Sales Career Paths

Sales PersonIf you are a salesperson, what can you expect as a career path?

Some companies will accept non-graduates for their Sales department. Some large employers have graduate training schemes and management programmes designed to fast track high calibre staff to realise their management potential.

Sales PersonOften those graduate training programmes involve spending several months in each department, such as buying, sales, logistics, distribution, and marketing before selecting and making application to their preferred function.

In terms of the number of people employed, the most sales positions are available in media, pharmaceutical, technical, financial, and FMCG.

Career paths will depend on several factors, but let’s have a look at the likely progression of a sales person.

It will depend whether you choose to work for a small company, perhaps their only sales representative, or join a large organisation with dozens or even hundreds of sales staff. The latter is probably the best place to learn your trade, as you will be able to benefit from the experience of the others in the team, and may join a structured training programme

Your first position will probably be titled field sales or sales executive. You will normally deal with the company’s smaller, less important clients. You will be the key point of contact between an organisation and its clients, and will be expected to answer queries, offer advice and introduce new products. Your objective will be to organise sales visits, demonstrate products and establish new business.

The next step would be to key account manager, taking responsibility for managing some of the company’s biggest clients, probably national clients. These accounts will be designated as key accounts, because they are perceived as critical to the growth of your company. You will develop a strategic relationship with the client, learning to anticipate and fulfil their needs. Alternatively, you may take responsibility for key products, if that is how the sales function is structured.

Again, if the company is large enough you may become a Team leader, providing direction, guidance and leadership to your team, to facilitate achievement of goals and targets.

Then your path might be to move into a management role as a Sales Manager, handling a team of Sales people. You will be responsible for achieving growth and sales targets by successfully managing your sales team. You will design and implement a strategic business plan, that will grow your client base and market share. You will be in charge of recruitment, setting targets, performance management, and coaching for your team of sales people.

In a large company, you might then progress to Regional Manager, where you would be responsible for achieving regional sales objectives, contributing recommendations to strategic plans and reviews, implement quality, and customer-service standards, resolve regional problems, identify and report regional trends. You will be expected to meet financial objectives, forecast requirements, prepare annual budgets and control expenditures

Then you may progress to National Sales Manager, where you would be responsible for the overall Sales strategy. You would manage the whole Team of Sales personnel, probably via the Regional managers, and set goals and targets for Company Sales

And ultimately Sales Director, where you will have achieved the position of a high-level executive, perhaps producing national or international sales plans, which you will need to justify to a board of directors or the CEO. You might supervise and manage National and Regional sales managers in their role of leading and mentoring their teams.

Whatever the title or size of the company, the Head of Sales has to be a strong manager who can recruit the right talent, develop and launch the right strategies, design and implement an effective sales process, and coach the team to achieve success. Managing sales people requires a delicate balance of leadership, inspiration and monitoring and control of their activities and performance.