How to Become a Sales Manager

A woman in business casual outfit and glasses sits at a desk for a sales manager interview

The demand for skilled sales managers continues to grow, meaning lots of exciting opportunities exist out there. Our guide will help individuals hoping to become sales managers take advantage of these opportunities and confidently navigate this career journey. 

What Is a Sales Manager?

Sales managers play a crucial role in an organization’s daily operations, from managing sales teams to monitoring daily sales activities. They recruit team members, set sales goals, curate strategies to track sales performance and ensure customer satisfaction. They serve as a leader for sales reps and associates, guiding them — and the organization — toward success. 

What Does a Sales Manager Do?

A sales manager’s duties ultimately differ depending on the company and industry, but most job descriptions share several common elements: 

  • Hiring sales team members: A sales manager’s primary duty involves recruiting talented sales representatives. They shape the sales team by evaluating candidates’ qualifications, conducting interviews and making hiring decisions based on organizational needs. 
  • Training and mentoring sales reps: Once they have assembled the team, sales managers provide training and mentorship to sales representatives. They ensure team members have the necessary skills and knowledge to perform their roles.
  • Overseeing sales strategy and processes: Sales managers also develop and implement sales strategies to meet revenue targets. They analyze market trends, identify opportunities for growth and devise plans to capitalize on them. Additionally, they oversee sales processes to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Analyzing sales data and reports: Sales managers regularly analyze sales data and reports to evaluate performance, identify areas for improvement and make data-driven decisions. They track key performance indicators (KPIs), such as sales volume, conversion rates and customer satisfaction metrics.
  • Cross-departmental collaboration: Sales managers collaborate with various departments — such as marketing, product development and customer service — to align sales efforts with overall business objectives. They work closely with other teams to coordinate activities and drive integrated sales strategies.

Skills Needed to Become a Sales Manager

Success in sales management requires a diverse set of hard and soft skills. 

Hard Skills

Cultivating these hard skills can help candidates set themselves up for success in a sales manager role: 

  • Sales forecasting
  • Product knowledge
  • Recruiting and hiring top talent
  • Leadership
  • Data analysis
  • Strategic thinking
  • Team management
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) experience

Candidates of all backgrounds can gain these skills — as long as they have the curiosity and interest to do so! 

Soft Skills

Developing the following skills may assist managers in engaging with clients and colleagues:

  • Empathy
  • Resilience
  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Motivation
  • Delegation
  • Active listening

Just like hard skills, prospective sales managers can cultivate these skills over time. 

How to Become a Sales Manager

Here’s a step-by-step guide to transitioning from a sales associate to a sales manager. 

1. Meet Education Requirements

First, prospective managers should aim to meet the relevant sales manager education requirements. Many applicants earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as marketing, business administration or economics. 

While applicants do not necessarily need a college degree for a thriving sales manager career, the knowledge gained through education is valuable. Plus, a degree offers concrete evidence of education and can give candidates a competitive edge. Some employers may also prefer candidates who hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or another master’s degree. 

2. Learn and Develop the Necessary Skills

A successful sales manager, like the one pictured here, requires more than sales skills

Becoming a successful sales manager requires more than sales skills. Managers also serve as motivators, strategists, leaders and mentors for the sales team while ensuring they meet their sales targets. As mentioned, candidates can gain these skills over time — those looking to hone their skills during the application process can consider enrolling in courses or training programs to show their commitment to the position.

3. Gain Relevant Experience

Candidates who have not worked in sales before can gain experience as sales representatives. Doing so allows them to gain experience in sales and develop applicable skills and knowledge. During this time, prospective managers can seek opportunities to take on additional responsibilities, whether mentoring new hires or assisting with sales strategy development. Demonstrating capabilities and commitment can pave the way for advancement to management positions.

4. Fulfill Sales Goals

Nothing attracts the attention of supervisors like getting recognized as a top performer. Sales reps looking to become managers can capture management’s attention by consistently achieving or surpassing sales targets. Fulfilling sales goals showcases their ability to drive revenue growth, acquire new clients and maintain strong customer relationships. A candidate’s track record of sales success will be crucial in proving their readiness for a management role.

5. Network With Sales Professionals

Networking remains as important as knowledge. Prospective managers should build relationships with other sales professionals within the organization and the broader industry. Join professional associations, attend networking events and engage with peers on LinkedIn or other professional social media platforms. Attend business networking groups and events and aim to build genuine relationships.

How Much Does a Sales Manager Earn?

The median annual salary for a sales manager in the United States was more than $135,000 in May 2023. However, earning potential varies based on several factors, including experience, workplace, industry and geographic location. 

For example, sales managers with extensive experience and a proven track record of success may ask for higher salaries. Additionally, working in a technical industry or one with high-demand products or services may lead to higher earning potential. 

Moreover, factors such as commissions, bonuses and benefits can impact a sales manager’s compensation package. 

Crafting a Sales Manager Resume and Cover Letter

These documents provide the first opportunities to stand out and make a strong impression:

  • Curriculum vitae: Candidates can tailor their curriculum vitae for sales manager roles by highlighting relevant experience, skills and achievements. They can start with a concise summary highlighting their leadership abilities before including examples of successful sales campaigns led, quotas exceeded and teams managed.
  • Resume: A resume for sales manager positions should emphasize one’s ability to drive results through effective sales strategies and team management. Candidates should use action verbs — like “generated,” “increased” and “pioneered” — and quantifiable achievements to demonstrate impact. 
  • Cover letter: A cover letter for sales manager roles should be personalized and address the specific requirements of the job posting. Applicants should highlight their passion for sales, leadership skills and enthusiasm for the opportunity to contribute to the company’s success.

Proofreading these documents helps avoid typos or grammatical errors. A polished and professional application package will help applicants stand out and increase their chances of landing a sales manager position.

Preparing for Sales Manager Interviews

The interview process often involves multiple stages to assess a candidate’s skills, experience and fit for the role. Applicants can expect behavioral, situational and technical questions that evaluate their leadership abilities, problem-solving skills and strategic thinking. 

An applicant may have to:

  • Describe their experience leading and developing successful sales teams.
  • Describe how they approach setting and achieving sales targets and goals.
  • Provide an example of a challenging sales situation and how they resolved it.
  • Explain how they stay updated on industry trends and changes to adapt sales strategies.
  • Share their approach to motivating and coaching sales team members to improve performance.

To prepare for the interview, applicants should:

  • Review the job description carefully and research the company’s products, services and industry.
  • Practice articulating their achievements, leadership experiences and examples of successful sales strategies they’ve implemented.
  • Be ready to discuss their vision for the sales team and how they plan to drive results if hired.

Moreover, follow these crucial steps after an interview

Explore Sales Manager Opportunities With Danaher

Becoming a sales manager requires dedication, motivation and strategic planning — skills that curious minds cultivate inherently. To start your journey, focus on meeting education requirements, developing essential skills, gaining relevant experience and networking with industry professionals. The next step involves crafting an impressive resume and cover letter and preparing for the interview. 

If you’re interested in a sales management career at Danaher, search our open sales jobs. At Danaher, we’re passionate about cultivating a growth mindset and encouraging our team members to grow their skills. Take actionable steps today to advance your career in sales management!

A sales woman in a blazer holds a tablet and smiles at the camera