Sales manager
Sales & Buyers

Sales managers plan and organise the work of a team of salespeople, within an agreed budget. They set sales targets for the team, and monitor the achievements of sales representatives. Sales managers often work longer hours than other sales staff.

Work Activities

Sales managers are responsible for the sales teams and/or sales assistants of companies with products or services to sell. They divide the work by region or type, allocating it to sales representatives (reps) or other sales staff, for example, telesales operators. They set sales targets for individuals or groups to meet, and plan how the work is going to be done.

Supervision of the sales reps' work can be done through telephone conversations, email and occasional meetings, and by analysis of their written weekly or monthly sales returns.

Sales managers sometimes need to take into consideration whether or not the company can make changes to meet customers' requirements, or can offer special discounts. The manager might be able to decide on some of these, or might need to have discussions with product managers or suppliers.

They produce and present sales strategies, long-term plans for sales growth and reports for discussion by company management, and they organise sales briefings. They might sometimes attend conferences and oversee sales staff at the company's stands at trade fairs and exhibitions.

Sales managers set up and maintain good communications with existing customers, and they identify new business opportunities.

Managers sometimes provide quotations and process larger orders themselves (checking that the most important ones are on schedule). For major orders, the sales manager might need to draw up a tender document (a competitive bid for the supply of goods or services) and agree a final contract if the bid is successful. Some sales managers have a full list of customers to sell to, in addition to their managerial duties.

After the delivery of products or services, they might have to handle any problems, complaints or queries. Again, they might need to discuss these with production staff or suppliers.

Some sales managers recruit and train their sales staff. They set standards and make sure that the reps and other sales staff have good product knowledge, together with supplies of up-to-date sales literature and product samples.

Sales managers have to keep within an agreed budget for the running of their department.

Depending on the level of their responsibility, sales managers can travel locally, nationally and even internationally, and might have to spend time away from home.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills

  • The ability to manage, coach and motivate a team of sales staff.
  • An understanding of the selling process; this is as important as actual selling ability.
  • Leadership qualities, enthusiasm and initiative.
  • Verbal and written communication skills, and interpersonal skills.
  • The confidence to speak in front of groups of people.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Tact and diplomacy.
  • Negotiating skills.
  • Organisational and planning skills.
  • Administrative abilities to deal with sales reports, enquiries, orders and guarantees.
  • The ability to use IT.
  • Number skills for setting and monitoring budgets and sales targets.
  • The ability to deal with a variety of people and activities at one time.

Pay And Opportunities

Employers are firms in every type of industry and business.

Qualifications

Entry routes and training

Entry is usually after working in a sales position, for example, as a sales assistant or sales representative. Some large companies offer graduate training schemes. The degree subject is not always important except, for example, in specialist technical areas. Many entrants have a degree or HND in business studies or marketing.

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