Selling and Sales Operations

In a selling and sales operations career, you're able to anticipate and meet customer needs as well as have a stake in the management of a business from the sales perspective. Read on to learn more about this field, employment information and relevant education programs.

Are Sales Operations for Me?

Overview

Sales operations are important in nearly every industry and include workers at all stages of the selling process. Purchasing agents decide which suppliers to buy from and negotiate contracts. Sales supervisors oversee employees and assign duties to ensure that policies are followed and basic sales operations function smoothly. Advertising managers determine the best promotion methods and create plans to sell the products sold by the company they work for. Retail sales workers show customers product options, explain the benefits of each product and answer questions about the product.

Employment

Job prospects in sales operations vary depending on the specific occupation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects job opportunities for marketing managers to increase by 13% and opportunities for retail sales workers to increase by 10% between 2012 and 2022, both considered to be about as fast as the average growth for all other occupations (www.bls.gov). However, the BLS projected that other occupations such as purchasing manager would experience very little growth from 2012-2022, an increase of only 2%. The median annual salary of sales operations workers also varied among occupations. For example, retail sales workers earned a median salary of $21,140 in 2013, whereas marketing managers earned a median annual salary of $123,220 that same year, and purchasing managers earned $103,780.

How Can I Work in Sales Operations?

Education

Entry-level sales positions do not have formal education requirements but employers prefer applicants who have at least completed high school. If you have a postsecondary degree you can often find management-level positions without having prior experience in sales. Shift supervisors usually need to have prior sales experience but do not usually need postsecondary education. Purchasing, marketing, advertising and most other managers in sales operations need to have at least a bachelor's degree.

If you are already working or you wish to obtain formal education without spending four years to obtain a degree, an associate's degree with an emphasis in business might be a good option. Coursework for an associate's degree program can include macro and micro economics, strategic decision analysis and basic introductory courses in marketing, accounting and management. A bachelor's degree in business administration or economics can also be good choices if you want to work as a manager in sales operations. Most schools offer specific majors within business administration, such as finance, operations management or marketing. Courses may vary among areas of emphasis but some possible options might include human resource management, labor relations, managerial accounting, fundamentals of sales management and retail marketing management. If you wish to advance even after becoming a manager you can pursue a master's degree in business or obtain a certification.

Required Skills

Sales operations workers need to have good communication skills since they are constantly interacting with customers, suppliers or other employees. Skills in math and knowledge of computer operation can be helpful. Experience using or working with the particular type of merchandise you are selling can also be beneficial.

Certification

Purchasing managers might be interested in the Certified Purchasing Manager designation and marketing managers may want to obtain the Professional Certified Marketer (PCM) designation. Most certifications require you to complete an exam and some may have additional prerequisites, so it can be helpful to explore your options before pursuing a professional designation.

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