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Sales Representative


They show up at homes, and shops or they may call on the phone. They are sales representatives and they are the people who bring products and consumers together. Some sales representatives work in stores, while others will go door to door, asking people whether they are satisfied with their vacuum cleaner and would they like to try the new Zippy vacuum? Or they call on the phone to ask if people if they have house insurance. Whether it is by phone or in person sales representatives are the front line between a product and a customer.

It is the job of sales representatives to educate consumers about the products and services that are offered by their company. The goal of a sales representative is to have a customer choose their product over the competitors'. Sales reps are the only direct contact a company has with its customers, so their communication and sales skills are vital to their success. They may follow up on sales calls that request information on their product and services or they may do "cold call" which means contacting companies or people at home during the day to see if they are interested in the company's product or service.

Sales representatives need to be aware of their clientele and have a clear working knowledge of their products and services. For example, when they go to demonstrate a new ink-jet filling system at an office, they must know their company uses vegetable dye and it is 50 percent cheaper than the competitors' rate. Or if a company is offering a service they will bring brochures and information detailing the services they provide.

Besides all of the selling and marketing they do, sales reps are also responsible for preparing cost estimates of their service or products, negotiating sales terms and providing customer service follow up with clients.
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Northcentral University

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Programs Offered:
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
Median Salary:
Highest 10% of Earners:

  Interests and Skills  
Sales representatives must have an interest in sales and marketing and an interest in the product or service they are providing. They must be excellent communicators and persuasive sales people to succeed. Sales representatives need a vast knowledge of their product or service and the determination and assertiveness to sell their product. They also need a good grasp of mathematics to provide estimates and final sales to customers.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Explain product service or product to prospective customers
  • Call customers on the phone or meet them in person
  • Go door to door conducting cold calls
  • Demonstrate their product or service
  • Prepare cost estimates of services or product
  • Prepare records of potential and repeat customers
  • Follow up on potential sales leads
  • Sales representatives may spend most of their time in the office, making calls to clients or potential clients. Others may spend their time traveling door-to-door from businesses and homes. Traveling sales reps may spend many hours and days away from home on sales calls. Retail sales representatives will spend their days interacting with potential customers and other retail staff. Sales representatives generally work eight-hour days, 40 hours a week. This job may involve weekend and evening work depending on the industry, product or service being offered. Sales representatives are under pressure to meet deadlines and quotas, and they must be able to handle this as well as the constant rejection that they may receive.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Sales representatives are employed by retail stores, or companies whose services or products they sell over the phone, or door to door. This means everything from pharmaceutical sales, to vacuum cleaners to clothing in a store. Any company providing a service or product will have a sales rep of some kind.

  Long Term Career Potential  
There is some room for advancement in this career. Sales representatives with experience may work independently as their own boss or they may move on to work as executive sales representatives, acting as spokespeople for their entire sales division and training junior sales representatives.

  Educational Paths  
The educational requirements for sales representative vary depending on the industry they are working in. A high school diploma is recommended but not absolutely necessary to become a sales rep in a retail store. However, sales reps who sell advertising, technical products or medicine usually require a university or college education. For those interested in being sales representatives courses in math, computers and business are generally preferred. Also, companies typically offer training and product education seminars to get staff acquainted with their products.

In industries such as pharmaceutical sales, sales representatives are often required to write an examination testing their knowledge of biology, chemistry and other sciences.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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Campus Locations:
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