How to Become a District Sales Manager


Like many careers, there are many different paths you can take if you want to become a district sales manager (DSM). The best path however, is to have an education in business, combined with a few years worth of progressive experience in sales. 


This work would involve developing and implementing sales plans, continuously developing sales and support staff, collaborating with area managers and sales personnel, and developing key customer relationships. It would make excellent use of your sales and personnel management abilities.


This line of work can also be quite rewarding, and not just when you accomplish the goals you develop and implement; it offers great pay, the opportunity to develop many professional contacts, and diverse opportunities for further career advancement.


So, read on below if becoming a DSM sounds like it might suit you; we’ll tell you what you need to get into this field!



Education Needed to Become a District Sales Manager

The education you will need can vary from job to job. Many job postings however, state that a general business or specialized marketing degree is an asset, but not necessarily a requirement.


Many employers however, will hire you if you have formal education in a different field (such as the social sciences), provided you have a sufficient track record of experience and success on your resume. 


It’s important to note that if you’re planing to work in a technically specialized industry, such as IT or pharmaceutical sales, you may be expected to have a degree in a relevant field.





Experience You Will Need

It’s desirable to have at least five years of previous sales experience, preferably in roles of progressive responsibility. However, you may be just as qualified, if not more so, if you have less experience but have proven to produce outstanding results.


Success Tip: Although relevant experience is arguably more important for this senior-level role, most employers prefer to hire district sales manager candidates that have a combination of relevant experience and education.



Skills Needed to Be Successful 

To be successful as a district sales manager, you need certain skills… but these skills don’t come overnight. While you’re working in sales roles of lesser responsibility, try to hone the following skills, they will be crucial in your future career:


Understand the Customer: Gain an understanding of the customer's strategy and decision-making process when purchasing products or services. Later on, you’re going to have to make sure an entire team has this ability.


Recognize Strengths and Weaknesses: Get to know your strengths and weaknesses, really learn to recognize and acknowledge them. When you’re a DSM, you’ll need to recognize these traits in subordinate staff, and use that knowledge to coach and mobilize them effectively.


Coach and Motivate: Learn to congratulate success in front of others and respect the pressure and constraints that others are under. Provide feedback, offer help and respond positively to all ideas.


Strategic Planning: Top managers can produce a sales plan that sets out clear actions and goals that connect to the business's targets and the customer's needs.


Align with Other Departments: An effective DSM can work proactively and cross-functionally to improve systems and internal relationships that are essential in meeting the needs of the customer. For example, your internal finance and customer service departments may also be working with your account. How is your account being handled by them? Start learning how to develop internal relationships before you're in this position.



Who Employs District Sales Managers?

As a district sales manager, you could potentially work for any type of organization that sells goods or services. This might include (but is not limited to) the following types of organizations:


• Government agencies

• Non-profit and not-for-profit agencies 

• Retail sales organizations

• Manufacturers

• Service sector organizations 

• Distributors/wholesalers 

• Sales, marketing and management consulting firms





Is This Career Right for You?

You should have the following attributes if you wish to become a district sales manager:


• Leadership, motivational and decision making skills

• Tact, diplomacy and communications skills

• You’re well organized and punctual

• You have, or are willing to get, extensive sales training

• The initiative to develop and maintain key industry relationships

• You’re willing to work long and irregular hours if necessary

• You’re comfortable using the appropriate software and related digital tools

• You're willing to be accountable for the performance of district sales staff



Career Advancement Possibilities 

If you display competence and dedication as a DSM, career advancement opportunities will present themselves up to you. Examples of career advancement opportunities might include (but aren’t limited to):


• An increase in earnings through higher salary, commissions or bonuses

• Moving to a larger, more profitable district

• Moving from the public to the private sector, or vice versa

• Becoming a part owner of the firm or company

• Moving into an executive leadership position with a large organization

• Starting your own consulting firm, such as in sales or management


Success Tip: Having post-secondary education related to business or sales can be of great value in advancing your career.





Details of the Profession: General Job Description

As a district sales manager (DSM) you would be responsible for the overall performance of all sales staff in your district. This could include sales representatives, retail managers, and/or other subordinate sales employees within your organization.


Your primary objective as a DSM would be to drive sales by setting goals and targets for your teams, and giving them the tools and support they need to achieve them.



Typical Job Duties

Although your specific duties could vary from job to job, you could expect to be responsible for the following functions in any district sales manager role:


• Creating and implementing effective direct sales strategies

• Partnering with sales personnel to achieve corporate sales objectives

• Developing a sound knowledge of all corporate capabilities in order to effectively sell full suite of services

• Participate in the hiring, orientation, training and continuous development of sales staff and support staff

• Participating in joint calls with regional sales forces as necessary

• Developing and analyzing market sales reports

• Collaborating with area managers and sales personnel to develop key customer relationships and strategies for district sales



Salary for District Sales Managers

The salary level you could earn as a district sales manager can vary greatly, typically depending on the following factors:


• Your professional qualifications (having relevant education, experience, etc.)

• The size and budget of your employer

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties and functions

• The type of remuneration package you are offered (such as if you are entitled to bonuses, sales commissions or partial company/firm ownership) 


District Sales Manager Salary - Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadians working in the Sales, Marketing and Advertising Managers occupational group is $85,800 per year.


Salary in the United Kingdom: According to the National Careers Service, experienced Sales Managers can earn between £25,000 and £55,000 per year, with top salaries being over £70,000 a year.


Salary in the United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary of Americans working in the Sales Managers occupational group is $113,860 per year.



District Sales Manager Jobs

Our job board below has district sales manager postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Typical Work Environment

Hours: As a district sales manager, you'd likely work regular, weekday working hours, such as 9-5. On occasion, you might have to go in to work early, stay late, or go in on weekends in order to complete tasks and projects, or to attend meetings, exhibitions, conferences, trade shows, or similar events.


Setting: You would be based out of an office, but you’d often travel to attend meetings, trade shows, etc., or to visit your company’s local, regional, national, and international offices, or branches.


Conditions: You would spend some amount of your time communicating via phone, email or in person with local sales or store managers, as well as executive management and other staff. Some of your time would also be spent analyzing data, and developing sales strategies and targets. Your work would be very rewarding when you accomplish goals, but could be quite stressful when you don’t.



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or are in the same sector of industry, as 'district sales manager':


• Business Development Officer

• Manufacturing Executive 

• Marketing Director

• Retail Manager

• Sales & Marketing Director

• Sales Consultant

• Sales Representative

• Technical Sales Engineer



References for this Career Guide

The following resources were drawn from in the preparation of this career path guide:


Wages and Salaries in Alberta:Corporate sales managers.” (December 5, 2012). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 10, 2019.

Management:Sales Managers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 10, 2019.

Job Profiles: Sales Manager.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved November 10, 2019.

Sales:10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Sales Manager.” Brian Signorelli (n.d.). Hubspot Blog website. Retrieved November 10, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a District Sales Manager 

The 'Applicable Majors' section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a district sales manager. You can search for scholarships matched to that/those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or necessary) for working in this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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