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What does a Direct Sales Agent do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A direct sales agent markets and sells goods to consumers without the benefit of a retail, online or catalog store. She may call on people in their homes with or without phoning ahead. An agent often peddles her products through inviting groups of people into her home for a sales-oriented social gathering.

She also commonly sells her wares to people she works with at a regular job during her lunch hour or before or after her normal job hours. Some agents lease spaces in the middles of malls and shopping centers on short-term bases to market items to passers-by. Others often rent spaces at flea markets or trade fairs to promote sales.

Formerly called door-to-door salesmen or saleswomen, these workers generally work for a single manufacturer and knocked on the doors of people’s homes to sell products. When the profession was in its infancy, cleaning goods, household tools and gadgets and encyclopedias were the most commonly marketed items. Male sales agents normally called on potential female customers who, at that time in history, were typically at home during the day.

The next phase of direct sales focused on cosmetics, clothing and innovative food storage containers. As more females sought income sources that would not interfere with the demands of homemaking and child rearing, many found satisfaction in selling these items to individual customers in their homes and through home selling “parties” that usually included light refreshments. These sales were normally conducted during evening and weekend hours.

Over the next few decades, a direct sales agent could be found selling a wider range of products. Some companies expanded their home cleaning product lines to include personal hygiene products like shampoos and lotions. New companies took root that sold vitamins, food supplements and dietary aids. The latest group of products sold by direct sales agents includes gourmet cookware, bakeware and flatware as well as candles, china, crystal and jewelry. The trend of holding sales parties rather than calling on individuals door-to-door became popular.

To be successful as a direct sales agent takes a positive outlook and an upbeat, engaging personality. Since customers normally buy the most goods from people they like, having a personality that appeals to many different people increases an agent’s chances for success. Having ties with different segments of the local community also helps in selling to a larger demographic sector.

There are no educational requirements necessary for this position. Having good oral and written communication skills is helpful. Since cash and credit card transactions are a large part of a direct sales agent’s responsibilities, proficiency in math is a desirable asset.

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Discussion Comments

By Princelety — On Feb 02, 2014

My wife is a sales representative for a direct sales jewelry company as a sort of side job and beyond the constant search for sales opportunities online and in real life, there's also some aspect of inventory management (although the jewelry she sells is ordered from a company warehouse, she has to decide what pieces to buy for her own display to entice customers) and at the end of the year, because the company doesn't do any tax deductions, she must pay income tax on the full amount of what she earned (with deductions for what she invested in the business, of course). In most instances, even if you're working for an established brand, being a direct sales representative is kind of like having your own business.

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