Become a Field Representative: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a field representative. Explore the education, on-the-job training and experience required for starting a career in outside sales. View article »

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  • 0:00 Field Representatives
  • 1:09 Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
  • 2:19 Step 2: Work Experience
  • 2:42 Step 3: Company Training
  • 3:31 Step 4: Certification
  • 4:10 Step 5: Maintain Certification

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Video Transcript

Field Representative

Field representatives sell items by promoting key features of products or services. Many cover large market areas and travel frequently to prospective buyers and current clients, helping them select products based on their needs and specifications. Field representatives may also make follow-up calls to customers, answer questions and negotiate prices.

Field representatives often work more than 40 hours per week, and must be available by phone, email and other forms of correspondence for most days of the week. Compensation may be commission-based or salary-based.

Working as a field representative can be very stressful, depending on sales or other goals. Field representatives must be self-confident and have strong communication, customer service and interpersonal skills. They also need an in-depth knowledge of their products.

According to PayScale.com, in November 2016, field representatives earned a median annual salary of $46,550.

Degree Level High school diploma required; positions involving the sale of technical or scientific products may require a bachelor's degree
Degree Fields Biology, chemistry, engineering
Certification Certification is voluntary
Experience 3-5 years of related experience required
Key Skills Customer service skills, interpersonal skills, self-confidence, strong verbal and written communication skills, knowledge of products being sold, physical stamina due to the demands of frequent travel
Salary $46,550 per year (Median salary as of November 2016 for field representatives)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Payscale.com, Job postings (January 2013).

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

While a high school diploma is adequate for field representatives who sell nontechnical or nonscientific products, those who sell more technically complex products usually need a bachelor's degree. These include industrial and medical equipment or pharmaceuticals. Relevant degree programs for field representatives who sell these types of products include chemistry, biology and engineering.

Success Tips:

  • Develop excellent oral and written communication skills. Since field representatives spend much of their time communicating with current clients and prospective buyers and preparing sales contracts, strong spoken and writing skills are needed to excel in this position. To develop these skills and become effective communicators, aspiring field representatives can take courses in English, public speaking and psychology.
  • Improve sales abilities. Field representatives must be sales makers; attending seminars on sales techniques and taking courses in communications, foreign languages, economics and/or marketing may also be helpful in improving one's ability to make sales.

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Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Field representatives usually need at least three years of related experience to qualify for a position. Those pursing positions that involve non-technical products may especially benefit from prior sales experience.

Aspiring field representatives can also seek employment in positions that require discussing products and services directly at a customer's location.

Step 3: Complete Company Training

Many companies require employees to participate in formal training programs, which can take up to one year to complete. The programs can vary, as some companies have their trainees rotate among jobs in plants and offices so they can learn more about how products are produced, installed or distributed. Programs can also involve formal technical instruction in addition to on-the-job training performed under the supervision of experienced field sales managers.

New employees might also receive training by shadowing experienced field representatives on their sales calls. After they become more familiar with a company's products and clients, they gradually gain more responsibility and increased job duties. After a period of time, field representatives gain their own territory.

Step 4: Earn Certification

Although voluntary, field representatives can obtain professional certification through the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation. Credentials include the Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative (CPMR) or Certified Sales Professional (CSP). During the certification process, field representatives can learn a variety of skills, related to business, goal setting, negotiating and selling. To be eligible for the CPMR credential, they must meet the requirements for education and work experience.

Step 5: Maintain Certification

To maintain the CPMR credential, field representatives must participate in 10 hours of continuing education a year and pay an annual renewal fee. To maintain the CSP, they have to complete 20 hours of continuing education a year and pay an annual fee. Current certifications can help field representatives stand out among other applicants and may help them get ahead in the job market.

Let's review! Educational requirements for field representatives range from a high school diploma for those selling non-technical products, to a bachelor's degree for reps selling industrial, medical or pharmaceutical products. In November 2016, the median yearly salary for a field representative was $46,550.

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