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Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
Certifications are available that provide formal recognition of the skills of sales representatives. Many in this profession have either the Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative (CPMR) certification or the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) certification, offered by the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation. Certification typically involves completing formal training and passing an examination.

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. Others find opportunities in purchasing, advertising, or marketing research.

Advancement opportunities typically depend on whether the sales representatives are working directly for a manufacturer or wholesaler or whether they are working with an independent sales agency. Experienced sales representatives working directly for a manufacturer or wholesaler may move into jobs as sales trainers and instruct new employees on selling techniques and company policies and procedures. Some leave their organization and start their own independent sales company.

Employment
Manufacturing and wholesale sales representatives held about 2 million jobs in 2008. About 432,900 of these worked with technical and scientific products. Around 61 percent of all representatives worked for wholesale companies. Others were employed in manufacturing establishments, retail organizations, and professional, technical, and scientific firms. Because of the diversity of products and services sold, employment opportunities are available throughout the country. About 73,800 sales representatives were self-employed.

Job Outlook
Job growth is expected to be about as fast as average. Job prospects will be best for those with a college degree, the appropriate technical expertise, and the personal traits necessary for successful selling.

Job Growth
Employment of sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, is expected to grow by 7 percent between 2008 and 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Given the size of this occupation, a large number of new jobs, about 143,200, will arise over the projection period. Job growth will result from the continued expansion in the variety and number of goods sold throughout the economy. Because they play an important role in the transfer of goods between organizations, sales representatives will be needed to accommodate this expansion. In addition, as technology continues to progress, sales representatives can help ensure that retailers offer the latest products to their customers and that businesses acquire the tools they need to increase their efficiency in operations.

Employment growth will be greatest in independent sales companies as manufacturers continue to outsource sales activities to independent agents rather than using in-house sales workers. Independent sales agents generally are more efficient, reducing the overhead cost to their clients. Also, by using agents who contract their services to more than one company, companies can share costs of the agents with each other.

Job prospects will be best for those with a college degree, the appropriate technical expertise, and the personal traits necessary for successful selling. Opportunities will be better in independent sales companies than with manufacturers, who are expected to continue contracting out field sales duties.

Employment opportunities and earnings may fluctuate from year to year because sales are affected by changing economic conditions and businesses’ preferences. In addition, many job openings will result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Earnings
Median annual wages of sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products, were $70,200, including commissions, in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $48,540 and $99,570 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,980, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $133,040 a year.

Median annual wages of sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products, were $51,330, including commission, in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,460 and $75,120 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,950, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,040 a year.

Compensation methods for representatives vary significantly by the type of firm and the product sold. Most employers use a combination of salary and commissions or salary plus bonus. Commissions usually are based on the value of sales, whereas bonuses may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all sales workers in the group or district, or on the company's performance. Unlike those working directly for a manufacturer or wholesaler, sales representatives working for an independent sales company usually are not reimbursed for expenses. Depending on the type of product or products they are selling, their experience in the field, and the number of clients they have, they can earn significantly more or less than those working in direct sales for a manufacturer or wholesaler.

In addition to receiving their earnings, sales representatives working directly for a manufacturer or wholesaler usually are reimbursed for expenses such as the costs of transportation, meals, hotels, and entertaining customers. They often receive benefits, including personal use of a company car and frequent flyer mileage. Some companies offer incentives such as free vacation trips or gifts for achieving an outstanding sales performance.

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