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How to become a Sales Representative

sales representative careers

What does a Sales Representative do?

Sales representatives persuade people to buy products and services. They find and win new customers, and make sure existing customers are getting the service they want. They usually work within a specific area, calling in person or by telephone to make appointments to show products or services, negotiating sales and after-sales services. Employers rely upon sales representatives to collect information on what sells and what might be needed in the future. Other duties may include dealing with records, accounts and paperwork.

There are several specific jobs which can come under the general heading of sales representative:

  • direct sales reps - sell directly to individuals in their homes, demonstrating products or leaving catalogues for customers to choose from
  • national account managers - work with large organisations and businesses, negotiating large contracts
  • technical sales and sales engineers - work closely with the customer on industrial, high-tech and specialised equipment, materials and components. Often, they act as a consultant or liaise between the customer and the company's design or production departments
Sales representatives can also work in the pharmaceutical industry, for more information see the Medical Sales Executive profile.

What's the working environment like working as a Sales Representative?

Working hours vary; many sales representatives have company targets to achieve and organise their work accordingly. This may involve weekend or evening work, and in some cases being away from home on a regular basis.

A lot of driving is needed as most of the time is spent visiting customers at their homes, offices or factories. When not on the road, they could be based in regional or local offices or at home. Sales representatives also visit head office and sales conferences and exhibitions. If the company sells overseas, travel abroad may be required.

What does it take to become a Sales Representative?

Sales representatives need:

  • a wide range of communication, business and problem-solving skills
  • excellent knowledge of company products and those of competitors
  • the ability to persuade and negotiate to win customers or sales
  • to be self-motivated, persistent and able to work on their own initiative
  • self-confidence and the ability to take rejection
  • to be able to deal tactfully with off-hand or disinterested customers
  • good organisational and administrative skills for making and keeping appointments, completing order forms and keeping records
  • a tidy, smart appearance and pleasant manner
  • skills in IT and, for overseas work, languages are becoming more important
  • a driving licence.

Sales Representative Career Opportunities

Opportunities exist throughout the United Kingdom. Employers include manufacturers and wholesale distributors.

Competition for more senior jobs with well-known or large companies can be intense and these jobs usually go to people with proven track record in sales. It is usual for people working in sales to change jobs to increase their experience and scope.

Self-employment and freelance work is possible.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Sales Representative that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM)
Harrier Court
Lower Woodside
Tel: 01582 840001

Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM)
Training Division
Moor Hall
Tel: 01628 427500

Managing and Marketing Sales Association (MAMSA)
PO Box 11
CW11 3GE
Tel: 01270 526 339

Facts and Stats:

  • There are one million people in the sales profession, excluding retail sales

  • Half of all sales people are in business-to-business sales.

  • Until something is sold, nothing happens (think about it).
  • The sales process in company IT may take three years.

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