At the heart of every business is the sales staff, the life’s blood of an organization.
Having an effective sales team is critical to a successful business. That’s why sales management can be a rather challenging, yet rewarding, responsibility.
Success in this position requires a unique mix of business savvy, personality, empathy, patience and persistence. But for those who can master the profession, the career opportunities are varied and multiple.
Those whose who earn a degree in business administration with a concentration in sales or sales management can work in almost any industry. That includes advertising, real estate, healthcare, manufacturing, engineering, media, financial services and travel.
The first step in mastering sales is to understand how transactions work. Sales come in many varieties, each requiring a different type of sales management.
- At its most basic definition, sales involve a transaction (typically money) between a buyer who wants a product or service and a seller. But all sales exist on a spectrum. On one end are basic needs – you buy food, water and gas for the car because you need it. No salesperson is necessary to convince you to make the purchase.
- At the other end of the spectrum are items that fall into the “want” category. Marketing and even peer pressure can lead to the desire for a product or service. No one technically needs a Mercedes-Benz or Audi. If all car purchases were made completely without emotion and based totally on reliability, everyone would be behind the wheel of a Toyota (and many are).
Obviously, no one also needs a spa in their home, a three-car garage, the latest high-tech coffee maker or Perrier water. But people have wants as well as needs, and if they have the means to attain these items, many will. Choosing which one to purchase is where a salesperson comes in.
What Sales Managers Do
Sales managers work primarily on building effective sales teams. In 21st century business, with an emphasis on online sales and marketing, that requires building teams that can reach customers wherever they are checking out products.
Increasingly, that means social media and websites. Sales managers focus on building teams that can manage both traditional and online sales. Doing so has a big payoff – well put together sales teams offer a much larger return on investment for organizations.
Sales managers recruit and hire new salespeople. They also create and coordinate training for new hires and ongoing education for existing staff.
A sales manager’s duties go far beyond this, however. They also develop sales strategy, set sales goals and oversee the sales team’s budget. With the emphasis on data-driven decisions, they also must analyze sales data and continuously monitor the effectiveness of the team, making changes when needed.
Due to the importance of the position, college-educated sales managers are in demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7% increase in the number of sales managers through 2026. And pay is commensurate with the demands of the job, with sales managers earning an average salary of $137,650 as of May 2017. The top 10% of sales managers earned more than $208,000.
For those interested in operating at the highest reaches of the sales profession, where both the challenges and rewards are substantial, then a career in sales management may be worth consideration. Salaries can range depending on education, location, industry and market conditions, so it’s advisable to research jobs in your area.
How to Sell
Learning how to become an effective salesperson is the first step in eventually become a sales manager, guiding a sales team.
A valuable skill for a salesperson is the ability to clearly communicate the benefits of a product. This can be tangible (organic food is better for you) or intangible (you deserve and have earned this condo in the Bahamas).
Whatever the case, pressure tactics aren’t the way to go, no matter how many movies make it seem that way. Instead, a successful salesperson needs skills such as the following.
- Clear communication. Every product or service has some advantage over competitors, and sales teams must communicate that effectively. This sometimes involves having to do cold calling, a difficult part of the job that it takes education, skills and practice to master.
- Trustworthiness. In this day and age, everyone can sense when they are being misled by a salesperson. Good salespeople do not promise what they cannot deliver.
- Relationships. Successful salespeople build relationships with customers, which means they will return repeatedly to the same person to make a purchase.
- Listening skills. Every customer has a unique need or desire, and they will communicate it if you listen.
- Persistence and positivity. It takes patience and tenacity to close a sale, but successful salespeople never give up. That said, they also draw the line between courting a customer and annoying them.