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Sales Representative

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(5.8 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

4.9 percent

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Best Business Jobs #19
The 100 Best Jobs #80

Sales representatives sell goods and services to businesses, government agencies and other organizations rather than directly to consumers. Manufacturers and wholesalers rely heavily on sales reps – also called manufacturers’ representatives or manufacturers’ agents – to market merchandise, which might be anything from laboratory equipment to soft drinks. Two traits critical to succeeding as a sales rep: an enthusiastic personality and a tolerance for travel. Sales reps are expected to attend trade shows and conferences to keep abreast of evolving products and changing customer needs. They might also be responsible for administrative duties such as analyzing sales statistics or filing expense accounts.

Job opportunities for sales representatives generally depends on the growth of the economy. New and specialized products also lead to a boost in hiring of sales representatives. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 8.9 percent employment growth for sales representatives between 2012 and 2022. An additional 132,000 jobs will need to be filled within that time period.


The median annual salary for a sales representative was $54,230 in 2012, according to the BLS. The best-paid 10 percent made roughly $112,650, while the lowest-paid earned approximately $27,340. The field’s most highly compensated professionals usually work for companies specializing in footwear manufacturing, computer systems design and computer equipment manufacturing. Top-paying metropolitan areas for this occupation include the Massachusetts cities of Framingham, New Bedford, Boston and Leominster.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $77,940
Median $54,230
25th Percentile $37,910


There are no formal education requirements for sales representative positions. Many jobs can be obtained with just a high school diploma or its equivalent, although prior sales experience is advantageous. However, many employers appreciate some postsecondary education, and positions involving scientific and technical products will most likely require a bachelor’s degree. To stand out from the rest of the applicant pool, many aspiring sales representatives attend seminars in sales techniques or take courses in marketing, economics, communication or even a foreign language. There are also certifications – such as the Certified Sales Professional certificate – that can give representatives a leg-up in the industry. Most companies require new sales representatives to attend formal training programs that can last up to two years. During these programs, trainees are often rotated through different offices and production plants to learn about all the phases that go into manufacturing and distributing a product.

Reviews & Advice

Understanding a product and the culture around it can help you get hired and boost sales, according to Ray Wright, executive director of the professional sales representative organization IPRO. A great sales representative must also be able to relate to customers. “Empathy and orientation towards customer service are critical traits,” Wright says. “You need to get a certain amount of joy out of meeting customer needs.” One of the most important characteristics of a good sales representative is the ability to listen. “We all have the wonderful ability to talk, but having the ability to listen [will allow you] to understand the customer needs over the sales needs.” Wright also emphasizes the importance of building non-standard business relationships with customers, since sales representatives often interact with the same clients on a regular basis. “You need to understand relationship selling,” he says. “You need to be a resource by respecting customers and developing friendships.”

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility fair Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility poor Low
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Last updated by Emily Brandon.

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