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Sales Representative Career Guide

Do you enjoy discussing the products you love with people around you? Are you genuinely interested in increasing the quality of life for others? A job as a sales representative might be the right position for you.

Sales reps are responsible for using their expertise in a company’s products or services to connect with customers and create sales by sharing the various benefits of the company’s offerings. They are vital to the operations of businesses since they are the ones who network and persuade others to purchase products. 

Sales representatives are found in many different environments, however, most will be found working in offices making calls or outside traveling to different customers to try to sell a certain product in person. No matter where they are selling, sales representatives need the right interpersonal skills to make the customers trust them and the product they are trying to sell.

Sample job description

Without successful sales representatives, we wouldn’t be able to sell our products and services effectively. One of the most important roles a sales rep plays is building trust and loyalty between our customers and business. You do this by being honest, keeping the customers’ wants in mind, and being genuinely passionate about the product or service. [Your Company Name] is hiring experienced sales reps to take our business to new heights. If you have experience in sales, marketing, and are a self-motivated individual, this could be the position for you.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Learn about new products and their benefits 
  • Identify potential customers and start on the conversion
  • Contact new and existing customers to talk about their ongoing needs
  • Answer various questions about the product or service
  • Emphasize certain features of products to highlight how they will help satisfy the customers’ wants or needs
  • Recommend changes in products, services, or policy to keep up with competitors 
  • Create and maintain customer records, including purchases and contact information 
  • Submit sales record to management 
  • Prepare sales agreements and know the terms of negotiation 
  • Create and submit customer orders
  • Attend different educational workshops and review professional materials to maintain professional and technical knowledge

Education and experience

  • High school diploma or GED
  • One year of formal sales training
  • A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or engineering to sell advanced products like pharmaceuticals or medical equipment

Required skills and qualifications

  • Confidence and assertiveness in cold-calling
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • “Customer first” attitude
  • Attentive listener
  • Physical stamina (you may be on your feet for long hours)
  • Meet sales objectives 
  • Passion for the business 
  • Good presentation and negotiation skills 
  • Product knowledge

Preferred qualifications

  • Basic computer skills to generate sales reports
  • Ability to pick out prospective customers
  • Experience with marketing or advertising 
  • Ability to multitask
  • Excellent comprehension and retention skills
  • Elementary math skills 
  • Good time management

Typical work environment

Most sales representatives work at desks in offices throughout the week, spending hours on the phone or email to talk to different customers. They could also be required to travel to meet up with clients and conduct business in person. This usually means the employee works in the office part-time and spends the rest of their hours driving and meeting up with potential customers.

Typical hours

Sales reps generally work full-time with a typical 40-hour week. Some will even put in more than 40 hours a week to meet their quotas. 

Available certifications

Most companies will need a sales representative to increase sales, so many institutions offer different certifications to develop the proper skills. Check out the following:

  • Certified Sales Development Representative (CSDR). This comprehensive, 3-module preparatory course helps students build a solid basis of sales fundamentals. This course is typically seen to be a beginner-level certification that teaches people strategies and the right communication techniques that lead to sales. The CSDR is taken online with students completing it at their own pace over a two to four-week period.
  • Certified Professional Sales Person (CPSP). The National Association of Sales Professionals carefully designed this course for anyone that currently works in sales and is looking to become a better salesman. The course teaches students to build the most effective sales habits, how to properly negotiate with their customers and guide them through the buying process, and implement the updated social and emotional needs of a buyer in your sales pitch.
  • Customer Service and Sales Certified Specialist. The Customer Service and Sales Certified Specialist certificate is offered by the National Retail Federation. This course is designed for people that already have some experience in sales and are looking to strengthen them by increasing their customer satisfaction. Students will learn about the customer life cycle, purchase options and upselling techniques, and customer engagement strategies.

Career path

Sales representatives will need a high school diploma or GED to qualify for a position. After finishing high school, it is ideal to have some experience in a sales environment or obtain a degree in marketing or advertising to make you a competitive applicant when applying to a position. 

There are different paths a sales rep can take since there are many industries in need of passionate salespeople. Some will be outside sales representatives, where they are traveling each day to meet with customers to bring business to the company. Others may work in pharmaceuticals or medical sales, which typically requires a more advanced degree in engineering or chemistry in order for the salesman to understand what they’re selling. Sales representatives can work in nearly any industry.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 41-4000

2020 Employment1,625,700
Projected Employment in 20301,703,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 5% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift77,600 increase

Sales are vital for a business to survive, so there is no wonder there is a continuing need for sales representatives across each industry. As large and small businesses continue to grow, so will the need for reps. A wide range of new products are being developed, especially in technology, so technology sales will be increasing even more in the coming years. While wholesale sales are increasingly being conducted online, there is still an increase in reps in this industry as well. Those wanting to become sales representatives should seek education in sales, obtain a bachelor’s degree, and obtain certifications as well.