Woman sitting at a desk working on a computer

Sales margin is an important calculation for any business owner because it is key to understanding the profitability of the goods or services you sell. Regularly calculating sales margin helps you understand whether or not an item is profitable, and also lets you compare profitability of that item over time. It should also be a number you reference in your pricing strategy.1

What is sales margin?

A sales margin calculation measures the amount of profit you make on the sale of a product or service after all costs related to the item are accounted for. The higher your sales margin, the higher your potential for profit on that product or service. Sales margin is also sometimes referred to as gross profit margin because it accounts for the materials and other costs that went into making your products. However, it’s important to note that sales margin calculations do not factor in operating costs of the entire business, such as facility costs or insurance, so it is not a measurement of the overall profitability of the business.1,2

How to calculate sales margin

The calculation for sales margin is simple: 

(Revenue – Cost of goods sold)/Revenue = Sales margin

The common pitfall of calculating sales margin is failing to factor in all of the costs that go into making and selling the item when determining the “cost of goods sold” field. For example, you should include any sales discounts or allowances, the cost of the materials needed for the good or service, payment made to employees for producing the good or conducting the service, and any salesperson commission.3,4

Gross profit versus gross profit margin

Sales margin, also known as gross profit margin, is expressed as a percent. You may also see that you can calculate gross profit, which is expressed as a dollar amount. While both calculations show profitability, sales margin is a more useful comparison against competitors or the industry standard because it shows the relative profit between companies of different sizes, structures and operating costs.4

Sales margin formula example

Let’s say that you want to sell a service for $100 but aren’t sure if that will yield a good profit. You determine that the cost of the materials needed in the service is $10. And the cost of your time to complete the service is $40. You would calculate your sales margin as follows:

[100 – (40+10)] / 100 = Sales Margin

You would find that your sales margin is 50%.

Sales margin best practices

But what is a good sales margin? That can vary depending on industry standards, type of product or your own business goals. While there’s no universal benchmark for a good sales margin, there are a couple of great ways to leverage sales margin calculations when trying to determine the overall health of your business and product.

One way is to compare yourself against similar products or services in your industry. Ideally you should be on par with, or higher than, similar businesses.

A second way is to calculate sales margin at various intervals throughout the year. Then you can see how different internal and external forces affect your sales margin.5

Regardless of how you choose to use the information, knowing how to conduct a sales margin calculation is an important tool for any small business owner to have in their back pocket.

[1] https://smallbusiness.chron.com/sales-margin-18383.html
[2] https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/093015/whats-good-profit-margin-new-business.asp
[3] https://www.accountingtools.com/articles/how-to-calculate-sales-margin.html
[4] https://www.masterclass.com/articles/gross-profit-vs-gross-margin#what-is-gross-margin
[5] https://quickbooks.intuit.com/in/resources/finance-and-accounting/what-is-gross-profit/

Small Business Icon
Learn more about Nationwide business insurance Talk to a specialist  

The information included is designed for informational purposes only. It is not legal, tax, financial or any other sort of advice, nor is it a substitute for such advice. The information may not apply to your specific situation. We have tried to make sure the information is accurate, but it could be outdated or even inaccurate in parts. It is the reader’s responsibility to comply with any applicable local, state, or federal regulations and to make their own decisions about how to operate their business. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, its affiliates and their employees make no warranties about the information nor guarantee of results, and they assume no liability in connection with the information provided.