Sales Manager Careers
- Keen competition is expected for these highly coveted jobs.
- College graduates with related experience, a high level of creativity, and strong communication and computer skills should have the best job opportunities.
- High earnings, substantial travel, and long hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.
- Because of the importance and high visibility of their jobs, these managers often are prime candidates for advancement to the highest ranks.
Nature of the Work
Advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers coordinate their companies' market research, marketing strategy, sales, advertising, promotion, pricing, product development, and public relations activities. In small firms the owner or chief executive officer might assume all advertising, promotions, marketing, sales, and public relations responsibilities. In large firms, which may offer numerous products and services nationally or even worldwide, an executive vice president directs overall advertising, marketing, promotions, sales, and public relations policies.
Sales managers. Sales managers direct the distribution of the product or service to the customer. They assign sales territories, set sales goals, and establish training programs for the organization's sales representatives. Sales managers advise the sales representatives on ways to improve their sales performance. In large multiproduct firms, they oversee regional and local sales managers and their staffs. Sales managers maintain contact with dealers and distributors, and analyze sales statistics gathered by their staffs to determine sales potential and inventory requirements and to monitor customers' preferences. Such information is vital in the development of products and the maximization of profits.
Work environment. Sales managers work in offices close to those of top managers. Working under pressure is unavoidable when schedules change and problems arise, but deadlines and goals still must be met.
Substantial travel may be required in order to meet with customers and consult with others in the industry. Sales managers travel to national, regional, and local offices and to the offices of various dealers and distributors. Advertising and promotions managers may travel to meet with clients or representatives of communications media. At times, public relations managers travel to meet with special-interest groups or government officials. Job transfers between headquarters and regional offices are common, particularly among sales managers.
Long hours, including evenings and weekends are common. In 2008, over 80 percent of sales managers worked 40 hours or more a week.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
A wide range of educational backgrounds is suitable for entry into sales manager jobs, but many employers prefer college graduates with experience in related occupations.
Education and training. For marketing, sales, and promotions management positions, employers often prefer a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration with an emphasis on marketing. Courses in business law, management, economics, accounting, finance, mathematics, and statistics are advantageous. In addition, the completion of an internship while the candidate is in school is highly recommended. In highly technical industries, such as computer and electronics manufacturing, a bachelor's degree in engineering or science, combined with a master's degree in business administration, is preferred.
For public relations management positions, some employers prefer a bachelor's or master's degree in public relations or journalism. The applicant's curriculum should include courses in advertising, business administration, public affairs, public speaking, political science, and creative and technical writing.
Most sales management positions are filled through promotions of experienced staff or related professional personnel. For example, many managers are former sales representatives; purchasing agents; buyers; or product, advertising, promotions, or public relations specialists. In small firms, in which the number of positions is limited, advancement to a management position usually comes slowly. In large firms, promotion may occur more quickly.
Other qualifications. Computer skills are necessary for recordkeeping and data management, and the ability to work in an Internet environment is becoming increasingly vital as more marketing, product promotion, and advertising is done through the Internet. Also, the ability to communicate in a foreign language may open up employment opportunities in many rapidly growing areas around the country, especially cities with large Spanish-speaking populations.
Persons interested in becoming sales managers should be mature, creative, highly motivated, resistant to stress, flexible, and decisive. The ability to communicate persuasively, both orally and in writing, with other managers, staff, and the public is vital. These managers also need tact, good judgment, and exceptional ability to establish and maintain effective personal relationships with supervisory and professional staff members and client firms.
Certification and advancement. Some associations offer certification programs for these managers. Certification-an indication of competence and achievement-is particularly important in a competitive job market. Although relatively few sales managers currently are certified, the number of managers who seek certification is expected to grow. Today, there are numerous management certification programs based on education and job performance. In addition, the Public Relations Society of America offers a certification program for public relations practitioners that is based on years of experience and performance on an examination.
Although experience, ability, and leadership are emphasized for promotion, advancement can be accelerated by participation in management training programs conducted by larger firms. Many firms also provide their employees with continuing education opportunities-either in-house or at local colleges and universities-and encourage employee participation in seminars and conferences, often held by professional societies. In collaboration with colleges and universities, numerous marketing and related associations sponsor national or local management training programs. Course subjects include brand and product management; international marketing; sales management evaluation; telemarketing and direct sales; interactive marketing; product promotion; marketing communication; market research; organizational communication; and data-processing systems, procedures, and management. Many firms pay all or part of the cost for employees who complete courses.
Because of the importance and high visibility of their jobs, sales managers often are prime candidates for advancement to the highest ranks. Well-trained, experienced, and successful managers may be promoted to higher positions in their own or another firm; some become top executives. Managers with extensive experience and sufficient capital may open their own businesses.
Employment is projected to grow about as fast as average. As with most managerial jobs, keen competition is expected for these highly coveted positions.
Employment change. Overall employment of sales managers is expected to increase by 13 percent through 2018. Job growth will be spurred by competition for a growing number of goods and services, both foreign and domestic, and the need to make one's product or service stand out in the crowd. In addition, as the influence of traditional advertising in newspapers, radio, and network television wanes, marketing professionals are being asked to develop new and different ways to advertise and promote products and services to better reach potential customers.
Sales managers and their departments constitute some of the most important personnel in an organization and are less subject to downsizing or outsourcing than are other types of managers, except in the case of companies that are consolidating. Employment of these managers, therefore, will vary primarily on the basis of the growth or contraction in the industries that employ them. For example, if, as is expected, the number of automobile dealers declines over the next decade, these major employers of sales managers will need fewer of them. Employment of marketing managers will grow about as fast as average at 12 percent between 2008 and 2018, and that of sales managers will grow faster than average at 15 percent over the same period.
Job prospects. Most job openings for this occupation will be due to the need to replace workers who leave the occupation or retire. However, sales manager jobs are highly coveted and are often sought by other managers or highly experienced professionals, resulting in keen competition. College graduates with related experience, a high level of creativity, and strong communication and computer skills should have the best job opportunities. In particular, employers will seek those who have the skills to conduct new types of advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales campaigns involving new media, particularly the Internet.