Moving up: how to become a Sales Manager

how to become a sales manager

There are a lot of ways to “make it” in sales. Some love to be totally hands on, sticking with customer-facing positions that include tons of daily interaction with a diverse array of personalities. Others prefer a more supervisory role. For anyone who craves advancement, learning how to become a Sales Manager could be the ticket to a successful career in a growing industry.

What does a Sales Manager do?

Just as the title suggests, Sales Managers supervise a team of salespeople. Before that quick description conjures up too many images of The Office’s Michael Scott, know that managing is so much more than simple oversight. Managing is about creating an environment that facilitates your team’s success. This could mean acting as backup during a crucial sales pitch or offering coaching to help them close on their own.

More specifically, Sales Managers may be asked to:

  • Determine sales territories and relevant staffing
  • Set goals and sales quotas
  • Construct sales plans for their team as well as individual team members
  • Analyze sales data and look for ways to improve
  • Offer opportunities for ongoing training
  • Address customer complaints
  • Determine special pricing and other discount programs
  • Participate in hiring and firing

There may be several types of levels of Sales Managers in a single organization. Lower-level Sales Managers work directly with sales reps on a daily basis. They’re typically more focused on guiding individual reps and ushering the team toward revenue targets. Managers who act as head of a sales division or broader territory tend to focus more on big-picture stuff. Instead of sitting down with reps, they’re busy developing a comprehensive sales strategy. There are even Sales Managers who are focused on partner relationships. These managers manage partner firms or individuals at those partners.

Essential Skills

Not everyone can be a Sales Manager. It’s also not easy to go to school for sales management; most colleges don’t offer an MBA in Sales Management. Effective Sales Managers typically possess dynamic personalities and enjoy being in a leadership role. They’re also invested in the success of others. They are likely to be outgoing and assertive and have the ability to motivate others to be just as enthusiastic.

Other essential skills of a Sales Manager include:

  • Spotting Talent: A Sales Manager is only as good as their team. Being able to wade through a stack of resumes and identify who would be a good fit is important.
  • Coaching: Sales Managers coach new hires to help them hit the ground running. They also work with existing team members to identify ways they can improve.
  • Leadership: The ability to lead goes hand in hand with the ability to coach. After all, people want to learn from managers who have first-hand knowledge of the best way to score a meeting or close a sale. Leaders don’t just talk about motivation, they actually motivate.
  • Multitasking: In sales, no two days are exactly the same. Sales managers have to be able to pivot from staff training to working with a buyer in the blink of an eye. The bigger the team, the more critical it is for the person in charge to be able to split their focus without sacrificing results.
  • Experimenting: Adaptability and agility are vital in sales. Managers need to be the first ones to volunteer for forward-thinking approaches, like a new sales technique or cutting-edge software.
  • “Managing Up”: For mid-level managers, their position in the hierarchy is doubly complex. Even as they help their subordinates, these managers need to be able to assist a boss who may be overworked or overwhelmed.

You might want to become a Sales Manager if

Not everyone is cut out for management, and that’s okay. There are some major perks to becoming a supervisor. There’s also a lot of stress involved. You may find you don’t enjoy managing a team as much as you enjoy being part of one. Do you like to mentor and coach people? Do you derive satisfaction from helping others achieve their goals? If so, a career as a Sales Manager may be right up your alley.

Note, though, that managing often pays less than a full-time sales role. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sales Managers make an average of $126,640 per year. That’s a lot of cash for a position that typically requires less than five years of experience. On the other hand, very talented sales reps can make a generous base salary while also generating commission. That could take them well over that $126k mark, surpassing a Sales Manager’s take home.
The job growth outlook for Sales Managers is about 4%, which is on par for the national average. All told, that spells a lot of potential for anyone with the skills and drive to succeed.

How to become a Sales Manager: expressing your interest to management

If you’re in sales and looking to move up, the first step is letting upper management know you’re interested in pursuing a new role. Ask for a meeting and start by outlining your experience and what you think you’d bring to a management position.

After you’ve made your interest known, ask for mentorship opportunities. The move from sales rep to supervisor will feel far less risky falling behind in your current position while you pursue a new one. You can’t be a great Sales Manager if you’re not great at sales. Chances are the powers-that-be will keep a close eye on your numbers as they decide who gets to sit in the empty corner office.

Ready to move up? If you think you’re the best person for that vacant sales management job, it could very well be your time to step up. Shine up your resume, sit down with your mentor, and put a plan in place. The next step in your career could be closer than you think.

Once you become a Sales Manager, now is the time to help your sales team hit their quotas and earn commission. If you need a way to track your team’s commissions, QuotaPath is here to help.

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