Sales Managers Overview

Managerial positions including sales managers jobs are highly coveted and therefore surrounded by competition. Strong communication and computer skills, superior creativity and related experience will give college graduates access to the best job opportunities. While a large amount of travel and long hours including nights and weekends is common, sales managers are rewarded with high salaries. These jobs are also very important and visible within companies paving the way to advancement to the highest ranks.

Nature of the Work for Sales Managers

Sales Managers

Sales managers works on a company’s pricing, promotion, sales, marketing strategy, market research, advertising, product development and public relations activities. An executive vice president usually directs overall sales strategies within large firms, which often offer multiple products and services both nationally and globally, while the owner or chief executive officer may run the sales and marketing responsibilities of a small firm.

Sales managers direct the flow of products and services to customers. They set sales goals, assign sales territories and develop training programs for sales representatives. Sales representatives rely on them for advice on how to improve sales performance. Sales managers must analyze sales statistics to determine possible sales, customer interest and inventory needs, and they develop and maintain relationships with distributors and dealers. In large companies with many products or services, sales managers are in charge of the local and regional sales managers and staff.

Usually sales managers work in an office near their top managers. Evening and weekend hours are often unavoidable in this field where deadlines and goals must always be met. Working under pressure is also common as problems present themselves and new schedules are put into place.

Sales managers often spend many hours on the road or in the air traveling to meet with customers and other industry professionals. They may travel to gain face time with a variety of distributors and dealers and often need to meet at the national, regional or local company headquarters. Sales managers often get transferred between regional offices and company headquarters.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Sales Managers

Recommended Education Level

Even though most employers prefer candidates with a college degree and experience in a related occupation, many educational paths can lead to a career as a sales manager.

A bachelor’s degree or masters degree in business administration with a marketing minor or concentration is preferred by employers of sales managers. Economics, accounting, mathematics, statistics, finance, business law and management are all key courses for this career. A college internship will help candidates stand out as well. Those looking to work in highly technical industries including computer and electronics manufacturing should seek a bachelor’s degree in science or engineering along with a masters degree in business administration.

Many sales managers positions go to employees who are already working at a lower level with in the company. For example, many sales managers were previously sales representatives, purchasing agents or buyers. Large firms tend to promote employees fairly quickly compared to smaller firms where the overall number of managerial positions is limited.

As data management and recordkeeping are completed digitally and more and more work is done using the Web, computer skills are a vital part of a sales managers credentials. Another great qualification is communication skills in a foreign language, especially for sales managers who may work in a region with many Spanish-speaking customers or clients.

The best candidates for sales managers positions are highly motivated, mature, creative, decisive, flexible and able to handle stress with ease. Written and oral communication skills are important to persuade the public, staff and other managers. Tact and good judgment along with the ability to develop and maintain personal relationships that are effective are also a key part of a successful sales manager career.

Through some associations, sales managers can seek certification as another way to prove competency and achievement. While the percentage of certified sales managers is currently low, experts believe the number will increase as more and more professionals are seeking highly coveted careers. Many management certification programs are available based on experience and education.

The participation in management training programs offered by larger firms can often add to one’s chance of advancement, though ability, leadership and experience will still play the most importance in consideration for promotion. Many large companies also offer continuing education opportunities at no cost or a subsidized cost to their employees. These programs may occur in-house or at local colleges and universities or they may be in conjunction with seminars and conferences put on by professional organizations. In collaboration with these societies many companies sponsor local or national management training programs. Courses often cover topics such as product promotion, marketing communication, telemarketing and direct sales, sales management evaluation, brand and product management, market research and organizational communication.

Sales managers have the advantage of being highly visible and incredibly important to their respective companies, which means they’re often first in line for advancement to the highest ranks. With experience, training and proven success, sales managers are often promoted within their own company or to a higher level job at a new company and some advance to top executive positions. With extensive experience and sufficient capital, sales managers can start their own businesses as well.

Top 10 Most Popular Sales Management Schools

1. Gemological Institute of America, Carlsbad (Carlsbad, California)
2. Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, New York)
3. CUNY Bernard M Baruch College (New York, New York)
4. Texas A & M University (College Station, Texas)
5. University of South Carolina, Columbia (Columbia, South Carolina)
6. Weber State University, Ogden (Ogden, Utah)
7. Johnson & Wales University College of Online Education (Providence, Rhode Island)
8. Michigan State University (East Lansing, Michigan)
9. Bellevue University (Bellevue, Nebraska)
10. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

See All Sales Management Schools

Top 10 Most Popular Online Sales Management Schools

1. University of Phoenix - Online School
2. Purdue University Global
3. DeVry University - Online School
4. Penn Foster High School
5. Kansas State University - Online School
6. Capella University - Online School
7. Jones International University - Online
8. Baker College - Online School
9. Northwest Iowa Community College - Online School
10. Westwood College - Online

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Employment and Job Outlook for Sales Managers

Number of People in Profession


Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average (increase 7 - 13%).

In 2008, 346,900 sales managers were working in the country. While these positions were spread throughout virtually every industry, about 62 percent of sales managers were working in the manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, finance and insurance industries.

Experts predict that employment of sales managers will increase by 15 percent between 2008 and 2018, a growth rate that is faster than average. That said, managerial positions such as these typically have tough competition with may candidates vying for these highly coveted jobs. Sales managers and their staff though are some of the most important professionals in an organization and therefore are usually resilient against downsizing and outsourcing, aside from companies that are consolidating.

On average, the employment of sales managers is directly related to the growth or contraction in the industries that employ them. So while the automobile industry has historically employed a large percentage of sales managers, as the number of car dealers declines in the coming years, the industry will need fewer sales managers. However, as some industries become flooded by more and more foreign and domestic products and services, sales managers and related workers will be called upon to help products and services stand out against the competition.

Many sales managers find jobs that previously belonged to a worker who retired or left the industry. But these highly coveted jobs are sought after by professionals with decades of experience and those already holding managerial positions in other departments or firms, so competition can be incredible. Creative, communication and computer skills along with related experience can help college graduates succeed in the job market. Employers especially look for candidates who can use new media such as the Internet and other new ideas to conduct sales campaigns, so it’s best to stay ahead of the curve.

Earnings and Salary for Sales Managers

The median annual wages for sales managers are $97,260 over all industries. Salaries vary by industry; here median annual wages are broken down by the top industries employing sales managers:

Department stores: $54,560

Management of companies and enterprises: $106,980

Automobile dealers: $107,500

Wholesale, electronic markets and agents and brokers: $114, 670

Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers: $125,130

An employee’s education, level of managerial responsibility and length of service also can cause major fluctuations in salary as can the industry, size and location of a particular company. Typically manufacturing firms for instance offer higher wages than nonmanufacturing firms. Plus, the size of a sales manager’s territory can help determine their salary. Bonuses of 10 percent or more of the annual salary are common for managers.

Annual Salary for Sales Managers

On average, Sales Managers earn $96,790 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $47,660/yr $65,210/yr $141,430/yr $166,400/yr

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook