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How to Become a Sales Representative

By Ibrahim Okunade

Published:

If you have what it takes to convince people to splurge the cash on products and services, a sales representative career might be the right fit for you. Delving into the dynamic world of sales can be both exciting and daunting. Picture the potential for high earnings, the thrill of building relationships, and the opportunity to master the art of persuasion. But how do you get started? This guide handles that. It details the path you need to follow to become a successful sales rep.

Career Summary

How Much Do Sales Representatives Make?

Sales Representative Salary

Sales representatives make varying salaries based on factors such as industry, experience, location, and the specific company.

Glassdoor gives the breakdown of the salary of sales representatives thus:

  • Entry Salary (US$70k)
  • Median Salary (US$93k)
  • Executive Salary (US$127k)

Sales representatives earn a decent salary considering the fact that the average income of US citizens is only $US61,900

What does a Sales Representative do?

A sales representative, often simply called a “sales rep,” is an individual who represents a company and its products or services, aiming to foster relationships with potential clients and customers. Their primary role is to convey the value of their offerings, answer questions, and ultimately, persuade people to make a purchase.

A typical sales representative job description includes various activities such as prospecting, lead generation, presenting offerings, addressing customer inquiries, negotiating terms, closing deals, and working towards achieving sales targets set by the company.

Sales Representative Career Progression

  • Sales Representative: This is an entry-level position. This individual is responsible for selling products or services to customers, building relationships, and meeting sales targets.
  • Senior Sales Representative: With experience, you might become a senior sales representative, handling more complex clients, larger accounts, and taking on leadership roles within the sales team.
  • Sales Team Lead: Progressing further, you could become a team lead, supervising a group of sales representatives, providing guidance, and helping to manage team performance.
  • Sales Manager: As a sales manager, you oversee the sales team’s activities, set goals, develop strategies, and ensure targets are met. Your role includes mentoring and coaching team members.
  • Regional Sales Manager: In this role, you’re responsible for a specific geographic region, managing multiple sales teams and working on broader sales strategies for that area.
  • Sales Director: As a sales director, you have a more strategic role, overseeing sales operations for a larger area or multiple regions, working on long-term sales plans, and collaborating with other departments.
  • Vice President of Sales: In larger organizations, you might become a VP of Sales, leading the entire sales division, setting high-level strategies, and contributing to the company’s overall growth strategy.
Sales Representative Career Progression

Pros:

  • Many sales roles offer a high level of autonomy.
  • Sales roles exist across different industries, allowing individuals to choose a field that aligns with their interests.
  • Sales representatives directly contribute to a company’s revenue generation and growth.
  • The skills learned in sales can be applied to other aspects of life, from personal interactions to entrepreneurship.
  • Sales representatives have a high earning potential.

Cons:

  • Sales roles often have high targets and quotas, creating stress and performance pressure.
  • Balancing sales goals with ethical considerations can present moral challenges.
  • External factors beyond your control can impact sales success.
  • Dealing with frequent rejection and overcoming its emotional toll can be challenging.
  • Sales representatives might need to work evenings and weekends or attend events outside regular business hours.

Useful Skills to Have as a Sales Representative

  • Communication and Negotiation Skills
  • Persuasion
  • Relationship Building
  • Product Knowledge
  • Customer Service
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Networking and Closing Skills

Popular Sales Representative Specialties

  • B2B Sales Representative
  • B2C Sales Representative
  • Retail Sales Representative
  • Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
  • Technical Sales Representative
  • Real Estate Sales Representative
  • Automotive Sales Representative

How to become a Sales Representative

Sales Representative 5 Steps to Career

Complete your Education

The first step in becoming a sales representative is to complete your education. A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for most sales representative positions. However, many employers prefer to hire sales representatives with undergraduate degrees in business, marketing, or a related field.

Do I Need a Degree in Marketing to Become a Sales Representative?

No, a degree in marketing is not always necessary to become a sales representative, but it does give you an advantage. While some companies may prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree in business, marketing, or a related field, many sales representative roles do not have strict educational requirements. The sales profession places a significant emphasis on skills, personality traits, and practical experience rather than formal education.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Degree in Marketing?

A degree in marketing typically takes around four years to complete. This is based on pursuing a traditional bachelor’s degree program in marketing, which is commonly structured as a four-year course of study in many educational institutions. However, the duration can vary depending on factors such as the program format (full-time, part-time, online), any accelerated options, and whether you take summer courses. Some individuals might also choose to pursue an associate degree in marketing, which generally takes about two years to complete. However,  this level of education might lead to more entry-level roles compared to a full bachelor’s degree.

What are the Benefits of Obtaining a Sales and Marketing Degree?

A marketing degree can be valuable for individuals aspiring to become sales representatives due to the insights and skills it offers. With a marketing degree, sales reps can better understand consumer behavior, conduct market research, and tailor sales strategies. They develop effective communication and presentation skills, which are essential for engaging with potential customers. Additionally, marketing education equips sales representatives with knowledge about branding, products, and competitive analysis, enabling them to position their offerings effectively.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Degree in Marketing?

The cost associated with earning a marketing degree isn’t the same for everyone. It all comes down to individual circumstances. The college attended, the location, and the duration of the program affects the cost.

The undergraduate tuition and fee for Marketing and Marketing Management courses cost between $10,115 and $29,080, depending on whether the student is an in-state student or an out-of-state student.

Can I Become a Sales Representative Through Online Education?

Absolutely! Online education has become a popular and viable option for individuals seeking to enter various professions, including sales. Many universities, colleges, and specialized online platforms offer courses and degree programs in sales, marketing, and related fields that can equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to become a sales representative.

What are Some Web Resources to Become a Better Sales Representative?

If you need web resources to accelerate the learning process or keep up with the latest trends in the world of sales and marketing, here are a few options to consider:

  • Sales Hacker: Sales Hacker is a valuable resource for articles, webinars, and sales-related content, covering various aspects of modern selling.
  • Sandler BlogThe blog offers a variety of articles on sales topics, including sales strategies, sales techniques, and sales mindset. Sandler Blog is a great resource for sales professionals of all levels, from beginners to experienced sales veterans.
  • Sales Gravy: This website offers sales training articles, videos, and podcasts from top sales experts. The blog was founded by Jeb Blount, a well-known sales expert and author. Sales Gravy offers valuable insights for salespeople across all expertise levels, from novices to seasoned professionals.
  • The Center for Sales Strategy: The Center for Sales Strategy is a blog and website that offers resources for sales professionals, sales managers, and sales executives. The blog covers a variety of topics, including sales strategies and techniques, leadership, and sales team management.

Gain Valuable Sales Experience

Prior sales experience can be valuable when applying for sales representative positions. You can start in entry-level sales roles or internships to learn the ropes and build your resume.

What Are Internship Opportunities for a Sales Representative?

Internship opportunities for aspiring sales representatives provide valuable hands-on experience and a chance to learn about the sales process, customer interactions, and the overall business environment.

Here are some common types of internship opportunities that can help individuals develop their sales skills and gain industry insight:

  • Sales Internship: This is a general sales internship where interns work closely with experienced sales professionals to learn about prospecting, lead generation, cold calling, sales presentations, and customer relationship management. Sales interns might assist in managing customer inquiries, preparing sales materials, and observing sales meetings.
  • Business Development Internship: Business development internships focus on expanding a company’s market reach. Interns might research potential clients, analyze market trends, identify partnership opportunities, and contribute to developing sales strategies.
  • Account Management Internship: In this role, interns work with existing clients to maintain relationships and ensure customer satisfaction. This could involve assisting with order processing, addressing customer inquiries, and identifying upselling opportunities.
  • Marketing and Sales Internship: This type of internship involves a blend of marketing and sales responsibilities. Interns learn how marketing efforts impact sales and contribute to creating sales-oriented content, managing social media campaigns, and assisting in lead generation activities.
  • Retail Sales Internship: Interns in retail sales might work in stores, learning about customer interactions, inventory management, product displays, and achieving sales targets. This is especially relevant for industries like fashion, electronics, and consumer goods.
  • Technology Sales Internship: In industries like software and technology, interns might assist in demonstrating products, handling technical inquiries, and supporting sales teams with product knowledge.
  • Medical or Pharmaceutical Sales Internship: For individuals interested in the healthcare field, internships with medical or pharmaceutical companies can provide insight into selling medical equipment, devices, or pharmaceutical products to healthcare professionals.
  • Real Estate Sales Internship: Real estate internships offer exposure to property sales, leasing, client interactions, and the intricacies of the real estate market.
  • Insurance Sales Internship: Insurance internships involve understanding insurance products, assisting in policy sales, and learning how to assess and meet clients’ insurance needs.

When considering internship opportunities, aim for positions that align with your interests, strengths, and career goals. Internships provide a chance to apply theoretical knowledge in real-world scenarios, learn from experienced professionals, and build a network within the industry. Many successful sales representatives have started their careers with impactful internships that provided them with foundational skills and industry insights.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Sales Representative?

As a sales representative, you will acquire a diverse set of skills crucial for effectively engaging with customers, meeting sales goals, and contributing to your company’s success.

Here are some of the key skills you can expect to learn and develop in this role:

  • Communication and Presentation Skills: Sales representatives need excellent verbal and written communication skills to convey information clearly, build rapport with customers, and deliver persuasive sales pitches. Also, being able to deliver engaging and persuasive presentations, whether in person or virtually, is essential for winning over clients.
  • Active Listening: Listening attentively to customer needs and concerns helps sales reps tailor their pitches and solutions to meet specific requirements.
  • Negotiation Skills: Sales representatives often negotiate terms, pricing, and agreements with customers. Learning effective negotiation techniques is essential for closing deals successfully.
  • Problem-Solving Skills: Being able to identify customer pain points and provide suitable solutions demonstrates your value and can lead to higher sales conversions.
  • Time Management: Balancing multiple leads, inquiries, and sales opportunities requires effective time management to ensure that valuable prospects are not overlooked.
  • Product Knowledge: Understanding the features, benefits, and applications of your products or services enables you to position them effectively and address customer questions.
  • Customer Relationship Management: Building and maintaining strong relationships with customers can lead to repeat business and referrals. Learning how to nurture these relationships is crucial.
  • Resilience and Rejection Handling: Sales often comes with rejection. Learning to handle rejection gracefully and maintaining motivation is a key skill for long-term success.
  • Adaptability: The sales landscape can change rapidly. Learning to adapt to market shifts, customer preferences, and new technologies is vital.
  • Prospecting and Lead Generation: Finding potential customers and turning them into leads is a fundamental skill for a sales representative.
  • Closing Techniques: Learning different closing techniques helps sales reps secure deals and guide customers toward making purchasing decisions.
  • Networking: Building a professional network can lead to referrals and valuable connections that enhance your sales opportunities.
  • Data Analysis: Many sales processes involve analyzing data to identify trends, customer preferences, and areas for improvement.
  • Technological Proficiency: Familiarity with customer relationship management (CRM) tools, communication platforms, and sales analytics software is often essential in modern sales roles.
  • Ethical Selling: Learning to sell with honesty, transparency, and integrity contributes to long-term customer relationships and a positive reputation.

These skills are transferable across industries and can contribute not only to your success as a sales representative but also to your professional growth in other areas. As you gain experience, you’ll refine and deepen these skills, ultimately becoming a more effective and successful sales professional.

Research Industries and Companies

One peculiar thing about being a sales representative is that your skills can open doors for you in different industries. Thus, you can be a jack of all trades, helping companies in different industries make sales. Conversely, you can focus on a particular industry and make the best of it. This is why it is important to delve into different industries and companies to understand their operations, products, and overall market presence.

This research allows you to identify the sectors that align with your interests and ambitions. When you research industries, you learn about the trends and growth patterns that impact them. Similarly, looking into various companies helps you grasp their unique attributes, such as their history, mission, and product offerings.

Understanding where a company stands within its market is crucial. You can explore if they are industry leaders, contenders, or operating in niche markets. Examining a company’s culture is equally important. This aspect gives you insight into their work environment, values, and whether it resonates with your professional preferences. By researching how companies approach sales, you’ll learn about their preferred methods, whether they focus on building relationships or emphasizing value. Investigating their customer base helps you gauge if they serve other businesses or consumers directly, which affects your interactions and strategies.

Additionally, looking into sales support, training, and resources that a company provides is essential. This can influence your effectiveness as a sales representative. Examining their reputation, including customer satisfaction and ethical practices, helps you assess the trustworthiness and credibility of the companies you’re considering.

Networking with people who have experience in the companies you’re interested in can provide valuable insights. Current or former employees can offer candid perspectives on the company’s sales environment and dynamics.

Get Relevant Certifications

Sales representatives can enhance their skills and credibility by obtaining relevant certifications.

Here are a few examples of certifications that can benefit sales professionals:

  • Certified Professional Salesperson (CPSP): The National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP) provides this certification, which covers various aspects of selling, including prospecting, communication, and negotiation skills.
  • Certified Inside Sales Professional (CISP): Offered by the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP), this certification is tailored for inside sales representatives and covers essential skills for remote sales interactions.
  • Certified Professional Sales Leader (CPSL): Another certification by the NASP, this one is designed for sales leaders and managers, covering leadership skills, team management, and strategic planning.
  • Certified Strategic Account Manager (CSAM): Offered by the Strategic Account Management Association (SAMA), this certification focuses on managing strategic client relationships effectively.

Remember that the value of a certification depends on its relevance to your role, industry, and goals. Before pursuing any certification, research its credibility, content, and recognition within your field. Certification can be a valuable investment in your professional development and can set you apart in a competitive sales landscape.

What’s the Career Outlook for Sales Representatives?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in sales roles, including sales representatives, is projected to show little or no change between 2021 and 2031. However, around 1.9 million job opportunities are forecasted to come from replacement needs.

Sales Representative Popular Career Specialties

What are the Job Opportunities of a Sales Representative?

  • Sales Representative: The core role involves selling products or services directly to customers, often through phone calls, meetings, or online interactions.
  • Inside Sales Representative: Primarily conducts sales activities remotely, typically through phone calls, emails, and online communications.
  • Outside Sales Representative: Engages in face-to-face interactions with clients and potential customers, often involving travel to meet clients on-site.
  • Territory Sales Manager: Oversees a specific geographic region or territory, managing sales activities and relationships within that area.
  • Account Executive: Responsible for managing and nurturing relationships with key accounts or clients, often with a focus on upselling and cross-selling.
  • Business Development Representative: Focuses on identifying and pursuing new business opportunities, including prospecting and generating leads.
  • Sales Consultant: Offers specialized expertise to customers, advising them on products or services that best fit their needs.
  • Technical Sales Representative: Specializes in selling technical products or services, often requiring a deep understanding of the product’s features and benefits.
  • Pharmaceutical Sales Representative: Focuses on selling pharmaceutical products to healthcare professionals, requiring a blend of medical and sales knowledge.
  • Real Estate Sales Agent: Specializes in selling properties, assisting clients with buying or selling real estate, and facilitating transactions.
  • Retail Sales Associate: Works in a retail setting, assisting customers with product inquiries, providing recommendations, and processing purchases.
  • Media Sales Representative: Sells advertising space or airtime to businesses for various media outlets, such as TV, radio, or digital platforms.
  • Wholesale Sales Representative: Sells products in bulk to retailers, businesses, or distributors, often working to build long-term relationships.

What Type of Organizations Hire Sales Representatives?

The simplest answer to this question is “every organization that sells products or services.

More specifically, sales representatives can be employed in the following organizations:

  • Retail Companies: Retailers, both brick-and-mortar stores and e-commerce platforms, hire sales representatives to assist customers, recommend products, and process sales transactions.
  • Manufacturing and Distribution Companies: Organizations that manufacture or distribute products often hire sales representatives to reach out to retailers, wholesalers, and distributors to promote and sell their goods.
  • Technology Companies: Tech companies hire sales representatives to sell software, hardware, and IT solutions to businesses and individuals. These roles involve understanding complex technology and its applications.
  • Financial Services Firms: Companies in the financial sector, such as banks, investment firms, and insurance companies, hire sales representatives to sell financial products and services to clients.
  • Media and Advertising Companies: Media companies hire sales representatives to sell advertising space, airtime, and digital advertising solutions to businesses looking to promote their products or services.
  • Automotive Dealerships: Car dealerships employ automotive sales representatives to sell vehicles, assist customers with test drives, and guide them through the buying process.
  • Consumer Goods Manufacturers: Companies that produce consumer goods, such as cosmetics, clothing, and electronics, hire sales representatives to sell their products to retailers and wholesalers.
  • Telecommunications Companies: Telecommunication providers hire sales representatives to sell phone plans, internet services, and communication solutions to both individual consumers and businesses.
  • Hospitality and Event Management: Hospitality businesses and event management companies hire sales representatives to sell event venues, catering services, and other event-related offerings.
  • Consulting and Professional Services Firms: Consulting firms hire sales representatives to promote and sell their expertise and consulting services to businesses seeking solutions to their challenges.
  • Business-to-Business (B2B) Services: Companies that offer B2B services, such as marketing, consulting, and technology solutions, hire sales representatives to target other businesses as clients.
  • Education and Training Providers: Companies that offer educational and training services hire sales representatives to sell courses, workshops, and learning solutions to individuals and organizations.

These are just a few examples of the types of organizations that hire sales representatives. Sales roles can be found across almost every industry, as effective salespeople are essential for generating revenue and driving business growth.

What is the Work-Life Balance of a Sales Representative?

The work-life balance of sales representatives can vary widely depending on factors such as the industry, company culture, individual preferences, and the specific sales role. Sales roles can be demanding, as they often involve meeting targets, building client relationships, and adapting to market changes.

Here’s an overview of what to expect in terms of work-life balance as a sales representative:

  • Varied Schedule: Sales representatives often have flexible schedules that can include irregular hours. This flexibility can be beneficial for some individuals but might also require working evenings and weekends or attending events well outside regular business hours.
  • Remote Work: Many sales roles offer the possibility of remote work, which can provide more control over your schedule. However, this might also blur the line between work and personal life.
  • Travel: Depending on the nature of the sales role, travel might be required to meet clients, attend conferences, or participate in sales events. Frequent travel can impact work-life balance by taking time away from home and personal commitments.
  • High Intensity: Sales can be fast-paced and high-pressure, especially during peak sales seasons or when trying to meet sales quotas. This intensity can lead to longer working hours and periods of heightened stress.
  • Performance-Driven: Work-life balance in sales can often be tied to performance. Meeting or exceeding sales targets can provide more control over your schedule, as well as financial rewards while falling short of goals might lead to increased work demands.
  • Autonomy and Control: Some sales roles offer a higher degree of autonomy, allowing you to manage your own schedule and prioritize tasks. This autonomy can contribute positively to work-life balance.

Ultimately, work-life balance for sales representatives can be a delicate balance to strike. While the job offers flexibility, financial incentives, and growth opportunities, it can also demand irregular hours, intensive efforts during peak periods, and potential impacts on personal time. Managing work-life balance in sales often involves setting clear boundaries, effective time management, and open communication with both clients and your employer to ensure that your well-being and personal commitments are respected.

Should I become a Sales Representative?

Deciding whether to become a sales representative hinges on various factors. First, ask yourself, “what does a sales representative do, and can I replicate it?” If your response to the question is a resounding yes, you should explore this career.

Sales offers the potential for high earnings through commissions, exposure to diverse industries, and the development of essential skills like communication and problem-solving. Autonomy, networking opportunities, and prospects for career growth are also appealing aspects. However, the role comes with the pressure to meet targets, the unpredictability of income due to commissions, and the need to manage rejection and stress. Irregular hours, customer-related challenges, and the constant need for learning are also considerations.

Assess your interests, communication skills, resilience, work-life balance preferences, financial goals, industry alignment, willingness to adapt, and comfort with the role’s demands to make an informed decision about pursuing a career as a sales representative.

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Ibrahim Okunade

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