The Role of an International Sales Manager
When a company reaches a certain level of success domestically, the time may be right to expand into international markets. Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon—which all started in the United States—rose to prominence by expanding to different parts of the world, along with much smaller companies that took their business abroad.
Several elements need to be in place for a company to succeed internationally. Markets need to be identified for the company’s product or service. Logistics and supply chains must be established to support the delivery of the product or service to foreign markets. Marketing campaigns need to be created that align with foreign business goals and cultural values. And, perhaps most importantly, the right people must be in place who can sell the product or service to an international market, which is where an international sales manager comes into play.
Applying their knowledge of both foreign markets and advanced sales techniques, international sales managers are instrumental in supporting an organization’s expansion beyond its domestic borders and helping it meet its international sales goals.
Pursuing an advanced business education can help sales professionals develop both the cultural fluency and sales expertise they need to help their organizations succeed in international markets.
International Sales Manager Job Description
In a broad sense, international sales managers are responsible for overseeing their organization’s global sales efforts. An international sales manager’s job description can vary greatly based on their industry, the type of product or service they sell, and the foreign markets they are targeting.
For instance, leading the expansion of the Starbucks franchise into Latin America would involve different responsibilities than selling Salesforce software to corporations in Japan. Since the products, target markets, and cultures are different for each of these two scenarios, an international sales manager would take a different approach to competitive analysis and meeting with decision-makers for each as well. Further, a business-to-consumer (B2C) product like Starbucks entails different teams and marketing strategies than a business-to-business (B2B) product like Salesforce.
Keeping that in mind, the following are some of the most common duties of an international sales manager:
- Identify potential foreign markets for international expansion.
- Monitor industry trends and perform competitor analysis.
- Assist with setting wholesale and retail pricing to ensure profitability.
- Reach out to different vendors who can potentially supply materials and review bids.
- Review and negotiate contracts with foreign organizations.
- Create and oversee all facets of the supply chain to ensure products can be properly exported.
- Oversee inventory levels for products to ensure they are high enough to keep up with demand.
- Meet with potential clients and buyers to discuss features and benefits of products/services.
- Lead the development of marketing and sales strategies.
- Establish partnerships with local distributors and suppliers.
- Handle high-level customer service issues.
International Sales Manager Salary
An international sales manager’s salary is dependent on their education and experience, the organization they work for, their industry, and other factors, such as their employer’s bonus and incentive structures. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that sales managers had a median annual salary of $127,490 in 2021. Those in the highest 10% of earners made more than $208,000 per year.
Payscale reports the median salary for an international sales manager was approximately $90,600 per year in March 2023, with top earners making over $144,000. Bonuses, profit sharing, and commissions may also factor into an international sales manager’s compensation.
Employment of sales managers is projected to grow by 5% between 2021 and 2031, according to the BLS, which is on par with the average growth rate for all occupations. The BLS expects nearly 24,000 new sales manager positions will be created over the coming decade.
How to Become an International Sales Manager
Although there is no standardized path to becoming an international sales manager, taking some key steps can help boost an individual’s chances of securing a top job in international sales. Following are some necessary as well as recommended steps for becoming an international sales manager.
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in business, international business, or a related field. According to Zippia, approximately 70% of international sales managers have an undergraduate degree.
- Become fluent in a second language (not required, but highly recommended). According to Zippia, the most common foreign language spoken by international sales managers is Spanish, at approximately 38%.
- Earn a relevant certification, such as the certified professional sales leader or certified professional sales person credential, which are both administered by the National Association of Sales Professionals.
- Earn a master’s degree in business, international business, or a related field (not required, but highly recommended). For those seeking to pursue a career in international business, choosing a global business concentration, such as an MBA in International Business, is recommended.
- Gain experience in sales, preferably in an international sales role.
Broaden Your Horizons with a Career in International Sales
International sales managers play a critical role in helping their companies expand their reach beyond the domestic market and hit global sales goals. Cross-cultural competencies in communication, contract law, business relations, and, most importantly, the art of selling are among the most in-demand skills for this role.
With a focus on cultural fluency and leadership development, the Online Master of Business Administration program at Washington State University can help lay the foundation for a successful career in international sales.
The Online MBA program also offers an International Business concentration, which is the ideal path for aspiring international sales managers. Learn more about the program, and start your journey to become a leader and innovator in global sales today.
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Climb, What Does an International Sales Manager Do?
Investopedia, Biggest Companies in the World by Market Cap
National Association of Sales Professionals, NASP’s Online Training and Certifications
Payscale, Average International Sales Manager Salary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Sales Managers
Zippia, What Is an International Sales Manager?
ZipRecruiter, What Is an International Sales Manager and How to Become One