The Guide to Becoming a Sales Director

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Kasia Kowalska
Kasia Kowalska


A job in sales is exciting, with plentiful career opportunities and development paths. As you grow, you may have the opportunity to progress into a sales director role.

Sales director talking on phone

In this position, you’ll be responsible for growing profit and overseeing the sales team’s operations. In this article, you’ll learn what it takes to become a sales director, what skills you need to be promoted, and what the role involves.

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This article will cover:

Depending on the company size, there may be one or many sales directors. In smaller organizations, a sales director will likely oversee the entire sales force. Meanwhile, at larger enterprises, there might be multiple directors, each managing a specific sales team.

The specific role of a sales director differs based on the company’s size and industry. However, responsibilities usually include

  • Creating and executing an effective sales strategy.
  • Leading a sales team and ensuring high motivation and morale.:
  • Setting sales targets and reporting on their progress.
  • Meeting with customers to better understand them and make sure their needs are met.
  • Growing the company’s customer base.
  • Taking part in industry conferences and building brand awareness.
  • Pricing products and services to make sure they stay competitive.
  • Putting a training or onboarding program in place to bring new team members up to speed.

How to Become a Sales Director

There isn’t a single career path that will be your golden ticket to becoming a sales director. Often, people in this role are former account, regional, or national sales managers.

Sales director, potential career path for a Sales Operations Manager from PayScale

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Still, if you were to look at a few LinkedIn profiles of sales directors, you’d see that some of them went down a less sales-oriented career path. Plenty of sales directors have started in other departments, like marketing or human resources.

Let’s take a look at how Ben Kassiff, Sales Director at HubSpot, got to where he is now. Ben started off as a sales intern. He then took a leap into tech recruitment/talent acquisition. Even during his break from sales, he was able to learn skills that would help him in his future sales career.

Ben began his journey at HubSpot as a principal business development fepresentative (BDR). For seven years, he held various roles, before ultimately becoming a sales director. Here’s a more detailed look into Ben’s career path:

Sales director, career progress from BDR to Director of Sales at HubSpot

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The Skills You Need to be a Sales Director

You don’t have to be the top seller to be promoted to sales director. It takes much more than sales aptitude to be a good leader and inspire others to do their best work.

That being said, you still have to act as a role model and have extensive sales experience and knowledge. Without authority, you won’t be able to lead a team toward success.

Sales directors should:

  • Have excellent communication and negotiation skills.
  • Evoke enthusiasm among team members.
  • Work and lead others, even under immense pressure.

When it comes to education, most sales directors have a bachelor's degree. In fact, 77% of sales directors hold a BA, according to a Zippia analysis of nearly 50,000 sales director resumes. Only 10% hold a master’s degree.

What does a sales director do, most common levels of educationImage source

As far as major is concerned, unsurprisingly, 35% of today’s sales directors graduated in business. Other common majors included communication and marketing.

What is a sales director, common majors

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Let’s see what these requirements look like in practice. Here’s a job ad for a strategic sales director at Vimeo:

sales director job postingImage source

What does a sales director do, skills and requirements in a job ad

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As you can see, the person who lands the role will need to have most of the abilities and experiences discussed above. These include solid sales experience, great communication skills, and industry knowledge. Plus, a Bachelor’s degree is also preferred.

sales director requirements, communication skills, sales experience, a bachelor’s degree, leadership skills.

What is the Average Sales Director's Salary?

As mentioned, the role of a sales director is a very demanding one. So, no wonder it pays well. As of August 2022, the median total pay for a sales director in the United States is $158,690 (of which $65,768 are bonuses, commissions, and tips).

sales director pay

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Salary is also affected by your level of experience. A first-time sales director can expect about $137,000 annually during their first year, according to Glassdoor. After 4-6 years of experience, your total pay is likely to reach $156,837 per year.

These salaries are a reference point, as pay will vary depending on your industry and the type of services and products you sell.

How You Can Become a Sales Director

The track to entering a sales director role isn’t linear. Many professionals in this position go down a sales-only career path. Others pivot to it from departments like marketing and recruitment.

Ultimately, you don’t have to hit record sales to be promoted to a sales director role. However, you need will need good sales expertise, superb communication skills, and self-discipline.

Become an expert in these basics with HubSpot’s sales training manual and template. You can use this resource to level up your own sales abilities and mentor members of your team to demonstrate your leadership skills.



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