If you consider yourself a “people person” and want a career that offers you regular opportunities to interact with clients, then sales could be an excellent fit for your skills and interests. Sales representatives work in a wide range of fields, serving as spokespeople for products and services ranging from medical supplies, to tech equipment, to wine and liquor and even to homes and property rentals.
But regardless of the specific industry, sales reps inhabit a crucial role, serving as their company’s public, customer-facing delegates. Their communication skills, in-depth knowledge of their products, and ability to “close the deal” can often lead to substantial earnings and a challenging, fulfilling work life.
Interested in pursuing a sales job? Here’s what you need to know about what these roles entail, the educational and experiential requirements to land one of these positions, expected salary ranges, and specific jobs you can apply to right away.
What does a sales representative do?
In the simplest terms, “sales representative” is exactly what it sounds like. A person in this role is responsible for selling a product to consumers or businesses. Some sales reps operate in person while others conduct business via phone or email (and, often, sales reps use a combination of all three styles), but all must possess a strong talent for communicating with others, ascertaining a client's needs, and figuring out how to present their products in the most appealing light.
While retail workers and telemarketers technically fall under the “sales representative” category, the latter term often refers to professionals who handle larger-scale accounts, like those attached to businesses. Responsibilities can include:
- Marketing their products to potential clients through direct appeals (“cold calls”) and referrals.
- Attending trade shows to spread the word about their products and to make connections with both possible clients and industry peers.
- Following up on prospective client interest and taking the lead on scheduling a meeting or conversation to gain a full understanding of what the client needs and how the rep’s product can serve that goal.
- Handling negotiations regarding pricing and quantities (of product or time).
- Once an agreement is reached, the rep will finalize the client’s contract and, in many cases, will receive a commission payment from the amount of the sale.
What are the requirements for pursuing a career as a sales rep?
While entry-level sales roles don’t require higher education credentials, those seeking a career in sales management will be expected to hold a bachelor’s degree. Many individuals pursuing sales careers choose to major in a related field, like marketing or communications. Also, if you’re hired to sell a product with detailed specs (like tech equipment or pharmaceuticals), your company may offer training courses to familiarize you with the nuances and to help you field questions from clients.
Aside from education, sales reps must possess certain personality traits that render them suitable for this highly-public role. These often include (but aren’t limited to):
- Effective interpersonal skills with individuals of all backgrounds and demographics.
- Excellent time management and the ability to hit deadlines.
- Strong self-motivation and the capacity for self-management (most sales reps do have managers supervising their work, but on a day-to-day basis, they’re frequently responsible for hitting their own goals and organizing their tasks).
- A desire to learn the ins and outs of their product and an ability to retain information and repackage it in a way that’s comprehensible and palatable to every individual client.
What salary can you expect as a sales representative?
Sales reps frequently work on commission, which means that their salaries are largely dependent on their successful pitches and contracts. In most cases, a company will offer a commissioned sales rep a base salary, but her total earnings will include a combination of salary and a percentage of her sales.
Earnings for sales reps vary based on industry. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that the highest-paid reps frequently work with technical and scientific products, and the median annual wage for a position in that field is $79,680 (salary and commission combined). Sales representatives who market manufacturing goods and handle wholesale accounts earn a median annual rate of $61,660, while sales reps handling products that don’t fall into these categories make a median salary of $58,510.
What jobs are out there for sales reps right now?
For job seekers who long for location flexibility, working as a sales rep can provide an ideal opportunity to become involved with a company without feeling restricted to a single flagship city. Depending on the company’s reach, sales reps can travel around the country and, in some cases, can even engage in international travel. Also, if a sales rep wishes to permanently relocate to a different city for personal reasons, that’s often in their reach if their employer has a presence in or around the desired new town.
Sales rep roles are plentiful in a wide range of markets, and if you’re searching for a job at this very moment, we at FGB particularly recommend a few currently-available positions:
For a sales position in a company specializing in tech (and, therefore, offering plentiful opportunities for competitive pay), take a look at United Technologies. They’re hiring sales reps for territories throughout the Eastern Seaboard, including Passaic, NJ, Westchester, NY and New York City.
Payroll solutions company ADP is currently hiring inside sales representatives across the United States and also in international markets. The company specializes in efficient payments for employees in a wide swath of industries, and they’re committed to diverse hiring, providing strong benefits to workers and promoting from within.
Insurance sales counts among the most consistent and reliable businesses, especially if you’re working with a large and highly-reputable company like Liberty Mutual. Liberty Mutual is hiring outside sales representatives in multiple markets, offering paid training, a competitive base salary and uncapped commissions.
Massive companies like Sysco often seek entry-level sales reps to train from the ground up, and they’re hiring employees like this right now. Sysco reps will educate themselves on their product portfolio, develop new potential clientele, and maintain existing accounts. For these roles, Sysco asks for a high school diploma or GED or 5 years of food-service experience.