Sales Managers

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Sales Managers Do[About this section] [To Top]

Sales managers direct organizations' sales teams. They set sales goals, analyze data, and develop training programs for organizations’ sales representatives.

Duties of Sales Managers

Sales managers typically do the following:

  • Resolve customer complaints regarding sales and service
  • Prepare budgets and approve expenditures
  • Monitor customer preferences to determine the focus of sales efforts
  • Analyze sales statistics
  • Project sales and determine the profitability of products and services
  • Determine discount rates or special pricing plans
  • Develop plans to acquire new customers or clients through direct sales techniques, cold calling, and business-to-business marketing visits
  • Assign sales territories and set sales quotas
  • Plan and coordinate training programs for sales staff

Sales managers’ responsibilities vary with the size of their organizations. However, most sales managers direct the distribution of goods and services by assigning sales territories, setting sales goals, and establishing training programs for the organization’s sales representatives.

Some sales managers recruit, hire, and train new members of the sales staff. For more information about sales workers, see the profiles on retail sales workers and wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.

Sales managers advise sales representatives on ways to improve their sales performance. In large multiproduct organizations, they oversee regional and local sales managers and their staffs.

Sales managers also stay in contact with dealers and distributors. They analyze sales statistics generated from their staff to determine the sales potential and inventory requirements of products and stores and to monitor customers' preferences.

Sales managers work closely with managers from other departments in the organization. For example, the marketing department identifies new customers that the sales department can target. The relationship between these two departments is critical to helping an organization expand its client base. Sales managers also work closely with research and design departments because they know customers’ preferences, and with warehousing departments because they know inventory needs.

The following are examples of types of sales managers:

Business to business (B2B) sales managers oversee sales from one business to another. These managers may work for a manufacturer selling to a wholesaler, or a wholesaler selling to a retailer. Examples of these workers include sales managers overseeing sales of software to business firms, and sales managers overseeing wholesale food sales to grocery stores.

Business to consumer (B2C) sales managers oversee direct sales between businesses and individual consumers. These managers typically work in retail settings. Examples of these workers include sales managers of automobile dealerships and department stores.

Work Environment for Sales Managers[About this section] [To Top]

Sales managers held about 376,300 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most sales managers were as follows:

Retail trade 20%
Wholesale trade 20
Manufacturing 12
Finance and insurance 9
Professional, scientific, and technical services 8

Sales managers have a lot of responsibility, and the position can be stressful. Many sales managers travel to national, regional, and local offices and to dealers’ and distributors’ offices.

Sales Manager Work Schedules

Most sales managers work full time. They often must work additional hours including some evenings and weekends.

How to Become a Sales Manager[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Sales Managers near you!

Most sales managers have a bachelor’s degree and work experience as a sales representative.

Sales Manager Education

Most sales managers have a bachelor’s degree, although some have a master’s degree. Educational requirements are less strict for job candidates who have significant work experience. Courses in business law, management, economics, accounting, finance, mathematics, marketing, and statistics are advantageous.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Work experience is typically required for someone to become a sales manager. The preferred duration varies, but employers usually seek candidates who have at least 1 to 5 years of experience in sales.

Sales managers typically enter the occupation from other sales and related occupations, such as sales representatives or purchasing agents. In small organizations, the number of sales manager positions often is limited, so advancement for sales workers usually comes slowly. In large organizations, promotion may occur more quickly.

Important Qualities for Sales Managers

Analytical skills. Sales managers must collect and interpret complex data to target the most promising geographic areas and demographic groups, and determine the most effective sales strategies.

Communication skills. Sales managers need to work with colleagues and customers, so they must be able to communicate clearly.

Customer-service skills. When helping to make a sale, sales managers must listen and respond to the customer’s needs.

Leadership skills. Sales managers must be able to evaluate how their sales staff performs and must develop strategies for meeting sales goals.

Sales Manager Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for sales managers was $113,860 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $54,490, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $187,200.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for sales managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance $148,390
Professional, scientific, and technical services 141,460
Manufacturing 118,200
Wholesale trade 117,540
Retail trade 81,180

Compensation methods for sales managers vary significantly with the type of organization and the product sold. Most employers use a combination of salary and commissions or salary plus bonuses. Commissions usually are a percentage of the value of sales, whereas bonuses may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all sales workers in the group or district, or on the organization's performance.

Most sales managers work full time. They often must work additional hours including some evenings and weekends.

Job Outlook for Sales Managers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of sales managers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth of these managers will depend primarily on growth or contraction in the industries that employ them.

An effective sales team remains crucial for profitability. As the economy grows, organizations will focus on generating new sales and will look to their sales strategy as a way to increase competitiveness.

Growth is expected to be stronger for sales managers in business-to-business sales than in business-to-consumer sales, because the rise of online shopping will reduce the need for sales calls to individual consumers.

Sales workers are some of the most important personnel in an organization. Therefore, sales managers are less likely to be let go than other types of managers, except in the case of organizations that are merging and consolidating.

Offshoring of these workers is also unlikely. Although domestic companies may hire some sales managers in foreign countries, those workers will function largely to support expansion into foreign markets rather than to replace domestic sales managers.

Sales Managers Job Prospects

Strong competition is expected because other managers and highly experienced professionals often seek these jobs.

Employment projections data for Sales Managers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Sales managers 376,300 395,300 5 19,000


*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Used by permission.

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