Becoming a sales manager involves taking on additional responsibility for the performance of a sales team and is often a promotion after demonstrating consistent performance as a sales rep. Sales managers can be promoted internally or recruited, but in both cases, there are specific steps you should consider if this is a career path you are interested in.
Here are nine steps you should consider when aspiring to a sales management career:
1. Research the Role of a Sales Manager
While you may be an experienced sales rep and you think the next best step would be to become a sales manager, you may not be fully aware of what it takes to be a great sales manager—or if you will even enjoy it. Sales managers take on a lot of responsibility for the performance and training of each sales rep, and they often have to report to C-level executives on how the sales team is doing—and are judged on how the entire team performs.
As a sales rep, you are responsible for your own individual performance. As a sales manager, you are responsible for the performance of the entire sales team, which comes with its own set of challenges.
Some people are better suited to becoming specialized or senior sales reps rather than coaching and training others. To get a better understanding of what it’s like to be a sales manager, talk to sales managers in your network, and read job descriptions on websites like Indeed or LinkedIn.
2. Express Interest in Becoming a Sales Manager
Once you’ve determined you’d like to become a sales manager, start a conversation with your current manager and let them know you’re interested. Companies that are growing are always looking to develop qualified sales professionals into leaders and managers—but if you say nothing, you’ll likely be passed over for someone who speaks up first.
Here are a few strategies to express interest in becoming a sales manager:
Talk With Your Sales Manager
In most cases, you should have a conversation with your sales manager first. If you don’t have a good working relationship with your direct supervisor, you may want to consider speaking with another leader or a human resources person from your company. Whenever possible, however, your first conversation should be with your boss. Let them know you are interested in sales management and discuss why you think you’d be a good fit.
Your goal should be to ask them if they would be willing to help you understand the process, as well as give you honest feedback about your qualifications and readiness for sales management. If possible, give some solid examples of your leadership capabilities and instances when you’ve gone above and beyond your duties, such as volunteering to help train new sales reps. Once your sales manager is aware of your interest, he or she can be an advocate for you and guide you through the process.
Engage Other Sales Leaders
In addition to your sales manager, talk with other sales leaders in your company about your career goals and your desire to learn how to become a sales manager. Speaking to other sales leaders in your organization is a great way to network and get to know others who may be able to help you become a sales manager. They can also serve as possible mentors or accountability partners.
Connect With Sales Leaders in Your Network
As you explore becoming a sales manager, talk to other sales leaders and managers within your network. One way to do this is to search for sales managers in your network on LinkedIn. This helps give you a broader perspective on what it means to lead a sales team and provides you with the opportunity to open doors to management positions outside of your current organization.
3. Find a Mentor
As you have conversations about becoming a sales manager, find an experienced leader that can serve as a mentor. Many companies have informal or formal programs for this purpose. Even if that’s not the case, you should consider the professionals within your network who would be a good fit as a mentor.
A mentor will help give you direction and ideas on how to become a sales manager specific to your situation. They have been through the process and understand what it takes to become a sales manager, and can help prepare you for both the skills and experience you’ll need to take on a new set of responsibilities and expectations.
Here are a few ways a mentor can help you as you work toward becoming a sales manager:
- Job shadowing: Your mentor should hold a sales manager position similar to the one you want. One of the first things you should do is shadow them. Take a day to follow them around and assist with important tasks like creating reports and running sales meetings.
- Career advice: Your mentor should be a sounding board and give you excellent career advice. They should be able to help you generate some ideas and advise you on the best way to become a high-performing sales manager.
- Career planning: Creating a career plan with your mentor is important for making your goal of becoming a sales manager a reality. Work with your mentor to create a solid plan with actionable steps like signing up for professional development opportunities, learning about how to promote a great sales team culture, taking on additional leadership tasks, and talking to the right people about your aspirations.
- Introductions: Ideally, your mentor should be well-connected and should be able to introduce you to key people who can make the decision or influence a decision to help you earn a role as a sales manager.
It’s important to have a mentor who will help guide you in the right direction and even help open a few doors for you. Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be a daunting challenge; in fact, one of the most effective ways to get a mentor is simply to ask a sales manager you know and respect if they would be willing to meet for breakfast once or twice a month (your treat, of course). Most people are busy, but even busy people like free breakfast!
4. Set Personal Goals That Help You Get Noticed
After you talk with your boss about your interest in becoming a manager, he or she will likely have some type of plan for you to follow, but that isn’t your only next step. This is the time to make sure you are demonstrating the skills and traits that make for a good manager. Make an intentional effort to set goals for yourself that show you are qualified for management.
One way to do this is to set stretch goals. These are goals that show you can go above and beyond your current expectations. Showing that you can put together a plan and set goals to achieve more than your minimum goals will help you stay on the radar of the people who make decisions about your team’s sales leadership. In addition, when done well, you’ll gain the respect of other team members as someone who can crush sales goals.
Doing this will keep your name top of mind of both sales leaders and your fellow teammates, who need to know you’re able to exceed your goals and increase sales on a consistent basis. This will lead to opportunities to talk about your strategies and share your enthusiasm and determination with your team. When you become a sales manager, it won’t be a surprise because you’ve consistently proven yourself.
5. Step Up to Coach Other Sales Reps
Once you’re in the habit of setting and achieving stretch goals, create opportunities to show leadership by coaching and developing other sales reps. The primary responsibility of a sales manager is to coach and develop others, and your company will want to see that you will take the initiative and can lead others.
Here are some strategies you can use to help coach and develop other sales reps:
- Become a mentor or accountability partner to other sales reps: If you help another sales colleague achieve success, you will not only be recognized as a great salesperson, you’ll now be seen as sales management material. Be sure to document and show measurable results from your work with other sales reps.
- Lead special group training sessions: If there are particular skills you’re good at that lead you to success, share them in training sessions that you create and conduct. This will add value to your team and you’ll be considered leadership and management material.
- Become a field trainer: This is where you go on sales calls with other reps and give them feedback on their sales strategies and methods. Your trainees can also shadow you and learn something from your approach.
6. Get Involved in Leadership & Sales Management Training
The best sales managers invest in the time to train in all aspects of sales management and leadership. This sales training can come in a variety of formats, from informal training with other sales leaders and managers to professional development programs such as in-person courses and webinars. The best thing to do is to create a sales management training plan that helps accelerate your journey to becoming a sales manager.
Below are a few details around the types of training and their benefits:
- Courses and seminars: Courses and seminars, especially external programs where you meet and train with people working for other companies, are helpful because you’re able to learn from and network with professionals outside of your company.
- Online courses: The best thing about online courses is that they are usually (but not always) inexpensive and convenient. You can take them from anywhere and if they’re on-demand, you can learn at your own pace.
- Informal on-the-job training: On-the-job training is helpful because it is specific to your company and what you’ll need to know to become a successful sales manager in your own organization. You can learn things such as how to run reports or how to access call recordings to evaluate cold calling techniques.
- Books: Sales books are great because they’re relatively inexpensive and easy to access. You can read or listen to books while doing other things like working out or taking a walk, so you can take your learning on the go.
Taking a variety of sales management and leadership training is important because each serves a different purpose. On-the-job training from your sales manager, who may show you how to create an accurate sales forecast, is something you’ll need to learn to produce forecasts for upper management. While it might not be around coaching or managing others, it’s necessary to communicate how your team is doing and inform how you’ll support them.
Formal training offered by organizations such as The Sales Pro is just as important. Their courses focus on topics from mastering your pitch to leadership and development, creating well-rounded sales managers who can sharpen their own skills and share knowledge from the training with others. To see if their training is right for you, visit their website.
7. Motivate & Inspire Your Colleagues
If you’ve taken these steps, you’ve been encouraging and coaching others while on your journey to becoming a sales manager. Take things up a notch with actions that are even more motivating and inspiring to garner positive attention and add value to your sales colleagues’ experience.
Here are a few things you can do to motivate and inspire sales team members:
- Start a sales accountability group: Starting an accountability group can be a fun and productive way to facilitate positive results of sales professionals who join. As a group leader, you can learn and practice accountability techniques. It’s also a great way to stay tuned into the challenges and successes of your colleagues and will help you coach them to success.
- Facilitate friendly informal competitions: Friendly competitions can be fun ways to keep your colleagues on track. Prizes can be inexpensive fun things like movie tickets, a gift card, or a cup of gourmet coffee. The competitions should focus on challenging areas and the prizes should be inexpensive, yet something that people will want.
- Start a sales book club: An excellent way to continue learning about sales and sales management is by starting a sales book club. This helps you learn about techniques and try them out. It’s also helpful to get salespeople who love sales books together to talk and debate different approaches to sales.
- Create a blog, intranet site, or Slack channel: A blog, an intranet site, or a Slack channel can be a fun way to communicate and share ideas. You can serve as a moderator and use the space for positive, uplifting interaction.
There are many things you can do to motivate and inspire others. Whatever you choose, make sure it aligns with your company’s and team’s sales culture. Also, be open about your intentions with your sales manager. Most importantly, have fun and get to know your teammates. Use this as an opportunity to learn what types of things work and what doesn’t work, which will help you as you grow and work toward becoming a sales manager.
8. Informally Volunteer for Sales Management Projects
Another way to step into the role of a sales manager is by volunteering to take on sales management projects. Sales managers are always busy and often have many things on their plates. Talk to your sales manager about special projects that will prepare you to be a sales manager that you can take on. The great thing about this is that you’ll use the skills you’ve learned when you do become a sales manager.
Some ideas for projects you can volunteer to spearhead include:
- Sales forecasting: Learning how to create a sales forecast is key for becoming a sales manager. You’ll need to know what factors go into creating a sales forecast so you can let upper management know about projected revenue. Learning this now will make your job easier as a new sales manager.
- Sales reporting: You’ll need sales reporting skills to help you pinpoint problems and opportunities, which will help you come up with strategies to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities.
- Developing training materials: Creating training materials is also an impressive project because you’ll gain knowledge on how to train and onboard new sales reps. You’ll also get to know subject matter experts within your company, which will increase your exposure and helps elevate your position as a sales leader.
- Presenting information at a sales meeting: Because presenting in front of others and leading meetings are key for sales managers, this is a great exercise. Find some information, such as what the competition is doing and how to beat them, to present to your team—you’ll be seen as an expert and leader.
Ask for projects that really interest you to keep you excited about learning how to become a sales manager. Also, ask for projects that seem challenging, boring, or hard, because these things will become part of a sales management position that you must get used to doing.
9. Network & Apply for Positions
At this point, you’re ready to apply for positions. Ideally, all the things you’ve been doing and have achieved have positioned you well to be considered for upcoming and open positions within your company. However, if there are no positions available at this time in your company, start exploring other options.
Here are a few things you can do at this stage:
- Seek internal positions: Start your search internally formally by applying for open roles and informally by talking to decision-makers.
- Apply to external job openings: If internal roles don’t exist or if you have a desire to leave and work at a different company, apply for positions with other companies. Tap into your network to see if you know anyone of influence in the places you’re applying to.
- Network with internal and external sales VPs and directors: Focus on building relationships with sales leadership internally and externally. They are the decision-makers and getting to know them can help you land the sales manager role you’ve been looking for.
- Expand your LinkedIn network: Connect with sales leaders on LinkedIn and build relationships with them. This could lead to the sales manager role you’ve been waiting for.
Sales Management Resources
There is no shortage of sales management resources that can help you become a sales manager. The most effective resources are training resources that focus on helping you develop the skills you’ll need to become an effective sales manager. The most beneficial programs specialize in various sales skills and focus on the industry you’re selling in.
Here are three training resources to consider to help you become a sales manager:
- The Sales Pro: The Sales Pro offers online and in-person training. You can learn things such as how to master a sales pitch or how to become a sales leader. They will even work with you to customize training courses for your company.
- Rain Group: Rain Group features training programs in a variety of industries and areas like technology and healthcare. Part of why their programs are so effective is that they focus on specific niches like insurance within financial services. They’re also results-driven, so training won’t just be a great class but will produce great outcomes.
- Double-Digit Sales: This organization has training programs for sales teams and sales managers. They cover a variety of topics including sales leadership, storytelling, and prospecting. They also offer post-training skill-building to ensure the training sticks.
Core Sales Manager Attributes
Sales managers have a mix of skills that include a balance of leadership and coaching. Leadership qualities are those inspirational traits that can move entire teams to crush their sales goals. They’re able to bring team morale up and foster a team or sales culture that fosters high performance. Sales leaders are visionaries who can inspire teams to make sales goals a reality.
On the other hand, great sales managers are also the best coaches. Coaches are detail-oriented and focused on results. They know how to create reports showing where sales are increasing or ones that indicate how much time reps spend on the phone during the awareness phase of the sales pipeline. With this type of information, effective sales managers can offer specific feedback to individuals on their teams, improving their performance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take to become a sales manager?
The answer to this question depends on your level of experience and your desire to make it happen within a certain period of time. If you’re more experienced and you have an incredible drive to become a sales manager, it can take a matter of a few months. If you’ve just started as an entry-level sales rep, it can take a year or more.
What qualifications do I need to become a sales manager?
This depends on your industry and the company you work for. For instance, many pharmaceutical companies require a university degree, while other industries only require a certain amount of experience and sales success to become a sales manager.
How much money do sales managers make?
The amount of money you can make depends on your industry, what you’re selling, and the type of company you work for. If you’re in a high revenue or profit industry like software as a service (SaaS), tech, or healthcare, you can make six figures. If you work for a public sector or nonprofit organization, you should expect to earn a bit less.
If you’re determined enough to become a sales manager, you can become one by having a great mentor, doing your research, and putting in the work. Following the steps outlined in this article will give you an actionable plan to build the skills you need and to create the relationships you need to leverage to succeed in this career.
Great sales managers use the best tools to measure and evaluate performance. For example, customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Freshworks CRM allow you to create reports that tell you how your team is performing against sales goals. It also has a built-in phone with call recording to help you evaluate and give feedback on sales calls. Try these features with a 21-day free trial today.