Product Sales Representatives
Product sales representatives have an important role within companies. Their objective is to make customers interested in their company's goods or services and make sales. Sales representatives demonstrate the use of the their products and explain to clients and prospective clients how the merchandise can increase their revenue or lower their costs.
Product sales representatives answer customers' questions and resolve problems. Sales representatives that sell consumer goods sometimes provide suggestions regarding how and where the products should be displayed. They may help retailers create promotional programs, advertising and store displays.
Inside sales representatives spend a lot of time on the telephone selling products and taking orders. They also resolve problems or complaints regarding products. Typically, "cold calling" prospective clients is part of the occupation. Some inside sales representatives arrange meetings for outside sales agents.
Outside sales representatives spend a lot of their time traveling and meeting with current and potential clients. They convey to the client how their products can meet their needs and how their products can increase productivity. Outside sales representatives may sell products made by several different manufactures. They may also help install equipment and provide training for the equipment.
Manufacturers' representatives, also known as manufacturers' agents usually work for manufactures, technical firms or wholesalers. Some manufacturers' representatives work for one company, whereas others represent several companies and sell a range of merchandise. They deal directly with businesses, government agencies and other types of organizations. A number of sales agents specialize in selling technical and scientific products such as mechanical equipment and computers.
Common job titles include account executive, account representative and sales associate.
- Monitor market conditions, competitors' products and product innovations
- Provide prices and information about credit, warranties, contract terms and delivery dates to customers
- Demonstrate products and explain their features to customers and prospective customers
- Forward orders to manufacturer
- Arrange for delivery and installation of products and equipment
- Identify potential customers
- Answer clients' questions about products or services
- Prepare estimates and bids
- Negotiate details of contracts and payments
- Provide ongoing support to clients
Product sales representatives often travel to meet with clients and prospective clients. They often attend trade shows to stay current with the newest products. Some sales representatives have large sales regions and may be away from home for several days or weeks at a time.
They work 40 hours a week, however many product sales representatives work over 50 hours a week. Sales representatives often have irregular work hours. In addition, many salespersons make their own schedules.
Sales representatives sometimes have to deal with pressure since typically their income and job security depend on the amount of products they sell. Companies usually establish sales quotas or goals which salespersons are expected to meet.
Sales representatives should be persuasive and goal oriented. A pleasant personality and good communications skills are beneficial for the occupation. Patients and perseverance are also important aspects of the job.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a seven percent employment growth for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives during the 2008 to 2018 timeframe which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth is projected to be greatest in independent sales firms since manufacturers continue to outsource sales activities to independent sales agents, primarily to lower costs.
In 2008 the median annual earnings, including commissions, of wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products sales representatives was $70,200. The median annual earnings, including commissions, for sales representatives of wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products, in 2008 was $51,330.
Compensation methods for sales representatives vary by the type of company and the products sold. Most employers provide a combination of salary and commissions or a salary and bonuses.
Promotions often take the form of being assigned to a large account or a larger sales territory. Those that demonstrate leadership ability and have a good sales record may become a sales supervisor, a district manager or a vice president of sales.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Generally, there are no formal education requirements for product sales representative positions, however many sales positions require some postsecondary education. Sales representatives that sell scientific and technical products often are required to have a bachelors's degree. For those with a high school degree, previous sales experience is helpful.
Many product sales representatives attend seminars that provide sales techniques or take classes in subjects such as economics, marketing and communication. Many companies provide formal training programs for beginning sales representatives that last up to two years, however most companies have much shorter training periods for salespersons.
Sales representatives can acquire certification that provides formal recognition of their sales skills. Many sales representatives have obtained a Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative certification or the Certified Sales Professional certification. Certification usually requires formal training and passing an examination.
- Manufacturers' Agents National Association
- Manufacturers' Representatives Educational Research Foundation
The primary employers are wholesale companies, technical and scientific product companies, retail companies, manufacturing firms, computer systems design and related services; wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers; and machinery equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers.
Schools for Product Sales Representatives are listed in the Browse Schools Section.