What Is a Sales Representative?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A sales representative promotes and sells a company’s product. Read on to learn the skills, education, and overall requirements for a sales representative and how you can start on a path to become one.

[Featured image] A sales representative speaks with a lead on a video call on her desktop computer.

A sales representative promotes and sells products to customers on behalf of a company or organization. They pitch products to potential customers, present new ones to existing customers, and maintain existing customer accounts by ensuring a smooth sales process and customer satisfaction. Sales representatives generally must meet sales goals and report to their sales director. 

 Sales representative jobs can be found in many industries, from technology to manufacturing. An inside sales representative works from within an office whereas an outside sales representative travels to see customers. 

Many sales reps have flexible schedules, with work-from-home options in some cases. For anyone who enjoys working with others, it’s a great career choice. Sales representative jobs can be lucrative and rewarding for a self-starter who’s motivated and self-confident.

How much is a sales representative’s salary?

The average base salary for a sales representative in the United States is $52,173, according to Glassdoor (March 2022) [1]. This doesn’t include bonuses or commissions, which can make up a significant portion of a sales representative's salary depending on the products they sell or the company they work for. The average commission for a sales rep in the US is $12,000 per year and an average cash bonus of $13,000 per year, reports Indeed [2]. 

These salary averages vary widely since the amount of commission earned depends on the type of product and industry. Base salaries can also differ by the size of the company, industry, experience, and other factors.  

Types of sales representatives

There are typically two types of sales representatives: inside sales and outside sales. An inside sales rep works from an office or their own home and contacts customers via phone or email. Outside sales reps are in the field, communicating with customers face-to-face.  

Sales representatives may sell a wide array of products depending on the company and industry. Some types of sales representative jobs include: 

  • Wholesale 

  • Manufacturing 

  • Scientific

  • Technical 

  • Medical/pharmaceutical  

How to become a sales representative

Though the path to becoming a sales representative can vary, here are a few tips to help you get started.

Seek entry-level positions first.

Experience in sales or customer service can help you become a sales representative, so seek out entry-level sales positions first. You can gain important skills in sales and customer service in an entry-level position. From there, you may be able to move to a role with a heavier focus on product knowledge. 

Gaining product knowledge

The product training you’ll need to become a sales representative is typically conducted by the company that hires you, though previous experience with similar products certainly helps. This is because each company generally has its own sales department with specific sales goals, target market, and unique products. 

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Gain industry knowledge.

Consider the industry in which you’d like to work and research sales representative job requirements and products in that industry. Once you’ve gained experience in sales and customer service and know your target organization or company, you’ll be ready to craft a resume tailored to your preferred industry.

Consider a degree.

A formal degree is not required to become a sales representative, though some organizations in the tech or medical industry may require degrees in related fields. Sales representatives who have college degrees may have majored in marketing, business, or a similar field. 

Get certified.

Companies may request sales representatives to obtain specialty certifications, additional off-site training, or manufacturer training, depending on the industry and product. Some products require more in-depth knowledge and formal training. You can also shadow another sales rep for a more in-depth understanding of the product(s) and sales process. 

Sales representative skills

A sales representative acts as a sort of bridge between a customer and a company. You need to have a thorough understanding of the product you’re selling but also an understanding of the customer to whom you’re selling. It’s important to strike a balance with a customer where you can close a sale without being overly assertive. 

Job-specific skills

  • Customer service 

  • Product knowledge 

  • Closing skills 

  • Finding leads and networking

  • Cold calling 

  • Customer acquisition 

  • Knowledge of sales pipeline 

Workplace skills

  • Critical thinking 

  • Communication 

  • Confidence 

  • Charisma 

  • Good listener 

  • Leadership 

  • Negotiation

  • Presentation skills 

Get started in sales

Interested in a career in sales? Start building job-ready skills with the Sales Development Representative or Sales Operations Professional Certificates from Salesforce, available on Coursera. Learn at your own pace as you prepare for high-demand roles in tech sales.

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Article sources

1. Glassdoor. "Sales Representative Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/sales-representative-salary-SRCH_KO0,20.htm." Accessed March 29, 2022.

2. Indeed. "Sales Representative salary in United States, https://www.indeed.com/career/sales-representative/salaries." Accessed March 29, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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