How To Become a Sales Representative [2023 Career Guide]
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Right now is a great time to enter the world of sales. According to a Wall Street Journal article, there was a 65% increase in sales roles advertised on ZipRecruiter in 2021. At the time of the report, there were 700,000 openings in sales departments across the United States.
Overall, the outlook for the sales industry is overwhelmingly positive. The Wall Street Journal states that jobs are lucrative and plentiful, but surprisingly, interest from candidates isn’t meeting demand. This may have to do with misconceptions about what it takes to do well in a sales role.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at what being a sales representative entails and how you can land a job in this high-growth industry.
What Is a Sales Representative?
Sales representatives build relationships with members of a company’s target audience and leverage those relationships to sell its products. Reps need to be skilled at researching buyers, building relationships, negotiating contracts, and maintaining relationships so that the lifetime value of clients is high.
Sales representatives are usually assigned a certain quota that they need to meet each month. The salary that you make will be a combination of a base salary and additional earnings from commissions from sales. Jobs in this domain can be very lucrative because there’s really no cap on how much you can make each month. The more you sell, the more you make.
For further reading, check out here what a technical sales representative job is.
How To Get Into Sales
Breaking into sales is a lot easier than in most other industries. Let’s take a look at what the requirements are to become a sales representative and how you can go about landing your first sales job.
Sales Rep Requirements
The educational requirements to become a sales representative are really quite minimal. Most sales jobs will require candidates to have a high school diploma. The only case where you need to have a higher level of education is when you work in specialized industries like tech sales or pharmaceuticals.
You can come from just about any background and make inroads in the sales industry. This is a field that is kind to newcomers and rewards those who learn on the job and not just folks with degrees. Recruiters place very little emphasis on your degrees or previous jobs. You just need to be able to show that you can learn quickly and find ways to meet your targets.
Sales is a field that requires its practitioners to have a good mix of soft and hard skills. The soft skills that you need to have are networking, storytelling, communication, time management, and negotiation. And the hard skills you will need to learn, include social selling, creating presentations, buyer research, using CRMs, and customizing contracts.
Landing Your First Job
We’ve established that there aren’t a lot of prerequisites to land your first job. But there are ways that you can stand out from other candidates and make an impact on hiring managers. Let’s see you can do that.
Since you’re entering a new field, you will need to either create your resume from scratch (if you’re entering the professional world) or revamp it to reflect your new career track.
Adjust Your Resume
Considering that you’re just entering the field, you should start your resume with your academic background. As mentioned earlier, a high school diploma will suffice for most jobs. If you’ve completed a college degree, then mention that.
You can mention any sales-specific online courses or certifications that you’ve completed in the education section. Mention the course provider and the topics that were covered. Courses and certifications are evidence that you’ve taken the initiative to gain skills in the field of sales, which is sure to make an impact on recruiters.
The next section should cover your skills. You can split them up into soft skills and hard skills. Get specific wherever you can. For example, if you are adept at using CRMs, then mention the ones that you’ve learned to use in the past.
Finally, mention any prior experience that you might have in sales. Even if you don’t have formal experience in the field, you can mention previous jobs or internships where you displayed professionalism, leadership, and a willingness to learn.
Seek Out Hiring Managers Directly
Reaching out to hiring managers directly can help you make quick progress when applying for a sales representative job. LinkedIn is the best way to find and connect with hiring managers, but you can also get this done using email. Here is the process you can use for this.
- Complete your LinkedIn Profile
Make sure that your LinkedIn is updated with recent headshots, a succinct summary about your professional goals and achievements, and details of the past jobs that you’ve held. Ensure that the skills section of your profile contains sales-specific skills since recruiters often identify candidates based on that.
- Identify Hiring Managers at Companies Hiring Sales Representatives
Go through job boards and LinkedIn’s own job portal to find companies that are hiring entry-level sales representatives.
Once you’ve identified a good number of companies, identify talent executives, hiring managers, and recruiters who work at those companies. You can do that by looking up the company on LinkedIn and going through the list of employees. For example, let’s say IBM is hiring sales reps. Then you can search for “Recruiter at IBM” on LinkedIn to find out who is responsible for hiring for the company on LinkedIn.
- Send Your Message
Make sure to keep it short and to the point. Let the hiring manager know which role you’re applying to and where you came across it. You can include a link to your online resume so that they can quickly assess your background. Finally, include a call to action, such as requesting a phone call or in-person meeting so that they can take the hiring process forward from there.
Find a Training Program
There are several sales training programs that are available if you’re looking to upskill in the field. These usually come in the form of a seminar, workshop, or online course. Here’s a list of sales training programs put together by HubSpot if you’re looking for one that you can attend. You can benefit from completing a sales training program whether you’re looking for a sales representative job or already have one.
How Much Can You Make as a Sales Representative?
Now let’s talk numbers. The salary that you can command as a sales representative depends on the stage of your career that you’re in. Let’s take a look at how incomes vary depending on experience as a sales representative.
Entry-Level Sales Representative
The focus at the entry-level is often simply to break into the industry and learn as much about the job as possible. Entry-level sales reps work with sales leads to identify new potential customers, reach out to them, and match customers with the right products and/or services. The average base pay of an entry-level sales rep is $54,824.
Mid-Level Sales Representative
A mid-level sales representative makes strategic plans to grow a company’s sales accounts and comes up with plans on increasing the lifetime value of customers. Your salary as a mid-level sales representative will vary with location and benefits. The one pictured below, a mid-level sales role with the insurance company Allstate, is based in Irving, Texas, and promises a salary of up to $52,000 along with benefits.
Senior-Level Sales Representative
Senior sales reps lead sales teams and help organizations meet their sales goals. They set yearly and quarterly goals for sales teams, train and mentor those who work under them, and work with other teams to help the company grow. The average salary of a senior sales representative is $69,609.
How To Do Well as a Sales Representative
Build Your Foundation
Pick Your Specialty
Find a Mentor
Take a Course or Certification
Build Your Foundation
Learning how to communicate well is the foundation of a successful career in sales. Every sales rep must know how to build a rapport with people and form strong professional relationships. Also understand that communication isn’t just talking but also active listening, which means that you pay careful attention to what your prospects are saying and can summarize their thoughts before responding.
Pick Your Specialty
If you’re just starting out in sales, then specialize in an area that you feel passionately about. So if you really enjoy researching real estate, then working in real estate sales might be right up your alley.
Remember that some industries are harder to break into as a sales rep than others. Working as a sales rep in domains like energy and financial services often requires either the appropriate academic background or experience. Consumer packaged goods, consumer technology, and media are easier to break into with little or no experience.
Find a Mentor
It’s a lot easier to do well in sales if you have someone more experienced guiding you. The best way to find a mentor is by looking at leaders within your organization who are where you want to be in the next few years. You can also look outside your organization and find people in the same or related industry on Linkedin.
Identify a few of these people and approach them with the idea of them becoming a mentor. Remember to be detailed with your request. Propose a cadence that works for them–preferably an hour-long monthly or bi-monthly meeting during which you can go over your progress and most pressing doubts and challenges.
Take a Course or Certification
Courses and certifications serve two important purposes. First, they help you gain new skills in a regimented manner and with a peer group that’s going on the same journey. Secondly, they can show recruiters that you’ve taken the initiative to pick up skills in the industry. Both are important if you’re trying to make progress as a sales representative.
The importance of networking cannot be overstated. Your career as a sales representative can be made or broken based on who you know. You have to, of course, build relationships among potential clients in your industry. But it also helps to have a large Rolodex in general, including contacts of other sales representatives and C-suite executives in your industry and outside it.
What’s the Best Type of Sales Job for You?
There are different kinds of sales jobs that you can work on based on your responsibilities and how you can interact with clients. Here’s a look at what they are and how you can choose between them.
Outside sales is the traditional sales job, where you step out to meet prospects and convert them into your company’s clients. This job is best suited to those who don’t like being confined to their cubicles and like going out to meet new people. It’s also a great role for beginners because it gives you the opportunity to meet clients face to face and understand firsthand their motivations and pain points.
Inside sales representatives work with a company’s existing clients and ensure that they continue to be profitable to the organization. You have to know the product well so that you can answer client queries and recommend changes to their contracts. Consider an inside sales role if you’re good at product research and are adept at using CRMs.
A sales engineer is a sales representative who sells industrial or commercial technology products. These professionals need to have an in-depth technical understanding of the goods they sell and therefore often come from technical backgrounds and have at least an undergraduate degree. It is a great role for somebody who enjoys both sales and technology.
Business development professionals identify new opportunities for companies to grow their revenues. This could be either through new sales channels or through partnerships with companies who work in related fields. Business development roles are ideal for people who are good at research and coordinating between their company and its clients or business partners.
Account managers are professionals who ensure that a company’s clients are served well and find ways to increase their value to the company. They ensure that clients receive everything that they’ve been promised as part of their contract, address complaints, and find ways to upsell products by maintaining good relationships with clients. This is a role that requires customer servicing skills and the ability to maintain good relationships.
Sales Rep FAQs
Is Sales a Good Career?
Yes, sales can be a rewarding and lucrative career. Most sales jobs welcome applications from candidates with a high school diploma, so it’s a field that’s easy to break into.
Can You Become a Sales Representative Without a Degree?
Yes, you can become a sales rep without a degree. A high school diploma suffices for most sales jobs unless it’s in a specialized industry like healthcare or technology.
Can You Get Into Sales With No Experience?
Yes, you can get into a sales role without any experience. Sales is an industry that rewards go-getters and people who are willing to learn on the job. The most important thing to do is to network extensively and have a learning mindset.
Does Sales Pay Well?
Yes, sales is a job that pays well. The average base salary of a sales representative is $65,055. It also helps that sales reps’ salaries are boosted by commissions. So the more sales you make, the more you earn in the form of commissions.
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