How to Become a Sales Representative

Sales Representatives are the driving force of the business world; without them, it would be very difficult for a company to make money. If you’ve ever purchased a product after speaking with someone – whether it was in person, over the phone, or online – you’ve interacted with a sales rep.

If you’re wondering how to get into sales, the good news is almost anyone can start a sales career. But while being a sales representative can be very rewarding, you’ll need excellent interpersonal and customer service skills to truly find success. So, keep reading to find out if a career in sales is right for you.

sales woman on computer
man selling thing
What Does a Sales Representative Do?

In general, being a sales representative is about convincing people to buy the product or service you’re selling, but there’s a lot more nuance than what appears on the surface. Sales reps primarily conduct most of their business through conversations with potential customers, also known as leads, in order to convince them to close the deal. Then, once a lead makes a purchase and becomes a customer, sales representatives need to check in on them to ensure they’re satisfied and might be interested in making additional purchases.

Sales reps are also constantly learning as the marketplace changes. This is because they need to have an in-depth knowledge of their products, the company, the market, and the competition to answer any questions a lead or customer may have.

The following is a breakdown of common sales representative responsibilities:

  • Negotiate sales contracts
  • Identify and contact leads
  • Contact new and existing customers to discuss their needs
  • Educate consumers on product features
  • Develop and work towards sales goals
  • Report on sales metrics
  • Attend trade shows and conferences
Career Path to Becoming a Sales Representative

Fortunately for those wondering how to become a sales representative, there is no defined path that you must follow to start your career. However, many companies have different ranks or tiers of sales representatives that you can work your way through, and some companies give promotions in the form of larger clients. If you consistently exceed your goals, you could be promoted from direct sales to a managerial position like Account Executive, Director of Sales, or VP of Sales. Finally, some larger companies have a Chief Sales Officer (CSO) to handle large-scale sales strategies. Those positions are rare and very competitive.

Other sales jobs you may encounter in your search are:

  • Outside Salesperson. Someone who travels to other businesses or leads to make a sale in person.
  • Inside Salesperson. A salesperson who conducts most of their business at a desk instead of traveling.
  • Sales Administrator/Coordinator. An entry-level position that provides administrative and clerical support to the sales team.
  • Sales Specialist. An experienced sales representative or account manager with extensive knowledge in a specialized area.
men shaking hands
Highest Education Level
Sales representatives offer the following education background
  • Bachelor's Degree (46.4%)
  • High School or GED (20.5%)
  • Master's Degree (11.5%)
  • Associate's Degree (9.3%)
  • Vocational Degree or Certification (7.3%)
  • Some High School (2.0%)
  • Some College (1.7%)
  • Doctorate Degree (1.2%)
Average Work Experience
Here's a breakdown of the years of experience offered by Sales Representatives
  • None (39.8%)
  • Less than 1 year (35.6%)
  • 8-10 years (9.8%)
  • 1-2 years (7.3%)
  • 2-4 years (6.9%)
  • 4-6 years (0.7%)

 

  • Qualifications/Skills
    The following top skills are often required or desired to land a Sales Representative position

    Bank Deposits, Cash Handling, Cash Management, Cashier Skills, Cold Calling, Communication Skills, Customer Relations, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Customer Support, Driving, Handling, Inside Sales, Inventory Maintenance, Inventory Management

 

Requirements to Become a Sales Representative

Usually, the requirements for a sales representative position focus less on your formal education and more on your skills and experience. The level of education needed to become a salesperson varies depending on what you’re selling, but most positions require either a high school diploma or a bachelor’s degree.

In some cases, a degree can be supplemented by years of experience, but if the product a company sells is complex or technical, it may help to have a degree in that field. For example, if you are applying to a position that sells IT security systems, having a computer science or cyber security degree could put you ahead of the pack. On the other hand, a communications or business degree is best for a more general sales position.

Many of the necessary qualifications to be a sales representative focus on communication and people. You need to have excellent customer service skills if you want to be a successful sales representative. Being able to communicate effectively and in a friendly manner to help your customers solve problems is essential.

  • United States

**Data source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

How Much do Sales Representatives Make?

 

A sales representative’s salary is unique in that it will vary depending on your location, your employer, and any commissions you make. Sale Representatives in the U.S. have a base salary anywhere between $20,000 to $30,000, with commissions earned from sales adding to that number. Usually, the salary to commission ratio is 60:40, giving you just enough of a base salary to cover expenses when sales are low, but typically not enough to get by without making a sale. Some common commission structures include:

  • Revenue Commission. You earn a flat percentage on every sale.
  • Gross margin commission. You earn a percentage of the gross profit margin from a purchase.
  • Residual commission. You earn a percentage of repeated payments from long-term accounts.
  • Straight commission. You only earn money when you make a sale, no base salary is involved.

To see location-specific salary details, or browse pay ranges for additional sales career titles, use iHire’s Salary Research Tool.

Tips for Writing a Sales Representative Resume

Whether you’re just starting out or you have a few years of experience under your belt, it’s important to customize your resume to the position you’re applying. This means looking at the job description, analyzing it for keywords and relevant skills, and adding those to your resume where applicable. Taking this approach will get you past a company’s automated Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and into the hands of a real person.

How do you make your sales resume stand out once it’s past the ATS? Emphasize your experience and successes. Aside from listing the core duties at your previous positions, highlight any important goals you achieved, like exceeding a sales quota or receiving consistently high customer satisfaction scores. Be sure to include metrics, like dollar amounts and percentages, to make your resume shine.

If you don’t have any sales experience, think about previous jobs, school activities, or volunteer opportunities and highlight the relevant aspects. Include any online sales courses or training programs you’ve completed as well.

 

Where to Find Sales Representative Jobs

Related Resources

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