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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.

Responsibilities

  • 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

Job Characteristics

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.

Employment Outlook

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.

Resources

Major Employers

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.

Product Sales Representatives Skills

Below are the skills needed to be product sales representatives according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Persuasion4.254
Speaking4.254
Active Listening4.124.12
Negotiation44
Social Perceptiveness3.883.75

Product Sales Representatives Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be product sales representatives according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Oral Expression4.54.62
Oral Comprehension44.5
Speech Recognition44
Speech Clarity44.12
Written Comprehension3.884

Product Sales Representatives Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be product sales representatives according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

   
Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
Customer and Personal Service4.424.58
Sales and Marketing4.314.78
English Language3.663.66
Administration and Management3.173.59
Mathematics3.163.69

Product Sales Representatives Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being product sales representatives according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships4.425.24
Getting Information3.663.88
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates3.524.17
Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work3.514.68
Communicating with Persons Outside Organization3.453.89

Product Sales Representatives Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being product sales representatives according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

   
Work StyleImportance
Integrity4.63
Initiative4.38
Cooperation4.3
Dependability4.29
Persistence4.27

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Product Sales Representatives

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Product Sales Representatives jobs , as of 2017

   
Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim63,290 $66,530
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington42,510 $73,180
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell39,100 $64,550
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach37,010 $58,740
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land33,800 $73,810
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn25,220 $75,330
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue22,390 $72,280
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood19,870 $76,910
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward17,540 $75,430
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale16,590 $65,180

Compare Total Employment & Salaries for Product Sales Representatives

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Employment
Salary

Total employment and salary for professions similar to product sales representatives

Source : 2017 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 22.1 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Product Sales Representatives.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.