Becoming a sales manager involves taking on additional responsibility for a sales team, and usually happens as a result of 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 desire.
Here are the eight steps you should take to become a sales manager:
1. Express Interest in Becoming a Sales Manager
The first thing you should do as you begin to explore sales management as the next step in your career is to have a conversation with your current manager and make it known that you are interested. Companies that are growing are always looking to develop qualified sales professionals into leaders and managers, and the best way to be considered is to make your interest known.
Here are a few ways to express interest in becoming a sales manager:
Talk to Your Sales Manager
In most cases, you should have a conversation with your sales manager first. In the event that 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, but your first conversation should be with your boss.
Let them know you are interested in sales management and why. 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. Once your sales manager is aware of your interest, he or she can be an advocate for you, and guide you through the process.
Speak to Other Sales Leaders
In addition to your sales manager, talk to 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. This helps give you a broader perspective on what it means to lead a sales team, as well as provides you with the opportunity to open doors to management positions outside of your company.
2. Find a Mentor
As you start to have conversations about becoming a sales manager, find an experienced leader who can serve as a mentor. Many companies actually have informal or, in some cases, formal programs for this purpose. Even if that’s not the case, you should consider the individuals within your network who would be a good fit for this role.
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 that type of responsibility.
Here are a few ways a mentor can help in your process of becoming a sales manager:
- Job shadowing: Your mentor should hold a sales manager position similar to the one you want, and 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. You want to get a feel for day-to-day activities, and job shadowing is a great way to learn how to become a sales manager.
- Career advice: Your mentor should be a sounding board and give you good career advice. They should be able to help you generate some ideas and advise you on the best way to not only become a sales manager, but to become a high-performing one who is capable of going beyond the role of being a sales manager. The right advice can help get you there.
- 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 training, learning about teamwork, 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 make you 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 to simply 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.
3. Set Personal Goals That Help You Get Noticed
After you talk to your manager 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. While you shouldn’t wait until you think you are ready for the next step to do your very best, you should 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 go above and beyond what you are already expected to perform. Demonstrating 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, and both sales leaders and your fellow teammates will want to know how you’re able to consistently exceed your goals. It also shows them that you know how to increase sales. 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.
4. Step Up to Coach & Develop Other Sales Reps
Once you’re in the habit of setting and achieving stretch goals, look for (or create) opportunities to demonstrate 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 are willing to take the initiative and are capable of leading others.
Here are a few ways you can coach and develop others:
- Become a mentor or accountability partner to other sales reps: A great way to coach and develop other sales reps is to become a mentor or accountability partner. If you help another sales colleague achieve success, you will not only be recognized as a great salesperson, you’ll now be recognized as sales management material. Be sure to document and show measurable results from your work with other sales reps.
- Lead special group training sessions: Another great way to coach and develop others is to lead group training sessions. If there are particular skills you’re good at that lead you to success, share them in a training session that you create and conduct. This will add value to your team and you’ll be seen as leadership and management material.
- Become a field trainer: A very hands-on and practical way to develop other sales reps is to coach them out in the field. This is where you go on sales calls with other reps and give them feedback on their approach. Your trainees can also shadow you and learn something from your approach.
These are great ways to coach and develop others. They’re also very fulfilling because you have an opportunity to make a positive difference in your colleagues’ sales production and careers. It’s not only a great way to continue getting noticed as sales management material, but it’s also a great way to share and give something very valuable to your colleagues.
5. Take Leadership & Sales Management Training
Great sales managers take the time to train in all aspects of sales management and leadership. This type of training can come in a variety of forms, from informal training with other sales leaders and managers to formal training in the form of courses and seminars. 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 the ones that are external where you meet and train with people working for other companies, are great because you’re able to learn from others outside of your company. Training with sales management training companies is also a great way to network and meet other aspiring sales managers.
- 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 courses, you can learn at your own pace.
- Informal on-the-job training: The great thing about on-the-job training is that it’s specific to your company and what you’ll need to know as a successful sales manager in your company. You can learn things like how to run reports or how to access call recordings to evaluate cold calling techniques.
- Books: 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.
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 be showing 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 about coaching or managing others, it’s necessary to communicate how your team is doing and inform how you’ll support them.
Formal training like that offered by The Sales Pro is equally as important. Their courses on topics from mastering your pitch to leadership and development help to create a more well-rounded sales manager who can sharpen their own skills and share knowledge from the training with others. To see if their training is right for you, check out their programs.
6. Motivate & Inspire Others
So far, if you’ve taken these steps, you’ve been motivating and inspiring others while on this journey to becoming a sales manager. At this point, you can take things up a notch with actions that are even more motivating and inspiring, and that garner positive attention and add value to your sales colleagues.
Here are a few things you can do to motivate and inspire others around you:
- Start a sales accountability group: Starting an accountability group can be a fun and productive way to facilitate positive results of the sales professionals who join. As a group leader, you can learn and practice accountability techniques. It’s also a great way to stay tuned in with the challenges and successes of your colleagues, and will force you to help 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 candy bar, or a cup of gourmet coffee. The competitions should focus on challenging areas, and the prizes should be inexpensive but something that people will want.
- Start a sales book club: A great way to continue learning about sales and sales management is by starting a sales book club. This is a great way to learn about techniques and even try them out. It’s also a great way to get salespeople who love sales books together to talk and debate about 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 have the chance to become a sales manager.
7. Informally Volunteer for Sales Management Projects
A great 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.
Here are a few projects you can ask to take on:
- 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 that you can let upper management know how sales will turn out in the future. Learning this now will make your job easier as a new sales manager.
- Sales reporting: Learning how to create sales reports is also very important. You’ll need sales reports 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 a great project because in doing so, you’ll gain a lot of knowledge in the subject area. You’ll also, more than likely, get to know subject matter experts within your company, which will increase your exposure and help elevate your position as a sales leader.
- Presenting information at a sales meeting: Because presenting in front of others and leading meetings are key, this is a great project. Find some information, such as what the competition is doing and how to beat them, to present to your team. They will find this valuable and you’ll be seen as an expert and leader.
There are tons of projects you can volunteer for. 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 your job that you must get used to doing.
8. Network & Apply for Positions
At this point, you’re ready to officially apply for positions. Ideally, all of the things you’ve been doing and have achieved have positioned you well to be considered for upcoming and open positions within your company. 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: In theory, it should be easier for you to get a sales manager position from within your current company. Start your search internally by formally applying for open roles and informally by talking to decision-makers.
- Apply to external job openings: Seek external roles. If internal roles don’t exist or if you have a desire to leave and work someplace else, apply to 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 vice presidents (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 are tons of sales management resources that could 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 effective programs specialize in various sales skills and focus on the industry you’re selling in.
Here are a few training resources you should consider to help you become a sales manager:
- The Sales Pro: The Sales Pro offers online and in-person training. You can learn things like 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 also 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.
Sales Management Skills to Develop
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 great coaches. Coaches are detail-oriented and focused on results. They know how to create reports showing where sales are increasing or reports that show how much time reps spend on the phone during the awareness phase of the sales pipeline. With this type of information, sales managers can offer specific feedback to individuals on their teams, making them higher performing and more significant contributors.
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.
Do 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’re determined enough to become a sales manager, you can become one by having a great mentor and accountability partner and putting in the work. Following the steps outlined here will give you an actionable plan to build the skills you need and to create the relationships you’ll need to leverage to succeed in this career. Use this as a roadmap to become a sales manager.
Great sales managers use the best tools to measure and evaluate performance. For instance, customer relationship management (CRM) systems like Freshsales 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.