Sales managers are the people who direct and co-ordinate the sales of goods and services for businesses. They oversee the activities of their sales staff. They set up training programmes, assign salespeople territories and set targets. They monitor staff's sales statistics.
Some sales managers oversee other sales managers and their staff at local or regional level. They spend a lot of time reviewing and analysing information. They need to know if the company is selling enough of its products. Thus, they review sales records, expenses and projected sales. They often determine the initial price of products and services. Managers may oversee the budgeting, bookkeeping and shipping departments so they receive accurate records. If sales are low, managers may increase the amount of advertising they do and talk to department heads to plan advertising campaigns.
In smaller companies, sales managers work with customers. They talk to clients about their product needs and advise them about what to buy. They also resolve customer complaints about products or services. In addition, sales managers represent their companies at trade shows. They talk to customers and promote their products. They also monitor the products their competitors are selling. Some sales managers are in charge of the research and development of new products.
To work in this area, one would normally start as a salesperson, for which a wide range of educational backgrounds is suitable. Requirements vary, depending upon the particular job, but a third-level qualification is not essential.
The Sales Institute of Ireland promotes professionalism and standards of excellence in the profession in Ireland. It provides education and training, including a certificate in selling skills and a diploma in selling.
Salaries vary, but one could expect to earn from €20,000 to €30,000 starting out in a sales position.
Stuart Kelly has more than 12 years' experience in sales. "I did a degree in marketing after school and my first job was in business development with Coca-Cola but I always loved sales and really wanted to move into telecoms. I spent some time with Eircell and Vodafone, before starting with Meteor two and a half years ago," he says.
Being a sales manager is a pressurised and demanding job. "The thing about working in sales is it's black and white - you can't hide from a sales figure. If things aren't working, you need to be able to take that on board."
Kelly's chosen area of telecoms is one of the fastest-moving sectors, with a highly educated customer base, yet he firmly believes in time management and a work-life balance. He encourages the same attitude in all his staff.
"I'm usually at my desk by 7.30am and I try to leave by 5.30pm, as I have a one-year-old son and want to spend as much time with him as possible. Having said that, the mobile is always on and I'm usually still firing off emails late into the night."
A typical day involves checking emails in his car on the way to work, followed by early-morning meetings with his sales director and other staff. The rest of the day is taken up with either meeting or talking to customers and other staff.
Confidence is a prerequisite for any sales career. It's also important to believe in the company and product you are selling. According to Kelly, another essential trait is the ability to listen. "If you can stop talking and listen to what the customer is telling you, you are half way to making that sale."