what is a sales representative?

Sales representatives are a company's direct connection to customers since they research markets and introduce their products to new clientele. As a sales representative, your role involves generating leads from market research and building relationships with potential customers to sell them products. The process of attracting customers and selling products differs depending on the items you sell.

To attract customers, companies should implement strategies that align with the industry, target demographic and nature of the business. For instance, if you sell B2B products, you won't use the same methods when selling to B2C customers. Regardless of the strategy, the ultimate goal of a sales representative is to build relationships and create awareness of the company's offering. You leverage those relationships to sell products.

Sales representatives work in many industries, as the products sold are diverse. For instance, you can work in companies selling soft drinks, office equipment, technology products or pharmaceutical supplies. The product you sell determines your sales strategy. It's crucial to thoroughly understand the product to explain its uses and benefits to potential customers. Keep up with the latest sales techniques and customer preferences by attending trade shows and conferences.

Would working as a sales representative suit your ability to build relationships with people? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a sales representative role.

sales representative roles

average sales representative salary

According to Job Bank, sales representatives receive a salary of $57,507 per year or an hourly rate of $29.49. Entry-level positions start with a salary of $40,000 annually, but the amount increases gradually. As an experienced sales representative, you earn over $96,972 yearly.

how to increase your salary as a sales representative

Sales representative salaries depend on experience and qualifications. Having additional certifications or knowledge in a specific area improves your earning potential. It is also useful to have experience in sales to improve your confidence in interacting with people. Some regions also have higher salaries due to a higher demand for sales representatives.

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types of sales representatives

Sales representatives vary based on the industry or specific approaches and responsibilities in the role. Some sales representatives include:

  • manufacturer's sales representatives: as a manufacturer's sales rep, you work for a product manufacturer to sell their services to wholesalers and stock retailers. You engage with the market, launch new products and stock company outlets. In most cases, you work on direct commissioning.
  • wholesaler's sales representatives: wholesaler's sales representatives represent dealers or wholesalers of durable and non-durable products. You are responsible for supplying retailers or individual stock buyers with your employer's products.
  • retailer's sales representatives: this is the most familiar type of sales rep. Besides being the face of a company, you are at the point of interaction with potential customers. You constantly communicate with customers as you sell products and services.
  • external sales representatives: you work outside the office, meeting clients face-to-face and building relationships with them.
  • internal sales representatives: internal sales representatives maintain an existing relationship with the company's customers. They reach out to clients through the phone or email.
man at the office
man at the office

working as a sales representative

Interested in working as a sales representative? Discover the duties, tasks, work schedules and career progression of the role.


sales representative skills and education

Some of the educational requirements of sales representatives include:

  • university degree: while you can get a sales representative job after completing your secondary school education, consider pursuing a college diploma or university degree. A bachelor's degree in business, marketing or sales prepares you for the role. Find courses on specific subjects to understand the technical aspects of the products.
  • work experience: experience in sales increases your chances of a good job. While the sales representative role is not regulated, you require certification from a regulatory body to sell some items in Canada. For instance, a hardware retail sales representative requires certification from the Ontario College of Trades, while a motor vehicle salesperson needs certification from the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council.

competencies and characteristics of sales representatives

Some of the skills that a sales representative needs include:

  • accounting skills: as a sales representative, you should be good at working with finances. This is because sales are about making a profit for the company you represent. It is important to balance your marketing expenditure and sales.
  • marketing skills: as a sales representative, marketing skills help you with advertising and pushing products and services into the market. These skills will help you generate leads and increase sales.
  • confidence: as a sales representative, demonstrating confidence is crucial. When you are confident, you inspire prospects to try out the products or services. With confidence, you can suggest to customers the best items to fulfill their needs.
  • customer relations skills: dealing with customers is a primary duty of sales representatives. Therefore, having great interpersonal and customer service skills helps you maintain good relationships and handle all types of customers, including furious ones.
  • active listening skills: as a sales representative, you require active listening skills to understand the needs and preferences of your prospects. Your listening skills help you focus on customers’ pain points instead of dwelling on your sales targets.
  • research skills: advising your employer on sales matters requires you to conduct proper market analysis. This information helps you identify customers and what products to present to specific clients. That's why having good research skills is important in this position.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a sales representative.


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