Sales Director Career Provides Daily Challenge

By Christina Granville AAA

Sales are arguably the most important component in the bottom-line success of an investment management firm. As such, the role of the sales director is a crucial one.

The sales director is responsible for the sales force - the size of which varies depending on the organization. He or she must oversee training and management programs both for internal sales representatives and the external sales force. Every time a new product is introduced, the sales director implements an educational program to teach sales reps about the product and decides the best sales points to present these products to potential investors. If these creative challenges interest you, then read on to find out how to seal the deal on the sales director job.

A Day in the Life of a Sales Director
The sales director interacts most closely with his or her sales force. In smaller investment management firms or hedge funds, this may involve a few to several sales professionals. In large investment management firms - such as Fidelity or Morgan Stanley - there are hundreds of financial advisors that work in-house, as well as outside planners and advisors. In such situations, the sales director works closely with those in middle management who directly supervise the larger sales team. If a sales director works for one of the larger investment management firms, he or she will be also responsible for supervising and leading the more junior levels of sales managers who will interact directly with sales representatives.

Sales directors frequently interact with the heads of related departments, including product development and marketing departments, as well as the CEO and president of the firm. The sales director often begins his or her day meeting with the sales force directly - if the sales force is small - or indirectly through levels of middle management. He or she may then have a lunch meeting with the head of product development in order to brainstorm upcoming product launches or proposals. (To learn more about product development, read Lead The Charge With Product Development.)

During a workday, the sales director may meet with the marketing director again in order to give feedback from the field on the latest marketing materials. The late afternoon could well involve a strategy session with the firm's president and CEO on how best to increase sales numbers. Finally, the sales director may take home and review an agenda for upcoming sales training.

Background of Sales Directors
If you are an undergraduate student who is considering a career as a sales director, it is advisable to take courses in business, economics, accounting and math. A college degree is normally considered a prerequisite to becoming a sales director. Some have MBA degrees, although it is possible to attain the position with an undergraduate degree and considerable experience.

In addition to formal education and experience, many sales directors have completed the necessary requirements to become certified. Many Certified Financial Planners (CFPs) do so through the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards or the Institute of Business and Finance Planners.

The vast majority of sales directors also pass FINRA exams, such as the Series 7 and Series 66. The Series 66 accreditation allows the individual to charge fees for investment advice. The Series 63 does not. (To learn more, check out Putting Licenses To The Test, Series 63, Series 65 Or Series 66? and Finding Your Place In The Financial Industry.)

The Path to Sales Director
Internal Applicants
The path to becoming a sales director within a firm often begins with on-the-ground experience as a member of the sales team. If you have an interest in working your way up the career ladder to the role of sales director, the best route is to begin as an internal salesperson within a firm. This is due to the fact that internal salespeople are often given preference - compared to external planners or advisors - when it comes to promotions in sales management.

However, if you are not hoping to achieve a director position, but you wish to continue on in financial planning, most firms will still look for some sales background when hiring an internal advisor. This means that starting out in sales will help you attain your goal, even if that goal changes once you get the job. Depending on the firm, experience as simple as a summer job working in a hardware store may serve as past sales experience. Most companies merely want to make certain that you have some familiarity with sales techniques and are comfortable with selling. Beyond that, however, they tend to provide copious training to new sales department employees and most will sponsor classes to prepare for becoming certified and passing exams.

External Applicants
If you do choose to enter the field as an external planner or advisor, working with several different investment management firms from the outside may give you an idea of where you would most like to advance your career. Each investment management organization has its own culture and working with more than one is an excellent way to see where the strongest compatibility may lie. (For more information, check out Taking The Lead In The Interview Dance and Trying On Potential Employers.)

Once you have experience as a financial advisor, seek out management positions if you aspire to become a sales director. Managing other sales representatives is the most direct road to promotions and eventually being considered for the top sales position within a firm. If upper management has an open-door policy, consider suggesting sales ideas to the President and/or CEO in order to gain his or her attention. It is also advisable to form a strong relationship with the marketing director within the firm.

Differences Between Sales and Marketing in an Investment Firm
Sales and marketing departments provide different functions within an investment firm although they work closely together. The sales director often works closely with the marketing director in crafting communications regarding investment products. Often, the sales and marketing directors will agree on a general direction for a marketing campaign, and then allow the details to be carried out by the marketing department.

In effect, while the marketing department focuses on written communications and the supporting materials behind sales efforts, sales representatives handle all direct contact with prospective and existing clients. Often sales representatives will give constructive feedback to the marketing department regarding the reactions of clients and prospects to marketing materials they have been using. One of the responsibilities of the sales director is to ensure that there is an open channel of communication between sales agents in the field and members of the marketing department so that a free exchange of ideas can occur. (To find out more about reaching clients, see Cold Call Without Getting The Cold Shoulder, Alternatives To The Cold Call and On The Record: Communications With The Public.)

Conclusion
A sales director's day is full, with emphasis placed on creating original alternatives, planning goals, using people skills and crunching numbers. Ultimately, the sales director's position is an extremely demanding - and often rewarding - role you should consider if you're willing to pay the price in the time and effort it takes to get this job.

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