The most common career path to become a regional sales manager is to start as a sales representative. Working closely with clients, expanding sales base, improving products, and providing support are the primary responsibilities of this role. Sales representatives are typically compensated based on volume of sales. In a performance-based environment, the key to promotional opportunities is to be a consistent, high-level performer. Over time, the sales representative can be promoted to management, and then to regional sales manager, which is a senior management position.
In large companies, it is becoming increasingly common to require a minimum three-year diploma or degree to become a sales representative. However, this requirement varies by industry. For example, pharmaceutical and scientific sales representatives uniformly have post-secondary training in the sciences. Sales representatives for building products may have simply worked in the construction industry.
While performance is the primary driver when determining suitability to become a regional sales manager, post-secondary education in business, management or related field provides a broader perspective on problem solving. Developing contacts outside the industry can result in innovative business practices that expand the business profitability. Many people who have the desire to become a regional sales manager complete a part-time degree or even a master's in business administration (MBA) program to gain this competitive advantage.
Interpersonal skills are more important than technical skills for people who want to become a regional sales manager. However, the regional sales manager is typically called into meetings and presentations with high-profile clients or on large value sales. As a result, they must be able to accurately respond to potential client inquiries and be knowledgeable about the products and service available.
Team management, supervision, and staff issues are an essential part of this job. A regional service manager position is considered middle management within an organizational structure. Promotion to this level of responsibility usually occurs after at least 10 years of working experience. Compensation at this level is higher, but this is in keeping with a greater performance expectation and longer hours.
Although sales techniques are consistent across almost all industries, the vast majority of regional sales managers have built their experience in the same industry or commodity. Staff at this level may move from one company to the competition, but typically do not take their contacts with them. Client lists are considered confidential company property, and many firms have strict rules surrounding this type of information.