Sales managers direct organizations' sales teams. They set sales goals, analyze data, and develop training programs for organizations’ sales representatives.


Sales managers typically do the following:

  • Resolve customer complaints regarding sales and service
  • Prepare budgets and approve expenditures
  • Monitor customer preferences to determine the focus of sales efforts
  • Analyze sales statistics
  • Project sales and determine the profitability of products and services
  • Determine discount rates or special pricing plans
  • Develop plans to acquire new customers or clients, through direct sales techniques, cold calling, and business-to-business marketing visits
  • Assign sales territories and set sales quotas
  • Plan and coordinate training programs for sales staff

Sales managers’ responsibilities vary with the size of the organization they work for. However, most sales managers direct the distribution of goods and services by assigning sales territories, setting sales goals, and establishing training programs for the organization’s sales representatives.

Some sales managers recruit, hire, and train new members of the sales staff. For more information about salesworkers, see the profiles on retail sales workers and wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.

Sales managers advise sales representatives on ways to improve their sales performance. In large multiproduct organizations, they oversee regional and local sales managers and their staffs.

Sales managers also stay in contact with dealers and distributors. They analyze sales statistics that their staff gathers, both to determine the sales potential and inventory requirements of products and stores and to monitor customers' preferences.

Sales managers work closely with managers from other departments. For example, the marketing department identifies new customers that the sales department can target. The relationship between these two departments is critical to helping an organization expand its client base. Because sales managers monitor customers’ preferences and stores’ and organizations’ inventory needs, they work closely with research and design departments and warehousing departments.

Work Environment

Sales managers held about 359,300 jobs in 2012.

The industries that employed the most sales managers in 2012 were as follows:

Retail trade 20%
Wholesale trade 20
Manufacturing 13
Finance and insurance 10
Management of companies and enterprises 8

Sales managers have a lot of responsibility, and the position can be stressful. Many sales managers travel to national, regional, and local offices and to dealers’ and distributors’ offices.

Work Schedules

Most sales managers work full time. Long hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.

Education and Training

Most sales managers have a bachelor’s degree and work experience as a sales representative.


Most sales managers have a bachelor’s degree: some have a master’s degree. Educational requirements are less strict for job candidates who have significant experience as a sales representative. Courses in business law, management, economics, accounting, finance, mathematics, marketing, and statistics are advantageous.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Work experience is typically required for someone to become a sales manager. The preferred duration varies, but employers usually seek candidates who have at least 1 to 5 years of experience.

Sales managers typically enter the occupation from other sales and related occupations, such as sales representatives or purchasing agents. In small organizations, the number of sales manager positions often is limited, so advancement for salesworkers usually comes slowly. In large organizations, promotion may occur more quickly.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Sales managers must collect and interpret complex data to target the most promising geographic areas and/or demographic groups, and determine the most effective sales strategies.

Communication skills. Sales managers need to work with people in other departments and with customers, so they must be able to communicate clearly.

Customer-service skills. When helping to make a sale, sales managers must listen and respond to the customer’s needs.

Leadership skills. Sales managers must be able to evaluate how their sales staff performs and must develop strategies for meeting sales goals.


The median annual wage for sales managers was $105,260 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,950, and the top 10 percent earned more than $187,200.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for sales managers in the top five industries in which they worked were as follows:

Finance and insurance $132,070
Management of companies and enterprises 115,000
Wholesale trade 114,180
Manufacturing 109,550
Retail trade 74,870


Compensation methods for sales managers vary significantly with the type of organization and the product sold. Most employers use a combination of salary and commissions or salary plus bonuses. Commissions usually are based on the value of sales, whereas bonuses may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all salesworkers in the group or district, or on the organization's performance.

Most sales managers work full time. Long hours, including evenings and weekends, are common.

Job Outlook

Employment of sales managers is projected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth of these managers will depend primarily on growth or contraction in the industries that employ them.

An effective sales team remains crucial for profitability. As the economy grows, organizations will focus on generating new sales and will look to their sales strategy as a way to increase competitiveness.

Growth is expected to be stronger for sales managers involved in business-to-business sales than in business-to-consumer sales, because the rise of online shopping will reduce the need for sales calls to individual consumers.

Sales managers and their departments are some of the most important personnel in an organization. Therefore, they are less likely to be let go or to have their jobs contracted out than are other types of managers, except in the case of organizations that are merging and consolidating.

Offshoring of these workers is also unlikely. Although domestic companies may hire some sales managers in foreign countries, those workers will function largely to support expansion into foreign markets rather than to replace domestic sales managers.

Job Prospects

Strong competition is expected because other managers and highly experienced professionals often seek these jobs.

For More Information

For more information about sales managers, visit

Sales Management Association