Career Development

Career development resources for aspiring professionals.

Career Change Center

Career change guides, tutorials and resources for professionals in transition.

Job Search Resources

Job search resources, websites, guides and directories for job seekers.

Sales Manager and Supervisor Careers, Jobs and Training Information

Sales Manager and Supervisor Career and Job Highlights

  • Opportunities for jobs in this occupation will be most easily obtained by persons who have a considerable amount of retail experience.
  • An overall slower-than-average growth rate for jobs in this area of work is likely to come about due to the expected decline in the number of self- employed sales supervisors needed.
  • Supervisors in this area of work often work long irregular hours which commonly include evenings and weekends.
  • Many retail establishments promote employees within the company to supervisory positions. In some cases a postsecondary degree may increase chances for sale employees to be advanced into a position management.

Sales Manager and Supervisor Career Overview

Sales supervisors are often responsible for the management of cashiers, customer representatives, retail salesperson, order fillers, stock clerks, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, and sales engineers. They may also undertake the task of interviewing, hiring and training new employees. Most sales supervisors are also in charge of preparing work schedules and assigning workers to specific jobs. Supervisors may hold job titles such as department manager, or sales manager.

The main responsibility of sales supervisors working in retail establishments is to guarantee satisfactory service and quality goods to their customers. In addition, they are required to deal with complaints, answer questions, and occasionally see to budgeting, accounting, and purchasing issues. Individual responsibilities for sales supervisors vary with the size and type of business they are working for. Larger businesses tend to have multiple supervisors who specialize in a single department or one main aspect of retail merchandising.

Within a large retail establishment, day-to-day administration of individual departments such as, women’s apparel, cosmetics, or shoes, is often done by a sales supervisor or department manager. These managerial sales workers establish and implement policies, objectives, goals, and procedures for their particular departments. Also, they organize activities with other department heads, and continually strive for easy and efficient operations within their departments. Along with supervising employees, supervisors also clean and organize various shelves and displays, attend to inventory work in stockrooms, inspect various merchandise to ensure that nothing is damaged or outdated. In addition, sales supervisors coordinate sales promotions, review inventory and sales records, and develop merchandising techniques. They are also responsible to promote sales procedures and public relations by greeting and assisting customers.

Sales supervisors working in non-retail environments are often asked to oversee and direct the activities of sales workers who sell industrial products, vehicles, or a variety of services such as advertising or internet services. In addition, they may be responsible for preparing budgets, assigning sales territories, devising sales-incentive programs, approving sales contracts, or making other decisions that specifically affect personnel.

Some sales supervisors working for small or independent businesses directly supervise sales associates and are responsible for the operation of the entire company or store. Many of theses are self-employed business or store owners.

Sale Manager and Supervisor Training and Job Qualifications

Work experience is the most common way in which sales supervisors acquire the necessary knowledge of management principles and practices they will need. Many supervisors start off working on the sales floor as cashiers, salespersons, or customer service representatives. While working in these positions they learn the basic policies and procedures of the company as well as merchandising skills and customer service.

Sales workers come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Some may have no sedentary education, while others may have associates, bachelor’s or even masters degrees. Regardless of the amount of education they choose to receive, courses in marketing, management, accounting, sales, communication, sociology, and psychology are recommended. Because nearly all inventory control systems, cash registers, and sales quotes and contracts are computerized, it is essential that sales supervisors be computer literate.

Many of the supervisors who have acquired a postsecondary education hold associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. Degrees are commonly focused on business, management, social sciences, or other liberal arts subjects. Many students gain experience in their area of interest by participating in an internship program, often developed mutually by individual schools, and various businesses or companies.

Companies vary in the amount and type of train they supply to their supervisory employees. Formal training programs for management employees are common amongst large retail chains and include both classroom instruction as well as on the job training. In some cases training may be extensive lasting as long as a year or more, while in other situations the training time may be brief lasting a few days to one week.

Topics such as scheduling, interviewing, customer services skills, and employee and inventory management are usually taught as part of the in-class training given to supervisors. While training on the job, some supervisor trainees may alternate throughout several different departments, while others may be assigned to work in one specific area. Retail franchises often have training programs that are all-embracing, covering each function of the company’s operation. Topics included in this type of training session may include management, budgeting, marketing, finance, product preparation, purchasing, compensation, and human resource management. Training programs are usually available directly to college graduates.

It is important that sales supervisors get along with all types of people. They need to be self-disciplined, decisive, have good judgment, and ingenuity. Because both employees and customers can be very demanding at time, it is very important for sales supervisors to be patient and mild mannered. The ability to organize, motivate, and direct the work of their subsidiaries, as well as an capacity to communicate clearly and persuasively with customers and other supervisors are key assets needed by a good sales supervisor.

It is quite common for individuals who display team-building skills, leadership, self-confidence, determination, and motivational skills to become contenders for promotion to an assistant manager or manager position. Because college education is viewed as a sign of motivation and maturity, acquisition of a postsecondary degree may speed up this advancement. Promotion to manager status, in many retail establishments, comes to employees within the company. Advancement to a higher management position may come more slowly to individuals working in small retail establishments where the number of management positions are limited. In large businesses, an extensive career ladder often exists. Supervisors working in these types of companies may be given opportunities to transfer to another store in the chain or to the central office should an opening arise. Supervisors may go on to work in areas of advertising, promotions, marketing, public relations; or they may work as purchasing managers, purchasing agents, or buyers, (who purchase goods and supplies for their organization or for resale), or sales managers (who organize marketing plans, monitor sales, and propose advertisements and promotions).

Selected supervisors who have worked in the industry for a long time, continue on in their careers by opening their own stores or sales firms. However, Such entrepreneurs should bare in mind that retail trade and sales occupations are highly competitive. Although many independent owners become successful, some fail to cover their expenses and eventually go out of business. In order to find success, a good business sense as well as strong public relations and customer service skills are highly recommended.

Sales Manager and Supervisor Job and Employment Opportunities

The best opportunities for sales supervisor positions are expected to come to those who have retail experience, such as those previously working as a cashier, customer service representative, or salesperson. Competition for such positions is projected to remain aggressive, particularly among those offering desirable earnings and appealing working conditions.

Although employment growth for sales supervisors is expected to grow, it is projected to be at a slower-than-average-rate for all occupations through the year 2012. New opportunities will be retrained as retail companies hire more sales staff and increase the responsibilities of sales supervisors. It is expected that as practiced supervisors move to higher managerial positions, transfer to other professions, or leave the work force, more job openings will transpire. However, as with other supervisory and managerial employment positions, job turnover is fairly low.

Through the advancement of technology companies are finding new ways to contact and communicate with potential customers. The internet and electronic commerce are some of the technological tools helping businesses advance today. Some companies are hiring sales managers who work exclusively to manage internet sites. Easily accessible to customers, internet sales managers answer questions concerning product prices, terms of delivery, any other questions regarding a product that the customer may have. It is expected that a demand for internet supervisors will increase as time goes on and as internet and electronic commerce become progressively more popular. In fact, it is possible that the influence of electronic commerce and the internet on sales may decrease the number of sales supervisors needed in the industry. However, this impact should be minimal.

The patters of employment growth within the industries for which sales supervisors work will greatly impact the employment opportunities for sales managers within that particular area. For instance, while the number of self-employed sales supervisors is expected to decline (as national chains create increasing competition for independent retailers), the number of supervisory positions within the service industries is expected to grow quite rapidly.

Restructuring and consolidation that takes place at the corporate level of many retail chains is not expected to have an influence on store-level retail supervisors, although middle-, and upper-level managers may be affected.

Historical Earnings Information

Salaries earned by sales supervisors vary significantly. Factors that may affect wages include how long a person has been working in that particular position, the type, size, and location of the business, and the level of responsibility the sales manager has.

Salaried sales supervisors made median annual earnings of $29,700 in the year 2002; this includes commissions. Between $22,790 and $40, 100 a year were earned by the middle 50 percent, and the lowest 10 percent made less than $18, 380. And the highest percent of sales supervisors earned a yearly salary of more than $55,810.

In 2002, the industries employing the largest number of salaried supervisors of retail sales workers made reached median annual earnings as follows:

  • Building material and supplies dealers – $32,780
  • Grocery stores – $29,940
  • Clothing stores – $28,060
  • Department stores – $27,390
  • Gasoline stations – $25,000

Salaried sales supervisors working in non-retail establishments earned annual wages of $53,020; including commissions. The middle 50 percent brought in between $ 37, 68 and $77,690 each year, and less than $26,780 was earned by the lowest 10 percent. And, the highest 10 percent made annual earnings of more than $114,210.

In 2002, non-retail industries employing the largest number of salaried sales supervisors reached median annual earnings as follows:

  • Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers – $74,000
  • Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers – $72,970
  • Insurance carriers – $63,220
  • Machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers – $60,450
  • Federal Government – $50,570

The type of merchandise sold, and the preferences of the individual establishment affect the type of compensation systems that may be used. Many sales supervisors receive compensation through commission or a combinations of salary and commission. If compensated through a commission system, supervisors are given a percentage of their department or store’s sales. In this way it is possible for supervisors to noticeably improve their earnings, depending on their own ability to sell their product as well as the condition of the economy. Oftentimes, supervisors who sell large quantities of merchandise or surpass sales goals receive an additional bonuses or other awards.