Interview with a Sales Manager

Posted March 14, 2012 by

After spending a few years as a sales representative, I became a sales manager for a computer sales organization that sold computers to individuals and businesses all over the country. Within a few years I had taken on the role of vice president of sales for a computer peripherals sales organization. I was a sales manager for around eight years and spent three years as a vice president of sales.

Being a sales manager is not nearly as easy as the sales representatives think it is. My primary job was to make sure that my sales staff reached its monthly sales goals. I trained sales representatives and helped reps to go out on sales calls. I also dealt with angry customers, personally handled the larger deals and had to create and monitor my departmental budget. I was also responsible for creating the marketing and sales materials that my reps took out to customer sites with them.

I would say that my job satisfaction level always stayed at right around an eight. I loved what I did and felt I was very good at it. The job did have its perks, such as being able to mingle with other managers at national trade shows. I always felt that I could have made more of an impact in my work if I was allowed to use my expertise in the areas where it was best suited. For example, I wanted to help the company sell more printers and in order to do that I needed to have control of the printer sales. But we also had supplies sales representatives that sold printers and they would consistently sell the wrong solutions.

When I reached the level of vice president and had a say in almost everything that went on in the sales division, I knew I had found my calling. It was difficult to balance the sales portion of my job with the administrative portion, but I loved every minute of it. There is no greater feeling in business than being the key person responsible for generating sales and revenue.

One of the unique things about my story is that part of it started in a small home office and then eventually grew into a downtown office building. I grew into my job as vice president by being so successful with my sales management duties. I took a company that was generating less than $20,000 per year in sales and pushed it to over $750,000 per year in just two years with almost no advertising.

I have always wanted to sell technology, so I just created a career path and went for it. I learned everything I could in each job I had and then looked to move up. If the company I was with did not offer advancement, then I moved on to a larger company and a different opportunity.

One of the things I learned the hard way was that there will always be sales people who will take advantage of a system for their own personal gain. One of my jobs was managing the outside sales force, which gave a great deal of freedom to the associates. They were not expected to be in the office. It turned out that a couple of them were not even going on appointments. It was a hard lesson to learn about trusting the people that work for you.

The thing I learned quick about the working world once I got out of school was that if you want something then you better go get it or someone else will take it. I remember hounding a company I really wanted to work for relentlessly for at least two months until it finally hired me. I became a manager within six months and had a successful time there.

The strangest thing any sales manager ever has to deal with is the customers that feel they deserve special attention from company management. I had one customer that would scream and holler at his sales representative, but he treated me like gold. I finally had to move that customer to out order entry team so that he could just call and place orders rather than screaming at his sales rep.

At every level of sales, the thing that drove me was that feeling I got when the deal closed. I found that, when I became a manager, that feeling was amplified when I trained a sales rep who closed a big deal. I had hired and trained one associate and sent him out to drum up business. Within a year he was one of the top reps in the company.

The biggest internal challenges I faced were getting the engineers to understand why customers needed certain features on products. Our products were not always competitive because they lacked important features. The biggest external challenge I faced was the larger competitors constantly beating us to the larger accounts.

Being a sales manager is an incredibly stressful job but, as I had said before, I would not have traded it for anything in the world. It is one of those jobs that can consume your life, but I always managed to keep a healthy balance between home life and work.

Sales managers can make in excess of $100,000 per year with base salary, commissions and bonuses. In a down economy, it was not always easy to hit the bonuses.

The thing about being a sales manager was that I spent a lot of time on the road. When I was single, it felt like I was always on vacation. After I got married, I would always set aside two weeks out of the year to go on a real vacation.

To be a sales manager you need to know your products and know how to read people. The only way you gain both of those valuable skills is through experience. It also helps to have a business degree so that you can always find the angle that will convince the customers to buy.

If you love being right in the middle of the corporate action, then sales management is the place to be. If I had a friend that asked me whether he should be a sales manager or not, I would tell him that it depends on how exciting he wants his life to be.

If I could write my own ticket I would take my sales management experience and start my own technology sales organization.

This is a true story as told to JustJobs Academy which houses career interviews and job search advice for professionals in any industry.  Visit to read about how to be clear on the job and improve your people skills among coworkers and your boss.

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