How to Become a Sales Representative in 5 Steps

Sales representatives sell goods provided by wholesalers and manufactures to businesses or other groups. Sales techniques can be learned through job experience or through education programs, such as a bachelor's degree in marketing. Schools offering Sales & Marketing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Sales Representative?

A sales representative is a business professional who works with clients and companies on the behalf of a manufacturer. They negotiate sales deals and agreements over the manufacturer's products. Sales representatives have to be familiar with all of the details of the products they are selling, as well as familiar with the market landscape and competition. They generally should possess good people skills, the ability to negotiate, and a good memory in order to follow-up with customers. The following table provides more details about this career:

Degree Required No specific degree required, but associate's or bachelor's degree helpful
Education Field of Study Marketing, consumer behavior, business
Key Responsibilities Making sales, meeting and following-up with clients, negotiating prices
Job Growth (2014-2024) 7% (for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives)
Median Salary (2015) $59,080 (for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Field and Job Duties

The main responsibility of sales representatives is to entice businesses and other buyers into purchasing the products they are representing. They may demonstrate products, provide information, and address questions. These responsibilities require thorough knowledge of the products being sold.

Sales representatives also negotiate sales terms. They spend a lot of time developing leads for new customers and following up on those leads. Degrees are not always required to enter this field, but they could be beneficial in securing a position over other candidates.

Step 2: Receive Training or Formal Education

Sales positions usually require training. Some individuals are able to receive training while working in entry-level sales positions or working for wholesalers and manufacturers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) states that an increasing number of sales representatives are earning college degrees. Programs that include coursework in marketing, consumer behavior, sales management, business, and psychology can be helpful.

Step 3: Secure Employment

Sales reps can work on inside sales or outside sales. Inside sales involve a lot of phone work and not much face-to-face interaction. Outside sales generally require travel to meet personally with individual clients. Some sales reps work directly for wholesalers and manufacturers. Others work for independent sales agencies that contract with the wholesalers and manufacturers for sales work. The BLS expects employment for wholesale and manufacturing sales reps to experience growth at an average rate of 7% between 2014 and 2024.

Step 4: Consider Certification

Professional organizations, such as the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation (www.mrerf.org), offer optional certification for sales representatives who complete training programs and pass certification exams. Becoming a Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative or Certified Sales Professional might show both potential employers and customers a higher degree of professionalism and industry knowledge.

Step 5: Career Advancement

Sales representatives working for wholesalers or manufacturers might move into roles with greater management responsibility or work as trainers for those entering the field. Some start independent sales agencies. They advance by earning more business and expanding the company.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of sales-related careers that individuals may be interested in. They could pursue a career in advertising sales, in which they would sell advertising spaces in magazines, on television shows, billboards, and other areas to companies and businesses. They could also go into the insurance sales field, in which they would sell insurance policy to individuals and companies who need to provide insurance to their employees.

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