure a well-rounded group of sales masters can be put into place. 

Setting Sales Targets and Strategy

Sales targets are not, as some team members assume, random numbers that managers establish for the sake of it. Rather, these represent the culmination of extensive research, in which managers look carefully at team performance and market trends to determine what is possible and how they can encourage growth.

It is the sales manager’s responsibility to set these sales goals while navigating the fine line between encouraging their teams to improve but also remaining realistic. From there, sales managers must implement curated strategies to help their teams hit these targets or even surpass them. 

The Challenges Faced by Sales Managers

Sales management can be a fantastic role, but it delivers its fair share of struggles. While many passionate managers thrive on this sense of challenge, some struggle with the pressure and may be better suited to other roles. As such, it is crucial to understand whether your personality is suited to sales management before you enter this unique professional environment. 

Dealing With High Pressure and Expectations

The modern sales landscape is highly competitive — and sales managers are quick to admit that they feel the pressure. Ideally, high expectations will inspire and motivate these professionals. At times, though, stress can stand in the way. For this reason, sales managers should emphasize self-care and mental health.

Delegation is also a must, as we will explain in more detail below. Sales managers should not be expected to shoulder the burden of running a sales team entirely on their own. By delegating tasks to the most capable team members, they can shift more of their mental focus and ingenuity to solving high-level problems. 

Managing a Diverse and Dynamic Sales Team

There is no one way to build a sales team, and often, these teams encompass a dizzying range of personalities and experiences. Sales managers must develop effective strategies for helping team members work together. Conflict is inevitable; should it arise, sales managers are instrumental in helping team members deal with their differences. Through effective conflict resolution, sales managers may even find that different opinions and perspectives actually enhance the sales team and its performance. 

Qualification Requirements to Become a Sales Manager

It was once common practice for skilled sales representatives to rise through the ranks at one company and, upon learning the ropes and proving themselves with excellent sales numbers, make the leap into management. However, it is increasingly evident that the qualities that prompt success in making sales do not always translate directly to strong management of a sales team.

These days, aspiring sales managers benefit more from seeking targeted skills, credentials, and degrees, which, in turn, can be leveraged to find and score the best sales management job opportunities. 

Educational Background

Although no one degree or credential will guarantee success as a sales manager, a solid educational background is a must. Select sales representatives have been known to learn on the job and succeed despite a general lack of college-level training, but this ability often ends at the management level.

Typically, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement from an educational perspective, and increasingly, many employers prefer to hire managers trained at the graduate level.

A Master of Business Administration is always a safe choice, as this introduces aspiring sales managers to numerous critical concepts: accounting, organizational behavior, and change management, to name a few. This program emphasizes today’s most in-demand technical skills but also promotes soft skill development, including essentials such as business communication, decision-making, and collaboration. What’s more, specializations in sales management are available, so MBA skill development can be tailored basedon specific career plans. 

Relevant Work Experience

Other than obtaining an MBA, the best way to prepare for a bright future in sales management is to gain sales experience. This typically means entering the field as a sales representative and getting comfortable with the fast pace and dynamic atmosphere of the modern sales landscape. If you have clear goals for entering sales management within a particular sector, look for relevant sales representative roles in that field. 

Must-Have Skills for a Successful Sales Manager

Sales management is a complex and constantly changing field that calls for true adaptability. No two sales managers will bring the exact same qualities to the table, but a well-rounded skill set is always valuable. Below, we have listed critical skills that every sales manager should possess: 

Leadership and Mentoring Skills

Leadership is a core part of sales management, and ideally, managers will be familiar with today’s top leadership theories and models. Effective leadership calls for a range of skills and qualities, such as delegation, conflict management, integrity, and strategic thinking.

Mentoring is a must as well. Managers should work closely with individual team members to reveal how they can leverage their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. As mentors, sales managers should be active listeners, so they can develop a genuine understanding of what drives team members and what stands in their way. Along the way, managers can provide words of wisdom, ensuring that team members remain motivated as they tackle a number of challenges. 

Strategic Thinking and Analytical Skills

Today’s sales managers draw on a wealth of data to help inform a variety of decision-making processes. Data-based strategies play a crucial role in forecasting sales goals, as these projections must not only spur growth but also be realistic to achieve. Strategic thinking allows managers to synthesize extensive information and use these details to help them make the best decisions based on the circumstances at hand. 

Communication and Organizational Skills

At its most basic level, sales comes down to communication. The most effective salespeople are also the best communicators, but the same holds true for sales management. Communication skills allow sales managers to develop better rapport with their team members, and this, in turn, helps them guide and influence sales representatives. 

How a Sales Manager Impacts a Sales Team

No matter how talented or passionate sales team members seem, they will not reach their full potential unless they are guided by equally talented sales managers. These leaders must have the unique ability to get the best out of every member of the team by knowing each member’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Providing Coaching and Empowerment

The role of a sales manager often resembles that of a coach: understanding which strategies are most likely to produce the best performance from sales professionals and also encouraging these individuals to work together as a team. We’ve already touched on the role of mentorship, but team-building initiatives are essential as well.

The best sales teams work together to drive innovation while building stronger relationships with customers and clients. By acting as coaches, sales managers encourage representatives to embrace this team-based mentality while also delivering the unique blend of inspiration and accountability that both individuals and teams require. 

Instilling a Culture of Innovation and Strategic Thinking

Savvy consumers bring new challenges to the modern sales landscape. These days, a spirit of innovation is a must, along with data-driven strategies that help determine which innovations are most likely to produce results. This mindset shift may be difficult for sales teams to adopt, however, but sales managers can provide much-needed encouragement and support along the way.

These changes have sparked an increasingly prominent role in sales: the sales leader, who takes on long-range planning and focuses on the big picture of sales strategies. Such opportunities should be well within reach for MBA-trained sales managers, who can draw on soft skills such as creativity and agility to thrive in this role. 

Succeeding as a Sales Manager: Key Factors to Consider

The first step to succeeding in sales management? Understanding your personal strengths and weaknesses. This should be accompanied by a growth mindset that encourages you to seek continual improvement. This mindset should also extend to your interactions with members of your sales team. 

Understanding Your Team’s Strengths and Weaknesses

Every sales professional and every sales team (no matter how seemingly impressive) holds room for improvement. Through personal observation and data analytics, sales managers can determine which areas call for improvement. From there, they can help their teams craft strategies to overcome these issues. Delegation can also play into this; managers may assign clients or projects based on the sales performance of specific team members or according to their unique abilities. 

Continual Learning and Adaptation

The sales environment is constantly changing, and in recent years, leaders have observed a clear shift towards data-driven solutions (and accompanying technologies). This new approach calls for a commitment to embracing and mastering an ever-changing array of programs, systems, and devices. In addition, sales managers need to adapt according to evolving market trends and other changes that may be difficult to predict.

Given this fast pace of progress, it’s abundantly clear that the sales managers of tomorrow will need to be committed to continual improvement. These leaders are never done learning, so they should look to peer-reviewed journals, professional associations, and industry conferences for new insights. Though they may act as mentors for novice sales representatives, managers can benefit from seeking mentors of their own. 

Start a Career in Sales Management With Salem University

Are you ready to advance your career and take on the exciting world of sales management? A Master of Business Administration with a specialization in Sales Management from Salem University could set you on the right path. Contact us today to learn more about this program and the opportunities it can unlock.

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