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Become a Sales Representative: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a sales representative. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in sales.

Should I Become a Sales Representative?

Sales representatives are responsible for persuading clients, buyers and purchasing agents to buy a product or service. Their duties include demonstrating products or services, advising clients on the benefits of a product or service and traveling to meet with current and prospective clients. A great deal of travel is often involved in this occupation. Reps may be under considerable pressure to meet sales quotas, and their income may be directly dependent on their work performance.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Varies from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree
Degree Field Variable/related to field of products being sold
Licensure/Certification Voluntary certification is available from the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation
Experience Previous sales experience may be beneficial for sales representatives in non-technical positions
Key Skills Customer service and interpersonal skills; stamina and self-confidence, and computer program knowledge such as calendar, customer relationship management and query software
Salary (2014) $75,140 annually (median salary for all sales representatives in wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products);
$55,020 annually (median salary for sales reps not selling scientific or technical products

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET Online

Step 1: Meet the Educational Requirements

Individuals who plan to sell technical or scientific products will often need a bachelor's degree, typically in a field that is relevant to the products they sell; however, a high school diploma is satisfactory for many non-technical sales representative positions. To improve their selling ability, aspiring sales representatives can take courses in economics, communication and marketing.

Success Tip:

  • Develop a sales background. Employers may prefer to hire non-technical sales representatives who have previous sales experience. Individuals may gain this experience by working in retail sales positions, where they sell products directly to customers.

Step 2: Complete On-the-Job Sales Training

Companies often have training programs for new sales representatives that can last up to a year. Trainees learn the full product line or service offerings of their employer. They also learn about the company's client base. During on-the-job training, trainees may go on sales calls with experienced sales representatives. Over the course of training, they gradually assume more responsibility and acquire their own territory or clients.

Success Tip:

  • Consider pursuing advancement opportunities. After gaining sales experience, sales representatives can pursue promotions in the form of larger marketing territories or earning larger commissions.

Step 3: Earn Voluntary Certification

The Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation offers the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) certification for sales people. Individuals who participate in the CSP curriculum will learn about topics such as personality traits, investigating, planning and negotiating. The CSP program lasts for a few days and includes written and verbal exams. Sales representatives who successfully complete the program are allowed to use the CSP designation.

Success Tip:

  • Keep certification current. To maintain their certification, individuals must take continuing education courses and submit certification fees on an annual basis.

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