What Is the Best Degree Path to Becoming a Sales Manager?

If you’re a natural leader with communication, customer-service and leadership skills, a role as a sales manager might be in your future. Some sales experience and an undergraduate degree could land you a job with a six-figure salary.

The Importance of Professional Experience

Sales managers do more than make sales. They oversee the entire sales team and strategy, from setting goals and quotas to creating training exercise to finally evaluating sales data. When customers complain, sales managers are the ones who work to solve the problem and change the customer’s experience with and attitude toward the company. They work with people, directing sales strategies, inspiring members of the sales team and providing feedback to help sales representatives improve their performance. Sales managers also work with numbers, analyzing statistics, setting prices and establishing and following budgets.

To handle all of these responsibilities, aspiring sales managers need to develop their skills through work in the field. Salesmanship isn’t something that can simply be taught in a college class, like equations or theories. For that matter, neither is leadership. Even candidates who are naturally good communicators, problem-solvers and salespeople need training and practice to develop their skills and reach their potential. That’s one reason why work experience in sales is so necessary to attaining, and succeeding in, the role of sales manager. When filling sales manager roles, most employers look for clients who have a minimum of one to five years of experience working as a sales representative, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported.

College Degree Options

While factors like personal qualities and experience making sales are what really help a sales manager succeed in his or her work, a degree is important for attaining a position in this competitive occupation. The BLS reported that most sales managers have at least a bachelor’s degree, while others have a master’s degree. Having a college degree can mean the difference between a promotion to a sales manager role and staying put in a sales representative position. No one major is the “right” choice for an aspiring sales manager. However, students should seek a degree program that includes coursework in accounting, business law, economics, finance, management, marketing, mathematics and statistics, according to the BLS. Business administration is a popular choice.

Sales managers earn a median salary of $105,260, the BLS reported. The median annual pay is even higher in certain industries, like wholesale trade ($114,180), company management ($115,000) and finance and insurance ($132,070). Sales managers earn money in the form of salaries, commissions, bonuses or some combination. The competition for sales manager positions is strong, according to the BLS, largely due to the high rate of pay. Due to the earning potential and other factors, U.S. News & World Report has ranked sales manager 7th on its list of the best paying jobs, 13th on its list of the best business jobs and 58th on its list of the 100 best jobs.

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