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Sales Representative Career Guide

How to Become a Sales Rep

A sales representative, quite simply, sells products or services for a company and represents their brand. They manage relationships with customers, serving as the key point of contact, from initial lead outreach to when a purchase is ultimately made. It’s a career that’s largely performance-driven, meaning how well you sell directly impacts how much money you earn, making it ideal if you want to be in the driver’s seat of your career. 

Sales representative jobs are just one of many that you can apply for after obtaining a degree in business. Here’s an overview of everything you need to know about this career path. 

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What Is a Sales Representative?

A sales rep interacts directly with customers throughout all phases of the sales process. They’re responsible for identifying a customer’s needs, pitching relevant products or services, and ensuring they have a positive experience from start to finish. In some cases, a sales agent will cold call prospects they find through business directories or client referrals. Other times, “warm” leads that have already expressed interest will be sent to them by their company’s marketing team. Being successful requires a mix of both building and maintaining customer relationships and consistently seeking new business opportunities. 

A sales representative is typically expected to reach a particular sales quota each month. And as we just mentioned, the level of income you make in this career largely depends on your abilities and work performance. If you’re the type of person that wants to “control your own destiny” rather than working for a traditional salary, this is a career to consider. 

What Does a Sales Representative Do?

A sales representative's job description can vary somewhat from company to company. But here’s a list of common day-to-day responsibilities: 

  • Selling products or services to customers, and representing the brand. This can include asking questions to pinpoint the best offerings, giving demos or presentations, and maintaining customer relationships.
  • Reaching out to potential leads through a variety of channels, such as email, phone, text, and social media.
  • Negotiating with leads and using persuasion techniques to overcome objections and landing deals that are beneficial to the company, while also providing customers with optimal value. 
  • Submitting and processing orders to ensure customers receive the products or services they request on time. 
  • Participating in company meetings with sales managers and other sales reps. This usually involves providing a recap of recent results and accomplishments to show they’re hitting their quotas. 

Note that because the sales industry is constantly evolving, another part of the sales rep job description is sometimes participating in ongoing training and workshops, as well as attending networking events. This ensures a rep’s skill set is up-to-date, they have a firm comprehension of industry trends, and maintain a strong network.

What Education Does a Sales Representative Need?

Some sales representative positions may not require employees to have a formal degree, and a basic high school diploma is enough to get hired. However, most experts agree that it’s ideal for prospective sales representatives to have at least a bachelor’s degree in business or marketing as it opens more doors. A marketing bachelor's degree program, for example, focuses on critical skills such as sales management, consumer behavior, communication, and branding that’s perfect for becoming a sales representative.

If you’re looking for a more advanced degree that can potentially lead to a leadership role at some point in the future, you may want to opt for a master’s degree. A master of business administration or even a master of science management and leadership are two great options to consider, as they can provide access to professional networks, practical experiences working with real-world business challenges and scenarios, and a higher-level understanding of business principles and leadership strategies needed to succeed. 

Best Degrees for Sales Representatives

Marketing – B.S. Business Administration

For those who want to lead brands and steer consumer markets:...

For those who want to lead brands and steer...

For those who want to lead brands and steer consumer markets:

  • Time: 67% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,755 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Marketing and PR manager
  • Director of marketing and communications
  • Director of publications
  • Customer intelligence manager
  • Marketing sales manager

Marketing is a creative and exciting field—and one where an undergraduate degree will open better opportunities.

Master of Business Administration

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on...

The flexible MBA program you need, focused on business management, strategy, and leading teams:

  • Time: Graduates can finish in 12 months.
  • Tuition: $4,755 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President and CEO
  • Vice president
  • Executive director
  • Chief strategic officer

Our competency-based model gives you an innovative learning experience you won't find anywhere else—and our MBA grads tell us they loved accelerating their program to see a faster ROI.

Management and Leadership – M.S.

An online master's degree focused on change management,...

An online master's degree focused on change...

An online master's degree focused on change management, innovation, and leading teams:

  • Time: 62% of graduates finish within 18 months.
  • Tuition: $4,755 per 6-month term.

Sample careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • President
  • Vice president
  • Director of operations
  • Executive director

Develop a comprehensive suite of leadership skills and your confidence to navigate changing business structures.

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What Skills Does a Sales Representative Need?

There are a wide array of skills that contribute to the success of sales reps, but here are some of the most important:

  • Strong interpersonal skills. Sales reps need a mix of both verbal communication and listening skills and have the ability to articulate how a product or service works to leads.
  • Critical thinking skills. They must be able to diagnose a prospect’s problems and quickly come up with relevant solutions for the right price.
  • Presentation skills. Product or service demos are often an integral part of this position, and reps must be able to concisely explain the core features and benefits to prospects.
  • Negotiation. Sales representatives constantly face objections and concerns from leads and must be well adept at negotiating deals.
  • Relationship management. They must also be skilled at building, nurturing, and in some cases, sustaining long-term relationships to ensure a positive customer experience.

How Much Does a Sales Representative Make?


Sales reps in the bottom 10% earned $40,536 per year as of April 2021, while those in the top 10% earned $71,307. This should give you a basic idea of the high and low averages. However, most earned somewhere between $51,000 to $70,000 as of Julyl 2023, with the median being $61,081 

Several factors determine what you can ultimately earn, including:


-Location: Reps in larger markets can generally expect to earn more than those working in smaller ones.



-Level of education: Having a degree tends to lead to higher earnings.



-Certifications: Having certifications like the ones previously mentioned increases your earning potential.



-Years of experience: The more experience you have, the more you can expect to make.


What Is the Projected Job Growth?


There are a few factors that influence the demand and opportunities for individuals working as sales reps, such as market trends, macroeconomic factors, major employers (e.g. government), and sociological changes. According to the BLS, there’s a projected 2% growth in this position from 2019-2029. And by 2028, 20,000 sales representative jobs are expected to open up in the U.S. alone. 

While that number is slower than average, there should still be ample opportunity, especially for those working in inside sales. Research has found that for every one outside sales representative that gets hired, roughly 10 get hired for inside sales. With rapid advancements in technology like CRM platforms and video conferencing software, inside sales reps are most in-demand at the moment, which makes this a particular area of sales to focus on when pursuing this career. 

Where Do Sales Representatives Work?


A few specific types of organizations and departments where sales reps may work include:


-B2B sales: where they sell to other businesses. These sales representatives help clients find solutions that help them grow and improve their business operations and boost revenue.  



-B2C sales: where they sell to individual customers. These sales agents focus on selling directly to end-users. 



-Inside sales: where a rep works out of their office (either on-site or at home) and sells through email and phone. This type of sales is in high demand and has grown 15 times faster than outside sales. 



-Outside sales: where a rep meets with prospects in person face-to-face. This often involves having a particular territory a rep is responsible for maintaining.


Interested in Becoming a Sales Representative?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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