3 business charts

Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Sales Manager

Find Your Degree

STAY IN THE KNOW. SIGN UP!

Enter your email address and we'll keep you updated on the latest college rankings, news, tips and resources.

Ever wonder about what companies do to boost their revenue and grow their customer base? Do they revamp their product line? Do they try reaching their audience in new ways with promotions, or maybe launch a brand awareness campaign?

Ever considered the team working to sell an organization’s products and services, or more specifically, the manager who leads sales teams? These are the professionals who oversee the teams that communicate directly with business prospects and customers daily.

paper 3213924 1280

Although product lines, brand awareness, and buyer personas are meaningful, sales managers are critical to any organization’s success. They have the potential to unlock sizable returns that impact a business’s growth and revenue.

To put it another way, if you’re a sales manager and you assist each of your ten reps to sell 20% more, you have just “created” two new sales staff members. Sales managers are uniquely competent when it comes to boosting an organization’s bottom line.

This Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Sales Manager covers the reasons why professionals need to get sales management right. It will also include some sales management resources, processes, and strategies to learn more about the role as you consider what it would be like to lead a team of salespeople who grow as high impact players for a business.

What is Sales Management?

Sales management is leading and overseeing sales representatives to create solid professional relationships with prospects as they close more deals. Managers do this by creating and executing sales management strategies, objectives, and processes to help their team meet and exceed their goals and targets.

The Process of Sales Management 

Sales management is not a linear process. Everyone’s responsibilities and strategies look slightly different depending on their context, team, resources, and products. Generally speaking, sales managers manage at least four main variables: people, activity, strategy, and reporting. These are the four stages of the sales management process included in this guide to becoming a sales manager.

Sales Recruiting and Hiring and People Management

interview

A sales team will only ever be as good as its manager. For a sales manager to lead an outstanding team, she needs first to hire exceptional people. The first step of the sales management process is to find and hire a reliable sales team. This step involves writing practical job descriptions, interviewing high-quality candidates, and working with Human Resources to create competitive sales compensation plans.

This step also applies to people management, which includes sales training and coaching and morale-boosting and team-building activities.

Sales Strategy Creation and Management

Sales managers are responsible for casting the vision and setting the strategy in place for their sales team. One vital part of this is designing the sales process that their team will adhere to. This process keeps the team focused and aligned as its members work toward the same goals by following the same series of steps. This process ultimately creates an autonomous, well-oiled sales machine. Developing a distinct sales process will allow management the chance to identify inefficiencies and see where a team can improve.

Monitoring Sales Activity 

Next, sales managers are responsible for the oversight of their sales team’s daily activity — from prospecting to closing. This includes understanding losses, celebrating wins, and advocating for the whole team in the spirit of solidarity. People are just as important as sales in the world of sales management. Effective managers keep a close eye on daily sales activity and address issues, wins, and setbacks when needed.

Sales Reporting Management

The final step in the sales management process is evaluating and reporting on an organization’s sales activity. Like within a sales process, sales managers should create a systematized reporting process so sales teams know where and when they are being measured and ways that they can improve. The process could include reporting on a team’s win rate, lead-to-opportunity conversion rate, and average sales cycle. Sales managers are also responsible for understanding and interpreting this data to forecast future sales revenue and update team goals and standards.

What Salary a Sales Manager can Expect

loan officer job

Sales managers work in all types of industries; this includes both retail and non-retail settings. They are responsible for the daily management of sales associates and activities. They may work with an assistant or a team of associates. These facts show that a sales manager’s salary can be more modest or very lucrative, depending on the company’s size that employs them. PayScale.com reports that the average sales manager salary sits at just over $61,000/year. Some of the most popular job titles for sales management professionals include general sales managers, retail sales managers, and directors of sales. 

How Do I Start a Career as a Sales Manager?

All business organizations exist to make a profit, and it falls on the sales managers within those firms to help make that happen. Naturally, sales managers need to know the service or product they are selling well enough to ensure customers can trust their expertise. These professionals in business management are responsible for getting a product to their customers. Most sales managers have worked as sales representatives for at least five years before finding a management position.

Many sales managers will start their academic training by acquiring an undergraduate degree in marketing, public relations, business administration, or sales. Successful sales managers will tell you to begin working on your public speaking skills as an undergraduate student. This may mean taking a speech class. Sales managers have to endorse their organization’s products and services attractively and relate well to clients and potential customers. Ideally, take courses in sales areas, such as management or promotional tactics, while also working in a sales position, in order for your education and experience to grow uniformly.

accounting degree

After being granted a bachelor’s degree in business, it would be a good idea to pursue an advanced degree in business like an online MBA. The MBA exists today as the benchmark in business leadership learning. While some professionals may think that an MBA is out of reach, as they have already committed to a position in an organization, there is good news: Online MBA degrees are the perfect fit for working professionals. Courses are delivered through distance learning, and the flexibility of these programs is outstanding. 

Sales managers will also do well to get some experience in sales. Trying to land a position in an organization big enough to offer employee training and advancement opportunities will go a long way for your resume. Applying for a job as an assistant sales manager or assistant to the sales manager after acquiring some experience in sales shows that you are committed to the field of business. This may result later in getting a promotion in your current organization or help you land a job as an assistant sales manager at another firm. Assistant sales managers are the obvious choice when it is time to look for a sales manager.

What Does a Career as a Sales Manager Look Like?

Sales management responsibilities include recruiting, coaching, meeting and aligning, shadowing, and reporting. Managing time is also a big part of sales management as it helps get the most out of sales personnel and an organization’s resources. It is crucial to note that the responsibilities sales managers have — along with the skills required of them — are vastly different than those experienced as sales representatives. Most sales managers worked as reps at one point in time. Useful sales management lives and dies on people management, data analysis, and leadership (whereas a rep is focused on communication, prospecting, and time management).

Recruiting within Sales Management

Always stay alert to potential new members of your sales team. After all, hitting your sales numbers is hard enough when you have critical mass, let alone when you are short on sales reps (and sales rep turnover is a common component of the sales industry).

How do sales managers combat this? Consistent recruiting means that you will always have a pipeline of strong hiring candidates ready to dive in when the time comes to replace a salesperson or grow the team. Spend a predetermined time each day surfing recruiting sites like LinkedIn for attractive candidates. Reach out to the workers you think is a good match and set up a phone call or coffee meeting to learn more about their experience in the field.

Sales Managers are Coaches Without the Whistles

coach

This is arguably the most crucial part of a sales manager’s role. Helping sales reps maximize their performance by leading them as they figure out where they need to improve cannot be stressed enough. It is the sales manager’s responsibility to ensure that a sales team is prepared for any situation that may come its way. Good leaders also teach new skills to make sales reps more efficient. Much of this can be accomplished through one-on-one feedback meetings, role play, and introducing team members to mentors on the team and new technologies that simplify their everyday tasks.

Meeting and Aligning with an Organization’s Entire Network of Systems

A firm’s sales department touches almost every other aspect of the organization, so a seasoned sales manager will ensure her team is consistently communicating and aligned with other teams, including customer support, product, and marketing. When this is a priority, reps have relevant details to provide prospects, accurate information about product features, and information about support customers receive from onboarding and throughout their time as a customer. Sales managers also need to regularly meet with sales executives to share how the team performs and review any high-level company goals that are then shared with reps and get them excited about how the enterprise is growing.

The All-Important Task of Sales Manager Shadowing

Catching developing issues before they become substantial and detrimental problems is a big part of management. Sales managers need to identify best practices and new strategies to share with the team at large. You can learn valuable information about your sales reps’ operations by shadowing them. Depending on the sales process, sales managers can often listen in on their sales calls and join meetings to assist with the process. 

The Value of Reporting

As previously mentioned, a sizable part of the job as a sales manager is to report on and analyze data. You should look at the numbers across the team and dig into individual sales rep performance to ensure that one member of the team is not carrying the load or drastically lowering averages.

This type of data can include:

-A sales rep’s proximity to goal at any given point in time
-What projected weekly, monthly, and quarterly performances look like
-Trends regarding the point in time deals 
-Any variations in average win rate

Sales managers can observe and manage all of this data (and so more) with the help of managing software like Sales Hub, Nutshell, Pipedrive, and many more.

Sales Managers are Time Managers

clock

When managing a team, it can become easy to let your days get consumed by mundane tasks and putting out fires. To be an effective sales manager, one must learn the art of time management.

One way to start doing this is to communicate through email during office hours rather than chat platforms to communicate with your sales staff, provide them with constructive feedback, and answer their countless questions. Instant message tools reinforce LIFO: Last In, First Out. The most recent message often tends to get the first reply. It is unfair as it is unproductive.

Directing reps to book time on your calendar or coming by your desk during office hours guarantees they will only come to you with issues they cannot solve independently. It also saves you time while teaching them to be more autonomous.

Although you might miss the good old days of closing deals, resist the urge to hijack any of your teams’ opportunities. In the long run, you are not doing them or yourself any favors. Just as the timeless adage states, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Being so near sided as to jump into a deal robs your salesperson of the chance to learn and means you will only have to repeat the process next time around.

Finally, when it comes to being a time manager, remember to prioritize all tasks. It is easy to run around with so many moving parts and tackling the most visible tasks. But those aren’t always the most essential. At the start of each day, organize a to-do list, prioritized by urgency and impact. The top items should be both urgent and impactful, the next should be urgent but not impactful, followed by impactful but not urgent, and last of all, neither impactful nor urgent.

What are the Future Trends in Sales Management?

Business forecasters believe that sales managers should be aware of three waves of change that are set to influence the sales industry in the future:

-Sellers will play a smaller role in the buying cycle, as buyers hesitate in the sales cycle to engage them.
-Seller performance will stagnate as they struggle to accept perspective-based selling methodologies
-Sales teams will undergo consistent change initiatives.

intersection

Sales managers will find themselves sitting squarely at the intersection of these trends, yet sales management strategies have hardly changed in recent years for many organizations. The changes that have taken place in the managerial ranks have only intensified managers’ administrative and internal focus. In part, this is because managers have more responsibilities than ever before. Staff downsizing often means managers are responsible for a more significant number of tasks, many of which should be done by other employees. A tsunami of data fuels managers will focus more on administrative activities, including sales reporting and forecasting.

Sales teams whose sales management strategies haven’t evolved with the times can address some critical gaps that will improve sales manager performance and, in so doing, raise seller performance.

Influencing Technology Adoption

Technology has yet to result in greater seller efficiency for many sales teams for all of its promises. Despite relying on technology designed to streamline efficiency and boost sales, sales reps will sometimes spend much of their time on administrative activities and only a minority of their time selling.

The disconnect between sales results and technology lies in part to inadequate tech resource adoption. An organization can utilize every tool on the market. Still, unless they coach their salespeople to engage appropriately with the tools, a robust technology acquisition won’t increase sales. Managers should lead by example when introducing technology adoption, but few organizations agree that this is a strength.

The Future of Coaching Sales Reps

Overworked sales managers often struggle to fit coaching into their schedules. Even when managers find the time, they usually take a narrow view, focusing on how salespeople can position themselves to close a deal. But coaching for individual opportunities does not help the rep grow or result in long-term sales success. Instead, managers of the future will take a holistic approach, focusing on lead and opportunity coaching along with skills and behaviors while also practicing account and territory coaching.

Managers will do well to follow a formal, consistent coaching system, so the time that they spend with their sales teams is more effective. More formal coaching processes result in higher rep win rates.

Next Steps

next steps

Becoming a sales manager is not easy, but as long as you possess the passion and the right personality, it is possible. Here are some next steps that will put you in a great position to transition from sales rep to sales manager.

Make Sure Your Credentials are Up to Date

The first step to landing a coveted position is to ensure that you meet all the requirements for the job you are after. Many organizations expect their sales managers to have achieved a certain level of education—usually an undergraduate degree at the least and often an MBA in sales management or an equal concentration. While having a business degree doesn’t prove that you will make a good leader, it does suggest that you are well-rounded and have the aptitude needed to handle a leadership position.

Potential hires lacking an undergraduate degree need not worry. There are other ways to prove that you are motivated, knowledgeable, and capable when leading a sales team. You can pursue sales certifications that show you grasp how to manage people and complete the other tasks required to perform in a sales leadership role.

Keep your resume updated. Any work-related accolades and accomplishments such as specific revenue metrics you’ve generated for your company can help show your leadership value. Finally, try to secure endorsements from management professionals, whether inside or outside your current company. The support from other business and sales leaders can go a long way towards getting you into a sales management role.

Keep Working to be an Effective Salesperson

This may seem simple, but it is critical. It would be best to have a sound understanding of what makes a capable salesperson because it will be your job to support and train them. Knowing how to identify and capitalize on your sales reps’ common success traits means you will build an effective team faster.

If you become a sales manager, you are responsible for hiring new employees and developing team members already on your sales team. A deep understanding of effective salesmanship and knowing what it takes to sell at a high level will serve you well for years to come.

Always be Open to Take on More Responsibility

If you currently work within a sales development role, you can prove that you’re cut out for sales management and take on more responsibility by actively seeking new opportunities. Stay aware of new ways to contribute and help your organization beyond what your job description states.

Sales Managers continue to grow and learn as they lead teams of sales personnel. The job is a highly rewarding one. Let this Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Sales Manager give you some inspiring ideas and substantial resources in your journey to become an effective sales manager.

Related Resources:

Online Entrepreneurship MBA Ranking
Online Marketing MBA Ranking
Best Online MBA Programs
Best Online Master’s in Management
Best Free Resources for Sales Managers
Best Online MBA Programs for Sales Managers
Best Degrees to Become a Sales Manager