4 Questions to Ask Before Pursuing a Sales Manager Career

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover more about what a sales manager does, the skills required, and opportunities to help you decide whether this career is for you.

[Featured image] A sales manager is sitting at her desk in front of her desktop computer.

When considering a career as a sales manager, ask yourself a few questions before making the jump. The answers will determine whether the sales manager's job path suits you.

1. What do sales managers do?

As a sales manager, you’re responsible for the overall management and performance of a company's sales team. You’ll set sales targets, develop and implement sales strategies, manage customer relationships, and oversee the sales process from start to finish. You may also hire, train, and motivate the sales team.

Tasks of sales management roles

Sales managers are responsible for overseeing the sales process and ensuring that they meet sales targets. You may also be involved in setting sales targets, developing sales strategies, and managing a team of sales representatives. Some of the most common sales manager duties might include:

  • Identifying new business opportunities and developing sales plans

  • Developing and implementing promotional campaigns to boost sales

  • Recruiting, training, and supervising sales staff

  • Planning and setting sales targets

  • Monitoring sales performance and motivating and incentivising staff to meet targets

  • Analysing market trends and identifying new business opportunities

  • Negotiating contracts with customers and suppliers

Typical sales management work environment

Where you work and how you do your job depends on what you’re selling, your sales process, whether you’re selling business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), and how your team is structured. You’ll typically work in an office environment if you’re a sales manager in an inside sales department. If you work with salespeople outside sales, you may work in an office but spend time in the field at client sites,  events, or conventions. 

2. Why are sales manager jobs in demand?  

Sales managers are highly satisfied with their jobs, earn good salaries, and have a positive career outlook. Sales departments contribute directly to an organisation's success; therefore, it is easy to see how your efforts affect revenue and company growth. 

Job satisfaction levels in sales management

The 2022 Glassdoor report for the 25 Best Jobs in the UK revealed that sales managers are among the highest-ranked positions regarding job satisfaction, job openings, and earning potential [1]. Sales manager jobs require a unique blend of people skills, business knowledge, and creativity. They provide an opportunity to impact a company's success significantly. 

If you have high-quality sales and management skills and enjoy working in a fast-paced, challenging environment, a career in sales management could be very satisfying.

Average salaries of sales managers

UK sales managers earn between £22,000 and £70,000, according to the National Careers Service [2]. Base salary levels for sales managers are affected by many factors, including the company's size, industry, and location. 

In addition, bonuses and commissions can significantly affect earnings. Sales managers typically earn higher salaries in larger companies and industries with high margins. You also usually earn more in companies located in major cities in the UK, such as:

  • London

  • Derby

  • Newcastle

  • Chelmsford

  • Bristol

Sales manager job openings

As of May 2024, there are over 13,000 job openings on Indeed UK [3] and over 11,600 openings on Glassdoor UK [4] for sales manager positions in the UK. This high demand is driven by the increasing need for goods and services and effective sales management to optimise sales performance. With the correct skill set, you can enjoy a successful career as a sales manager, with plenty of opportunities for advancement.

3. What makes an effective sales manager? 

Before beginning a career as a sales manager, it’s important to consider whether you have the necessary skills and traits. The sales manager role is multifaceted, so you need a strong blend of technical skills, workplace skills, and core personal attributes.

Key personal attributes

Sales managers must be excellent communicators, leaders, and motivators. As a sales manager, you’ll need to:

  • Have competencies and gravitas to motivate and lead your team 

  • Handle stress and be comfortable with change 

  • Be driven and passionate and always looking for ways to improve results

Technical skills

By gaining technical skills and knowledge, sales managers can improve their performance and better meet the needs of their customers. Successful sales managers have a deep understanding of the sales process. These technical skills might include:

  • Learning how to use sales software

  • Using customer relationship management (CRM) tools

  • Understanding sales data and analytics

  • Improving your ability to give sales presentations

  • Creating effective sales plans and tracking progress

  • Leading and mentoring teams through execution

Sales managers know about their company's products or services and can answer potential customers' questions.

Workplace skills

Sales managers must have excellent communication, interpersonal, leadership, and motivational skills. They also need to be able to sell the products or services of their company effectively. Some of the other workplace skills you need to be a good sales manager are the ability to:

  • Communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing

  • Listen carefully, with empathy, and understand what customers want and need

  • Build relationships with your sales teams and customers

  • Motivate and inspire your sales team, sometimes during periods of uncertainty

  • Provide sales staff with the training, materials, and resources they need to succeed

  • Have strong organisational skills to keep track of customer orders and manage your sales team

  • Multitask with strong organisational skills.

4. How can you become a sales manager? 

To become a sales manager, you typically need several years of experience in sales and strong leadership and management skills. Various courses and certifications can also help you develop the skills to succeed in sales management.

Do you need a degree?

You won’t find one definitive educational path to becoming a sales manager, but many employers prefer sales applicants with relevant qualifications and experience in the field. Many sales managers have completed a degree or graduate management training in sales and marketing management, business management, and retail marketing. Entering a degree programme in these fields typically requires 2 to 3 A levels. 

Apprenticeships are another common avenue for sales management. To enter a higher or degree apprenticeship, you typically require 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 and A levels. A business-to-business sales professional degree apprenticeship or a higher apprenticeship for a sales executive are great choices to get your foot in the door.

In addition to formal education, many sales managers receive training through on-the-job or professional development courses.

Gain work experience.

It’s important to gain work experience in sales because employers typically look for sales managers with sales experience and a history of achieving sales targets. You’ll find many ways to gain sales experience, such as working in retail, sales-focused customer service roles, or telemarketing. The amount of experience you need varies based on the employer, but typically, candidates for sales management positions will have several years of sales experience. A standard route to sales manager jobs is to start in a sales role and then advance within the company, taking on more team leadership and management responsibilities as you grow your career.

Consider getting a professional qualification.

While professional qualifications are not necessary to apply for most sales management jobs, they could give you an edge. You’ll discover many qualifications available, including:

  • Level 4 Award in Managing a Sales Team

  • Level 4 Award in Operational Sales Planning

  • Level 4 Award in Finance for Sales Managers

Consider courses, specialisations, and professional certificates to give your CV more depth. These can demonstrate your commitment to your career and that you have proactively pursued opportunities to expand your skill set.

Ready to enhance your sales skills?

Employers value experience and skills in sales, customer service, and managing people. Consider Yale University's Introduction to Negotiation: A Strategic Playbook for Becoming a Principled and Persuasive Negotiator, offered on Coursera. 

You could also demonstrate that you know how work is changing by doing the How to Manage a Remote Team course offered by Gitlab on Coursera. This will help you stand out when applying for jobs with staff working from home or in different office locations.

Article sources


Glassdoor. “25 Best Jobs in the UK for 2022, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/List/Best-Jobs-in-UK-LST_KQ0,15.htm” Accessed May 21, 2024.

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