Sales Director Job Listings Analysis
IndustryView | 2014
According to the the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), sales directors earned a median annual wage of $105,260 in 2012—nearly twice the national average of $45,790. Along with an enticing salary, the job outlook for sales directors is also promising: employment is projected to grow 8 percent from 2012 to 2022.
To help potential applicants better understand how to land one of these lucrative positions and what qualifications employers seek in particular, Software Advice conducted an analysis of 200 sales director job listings. We then shared our findings with several experts in the field to gain their insight. This report outlines our key takeaways.
A majority of employers in our sample wanted candidates with a higher education: 33 percent of listings specifically required a bachelor's degree. Another 34 percent indicated a preference for a higher education degree, with preferences split evenly among bachelor’s and master’s degrees, at 17 percent each. Somewhat surprisingly, the remaining 33 percent listed no educational requirement.
According to Erik Bowitz, senior resume expert at Resume Genius, the absence of an educational requirement suggests some employers place a greater preference on professional experience. “If you’re a talented sales professional, then a university degree will be less important, as you should have built a solid professional network that you can leverage in job hunting/future advancements,” he explains.
However, Bowitz points out that a degree still has merit, as it often allows candidates to negotiate a higher starting salary than those without a degree.
If you’re seeking a career path that leads to a sales director role and are wondering which field to focus your education in, there are two you should keep in mind. Among the job listings in our sample, a business degree was most preferred (42 percent), followed by a degree in marketing (23 percent).
“Sales directors review business and market analysis that can sometimes be complicated,” explains Rick Wong, founder and CEO of The Five Abilities and a former VP of sales. “Pattern recognition in both market situations and numerical reporting is critical for a sales director. Without a lot of experience, a degree is an indicator of the person's abilities in these areas.”
Perhaps more important than a candidate’s education, however, is the amount of previous experience he or she has. Of the jobs in our sample, 85 percent required three or more years of professional experience, while 62 percent required five or more years of actual sales experience. This is not surprising, given that a sales director by nature will be tasked with leading a sales team.
According to Wong, jobs that provide “direct face-to-face selling experience, marketing management, project management experience and relevant industry experience” are those recruiters look for when evaluating the resumes of candidates applying for sales director roles.
Further reinforcing Wong’s comments on the importance of industry experience, we found that 72 percent of employers in our sample cited industry-specific sales experience as necessary for the position.
While a talented salesmen can make the transition from one industry to the next, Wong emphasizes the importance of knowing a particular industry’s unique terminology in order to be successful in a sales director role.
“Every industry has a language,” he says. “It's hard to be credible, capable and reliable—with both customers and employees—if you don't understand the language.” Candidates seeking to add to their resume, he says, would thus be wise to take positions within the same industry whenever possible.
Second to industry experience, just over half of employers (55 percent) wanted candidates with prior management experience—somewhat surprising, given the management-heavy responsibilities of a sales director role.
According to Jessica Magoch, VP of sales at JPM Partners, this may be an omission by the human resources (HR) employee in charge of writing the job posting, rather than indicative of employer preferences. “Usually job ads are not written by people who understand sales; they’re written by a recruiting manager or HR person,” she notes. “Many of them will readily admit to not understanding how to hire an effective salesperson or sales manager.”
To visualize what employers are looking for in sales director candidates, we generated a Word Cloud from the “requirements” section of all 200 job descriptions. The graphic below depicts the most frequently used words in this section, which included sales (579 mentions), experience (531 mentions), skills (353 mentions) and ability (311 mentions). This visual further highlights the importance of experience for this role, as discussed earlier in this report.
Technological savvy is becoming increasingly important in for many sales positions. Indeed, 29 percent of employers in our sample mandated CRM experience, while 8 percent listed a knowledge of sales force automation (SFA) software as a preference for landing the role of sales director.
When we drilled deeper into the data, we found that, among those positions listing a preference for certain technical skills, CRM software appeared in every single one. SFA came in at a distant second, appearing in 27 percent of job posts that listed a technical skills preference.
“[Technology skills] are all extremely useful and should be included in a resume’s ‘additional skills’ section,” Bowitz says. “Software knowledge in particular is hugely beneficial, as it saves companies time and money in acclimation/training costs.”
However, Bowitz also notes that many sales director candidates have likely been in sales for years, before reliance on technological solutions became as commonplace as it is today. This may explain why only around a third of postings listed a preference for technical skills.
As Wong explains, “Being able to use and demonstrate technology is important, especially if you're selling software or services, but one doesn't need to be an expert. Being an expert in customer needs and industry issues is more important.“
Another important factor for potential sales director candidates we uncovered is job location. Not all that surprisingly, the job listings in our sample were concentrated around areas in the U.S. with higher populations. The greatest concentration of jobs were located in California (20 percent), Texas (10 percent) and New York (10 percent), while few to no job listings in our sample were from the midwest and northwest regions, with the exception of Illinois; home to the populous city of Chicago.
While our sample is not necessarily indicative of the entire job market, our findings suggest that relocation may be necessary for candidates who live in less densely populated states, as there may be far fewer available opportunities to select from. Applicants should thus consider expanding their job search nationwide, as some employers will pay for relocation costs for the right candidate.
While a degree in business or marketing may help you earn a higher salary in a sales director role, our analysis found the most important aspect for this position is several years of relevant sales experience. As such, candidates may want to prioritize gaining on-the-job sales and management experience over an advanced degree.
Our experts also pointed to the importance of skills for the position of sales director that don’t typically appear in the requirements section of job listings: soft skills. According to Bowitz, “Critical soft skills for sales directors include those synonymous with the industry, such as communication, influencing, negotiation and trust building skills and the ability to motivate—both your sales force and customers/clients.”
This report was compiled from an analysis of 200 sales director job listings, which were pulled from top online job boards, including Indeed, Glassdoor and LinkedIn across all 50 states. Search terms used included: Director of Sales, Sales Director, Regional Director of Sales, National Sales Director, Director of Inside Sales and Senior Sales Director.
Companies included in the search varied widely in terms of size and specialty. Companies also varied by industry, with the following industries represented: technology, hotels, healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, consulting, retail, food and beverage, media/entertainment, HR, marketing/advertising, field service/HVAC, automotive, financial services and banking, engineering, energy, agriculture, education, communications and construction. Data from this search was then compiled and analyzed to produce this report.
by Ashleigh Hover
Contributor, Software Advice
September 12, 2014