How to Pursue a Sales Manager Profession

How to become a Sales Manager

The Basics of the Sales Manager Profession

Are you investigating how to pursue a Sales Manager job and would like to know a little more about the career? The main job of Sales Managers is to oversee the distribution of products or services to a customer. They set sales quotas and income goals and analyze sales statistics. They determine sales potential and assign sales territories. Sales Managers ensure customer satisfaction and find new customers and clients. They also develop ways to improve sales performance. Sales Managers work with managers from other departments and supervise salespeople in a company.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most sales managers have a bachelor’s degree; some have a master’s degree. Educational requirements are less strict for job candidates who have significant experience as sales representatives. Courses in business law, management, economics, accounting, finance, mathematics, marketing, and statistics are advantageous.

What Are Hurdles Sales Managers Face?

I think the biggest initial hurdle to become a Sales Manager is to bridge the gap between actually “selling” and completing the necessary admin tasks. Unlike a sales representative who can intensely focus on a sale, a Sales Manager needs to be able to take a step back and realize that the administrative portions of his or her role are equally important.

Derek Jon Nadon - Sales Manager at Dupray
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- Derek Jon Nadon, Sales Manager @ Dupray

Hiring and recruiting, keeping people engaged and motivated, continuing to develop yourself as a leader, keeping yourself in the sales mix, devoting time to training to your team, managing your time & building a depth pool of talent.

Ashley Shaw - President of Vancouver Island Fitness
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- Ashley Shaw, President of Vancouver Island Fitness

How Can a Sales Manager Motivate?

Being a hands-on sales manager can be motivating. It builds solidarity with the sales team by engaging in the same tasks and activities as they are. Click To Tweet!click to tweet

A well-thought-out and competitive compensation plan is a great motivator for any sales team.
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Justin Zappulla - Managing Partner at Janek
- Justin Zappulla, Managing Partner @ janek

It’s imperative to provide regular sales coaching. It sets a powerful signal when a sales employee realizes that their employer is investing in their skills and betterment through coaching and training.Click To Tweet!click to tweet

Give credit when sales employees achieve great results by sharing the accomplishments with the rest of the sales team and the company.
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Nick Kane - Managing Partner at Janek
- Nick Kane, Managing Partner @ janek



How Do Your Skills Stack Up?

Day to day life of a Sales Manager

As reported by O*NET, these traits are ranked as either extremely or very important to the day to day life of a Sale's Manager.

Education Opportunities for a Sales Manager

As mentioned above, before you decide to become a sales manager, you may want to consider earning a bachelors degree. While there are potentially many degree options, lets discus what you could learn with a bachelor’s degree in sales management? Schools with undergraduate degrees in sales may offer courses like these:

  • Sales Management
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Marketing Management
  • Product Development
  • Economics

Sales degrees usually highlight the principles of selling and sales management, as well as core concepts in business, marketing, and other useful areas. Coursework could include finance, information systems, project management, quantitative analysis for business, and more. You might also explore the customer’s mindset and buying habits through courses like psychology and consumer behavior, as well as sales and marketing in cultures other than your own. Ultimately personnel management courses, like leadership and human resources, could help you learn to manage a sales teams and encourage employees to reach their potential on the selling floor.

Insights from Sales Manager Experts

Meet Eliot, sales recruiting expert and the Co-Founder and CEO of Peak Sales Recruiting

Hear what Eliot has to say about how to become a sales manager:

  • Get the Right People on the Bus
    “Not all sales people can sell. This is an obvious lesson to me now, but as a first time sales manager I assumed that with enough effort and coaching, any rep could be successful. I now know that it is the small minority of reps that consistently exceed quotas. Most reps are at best mediocre and a significant percentage of the sales population will never achieve their goals no matter how much training and management you throw at them. Trying to achieve your own targets with a sales force of mediocre reps is like boxing with one hand tied behind your back.
  • Hire Slowly, Fire Fast
    In my early times as a sales manager, I had a tendency to let reps miss their quarterly targets indefinitely without any repercussions. This was partly due to the fact that I didn’t know how to manage failing reps and partly because I didn’t like firing people, but I quickly came to realize that accountability is a very powerful lever. A sales force that is not held accountable for meeting its goals is a sales force that won’t regularly meet its goals. So, from that point forward, when reps fell behind, I would work with them to make sure they were performing the tasks that would lead to success. I can tolerate bad luck, but not poor habits. If a rep couldn’t deliver the right results or the right behavior, I quickly parted ways and found another rep who would.
  • Wining Culture
    Early in my career I assumed that a culture of success would naturally occur over time. I had it backwards. To achieve success, a sales leader has to actively create a winning culture, which starts with their own actions and by helping the team establish the habit of achieving increasingly larger goals. This is very powerful. When the team uses the language of success, behaves in ways that leads to success, helps each other be successful, expects to be successful, and has a low tolerance for failure, success is far more likely."

Eliot Burdett co-founded Peak Sales Recruiting, a leading B2B sales recruiting company, in 2006. Under his direction, the company leads the industry with a success rate 50% higher than the industry average, working with a wide-range of clients including boutique, mid-size and world-class companies including P&G, Gartner, Deloitte, Merck, Western Union and others.

Eliot has more than 30 years of success building companies, recruiting, and managing high performance sales teams, is a top 40 Under 40 winner, and has been widely featured in top publications including the New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, Inc., Reuters, Yahoo!, CIO, the American Management Association and Eliot co-authored Sales Recruiting 2.0, How to Find Top Performing Sales People, Fast.

Meet Nick Kane...managing partner for Janek Performance Group

Hear what Nick has to say about becoming a successful sales manager:

  • There’s an assumption that successful sales reps automatically make good sales managers. This is not necessarily true, because the skills required to manage and coach in a sales management position are different that those required to close sales, very few sales professionals are instinctually equipped to do both.
  • One of the most important lessons every aspiring sales manager needs to learn is how to observe and absorb. New sales managers need to get acquainted with their new role and understand what the strengths are of each sales rep on his or her team. From there, the sales manager can nurture reps based on their unique strengths as individual contributors.
  • Finally, every sales manager, regardless of experience and tenure, should always be open to self-development and additional leadership education. Coaching and managing are unique skill sets that will have direct impact onto the development and success of each individual team member of his or her sales team.
  • One of the keys to being a top-performing Sales Manager is carving out time each day/week/month for your coaching efforts. Sales Managers underestimate the time needed to develop their direct reports and coaching is the most valuable tool they can use.
  • When coaching be sure to stay objective. Try to focus less on the “what they say” and focus more so on specific skills. Sales Managers have a tendency to use how they sold as a benchmark and less on a set of skills. This creates subjectivity and inconsistency when coaching.

Janek Performance Group is a nationally-recognized, award-winning sales performance company that conducts extensive research in the marketplace around various sales-related topics. Nick Kane is a Managing Partner at Janek Performance Group. He has trained more than 15,000 sales professionals worldwide during the course of his career, and is passionate about helping sales professionals improve their selling careers – and as a result, their lives as well. Nick has co-authored a book called Critical Selling: How Top Performers Accelerate the Sales Process and Close More Deals which was released by Wiley Publishing in October, 2015.

Meet Ashley Shaw

Hear what Ashley has to say about becoming a successful sales manager:

  • Hiring & Recruiting
    Always be recruiting! Hand out business cards at any places with great service or sales people!
  • Keeping people engaged and motivated
    Goal setting and monthly follow-up on goals, team building events, group workouts, daily motivation (it is like showering & needed daily)
  • Continuing to develop yourself as a leader
    Leaders are readers. Always being reading new books on how to increase your leadership influence. John Maxwell - 21 Irrefutable Laws, Good to Great, Crucial Accountability & Change Anything are my favorites!
  • Keeping yourself in the sales mix
    Show your team how it is done and led from the front!
  • Devoting time to training to your team
    Train your team everyday for 30 minutes! Role-play something they struggled with the day before!
  • Managing your time
    Use outlook religiously! Read “Getting Things Done” by David Allen!
  • Building a depth pool of talent
    Give people a development plan so they know where they are going! This is all based on their goal setting.

Ashley Shaw has been in sales for 10 years. She is a writer, culture-changer & speaker. She is the President of "Vancouver Island Fitness," where she writes, enjoys the ocean, and helping others find their “LIFT” in life.

Who Are Some Influential People in the Sales Industry? created a list of the 10 Greatest Salespeople of All Time, here are a few of the people they named:

  • Mary Kay Ash: Founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, developed the use of sales incentives
  • John H. Patterson: Founder of National Cash Register Company, created the first sales training school
  • Ron Popil: Introduced the use of infomercials to sell consumer goods
  • Zig Ziglar: Helped shape the modern vocabulary of sales, In particular, he encourages salespeople to commit to a lifetime of learning and training

FAQs About How to Become a Sales Manager


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Job information sourced from O*NET