What does a Sales Representative do?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

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.

Sales representatives may work from a call center.
Sales representatives may work from a call center.

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.

Some representatives work on leads only, those people or companies who express interest in their products.
Some representatives work on leads only, those people or companies who express interest in their products.

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.

Sales representatives may cold call potential clients to gain new business.
Sales representatives may cold call potential clients to gain new business.

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.

Sales representatives in various industries may undergo extensive training.
Sales representatives in various industries may undergo extensive training.

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.

Sales representatives may work in retail stores.
Sales representatives may work in retail stores.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@anon114333: Cut that passive voice out and be upfront and direct.


What other courses can one study to become a professional sale rep?


Just be confident and friendly. You will be surprised how much confidence in yourself and your product will lead your client to make the purchase.

Someone once told me: "If you're not being told 'No' by clients you're doing something wrong". Don't be afraid of being rejected by clients. It's just part of the job and sales is a bit of a numbers game anyway.

You can always copy Dwight Schrute from "The Office" and listen to a pre-pitch song to give yourself that confidence that is so important. Remember, if you're not confident in your product, why should the client be?


I'm one of the aspiring applicants in a position as a sales representative. i want advice on how i can do my future job well?


I work in sales and have done for about a year and a half. Do you know of anyone who could help with the presentation side? I have my first major presentation in about a month and am, shall we say, less than confident, in my pitch.


I am applying for a sales representative. I am quite nervous but i love to be in selling, and gaining more friends.


For anyone considering a job in sales: watch out. There are plenty of sales jobs that are scams. About a year ago, I worked for a certain knife company as a salesman (I won’t name any names). I had been told by friends that the job was a scam, but I took it anyway because I was desperate for income and it seemed to potentially pay well. Once I got through the introduction however, I realized that the job was indeed a big scam. At this particular company, the salesperson had to put down a deposit on the merchandise he or she is supposed to sell. It was not cheap either, mind you. That means, if an employee gets fired or just can’t find appointments to sell the knives, they have to pay out of their own pocket. So, for anyone thinking about working as a salesman, I would suggest being very cautious.


@anon25406 – If you can get a position in selling medical supplies and machinery, I would really suggest you take it. Most sales jobs pay by a percentage commission. So, if you manage to convince a hospital to buy an MRI scanner (which cost millions of dollars), even a 1% commission will pay back well. As a surgical technician, you are probably better equipped for a job in medical supply sales than your average salesman because you have personal experience with the equipment. Medical supply sales is something you might seriously want to look into if you are up to the inherent challenges of being a salesperson.


What opportunities are there in sales for a surgical technician?

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