Senior sales executives are experienced members of a sales team. In addition to selling products and services to existing customers and prospects, they may take responsibility for managing relationships with key accounts, a company’s most important customers. Senior sales executives may also take responsibility for mentoring newly recruited members of the sales team or representatives who are under-performing.
Sales executives need a minimum of a high school diploma. However, executives who sell scientific or technical products may require a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Senior sales executives can improve their professional credentials by obtaining certification from an accreditation body such as the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation, which offers the qualification of Certified Sales Professional. Executives who sell to specific markets, such as pharmaceuticals, can obtain specialist certification from industry bodies such as the National Association of Medical Sales Representatives.
Senior sales executives must have good analytical skills to understand the challenges and problems that customers face so they can identify opportunities for a sale. They require excellent communication skills to deal with customers and prospects at different levels. They may have to present sales proposals to purchasing teams, including technical managers and finance executives, as well as purchasing managers. They also require good negotiating skills to secure sales that represent profitable business to the company.
Product and Market Knowledge
Comprehensive product and market knowledge is essential to this role. Senior sales executives build confidence with their customers by demonstrating an understanding of their business. They aim to become trusted advisers, rather than just sales executives. Senior executives generally gain this level of knowledge through the experience of working in a specific sector. However, if they are moving from another industry, they must demonstrate an ability to learn quickly and transfer their knowledge and sales skills to the new market.
Senior sales executives take responsibility for building strong relationships with major customers to develop revenue and protect their company from competitive threats. Major customers often represent a significant proportion of a company’s revenue, and a loss can have a damaging effect on the business. Senior sales executives arrange regular meetings with customer contacts to ensure they are satisfied with the service they receive and to discuss any problems. The executives also coordinate sales administration and customer service activities inside the company to maintain the highest standards of service.
Pay and Outlook
The median annual wage of sales representatives was $73,710 in May 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although it does not provide separate data for senior sales executives, the BLS notes that the top 10 percent of sales representatives earned more than $144,420. Total remuneration also varies with the proportions of salary and commission making up the wage. Employment in this profession is expected to grow by 16 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations in the United States, according to the BLS.