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Any company that creates a product or products may employ a sales representative, a person who represents the company and showcases and sells products. The range of jobs available to the sales representative can vary significantly. For instance if you work as a sales representative for a pharmaceutical company, you’d have to have excellent understanding of science, chemistry, biology and some medical terms. Frequently people who work in sales for these companies hold a bachelor’s degree in either business or one of the life sciences. At other times, products are more general and won’t require a four-year degree to sell. For instance you can be a sales representative for a candy manufacturer, a company that makes chairs, or a carpet cleaning company.
The job of a sales representative can be highly variable. Many people are expected to travel, at least locally, and sometimes nationally or internationally. They are the point of contact between a business interested in buying a product or service, and their own business, which sells the product or service. Some representatives work on leads only, those people or companies who express interest in their products. Others must employ other methods, like cold calling, or simply showing up at a potential buyer’s place of business or residence in order to try to engage interest in products or services.
For instance, you may notice sales representatives who sell home products or services like window replacement, carpet cleaning, housecleaning services, or food products canvassing neighborhoods in the hopes of finding likely people to buy products. Even the student selling cookies or candy is essentially a sales representative for their school and the company selling the product, when they go from door to door and attempt to get sales. These kids could technically be classed as fundraisers too, since part of the profits of their sales will benefit their school, and they don’t individually profit from their sales.
A representative definitely requires product knowledge of whatever he or she is selling, and is more successful when skilled at talking to people and learned at various sales tactics. Companies may advocate that the representative learn specific sales tactics, and some companies even train employees on the way they want their products sold. People working in sales may also be empowered to make special offers to potential customers when they purchase larger amounts of services or products.
Pay rate for the sales representative is highly dependent on the market for the product being sold, and reimbursement strategies can differ significantly. Some representatives are paid on commission only, others work on a draw versus commission basis, and yet others are paid a salary for their job, sometimes with bonuses if they reach certain sales quotas. Unless a product is in high demand, or your sales tactics are incredibly good, working on commission only can be a risky proposition. You could go some months without being paid, and then have months where you make a lot of money. When your pay varies, you should always save a little bit of money from more profitable months to help you get through leaner months.
The term sales representative may also more generally apply to people who work in retail stores, and people who take telephone orders for products or services. For instance if you call the phone company to order call waiting for your phone, you may be referred to a sales representative. Again this person must represent their company with a goal of being able to sell the most goods or services to customers.