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How To Become A Sales Manager

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Tamara is a seasoned copywriter with a unique blend of legal expertise and business acumen, and a passion for writing.

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How To Become A Sales Manager

How To Become A Sales Manager

Whether you’re a student looking to get into sales, a sales representative aiming high, or even a worker in a completely different industry, anyone who has the skills needed to manage a sales team can become a sales manager if they are willing to put in the work.

Focusing on experience you have that has prepared you for the demands of managing a sales team is the right place to start to expedite the process of securing a job as a sales manager. But what are the other steps you should take to put yourself on the right path to getting picked for a managerial role in sales? 

To help you understand if a career in sales management is right for you, and to learn what you need to do to achieve your goal of becoming a sales manager, we’ve prepared a handy guide to help you.

Key Takeaways

  • Sales managers are responsible for building and guiding sales teams to generate sales and bring in revenue for their companies.

  • If you’re hoping to become a sales manager, you’ll need a wide range of professional, interpersonal, and personal skills.

  • To determine what sort of skills you’ll need as a sales manager, it’s best to set a concrete career goal while focusing on a particular industry, and then scour job listings on relevant websites.

  • If you’re working in a sales position, some tips to help you become manager-worthy include gaining relevant experience, networking with sales managers, consulting with HR regarding sales management opportunities in your current company, and utilizing feedback as appropriate.

  • Acquiring sales-management related certifications and developing needed hard and soft skills will greatly boost your chances of making the cut for sales-management opportunities.

What Does It Take To Be A Sales Manager?

A sales manager’s responsibilities usually include “building and leading a team of salespeople to help drive revenue,” reports LinkedIn

Within that description, however, there are a myriad of other tasks and activities that go into being a successful and effective sales manager, such as training, evaluating, and motivating your employees, setting sales quotas, adjusting sales strategies, and conducting consumer research to remain current on trends. Also, keep in mind that these tasks might change depending on your specialized industry or on the sales-management role of companies in that industry.

Being a sales manager is no easy job! In other words, you’ll need a wide variety of professional, interpersonal, and personal skills and abilities to be a knowledgeable, effective sales manager who can carry out the required people and process management responsibilities with elegance and precision. To that end, let’s look at 10 tips, tricks, and advice that can help you and discuss ways you can begin building needed sales-manager worthy skills.

3 Tips Before You Start

If you have worked in a field that is completely unrelated to sales or to management, or, if you are just beginning to map out the route you will take to begin a sales career, then–having no experience, you’ve got your work cut out for you. For this reason, you will need to be conscientious about planning your first steps in the sales world.

To help you develop an actionable career plan, including a roadmap to a sales manager role, here are two major things you need to do prior to planning your first steps to your new sales career.

1. Set A Goal

Before you hit the ground running, it’s always a smart idea to know your exact goal. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of sales managers is projected to grow 4% from 2022 to 2032, with an average of about 43,200 openings projected per year. This means that if you apply yourself to obtaining the necessary skills and credentials, there is a good chance that you will obtain some sort of sales-management role.

However, your path to becoming a sales manager will become much easier and more actionable if you identify the specific type of sales-management role you want. Being specific about the role you want will help you identify the relevant skills, experience, and connections you’ll need to develop to achieve your goal.

For a brief overview, here are some titles you could aspire to:

  • Administrative sales manager
  • Account manager
  • Field sales manager
  • Business development manager
  • Assistant sales manager
  • Sales supervisor
  • Territory manager
  • Product-line sales manager
  • Branch sales manager
  • Regional sales manager

We’ve ranked these titles by hierarchy level, with the most prestigious ones at the bottom. The positions listed near the bottom of the list will naturally require more hard work to obtain, so we’d advise that you start with one of the first several positions on the list, and then work your way up naturally to higher-level positions.

2. Focus On A Particular Industry

Rather than aiming to become a run-of-the-mill sales manager, set yourself apart from other applicants by identifying and honing in on your specific industry niche. 

No two industries and sales organizations are the same, so it’s best to identify exactly what sort of company you want to work for and develop your training program around techniques and knowledge that would be useful for that type of company in particular.

For example, if you are set on becoming a sales manager within the medical devices industry, you would need to have a solid understanding of medical devices in that industry, as well as the medical industry at large, to understand the best strategies for selling to hospitals and private buyers. 

In that case, rather than jumping straight to sales, some experience in nursing might serve you better. This would set you apart from other candidates who only have work experience in sales in unrelated industries.

3. Look On Job Listing Websites

Now that you’ve determined the exact industry and position you’re hoping to work in, a quick glance at job listing websites such as Indeed and Glassdoor will help you gain more insight into the exact skills and qualifications you will need to ensure you will be able to compete successfully for the role you want.

Going back to our medical device sales manager example from earlier, here’s an example of qualifications that we found from a job listing as a Clinical Account Manager for INSIGHTEC:


As you can see, great preference is given to applicants with a clinical background in neurology. However, you might not have considered the bolded travel requirements. Let us caution you to always look at the complete job description when seeking a new role, because if you are lucky enough to secure a chat with a recruiter or an interview with an HR rep, you would not  want to be caught off-guard when asked if you are able to devote 70% of your work week to travel. 

4 Tips To Learn On The Job

Now that you’ve charted out your end goal, if you are already working in a sales role, it’s time to take your first steps onto the sales management stage. As you begin working your way up the ladder, here are four tricks to implement in your current sales position to improve your chances of being chosen for a management position.

1. Gain Relevant Experience

Before you start browsing job listings for sales managers, you’ll likely have to spend a few years gaining some level of sales acumen through a more entry-level position before working your way up. Most employers require an average of four years of relevant experience for a sales manager position.

If you’re new to your career in sales, here are a few entry-level positions you could start from:

  • Sales assistant
  • Sales associate
  • Account manager or executive
  • Sales development representative
  • Inside sales representative
  • Outside sales representative
  • Business development representative
  • Sales engineer

You could also start off in a sales-adjacent field such as marketing or customer service, and switch over to sales after a year or two. As all three functions manage different parts of the customer journey, plenty of skills transfer between them, making career pivots quite easy.

2. Network With Sales Managers

As you build experience in an entry-level sales position, you’ll be under the supervision of your manager and in contact with other sales managers around you. This is a great opportunity to build connections and learn from those who have achieved your goal.

As you develop your own sales skills, take the time to observe the managers in your sales organization. What separates successful sales managers from awful ones? What key responsibilities are sales managers expected to do, and how is this different from what you expected? Making a note of observations such as these can help you focus on your own training plan and skill set.

Beyond simple observations, take the time to strike up conversations and build rapport with sales managers. Show these managers that you are a hardy, capable worker. Some managers may be happy to answer any questions you may have about how to become a manager, and some might offer advice that could help you achieve your goal.

If you make a strong impression on current sales managers, those connections might come back to help you later when a new managerial role opens up.

3. Consult With Your HR Team

If you’re currently employed in a sales organization of a reasonable size, you can expect there to be a human resources (HR) officer or team on hand to help manage career-related concerns for employees. 

One of the functions of HR is working with employees to develop career paths, identifying the skills and credentials needed to achieve those career goals, and providing training and development opportunities to help employees improve their skill sets.

In other words, your company’s HR department can serve as a free counselor and coach to help you become a sales manager. The HR department and company managers outside of HR are usually happy to help you develop your sales and managerial skills, as it will make you a more effective employee.

Plus, if you make your intentions and target position clear to HR staff, they will be more likely to think of and consider you if an opening for a sales manager opens up.

4. Utilize Feedback

Beyond your own judgment, it’s important to gain outside perspectives on your chances of attaining a sales manager position. To that extent, you can ask your fellow sales representatives and your own manager for feedback.

In your current sales position, your peers are likely the ones who know your capabilities the best and might be most comfortable with telling you candidly about your strengths and weaknesses. They may also be able to provide insight into what they think makes a good sales manager.

In addition, your performance reviews with your manager represents another great opportunity to obtain feedback to guide your training and development. What sales skills are you lacking in, and how can you and your manager develop training programs to help you improve in those areas? 

3 Areas Of Personal Development 

Outside the workplace, how can you improve your sales acumen and qualifications? If you’re not currently employed in a sales role, don’t worry – there are plenty of ways to develop qualifications for a sales manager role by acquiring needed training, essential skills, and sales or management experience.

For our final category of tips on how to become a sales manager, here are three areas of career development you could consider to thrive in a sales management role.

Pursue Professional Certifications

Whether you’re starting from outside of sales or simply want to get ahead of competition, a shiny professional certification can get you up to speed with the most effective business practices, and prove your credentials to potential employers.

From academic institutions, you could consider obtaining a bachelor’s degree in a business field, such as business administration, marketing, advertisement, communications, or business law. These will give you a solid foundation in business knowledge, though most bachelor’s programs take four years to complete.

If you’ve already obtained a bachelor’s degree, you could consider an MBA (Master of Business Administration), which is a more intensive and advanced two-year program for managerial-level business skills. A fair amount of sales manager positions require an MBA, so obtaining one would dramatically improve your chances of being hired.

Alternatively, certain nationally recognized sales organizations and associations provide their own courses and certification programs unique to sales roles, which could help you boost your credentials in a fraction of the time and cost of obtaining a professional degree. 

An example of this is the Certified Inside Sales Professional (CISP) designation from the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) or the Certified Professional Sales Leader (CPSL) designation by the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP). Should you choose one of these online courses, be sure to select one from a reputable organization that aligns with your career goals.

Develop Hard Skills

Sales managers act as the guiding beacons for their sales teams, directing the group’s execution of sales strategies, developing sales training for employees, and serving as a symbol of capability and assurance. 

In other words, sales managers must be qualified in terms of hard sales skills honed through sales experience, as well as sales management skills.

In particular, sales reps will look to you for advice on how to perform basic sales tasks such as:

Sales managers should be good enough at these tasks to set an example for sales reps. Though you’d ideally learn these on the sales floor through prior experience, a sales training program could also help you develop these skills.

Additionally, managers must have capabilities to complete tasks such as:

Sales leadership requires key skills such as critical thinking, employee leadership, problem-solving, decision-making, strategic thinking, and coaching. Refining time management and task-delegation skills are also helpful in managing a sales manager’s workload.

Though you can learn the basics of these skills in a learning environment, the best way to hone them to perfection is to seek out managerial opportunities to test your mettle.

Develop Soft Skills

Finally, beyond hard sales skills, it’s also important to develop soft skills that will help you effectively manage and communicate with your sales team. 

As a leader, your sales representatives will expect you to be optimistic, inspiring, and resilient, setting the tone for the entire team’s conduct. A positive sales leader encourages positive, upbeat, and enthusiastic sales reps, which is a critical factor in improving customer satisfaction, according to HubSpot.

Sales managers should be confident and resilient, being the first ones to get back up should the team take a hit. Reps will look to you for support in times of turmoil, so it’s best to look forward and stay flexible in times of turbulence or when developing teams while facing challenging market conditions. 

As a leader, you’ll need solid communication skills to impart your visions to your sales reps and nurture their skill sets. It’s important to have skills such as empathy, active listening, and emotional intelligence to resolve interpersonal conflicts, assuage insecurities, and provide feedback that reps will listen to. 

To help develop these traits, take care to observe and qualify your own emotions during tough times, learn the best strategies that help you overcome negativity, and pay attention to and respect the emotions of those around you. 

With a stellar combination of both hard skills and soft skills, you’ll be a shoo-in for any sales leadership position you set your mind to.


How long does it take to become a sales manager?

Most sales manager listings require at least one to five years of experience working in sales before an applicant can be considered for the role. This number may increase depending on the type of role and the degree of specialization required by the industry.

What does a sales manager do?

Generally, sales managers oversee the hiring and managing of sales team members, assign leads and territories to salespeople, set sales quotas, research market potential, create sales plans, and develop sales strategies to achieve those sales plans.

However, it’s important to realize that the exact tasks sales managers perform depend on the industry, company, and role. For example, though an “account manager” might be called a manager in title, it generally refers to someone who manages an individual customer’s orders rather than a manager of other salespeople. The sales process will also differ quite drastically between a B2B and B2C company, so the respective managerial tasks may or may not be similar.

How else can I improve my chances of becoming a sales manager?

Other than looking on job listing websites, you can improve your chances of becoming a sales manager by networking with higher-level sales leaders in your organization and in your industry. The more prominent you make yourself as a capable sales professional, the more likely people are to think of you when a new manager position opens up.

If you’d like results fast with less personal effort, you could also partner with a recruiting agency to represent you and find manager positions on your behalf.

How much does a sales management position pay?

According to job listing site Indeed, the average base salary for a sales manager in the United States is $84,234, plus an extra $25,200 per year on average from commissions. The minimum salary recorded was $42,899, while the maximum was $169,345 for managers with more than 10 years of experience. 

Indeed also reports that the typical tenure for a sales manager is one to three years, after which the manager, usually, is either promoted or switched to another role.