What Is a Sales Representative?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A sales representative promotes and sells a company’s products. 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. Someone in this role pitches products to potential customers, presents new ones to existing customers, maintains existing customer accounts, and ensures 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. 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.

Read more: Getting a Remote Sales Job: Your 2024 Guide

Types of sales representatives

There are two main types of sales representatives: inside sales representatives and outside sales representatives. An inside sales representative typically uses digital communication tools to connect with customers remotely, whereas an outside sales representative may conduct sales in the "field" via face-to-face interactions.

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

Read more: Inside Sales vs. Outside Sales: How Are They Different?

Sales representative salary

The average salary for a sales representative in the US, including base pay, bonuses, and commissions, is $103,910, according to Glassdoor [1]. Base salaries can differ depending on the company's size, industry, experience, and other factors. The average commission for a sales rep in the US is $10,900 per year, according to data from Indeed [2]. The amount of commission earned could make up a significant portion of a sales representative's salary, depending on the products they sell or the company they work for.

How to become a sales representative

Although there is more than one path to becoming a sales representative, 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. 


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 with college degrees may have majored in marketing, business, or a similar field. 

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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 aggressive. 

Job-specific skills

Workplace skills

Read more: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills: What’s the Difference?

Sales representative job description

In your job search, it's important to review sales representative job descriptions carefully. That way, you can note the skills and other qualifications that employers list most frequently and prioritize your career development efforts accordingly. In addition, review the list of duties you'll be responsible for in each position so that you can apply for the jobs that you believe you'll enjoy the most.

Here's a sample job description to give you an idea of what to look for:

Company overview

[Company Name] is an innovative organization in [industry or sector], committed to serving our customers with [products and offers]. We are seeking a motivated sales representative to join our high-performing sales team.

Job description

As a sales representative, you will act as an ambassador to [Company Name], by fostering relationships with customers, promoting products and services, and closing sales. You will play an important role in meeting our team's sales targets and generating qualified leads.

Key responsibilities

- Identify new sales leads through market research, social media engagement, and cold calling.

- Maintain relationships with existing customers by answering their questions and presenting new products.

- Keep account records updated in our CRM system.

- Conduct sales calls with prospects, demonstrate products, and close deals.

- Collaborate with others on the sales and marketing teams to streamline the customer journey.

- Provide exceptional follow-up support after each sale to address concerns and ensure a positive customer experience.


- Sales experience with a proven track record of success

- [Industry or sector] knowledge preferred

- Experience using CRM software and Microsoft Office

- Bachelor's degree in marketing or business preferred

- Excellent writing skills

- Familiarity with different social media platforms


[List of rewards and benefits, such as health care coverage, performance bonuses and incentives, paid time off, retirement plans, stock options, wellness programs, and other perks.]

Application process

Fill out our online application form and attach your resume and cover letter, addressing why you would be a great fit for this position.


Explore sales with Coursera

Interested in a career in sales? Start building job-ready skills with Salesforce's Sales Development Representative Professional Certificate or HubSpot's Strategic Customer. Relationship Management & Sales Technique Specialization, available on Coursera. Learn at your own pace as you prepare for high-demand roles in tech sales.

Article sources


Glassdoor. "Sales Representative Overview, https://www.glassdoor.com/Career/sales-representative-career_KO0,20.htm." Accessed December 19, 2023.

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