Working as an Outside Sales Representative

What Does an Outside Sales Representative Do

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices.

Duties

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives typically do the following:

  • Identify prospective customers by using business directories, following leads from existing clients, and attending trade shows and conferences
  • Contact new and existing customers to discuss their needs and explain how specific products and services can meet these needs
  • Help customers select products to meet customers' needs, product specifications, and regulations
  • Emphasize product features that will meet customers' needs and exhibit product capabilities and limitations
  • Answer customers' questions about prices, availability, and product uses
  • Negotiate prices and terms of sale and service agreements
  • Prepare sales contracts and submit orders for processing
  • Collaborate with colleagues to exchange information, such as selling strategies and marketing information
  • Follow up with customers to make sure they are satisfied with their purchases and to answer any questions or concerns

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives—sometimes called manufacturers’ representatives or manufacturers’ agents—generally work for manufacturers or wholesalers. Some work for a single organization, while others represent several companies and sell a range of products.

Rather than selling goods directly to consumers, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives deal with businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. For more information about people who sell directly to consumers, see the profile on retail sales workers.

Some wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives deal with nonscientific products such as food, office supplies, and clothing. Other representatives specialize in technical and scientific products, ranging from agricultural and mechanical equipment to computer and pharmaceutical goods. For more information about people who specialize in sales of technical products and services, see the profile on sales engineers.

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives who lack expertise about a given product frequently team with a technical expert. In this arrangement, the technical expert—sometimes a sales engineer—attends the sales presentation to explain the product and answer questions or concerns. The sales representative makes the initial contact with customers, introduces the company's product, and obtains final agreement from the potential buyer.

By working with a technical expert, the representative is able to spend more time maintaining and soliciting accounts and less time needing to gain technical knowledge.

After the sale, representatives may make follow-up visits to ensure that equipment is functioning properly and may even help train customers' employees to operate and maintain new equipment.

Those selling consumer goods often suggest how and where merchandise should be displayed. When working with retailers, they may help arrange promotional programs, store displays, and advertising.

In addition to selling products, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives analyze sales statistics, prepare reports, and handle administrative duties such as filing expense accounts, scheduling appointments, and making travel plans.

Staying up-to-date on new products and the changing needs of customers is important. Sales representatives accomplish this in a variety of ways, including attending trade shows at which new products and technologies are showcased. They attend conferences and conventions to meet other sales representatives and clients and to discuss new product developments. They also read about new and existing products and monitor the sales, prices, and products of their competitors.

The following are examples of types of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives:

Inside sales representatives work mostly in offices while making sales. Frequently, they are responsible for getting new clients by “cold calling” various organizations, which means they call potential customers who are not expecting to be contacted in order to establish an initial contact. They also take incoming calls from customers who are interested in their product, and process paperwork to complete the sale.

Outside sales representatives spend much of their time traveling to and visiting with current clients and prospective buyers. During a sales call, they discuss the client's needs and suggest how they can meet those needs with merchandise or services. They may show samples or catalogs that describe items their company provides, and they may inform customers about prices, availability, and ways in which their products can save money and boost productivity. Because many sales representatives sell several complementary products made by different manufacturers, they may take a broad approach to their customers' businesses. For example, sales representatives may help install new equipment and train employees in its use.

How To Become an Outside Sales Representative

Educational requirements vary, depending on the type of product sold. If the products are not scientific or technical, a high school diploma is generally enough for entry into the occupation. If the products are scientific or technical, sales representatives typically need at least a bachelor's degree.

Education

A high school diploma is sufficient for many positions, primarily for selling nontechnical or scientific products. However, those selling scientific and technical products typically must have a bachelor's degree. Scientific and technical products include pharmaceuticals, medical instruments, and industrial equipment. A degree in a field related to the product sold, such as chemistry, biology, or engineering, is often required.

Many sales representatives attend seminars in sales techniques or take courses in marketing, economics, communication, or even a foreign language to improve their ability to make sales.

Training

Many companies have formal training programs for beginning wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives that last up to 1 year. In some programs, trainees rotate among jobs in plants and offices to learn all phases of producing, installing, and distributing the product. In others, trainees receive formal technical instruction at the plant, followed by on-the-job training under the supervision of a field sales manager.

New employees may be trained by going along with experienced workers on their sales calls. As they gain familiarity with the firm's products and clients, the new workers gain more responsibility until they eventually get their own territory.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many in this occupation have either the Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative (CPMR) certification or the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) certification, both offered by the Manufacturers' Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF). Certification typically involves completing formal technical training and passing an exam. In addition, the CPMR requires 10 hours of continuing education every year in order to maintain certification.

Other Experience

Although not required, sales experience can be helpful, particularly for nontechnical positions.

Advancement

Frequently, promotion takes the form of an assignment to a larger account or territory, where commissions are likely to be greater. Those who have good sales records and leadership ability may advance to higher level positions, such as sales supervisor, district manager, or vice president of sales. For more information on these positions, see the profile on sales managers.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Sales representatives must be able to listen to the customer’s needs and concerns before and after the sale.

Interpersonal skills. Sales representatives must be able to work well with many types of people. They must be able to build good relationships with clients and with other members of the sales team.

Self-confidence. Sales representatives must be confident and persuasive when making sales presentations. In addition, making a call to a potential customer who is not expecting to be contacted, or “cold calling,” requires confidence and composure.

Stamina. Sales representatives are often on their feet for long periods of time and may carry heavy sample products.

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Average Salary$58,632
Job Growth Rate2%

Outside Sales Representative Jobs

Outside Sales Representative Career Paths

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Average Salary for an Outside Sales Representative

Outside Sales Representatives in America make an average salary of $58,632 per year or $28 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $75,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $45,000 per year.
Average Salary
$58,632

Best Paying Cities

City
Average Salary

Recently Added Salaries

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Outside Sales Representative/Pest Control
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Arrow Exterminators, Inc.
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$48,00007/30/2020
$48,000
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Empire Today, LLC
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07/30/2020
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$50,00007/30/2020
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NFIB
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07/30/2020
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$60,00007/30/2020
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07/30/2020
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$60,00007/30/2020
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NFIB
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07/30/2020
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$60,00007/30/2020
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Outside Sales Representative Demographics

Gender

Male

68.2 %

Female

28.3 %

Unknown

3.5 %
Ethnicity

White

65.5 %

Hispanic or Latino

14.2 %

Black or African American

11.5 %
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

68.3 %

French

5.4 %

German

4.6 %
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Outside Sales Representative Education

Schools

Texas A&M University

8.1 %

Texas State University

6.3 %

Pennsylvania State University

6.1 %

University of Alabama

6.0 %
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Majors

Business

38.2 %

Marketing

10.4 %

Communication

6.8 %

Management

6.3 %
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Degrees

Bachelors

56.0 %

High School Diploma

15.1 %

Associate

14.5 %

Masters

6.3 %
Show More

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming An Outside Sales Representative

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Top Skills For an Outside Sales Representative

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 15.9% of outside sales representatives listed sales process on their resume, but soft skills such as interpersonal skills and self-confidence are important as well.

Best States For an Outside Sales Representative

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an outside sales representative. The best states for people in this position are Wyoming, Colorado, California, and New Mexico. Outside sales representatives make the most in Wyoming with an average salary of $68,607. Whereas in Colorado and California, they would average $67,819 and $65,085, respectively. While outside sales representatives would only make an average of $62,234 in New Mexico, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Wyoming

Total Outside Sales Representative Jobs:
173
Highest 10% Earn:
$137,000
Location Quotient:
1.34
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Colorado

Total Outside Sales Representative Jobs:
2,235
Highest 10% Earn:
$135,000
Location Quotient:
1.29
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Kansas

Total Outside Sales Representative Jobs:
777
Highest 10% Earn:
$128,000
Location Quotient:
1.13
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Outside Sales Representative Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming an outside sales representative. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless outside sales representative resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write an Outside Sales Representative Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless outside sales representative resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

How Do Outside Sales Representative Rate Their Jobs?

Zippia Official Logo

5.0

Construction sales representativesSeptember 2019

5.0

Zippia Official LogoConstruction sales representativesSeptember 2019

What do you like the most about working as Outside Sales Representative?

Working with many different types of people. The outside adventure and communicating with the people Show More

What do you NOT like?

Sales Managers that have been given the opportunity and not earning The title Show More

Zippia Official Logo

4.0

Outside sales representativeJune 2019

4.0

Zippia Official LogoOutside sales representativeJune 2019

What do you like the most about working as Outside Sales Representative?

Meeting and getting new customers. Show More

What do you NOT like?

Being brushed off but liking the challenge of turning that person or company into a customer. Show More

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Top Outside Sales Representative Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ outside sales representatives and discovered their number of outside sales representative opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that Fastenal was the best, especially with an average salary of $48,743. TruGreen follows up with an average salary of $43,757, and then comes UniFirst with an average of $44,144. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as an outside sales representative. The employers include Liberty Mutual, MaidPro, and Matheson Tri GAS

1. Fastenal
4.3
Avg. Salary: 
$48,743
Outside Sales Representatives Hired: 
950+
2. TruGreen
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$43,757
Outside Sales Representatives Hired: 
559+
3. UniFirst
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$44,144
Outside Sales Representatives Hired: 
281+
4. ADT
3.9
Avg. Salary: 
$45,927
Outside Sales Representatives Hired: 
253+
5. Terminix
4.0
Avg. Salary: 
$37,310
Outside Sales Representatives Hired: 
200+
6. Cintas
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$37,962
Outside Sales Representatives Hired: 
149+

Outside Sales Representative Videos

Recently Added Outside Sales Representative Jobs

Updated October 2, 2020