A Food and Drinks Sales Manager is key to helping a company find new business opportunities. This can vary depending on the type of company you work for. The fast-moving consumer goods sector (FMCG) for food and drink is one of the most common employers of Sales Managers.
Being employed at a supermarket for instance, your work will be more business to consumer (B2C), meaning your job is to figure out the best ways to sell your products to customers and to maintain and develop relationships with them by listening to their requirements and seeing how your product may suit their needs. It’s important to note that a Sales Manager role in a B2C company may have a different title, such as Commercial Manager.
If you work for a food brand which sells to supermarkets and other retail sites, your work will follow a business to business structure (B2B), meaning you will have to build a good working relationship with the companies you are looking to sell to and really understand the needs of those businesses and see how your brand’s product could benefit them. Whatever kind of business you end up working for, as a manager one of your biggest responsibilities is looking after a team of salespeople, so you should be a good team leader, communicator, and listener.
To turn this career into a green job, you will have to work for a company which is looking to sell sustainable products to consumers or other businesses.
Arnie Sathiy is Head of Business Development and Sales at Mara Seaweed, a sustainable seaweed producer based in Scotland. For him, finding a role in a company like Mara allowed him to see how a sales job could make a positive difference, by helping people access a greener, carbon neutral food product.
“I think the problem with the image of sales is that people think you’re peddling a good that somebody has to buy because it keeps someone in a job. No, that’s just not the case,” he says.
“Selling seaweed is a bit of a privilege. It’s a natural solution to so many of the problems that exist. That is quite compelling and that makes the job exciting.”
What are the responsibilities?
Responsibilities may differ slightly between B2C and B2B roles, but the most common are:
- Negotiating with buyers and managers on why they should buy what your selling, the price, as well as any important delivery details related to the product
- Being aware of new markets and shifts in relation to new products and any potential competition from other companies in the market
- Finding ways to achieve growth and hit sales targets set out by you and your team
- Successfully managing a team, and training new recruits
- Implementing sales plans that can expand the company’s customer base
- Building strong relationships with through partnerships and understanding what their needs are
- Creating reports on revenue, expenses and forecasts for the future and sharing these with the company’s management team
Who might your employers be?
In this role you are most likely to work for large scale FMCGs companies, but there is also potential to work for smaller organisations in both a B2C and B2B format. Whoever your company is, you are expected to become very well acquainted with what they do and how they work from the get-go, says Arnie.
“You’ve got to be open and capable of learning because you get thrown in the deep end, and very quickly you can be tasked with managing a relationship to a food business has been making smoked salmon products for over 50 years,” he says. “They know their industry back to front, so managing that relationship can be quite challenging, but if you want to do it well, they admire that too.”
As long as you’re ready to take on a lot of hard work and enjoy learning a lot on the job, the role is perfect for you, he says.
What qualifications do you need?
You don’t need to have specific qualifications to get into a sales position, but a degree in Business, Marketing, Finance, or a related field could prove very useful.
Some suitable undergraduate courses are on offer across the country such as:
- BSc Food Marketing and Economics at University of Reading
- BSc Management, a degree on offer at various universities across the UK including University of Greenwich, University of Westminster, UEA, and University of Leeds.
- BA Sales and Marketing Management at Cardiff Metropolitan University
- BSc Finance at University of Essex or University of Leicester
Arnie is an example of someone who didn’t enter a sales role at a food company with a food-related degree.
“I come from a headhunting and generic sales background, so I’ve come to food very late in life”, he says. “Do I lack food knowledge? Of course. Do I understand what food service the industry needs and requires? Yes and no, as every day I’m growing my knowledge to finesse our proposition.“
He continues: “Would I have learned that at university? I‘m not so sure. But sales is a sales discipline, just like you wouldn’t need a food course to work in IT for a food business. I’m very open with clients and colleagues about what I don’t understand.“
Despite the lack of food knowledge, this shouldn’t stop you from wanting to learn as much as you can about the industry and your company’s role in it.“People should not be shy to ask a silly question”, he says. “We’re all learning from one another here because we’re a small business, the supply chain is involved in other things. Marketing, NPD, Production also. I suppose my advice would always be find an employer that that is willing to allow the best of you to flourish.”
What is the salary like?
The average salary for a Sales Manager in the food sector varies depending on where you’re based in the UK. For Sales Managers working in London, the average salary is estimated to be around £47,515 a year, but this can go up to far more depending on the company, as well as any bonuses you receive for closing a sale. Elsewhere in the country, the average base pay for the role is expected to sit at around £39,563.
Where will you be working?
A Sales Manager tends to typically spend a lot of time speaking to current and potential clients. This could be in an office setting, working from home, or at an in-person client meeting locally, elsewhere in the country, or the world.
What is career progression like?
A Sales Manager position offers plenty of opportunities for progression. It is likely you will not enter this career at a managing level, but as a Sales or Business Development Rep. From then you can move up to an Account Executive Position. You will likely be able to enter a Sales Manager position after one to five years of experience in the field. Different companies sometimes ask for different levels of experience so be sure to check this upon application.
Upon reaching a Sales Manager level, other opportunities for progression include being promoted to a Sales Director or a Regional, National or International Sales Manager. Different companies have their own promotional structures depending on their size.
“Sales is an extremely difficult discipline because most people say no to you for a living”, says Arnie. “It offers good career progression if you have that innate resilience, to cope with rejection. People panic in sales about what if I don’t land that contract? What if this doesn’t happen?
“But as long as you do your bits correctly, then you just have to keep knocking on the door. And that’s not something a lot of people can cope with. So those that can progress do progress as there is a lot of capacity for people to do well in sales.”
Is there demand for the role?
As long as a food company is looking to sell its items and generate revenue, Sales Manager positions are vital and in high demand.
“I think good people will always be wanted in any industry,” says Arnie. “If people wanted to approach the food industry, and they’re good at sales, the food industry would welcome them.”
For more jobs in the food industry, visit Food Matters Live’s Preparing for a career in food