Sales Director Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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A sales director's median annual salary is around $110,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a sales director is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Sales Director Career

Sales directors oversee the sales team of an organization. Read more about the pros and cons of becoming a sales director in the table below.

Pros of Being a Sales Director
High earning potential ($110,000 median salary in 2014)*
High level of responsibility and authority (managing employees, setting goals, etc.)*
Can work in almost any industry (manufacturing, computer design, finance, advertising, etc.)
Job security is high*

Cons of Being a Sales Director
Long hours are often required (including weekends and nights)*
High potential for stress*
Frequent business travel is common
Keen competition for jobs*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Sales directors are found in almost every industry, because selling products or services is crucial to the success of almost every business endeavor. These professionals manage teams of sales representatives for both local and regional branches of a company. They produce sales reports, set sales goals, establish sales territories and provide training programs to improve their sales teams' skills and overall efficiency. Additionally, sales directors often keep track of budgets, approve expenses, contact distributors and resolve sales-related complaints. Sales directors may also be in charge of finding and hiring new sales representatives.

In addition to working with sales representatives, these directors may analyze customer preferences and work with other managers to find new markets or products. They may also evaluate the profitability of particular products and set pricing plans. These professionals frequently travel and may have to work nights and weekends. Additionally, the high level of responsibility and the pressure of meeting sales goals and deadlines can create substantial amounts of stress.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that jobs for sales managers would increase 8% over the 2012-2022 decade. This growth is largely attributed to the need for companies to have strong sales teams to meet profitability goals and stay competitive. Growth is expected to be especially strong in the business-to-business sector, because of increases in online purchasing. Although obtaining a position as a sales director is challenging because many qualified individuals often compete for these positions, once hired, these professionals often have strong job security, seeing as they are considered some of the most important employees in an organization.

Sales directors earned a median annual salary of about $110,000, as of May 2014, according to the BLS. During that same reporting period, the middle half of sales managers earned a median annual salary ranging from around $74,000-$160,000. Salaries also varied by industry; those working on securities and commodity contracts earned an average salary of roughly $192,000 per year, while those working for automobile dealers made an average annual salary of approximately $120,000, as of May 2014.

What Are the Requirements?

The BLS indicates that most sales directors have a bachelor's degree, and some hold a master's degree. However, in some cases, work experience as a sales representative can be substituted for a formal degree. In addition to meeting the educational requirements, sales directors typically have 1-5 years of experience in a sales related position, such as working as a purchasing agent or a sales representative.

Top Skills for Sales Directors

To be an effective sales director, you should typically possess the following qualities and skills:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong analytical skills
  • The fortitude to manage high levels of stress
  • The ability to manage a sales team
  • Sympathy for both employees and customers

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers often seek to hire sales directors who possess a bachelor's degree, years of experience and leadership abilities. Other commonly sought qualifications include strong communication skills and knowledge of a particular industry. The following job postings found on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com in April 2012 can provide an idea of the kinds of qualifications employers seek and the responsibilities jobs could entail:

  • A broadband company in Virginia sought a director of sales and marketing who had a relevant bachelor's degree and who possessed at least ten years of experience in sales and marketing for a telecommunications or economic development company. The director would oversee staff in the business development, marketing and sales departments. Applicants needed managerial skills, leadership abilities, ad campaign skills and the ability to create campaign reports and forecasts.
  • A printing company in Indiana looked for a sales director with a bachelor's degree in marketing, business or a related field and at least five years of experience. Applicants were expected to have excellent communication and customer service skills. The director would be in charge of managing the sales budget, hiring team members, developing training programs and monitoring sales representatives' performances.
  • A communications and information technology (IT) services company located in Washington searched for a sales director who could develop and manage teams, as well as coach and motivate them to exceed sales goals. Applicants needed to have at least eight years of sales experience in high tech and IT services, including at least five years in a management position. A bachelor's degree, strong communication and negotiation skills and knowledge of Microsoft products were also required.
  • An educational solutions provider in New Hampshire looked for a sales director who could manage a team selling software and hardware to secondary schools. Responsibilities included identifying potential clients, driving sales growth and developing presentations and proposals. Applicants needed at least three years of experience in higher education sales.

How to Stand Out in the Field

The BLS indicates that sales managers can benefit from taking courses in areas such as finance, business law, marketing, economics and management. Additionally, since communication skills are essential, you can further develop them by taking courses in public speaking, communications and business writing. If you've already decided that you'd like to work in a particular area of sales, such as computer parts or advertising, taking courses in a relevant subject can provide you with beneficial product and industry knowledge.

Gain Relevant Experience

One way you can develop work experience is by working for several years as a sales representative in a particular industry. Since sales directors often need an in-depth understanding of a particular industry to set realistic sales goals, create budgets and forecasts and understand employee challenges, choosing a particular field and specializing in that area can help you move into a sales management position. Additionally, by meeting or exceeding sales goals as a representative, you can demonstrate to an employer that you have the ability to help others achieve the same success.

Alternative Career Paths

Marketing Manager

If you're interested in a management career with a slightly higher earning potential and faster predicted job growth, consider becoming a marketing manager. Marketing managers have similar educational requirements and job duties as sales directors, but they focus more on product development and pricing strategies. Becoming a marketing manager generally requires a bachelor's degree and previous experience in marketing, advertising, sales or public relations. Similar to sales director positions, however, marketing management positions are highly sought after, which means competition for jobs is often fierce.

According to the BLS, marketing managers had predicted employment growth of about 14% for the 2010-2020 decade, which is slightly higher than the projected growth for sales managers. Marketing managers also earned a slightly higher median annual salary of about $116,000, as of May 2011.

Advertising Sales Agent

Individuals who are interested in working in sales, but who don't want the responsibility of managing employees, can consider careers as advertising sales agents. These careers can also provide excellent work experience for aspiring sales directors. Advertising sales agents identify potential clients, contact them and attempt to sell advertising space to them. They need strong knowledge about how advertising can potentially benefit clients, as well as an understanding of the costs.

A high school diploma is often acceptable for entry-level positions, though some employers would rather hire applicants who possess a bachelor's degree. For the 2010-2020 decade, the BLS projected 13% employment growth for these professionals. Unfortunately, sales agents tend to make lower salaries than sales managers; the BLS indicated that advertising sales agents earned a median annual salary of about $45,000, as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MBA: Marketing
  • BSBA in Sales Management
  • AASBA in Sales

Which subject are you interested in?

Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing Specialization

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
  • AA: Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Business
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
  • Bachelor of Science in Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • MS - Management
  • BS - Marketing
  • BS - Organizational Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

American National University

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Business Administration Management - Associate
  • Business Administration - Diploma

What is your education level?

Saint John's University

  • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

What is your highest level of education?