How to become a sales manager: Making the jump from seller to leader

Contributor, Sell to Win

Do you dream of leaving your sales associate desk behind and stepping up to a sales management position?

There are some significant perks to becoming the boss: less travel, more money, maybe a private office. The arrangements may vary from company to company, but in general, most sales professionals would jump at the chance to assume a leadership role.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between sales associate and management positions, and what it takes to transition from one to the other. Then we’ll give you eight actionable tips to make your sales management dreams a reality.

Sound like a plan? Then let’s get started!

Are you Sure You Want to Become a Sales Manager?

Before you get too far ahead of yourself, how about a quick reality check? While becoming a sales manager at your company may be the logical next step in your career, the move up isn’t without its fair share of complications.

“It is critical that a salesperson understands what their new responsibilities will be, and what parts of their current role they will lose if they’re promoted,” says entrepreneur and business consultant Ryan Vet.

Here are a few statistics worth knowing:

  • Sales managers are unable to control 83% of the metrics they’re held accountable for. Having to rely on others for success, or worse, blind luck, is never fun.
  • One of the main reasons that sales reps miss their quotas is due to low productivity. Most sellers only spend 33% of their time selling. You’ll need to account for this if you become a sales manager and develop systems that make your team more efficient.
  • The average company loses 10-30% of its customer base every year. As a sales manager, you’ll be directly responsible for bringing in enough new business to replace the revenue lost, and then some. It’s a constant, pedal to the metal job.
  • More than 60% of salespeople are likely to leave their position if their manager doesn’t coach them well. Which means, as a sales manager, you have to lead your team effectively, ensure you meet sales quotas, and head up employee development.

Related: 8 ways to keep your top sales reps from churning

It’s not all bad news, though! There are also plenty of reasons why you may want to still pursue your dream of sales management. For example:

  • On average, sales managers earn significantly more money per year according to Glassdoor. Obviously, your salary will vary depending on many different factors including where you live, your skill set as a salesperson, etc. But in general, you can expect to see a boost in pay should you become a sales manager.
  • As a sales manager, you’ll have a much more diverse workday than as a sales associate. You’ll be responsible for preparing budgets, analyzing statistics, preparing projections, coaching team members, and more. For some folks, the change of pace is welcomed with open arms.

So, what’s the verdict? Still interested in how to become a sales manager? Great! Read on and we’ll give you eight tips to help you make it happen.

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How to Become a Sales Manager: 8 Tips for Making the Jump

Becoming a sales manager won’t be easy, but as long as you have the passion and the right personality, it’s definitely possible. Follow these eight tips and you’ll put yourself in a great position to transition from seller to leader.

1. Update Your Credentials

First things first, make sure that you meet all the necessary requirements for the job you hope to obtain. Many companies expect their sales managers to have a certain level of education—usually a bachelor’s degree or more. While having a degree doesn’t prove that you’ll make a good leader in itself, it does suggest that you’re well-rounded and have the aptitude necessary to handle a leadership position.

If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, don’t worry: There are other ways to prove that you’re capable of leading a sales team. You could, for example, receive sales certifications that show you understand how to manage people and can complete the other tasks you’ll be required to perform in a sales leadership role.

We also recommend that you update your resume. Any work-related accomplishments such as specific revenue metrics you’ve helped generate for your organization can help showcase your value to company leadership.

Lastly, if you’re able, try to secure endorsements from other management professionals, inside or outside your current company. The backing of other sales and business leaders can go a long way towards helping you attain a sales management role.

Related: Sales Manager Resume Sample: 25+ Examples and Writing Tips

2. Understand What Makes an Effective Salesperson

This may seem elementary, but it’s absolutely critical. You need to have a concrete understanding of what makes a great salesperson because it will be your responsibility to support and train them. Knowing how to identify common success traits in other sales reps means you’ll be able to build an effective team faster.

Remember, if you become a sales manager, you’ll be responsible for both hiring new employees and developing the folks already on your sales team. A deep understanding of quality salesmanship and what it takes to sell at a high level will serve you well.

According to Kevin Ovalle, Vice President of Frank Recruitment Group, “A successful manager is someone who has a deep appreciation of what makes a great salesperson, and who is willing to put in the time to foster those proficiencies within their team.”

3. Take on More Responsibility

If you currently hold a sales development role, you can show that you’re cut out for sales management and can shoulder more responsibility by actively seeking out new tasks. Constantly look for new ways to contribute and help your company beyond what your job description requires you to do.

For example, you could volunteer to mentor new sales associates and show them the ropes. According to Joni Holderman, founder of Thrive! Resumes, “Stepping up to the plate to mentor and coach peers or train new hires is a huge factor. This shows leadership even when one doesn’t hold the formal title of sales manager.”

Another idea is to organize a department-wide training event. Even small things like offering to write for the company blog will show company leaders that you’re a go-getter and give you a chance to display your expertise—and they’ll certainly look good on a resume.

4. Know How to Be a Team Player

Sales is inherently competitive. Who will sell the most and snag the top spot on the company’s leaderboard? Many sales professionals take pride in their work and want to earn that title, which keeps them motivated to do well.

Since you’re set on becoming a manager, we’re assuming you’re a go-getter and are no stranger to healthy competiton. But to secure a leadership role, you need to operate with care. Remember, should you ever head up the sales team, you may have to lead the people you’re currently competing against.

In the words of The Hire Talent’s Fletcher Wimbush, “The best sales managers are strong salespeople (not top performers) who care more about the greater good of the company and all its clients. They are great team players and leaders versus the best individual performer.”

This may require a shift in mindset. Start making it a habit to give credit where credit is due—even if it makes others look better than you at the time. Prove that you care about the company as a whole, not just your own sales numbers, and you’ll benefit greatly. Your company’s leadership team will be much more inclined to promote you, and your fellow sales reps will follow you gladly once you secure your management position.

5. Accept Constructive Criticism

On your quest to become a sales manager, you need to learn how to treat every day as a learning experience. If you’re able to accept constructive criticism and act on it, you’ll grow faster. You’ll also prove to upper management that you can be reasoned with, that you’re not too proud to take suggestions, and that you’re someone they can easily work with.

6. Study Current Sales Managers

One of the best ways to learn how to do anything is to simply watch those who are already doing it well. Since you want to learn how to become a sales manager, be sure to study the most successful managers at your company.

Why are they so successful? How do they relate to their team and motivate them to greatness? Do they have systems in place that you can adopt and use once you become a sales manager too? Do what you can to glean from their expertise. (You could even do some outreach on LinkedIn to find other sales managers in your area who are leading large, successful teams, and offer to buy them coffee for a few minutes of their insight.)

It might be beneficial to observe unsuccessful sales managers as well. These folks are great examples of what not to do. If you see a current management professional commit a specific error, make a mental note to avoid doing the same in the future.

7. Network, Network, Network!

While most of this article has focused on how to become a sales manager at your current organization, don’t immediately write off the opportunity to advance your career at a different company. If the business you’re at now isn’t ready to hire a new sales manager or refuses to see the value you bring to the table, there’s no reason you can’t look elsewhere.

To seek out new opportunities, join business networking groups in your area and make new connections through online business forums. Use the tools at your disposal to meet decision-makers at other companies and put yourself on the radar of more people. One of them might be your ticket to the promotion you seek.

8. Ask for the Job!

And finally, when you’re ready, take the leap and ask for the job. We understand if you’re hesitant to do this. Putting yourself out there can be terrifying. But if you want to become a sales manager, eventually you’ll need to approach the decision-makers in your company and ask them for the position.

Remember, you’re prepared and qualified for this! If you’ve followed our previous tips then your credentials have been updated, you understand what it takes to be a great salesperson, you’ve been taking on more responsibility, and you’ve proved your abilities. You’re ready for this.

So go to company leadership and explain to them why you’re a great candidate for sales management. Play to your strengths, share valuable ideas, and speak confidently. Do that and you’ll have a great chance at securing a promotion.

Related: What do business leaders really look for when hiring a sales manager?

Are You Ready to Become a Sales Manager?

After reading this entire blog post, you should now understand what it takes to obtain a sales management role, and have some valuable guidance towards successfully securing a promotion.

While graduating to sales management isn’t for everyone, it can be an amazing career boost for the right kind of person. If that person is you, we wish you all the luck in the world as you chase your goals. Go get ’em!

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