What Is a Customer Sales Representative?

Customer service representatives possess strong customer service skills and understand customer needs and wants. Read on to learn more about the duties and qualifications of these professionals, as well as the career prospects and salary potential for this field. Schools offering Sales & Marketing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Customer sales representatives may work in manufacturing and wholesale environments. This can expand into agricultural, scientific, mechanical and technical areas. You might also work in a retail environment as a customer sales representative. Whichever industry you work for, your main goal is to sell your company's products to interested buyers. You'll need to know your company's products firsthand in order to maintain your sales goals and pass knowledge of your products to prospective buyers.

You can choose to work as an inside or outside sales representative. While inside sales representatives usually make and receive calls from prospective customers, outside sales representatives meet with them in person to show products and answer questions. Since you'll work with customers directly, good communication skills and the ability to handle difficult situations are necessary skills for either role.

Important Facts About Customer Sales Representatives

Work Environment Call center or office setting
Key Skills Interpersonal communication, extroversion, problem-solving, confidence
On-The-Job Training Up to 1 year, depending on employer
Similar Occupations Advertising sales agent, purchasing manager, real estate broker

Job Duties

As a customer sales representative, you can also expect to do some of the following tasks:

  • Field questions and concerns from customers
  • Memorize prices and delivery information
  • Handle marketing materials
  • Manage store displays
  • Work with the manufacturers of the products you sell
  • Create sales reports
  • Maintain your client database

Education and Training

In most cases, a high school education and work experience will suffice for sales positions; however, some employers prefer applicants who hold bachelor's degrees for positions that involve selling scientific and technical products. Otherwise, you can learn through on-the-job training, especially in retail sales positions. Company training programs may include some formal instruction and can take as much as a year in some cases.

Certification

If you don't have a college degree but want to demonstrate proficiency in this field, you might choose to pursue certification. The Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation offers two certification programs for customer sales representatives.

The Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative (CPMR) certification program takes approximately three years to complete and provides you with sales-related instruction (mrerf.org). You'll study topics like productivity, profitability, human resources, and fiscal management. You'll end your program with a capstone study and an exam. Upon completion, you'll gain both CPMR certification and membership to the Institute for Professional Advancement (IPA). To keep this certification, you must pay annual fees and complete continuing education.

You might also choose to pursue the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) designation. To earn this certification, you must complete three days of sessions, followed by an exam. During sessions, you'll learn how to manage your time, develop a sales process and build on business skills. Upon completion of this program, you'll earn entrance into the IPA in addition to the CSP designation.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for representatives in retail sales was expected to grow by 7 percent between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS suggests that job growth might be greater for independent sales reps due to the cost of overhead for companies; however, job prospects will be best for those with selling experience and the key traits necessary for sales. This growth will be an effect of population growth and a large number of people leaving this field to pursue other careers.

Salary

In May 2014, the BLS reported that wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives of technical and scientific products earned $86,750 on average, while sales representatives of products that were not technical or scientific earned a much lower wage of $65,800 on average. At the same time, sales representatives of services earned an average wage of $61,960. On the other hand, retail salespersons earned a significantly lower average wage of $25,760.

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