A sales representative, or sales rep, travels about showing goods to individuals or businesses and trying to sell them. They can also be known as sales executives.
The work varies from company to company, and involves either business-to-business (B2B) or direct sales, business-to-consumer (B2C). Main areas include:
selling to shops – which could include shoes, jewellery, stationery, food and a wide range of other goods
technical sales – selling industrial goods to manufacturing companies
services – selling a service such as advertising space
pharmaceutical and medical – selling medicines and equipment to hospitals and health centres. (See the Medical Representative job profile).
You could be:
'cold calling' possible customers, phoning or visiting them without prior contact
demonstrating new goods to customers, describing the features and encouraging them to buy
persuading past customers to take out repeat orders
discussing and agreeing on a price
developing business relations and managing customer accounts
trying to increase sales figures in your area and meeting sales targets
doing administrative work including accounts
monitoring which items sell well and collecting customer feedback.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting pay without commission can range from £17,000 to £25,000 a year. Commission or bonuses can sometimes bring it up to between £30,000 and £55,000 or more a year. Some jobs pay only commission. You may be provided with a company car, mobile phone and laptop.
You will spend most of your time travelling and meeting customers.
When not on the road you will probably be based in an office or at home.
You work long and varied hours and may spend some nights away from home.
You may have to work on a self-employed basis, arranging your own National Insurance and tax contributions.
There is no single route into this job.
Some people progress to sales rep after working for a company in administration or retail sales.
Many companies nowadays want a degree (SCQF Level 9-10) or at least an HND (SCQF Level 8). Useful subjects include business, management or marketing.
For technical or medical sales you usually need a degree or HND in a relevant subject.
To get on to a degree course, you need 4-5 Highers.
Some fashion retail companies have a direct entry scheme for graduates.