Career Overview: Sales Manager

What They Do

A sales manager oversees the distribution of a company’s goods and services to consumers, typically directing a team of sales representatives. At a high level, this includes:

  • Determining and assigning sales territories
  • Setting targets and quotas for employees
  • Observing consumer preferences to establish the focus of sales efforts.

In addition, many sales manager positions require analytical skills, such as the ability to examine data and change the course of a strategy to meet set goals. Understanding budget projects, revenue costs and more also are critical skills.


A good sales manager will have ideas on how to draw new customers using direct sales tactics; cold calling customers and scheduling marketing visits with potential customers is part of a sales managers day-to-day business strategy. Resolving major customer complaints regarding products or services also typically falls under the responsibilities of a sales manager.


Strong communication skills will help sales managers build and maintain close relationships with dealers, distributors and customers, ensuring that a solid base of repeat customers is built. These communication skills also will help sales managers liaise with internal stakeholders, such as marketing and public relations, to ensure that the product being put to market meets customer needs and target new markets.


Sales managers may also be required to conduct various administrative tasks to ensure the success of his or her team. Such tasks might include preparing budgets, approving expenditures and vacation requests, conducting regular performance reviews, and creating individual training programs to help employees meet goals.


While the responsibilities of a sales manager may vary depending on the size of the organization for which they work, it is likely they will be required to recruit, hire and train new employees. Also depending on the size of their company, a sales manager may be required to collaborate with leadership from other departments within the organization.

Growth of the Career

When it comes to the predicted growth of sales manager positions within an area, potential candidates should consider the industry in which they’re seeking to be employed. For example, someone who wants to live and work as a sales manager in Detroit might consider learning all they can about the automotive industry. Companies that sell products to businesses nationwide or worldwide (as opposed to traditional brick-and-mortar stand-alone shops) will likely have more potential for job growth in the future due to the increasing popularity of consumers shopping online.

Salary Potential

Sales managers can expect to earn a median salary of $108,540, according to a 2013 report by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. The low end of the salary range for sales managers is around $50,000, while some sales managers earn upwards of $187,000. Sales managers who earn positions with securities and commodity exchanges, brokerages and other financial services firms earn the most. Typically the highest-paid employees work for large financial companies on the east and west coasts.

Education Required

While the role of a sales manager is typically a high-stress position, the financial rewards can be great. Most employers prefer applicants who possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Those who hold degrees in Business Administration or Marketing are most attractive, and candidates can gain an edge on other applicants by taking classes in business law, economics, management, accounting, finance, and statistics. Applicants who are computer- and tech-savvy will also have a leg-up on competition. Hiring managers look for contenders who have the ability to demonstrate the ways in which they’re able to boost productivity, thus increasing profits.