Job as a sales manager

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David Hayes is export sales manager at British Bakeries. His job is to find new markets for his company's products overseas as well as encouraging existing clients to buy more.

How would you outline your job as a sales manager?

I am responsible for British Bakeries' sales outside the UK, principally to overseas retailers. This can either be directly with the retailers themselves, or through distributors – who buy the products from us than sell them on. I also work with our agents who represent us abroad and develop new business for us to service directly.

What is your work routine?

I keep in regular contact with overseas representatives to understand how our products are performing, and to keep ahead of consumer trends and abreast of competitor activity. This is usually by phone, but regular market visits are essential.

In addition, I have a lot of office work to do such as completing sales reports and entering forecasts based on what you expect to be selling the coming period.

What hours do you work?

My contracted hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm, but I have to coincide my telephone calls with local times in the overseas countries so I may start earlier or finish later some days. In addition, I may have an early start or late finish when travelling.

How do you use your language skills in your job as a sales manager?

All the time. Where possible, I converse in English, French and Spanish. I graduated in French and Spanish, which have been extremely useful for developing rapport with potential customers. On a practical level, you may need to understand a foreign contract or product specification and communicate the information to your colleagues in the technical or legal department.

If you have studied language, it is also likely that you will have some knowledge of the culture and possibly current affairs, which makes it easy to start up a conversation with someone from that country.

What's your working environment like?

I am mostly office-based, but trips are a regular feature of the role. In some job, you might travel abroad two weeks or more a month, but more common is probably a few days a month.

What special skills do you need for your job as a sales manager?

Apart from the language skills, you need to have a good business instinct to take advantage of opportunities to sell your company's products. You need good communication and team-working skills, and have a good head for numbers. Being in export, you also need an awareness of, and sensitivity to, the way your customers are accustomed to doing business.

Why did you choose this job as a sales manager?

I wanted to combine my interest in languages with commerce, so it was a natural choice.

What training have you done?

I graduated in French and Spanish and also did a module in Italian. In my previous jobs, I have done evening courses in German and Arabic. After graduation, I did an intensive marketing course which was extremely useful. In my first job, I gained a qualification from the Institute of Export. The best training is experience of course.

What are the particular challenges in your work?

Export sales is a demanding role to work in, because sales volumes are often lower than in the UK, although you till need to put in the same amount of sales commitment. Overseas food markets frequently demand products that are slightly different than UK goods – certainly in the packaging and often in the recipe.

It can be difficult and frustrating to argue the case for new product lines to be developed overseas when sales levels will be relatively low, certainly at the start.

David's route to his job as a sales manager

  • Degree in French and Spanish
  • Evening course in German and Arabic
  • Intensive marketing course
  • Institute of Export qualification

David's sales manager tip

  • You really need a proactive and confident attitude to all your work to succeed in export sales.

Sales manager related jobs

  • Buyer
  • Customer services manager
  • Freight forwarder
  • Marketing manager
  • Sales representative

Salary of a sales manager

  • Salaries start from around £15,000 to £22,000, rising to £31,000 with experience.
  • Managers can expect to earn more than £70,000 in a large company.

How to become a sales manager

  • There are no set qualifications for a job as an export sales manager, but most sales managers are promoted after three or four years' experience in sales and a strong record of achievement.
  • Many employers prefer applicants with a degree or HNC/HND in a subject related to sales, marketing or business administration.
  • Technical salespeople usually have a background knowledge of the product, backed with a qualification in the subject.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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