What Does a Sales Representative Do? (Plus Job Description)

Updated March 3, 2023

A sales representative contacts potential customers and promotes a company's products or services to make sales. While their job tasks can vary based on their industry, sales representatives often make cold calls, give presentations, negotiate deals and work toward sales goals. Knowing more about their duties and responsibilities can help you determine whether you want to pursue this career path.

In this article, we discuss what a sales representative does, their work environment and the requirements to become one, and we review their salary and a sample job description to help you explore this career.

What is a sales representative?

A sales representative interacts directly with prospective customers or clients to sell a company's products or services. They're usually responsible for generating leads, contacting potential customers and building relationships to increase sales. Sales representatives have thorough knowledge about a company's products or services so they can make targeted pitches to consumers. They can work in a variety of industries, such as technology, food and beverage, retail, finance or health care.

Related: What Is a Sales Job?

What does a sales representative do?

A sales representative communicates with customers to understand their needs and preferences. Using this information, a sales representative promotes the benefits of a product or service and explains how it may help the customer achieve their goals. Often, sales representatives work toward specific sales goals known as quotas. Their quotas may be weekly, monthly, quarterly or annual. Additional responsibilities of this position may include:

  • Making cold calls or sending emails to contact prospective customers

  • Understanding and educating consumers on product features

  • Negotiating and closing sales contracts

  • Handling payments and closing transactions

  • Meeting or exceeding sales quotas

  • Completing daily, weekly and monthly sales reports

  • Planning and forecasting sales goals

  • Performing inventory and stocking tasks if working in a retail environment

Related: 31 Sales Activities Examples (Plus Definition)

Sales representative work environment

Sales representatives spend most of their workdays communicating with potential customers. They may greet and work with customers in a retail setting, or they may visit a potential customer's home or office to demonstrate how a product works. Many sales representatives travel locally or regionally to meet with customers, while some may travel across the country or abroad. When handling different interactions, they learn to adjust to new environments quickly.

Related: Q&A: What's It Like Working in Sales?

Sales representative requirements

Most sales representatives complete training and develop specialized skills to be successful in their roles. Here are some requirements for this career:


A high school diploma is usually the minimum educational requirement to become a sales representative. Some employers may prefer to hire sales representatives with undergraduate degrees in business, marketing or a related field. There may be additional educational requirements, depending on the organization. For example, a pharmaceutical sales representative may require education in biology and pharmaceuticals. Technical sales representatives may benefit from completing a technical program or bachelor's degree in a technology-related discipline, such as information technology.

Related: 8 of the Best Sales Jobs You Can Pursue Without a Degree


Many sales representatives receive on-the-job training by working in entry-level positions. Some companies offer a formal training program or train new sales representatives as part of the onboarding process. Some sales positions may require specialized training, depending on the industry. For example, a real estate sales representative may work under the supervision of a more experienced agent to learn about the field. A sales representative in a computer store may receive training on computers and other technologies before selling products to customers.

Related: FAQ: What Is Sales Training? (Definition and Topics To Teach)


Though most employers don't require sales representatives to be certified, earning a sales certification may make you a more appealing candidate when applying for jobs or advancing in your career. You may consider the following certifications:

Certified Professional Sales Person

The Certified Professional Sales Person credential is available through the National Association of Sales Professionals. It's ideal for sales representatives, sales executives or those looking to transition into sales. The certification requires the successful completion of a six-week course and an exam. To maintain the certification, you can complete continuing education credits.

Related: Top Certifications for Sales Professionals

Certified Inside Sales Professional

The American Association of Inside Sales Professionals (AA-ISP) offers the Certified Inside Sales Professional designation. It's ideal for sales representatives who focus on inside sales. You can earn this certification by finishing 10 online classes and completing a live simulated sales call as part of the final exam. The AA-ISP requires you to complete continuing education credits to maintain your certification.


Sales representatives usually have a variety of skills to interact with prospective customers, sell products and meet their sales goals. The following skills are useful as a sales representative:

Customer service

Sales representatives work directly with customers, so strong customer service skills are essential. Representatives use effective communication and active listening to connect with customers and build relationships. They also have a comprehensive understanding of a company's product or service so they can demonstrate its features and answer customers' questions.

Related: 17 Important Customer Service Skills (With Examples)


Sales representatives regularly use verbal communication to communicate with potential customers. They also use nonverbal cues, such as body language and gestures, to give sales presentations and connect with customers. When arranging meetings or drafting contracts, sales representatives use written communication to convey their messages effectively.


Sales representatives often use mathematical skills to add, subtract or calculate the percentage of a sale. This skill can also help them answer customers' questions about the prices of products. Math skills can be especially useful when evaluating and working toward sales goals or quotas.

Persistence and negotiation

When closing a sale, representatives may use persistence and negotiation. In some industries, like auto and real estate, customers may have hesitations about making large purchases. Persistence can help sales representatives encourage buyers to complete their purchases and move through the sales process. Sales representatives can also use their negotiation skills to make offers before reaching a final agreement. Successful representatives know how to work with customers to reach a fair price.

Related: How To Negotiate Sales (Plus 13 Skills for Success)

How to become a sales representative

Here are the steps you can take to become a sales representative:

1. Complete your education

Most companies require their sales representatives to have at least a high school diploma. While in high school, take courses that can be useful in this position, such as mathematics, psychology, accounting, communications and finance. After graduation, consider completing a technical program or earning an associate's or bachelor's degree to expand your employment options. A degree in business, marketing or an industry-specific area, such as finance, may make you eligible for more sales jobs.

Related: 10 Types of Business Majors and the Differences Between Them

2. Find an entry-level sales position

Search for entry-level jobs to help you gain sales experience. An entry-level sales representative role can help you develop useful skills, such as customer service and negotiation. Use your time in this position to learn about the industry and try different sales strategies.

Related: FAQ: How Do You Get a No-Experience Sales Job?

3. Receive on-the-job training

Many companies offer on-the-job training for new sales representatives. Complete this training to become comfortable with sales techniques and strategies. During this training, you may learn how to generate leads, make sales demonstrations, close sales and track your goals. Depending on the product you sell, specialized training may also be available. If you feel additional training may help you advance in your career, consider working toward a sales certification.

4. Choose your preferred industry

After you've gained experience in a sales position and developed your skills, you can apply for sales representative positions in a specific industry that interests you. Research sales jobs and companies to find ones that align with your career goals. When you're ready to apply for jobs, prepare a resume highlighting your entry-level sales experience and other relevant education or training you have, such as a business degree or sales certification.

Related: Which Sales Career Path Is Right for You?

5. Specialize in your industry

Become an expert in your industry to help you continue advancing in your sales career. Depending on your industry, you may complete additional training or education to increase your knowledge. For example, you may complete a technical program or take pharmaceutical courses. If you wish to pursue a sales manager role or oversee a team of sales representatives, you may choose to earn a bachelor's degree if you don't already have one.

Sales representative average salary

Sales representatives often earn lucrative salaries. The national average salary for this position is $71,184 per year. In some cases, sales representatives can earn additional compensation, known as commission, after making sales or meeting their goals. The salary you may earn as a sales representative can vary based on your employer, experience, education and geographic location. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link provided.

Related: What Is Sales Commission?: Your Comprehensive Guide

Sales representative job description example

Review this example of a sales representative job description to help you further understand this role:

EnviroTech Solutions is hiring a sales representative in the telecom industry. The ideal candidate has experience in outside sales and a basic knowledge of technology. Daily travel is required, as the sales representative meets with customers at their homes and offices. A high school diploma and strong customer service and communication skills are required. Preferred qualities include a bachelor's degree in business and two years of experience in a related position.

Related sales careers

If you're interested in becoming a sales representative, you may also want to explore these similar careers:

  • Sales associate

  • Outside sales representative

  • Inside sales representative

  • Sales assistant

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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