Inside Sales Representative Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Working In Sports Isn't For Fans...
Working in sports is a grind. People who do it because they are big fans usually don't last very long." (Sales Consultant; 2013)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in New Jersey, male
School: Studied Business at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

"People Are Unpredictable...
I was surprised with how nice people are when you enter their labs. I am also surprised by how much people try to play sales reps off each other." (Sales Associate; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Wisconsin, female
School: Studied Chemical Engineering at University Of Wisconsin-Madison in Wisconsin; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Retail Is Not A Career...
I'm surprised how horrible most retail customers can be. I'm also shocked at how low pay these types of companies offer, while offering almost no opportunity to move up." (Retail Sales; 2013)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Graphic Design at Southern Connecticut State University in Connecticut; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"Determine My Own Wages...
A lot of people think doing door to door sales is a bad gig but there is a lot of money that can be made by doing it. Its very difficult during the winter, but during the summer months I make $1000/week." (Sales Representative; 2014)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Minnesota, male
School: Studied Communication Studies at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"People Skills Can Only Be Taught Through On The Job Training...
I was surprised to know that I'd have to develop people skills that can't be taught in a classroom. I was surprised to know that most of what I learned was from on the job training." (Cashier; 2014)

Career: 5 years of experience, currently based in Oklahoma, female
School: Studied Economics & Business at UW Green Bay in Wisconsin; completed Bachelor degree in 2011

I was surprised by the rush I would get from helping out a lot of people and filling out orders." (Sales; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Michigan, male
School: Studied Criminal Justice at Ferris State in Michigan; completed Associate degree in 2011

"I was surprised that journalism can translate so well to sales. The ability to ask questions is important when getting info that can help you sell things, is very important." (Sales; 2013)

Career: 4 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, male
School: Studied Journalism at Crowder College in Missouri; completed Associate degree in 2006

"I was surprised with how easy it is to ask someone for something, it took me a while but the more I sell the more money I make. service is key, that's something they didn't teach in school." (Sales; 2012)

Career: 18 years of experience, currently based in New York, male
School: Studied Business at Nassau Comm. College in New York; completed Associate degree in 1994

"You don't need to study a great deal of accounting or economics in college to have a career in finance. The technical skills required are easily learned on the job - indeed most larger corporations prefer to teach you their methods rather than rely on the teachings of others." (Financial Sales; 2012)

Career: 28 years of experience, male
School: Studied History at Rutgers University in New Jersey; completed Bachelor degree in 1983

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Sales Associate: "I would say the best part of this career is the autonomy I get in doing what I need to do to achieve success in my job. Very rarely am I working in an office and if I am, it's mostly to help others. My day consists of commuting around the city, meeting with prospective clients, and giving as much information as I can about my company's services. The downside is that sometimes I have to take work home with me. This isn't necessarily stressful, but it is an annoyance. When I'd rather be relaxing or watching videos on Hulu, I would have to spend portions of my day emailing back clients." (2011)

Pharmaceutical Sales Representative (Hospital Division): "The best part of my job is that I work out of my house and car. I do not work in an office or cubicle. I travel around all day and make my own schedule. This job is a very independent job, as you are on your own throughout the entire day. Another benefit is that I am able to talk to different and very diverse people all day. I enjoy the fact that I must be able to communicate well with receptionists, nurses, and doctors of all levels." (2011)

Selling Specialist: "The best part of my career is sharing in the happy moments of my customer's lives. I get to help them celebrate birthdays, graduations, births, engagements, and holidays. I love helping customers shop and I love working with jewelry. I work in a great environment and have a great supervisor. There is plenty of potential for growth and I'm treated wonderfully. The worst part of my career is the long commute during the winter when the weather is bad." (2011)

Health & Wellness Independent Consultant: "The best part of my career is that my income is unlimited and not based on a formal salary. If I work harder, I get paid more! In addition, I am not limited to an office or a formal place of business. Instead, I am able to work from home, work while traveling, work from a coffee shop, and the like. I am also constantly meeting new people and making new friends which makes the job enjoyable. It is as if I am constantly socializing! The downside of my career is that during the business building stage, if I were to have gotten sick or decided to take a true "vacation" and did no work, I would not necessarily get paid, or would risk getting paid very little as it is imperative to continuously seek out and follow-up with clients to make sure I'm meeting my sales goals." (2011)

Salesman: "The best part of my career is the access to cheap musical instruments and repair equipment. Other positives include meeting great musicians and new friends. It's great to have experience in sales, and I enjoy the responsibility I'm given. The worst parts of my career are the pay and the instability of the music industry. Sales are decreasing with the tight economy and fewer customers are coming to our store." (2011)

Commercial Insurance Account Manager: "The best parts of my job are providing people with information they need or an understanding of their insurance policy. The worst part is working hard for people and having them not purchase the policy. Also getting customers to pay for there policies. Having to deal with the public is always hard as you do not always deal with the nicest people. Insurance can be very confusing and you are selling people an intangible product." (2011)

Sales Specialist: "The best part of my job is being able to help people with their projects, which includes problem solving. There is a tremendous feeling of satisfaction that comes from being able to work through a customer's problems. Being able to connect at that point is exhilarating. Communication is also a wonderful part of the job. I love to talk to all people, and this job gives one the opportunity. The worst part is the physical strength needed to do the cutting and moving of the merchandise." (2011)

Worker For A Community Outreach Organization: "One of the things I enjoy about my job is interacting with the people who are receiving the cards. It is a challenge each day to walk into a business, but since we do not actually sell anything, people are receptive to the cards and ready to receive the benefits that the discount cards provide. There isn't really anything bad about my career specifically, and the experience of talking with people and getting to know others, even just a little bit, is very rewarding." (2011)

Insurance And Real Estate Agent: "The best part is delivering a claims check when the insured has had a loss and said loss has been adjusted to the satisfaction of the claimant. When the insured is very apprehensive about being treated fairly, it is very rewarding to verify that the insurance company has been more than fair with their settlement. Likewise, it is very rewarding when the customer is involved in an occurrence which might result in litigation and you are able to advise the customer not to worry because the insurance coverage to protect the customer for just such a situation is provided. In fact, the insurance company will provide the defense should an attorney be required. Conversely the worst part is to advise and insured that there is no coverage for a certain claim even though you have documented proof that the coverage was offered but refused by the customer." (2011)

Sales Consultant: "The best part of the job is working with a satisfied customer and the worst part is working with a dissatisfied customer." (2011)

Vice-President Of Sales & Marketing: "The best part is that every day is different! One day I'll be researching where to find a tote bag that comes in orange with blue handles, and the next day I'm trying to figure out why a client received an emailer (email promotion) 6 times instead of once. I love being part of the management team and planning what direction the company will go in (like when to buy a new software program, how many sales reps should we hire, should we change the mix of email marketing vs. direct marketing). The worst part is what I call "babysitting": following up to make sure that employees have done what they said they would do (like make a specific number of phone calls, or follow up with clients on a mailing)." (2010)

Pharmaceutical Sales Representative: "The best part of the job is the benefits. You make a base salary and get commission from sales increases in your territory. You also get a car and a computer, and your cell phone bill is paid by the company. Often you will also get a company credit card to use to take doctors out to eat. In addition to this, if the company is doing well they will give you nice gifts (iPods, cell phones, TVs, etc.) You also attend sales conventions several times a year and they are generally hosted in fun locations (Vegas, Florida, California). And if you do very well you can win big prizes like $5000 cash, vacations, or Rolex watches. The worst part of the job is that there can be a lot of driving and often clinicians or their staff treat you rudely. You have a job to do to promote your product, but clinicians are frequently too busy to listen to your spiel. Your job is to make that happen any way you can (within certain ethical guidelines)." (2010)

Senior Account Executive For Roser Communications: "the best part of the job is I am not in an office all day! I get to drive in my car and meet a lot of different people!! I get to participate in events such as concerts, movie premieres and bar nights. Also, when you do something for charity, like Making Strides or our annual toy drive, it really touches the heart. I know that something I was responsible for made a difference. Worst: I live in my car!! I meet some really interesting people, and not all of them think that they have to pay their bill!!!" (2010)

Industrial Safety Product Sales: "The best part of my job is talking with people from all walks of life. I sell gloves to a mechanic in North Carolina and we talk about the weather and how his business is doing. I sell reflective vests to my customer in downtown New York City who is fixing the roadways and sidewalks. I love his Brooklyn accent. Later I talk with a woman who buys supplies for the sausage-making company she works for. An owner of a daycare called to order towels for the toddlers. I organize my own time while I work and am supported by a wonderful sales manager and sales supervisor. I truly have no dislikes." (2010)

Sales In Senior Living: "The best part of the job is knowing that I am helping seniors discover a good place to be taken care of in old age: the sort of environment that allows them to plan ahead, to have something they can count on, instead of having to scramble to find a place to move to when illness strikes or old age takes its toll. The worst parts of the job are the behind-the-scenes corporate pressures and the quota requirements. The seniors come to us. We don't go out and find them. So we never know from day to day how many "opportunities" we will have to give a tour and tell them about the community." (2010)

Sales Representative: "The best part of my job is that every day is different. I get to go to different offices and see different people. I have been doing this a long time and have built great relationships over the years and enjoy seeing everyone in the office. The worst part of the job is that you can do this job 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are emails to read and answer and there are compliance exams that are mandatory." (2010)

Pharmaceutical Sales Representative: "The best part of my job is meeting a variety of people and hearing about their day or their life. I connect with the office staff and provide them with drug information and samples to be used by their patients. Sometimes the worst part of my job is the driving. There are a lot of crazy drivers out there! But working alone a lot of the day takes some getting used to. And because I'm in sales I have to be nice to people who aren't very nice to me sometimes." (2010)

Account Exec: "The best part of the job is the ability to help a business grow. If you have a client that is willing to work with you as a partner, you can both make more money. The access to things that the general public can't get -- free concert tickets, cool promotional items, etc. -- isn't bad, either. The worst part of the job is that there's a lot of turnover in the industry. It's a "sink-or-swim" kind of atmosphere. But as long as you're willing to put in the work, you'll be fine." (2009)

Sales Consultant: "The best part of my job is the relationships I have built with my customers. I have been with my company for over 13 years and have many repeat buyers. The worst part is when you spend hours with a customer and they don't even give you the common courtesy of returning a phone call. You also have to be willing to work long hours sometimes, but this can be very rewarding. Chances are good that if you are working long hours, it is because you are busy. And if you are busy, you are making money." (2009)

Director Of Business Development-Media Company: "The best part of my job is making presentations to my clients, where I'm either giving them general information about products or proposing that they spend money with us. It's like being on stage. It's awesome when you know that they're hanging on every word you say. The worst part of my job is the paperwork. Most salespeople I know would rather spend their time preparing for and making sales calls than writing up sales reports." (2009)

Employee Benefits Insurance Broker: "The best part of my job is meeting and working with people in a wide variety of businesses. I learn things about the products and services of all of my clients, some in biotech, others in high tech or financial services and others who make medical devices. It's all very interesting. The worst part is managing the increasing cost of benefits. I assist companies by coming up with the best possible solutions, but companies still have to make tough decisions regarding quality vs. cost, and it's an agonizing process for them." (2009)

Account Executive: "The best part of my job is going out in the field to the dealerships on a daily basis. I am only in the office part of the time and get to meet a lot of interesting clients. Every dealership is different and has unique requirements. You do not get bored easily, since you're constantly exposed to new people and situations. The only challenging part is when you are not able to approve a customer's application or give him the rate that the dealership wants." (2009)

Pharmaceutical Sales Representative: "One of the best parts of my job is being able to interact with so many different types of people. We have to develop relationships with office staff, nurses, doctors, technicians, etc. Everybody is different. Some people only want to talk about business, others just want to talk about what's going on in the news or life in general. Some folks are really interested in the technical aspects and the biology behind how the drugs work in the body; others just want to know what the expected end result is. So you really have to know the bottom line and the details behind it. I like the detailed part and really being able to explain how things work at a cellular level." (2009)

Career Background

Sales Representative

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Tips

"Be The Leader In Interactions And Make The Decision Easy For Them...
If you want to be successful in sales you need to be resilient, enthusiastic, and confident. Whether its getting leads or closing sales, it requires that you lead people through interactions and help them make the right decision. It doesn't always pay a lot of money, and sometimes you don't have great days, but when you actually do well, it more than makes up for it." (Sales Representative; 2014)

"Actual Work Experience Is Crucial...
Work in retail or customer service related job as soon as possible to gain experience in communicating with people." (Cashier; 2014)

"Keep Even Keel...
Don't let other people affect your mood. If you have one sales call that goes badly and it gets you down, you potentially ruin all of the rest of your sales calls throughout the day." (Sales Associate; 2014)

If you have no choice and you absolutely have to work in retail, be prepared to lose your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other major holiday you may see family on, chances are you'll have to work. If it's your passion then that's great, but if you're dissatisfied, try to get out as quickly as possible. No matter how much of a jerk the customer is being, management will never be on your side." (Retail Sales; 2013)

"Remember What Motivates You...
Find what motivates you. Be sure that you have goals in mind and the drive to reach them. You won't make much money in the beginning but if you have that secondary motivation to keep pushing through there is a nice reward at the end." (Sales Consultant; 2013)

"A Few Pointers...
1. Learn to network and learn to adapt to a changing environment, develop social skills early and be prepared to face rejection. 2. Study Hard if you're taking Communications courses, the few that I took as electives really helped me in my current line of work. 3. Always be courteous and respectful in job interviews. Know that these jobs are few and far in between. If you get passed up for an opportunity, try again, and keep trying until you land that perfect job." (Sales Associate; 2011)

"Be Aware That Changes Are Coming...
I think the pharmaceutical career is changing a lot in the near future. I think it would be very important to research this career path and the changes that are to come before you would decide on a career as a pharmaceutical representative. It is very important to put together a good "brag book;" there are many books on the topic of a pharmaceutical interview. Their interviews are very unique and take a lot of preparation." (Pharmaceutical Sales Representative (Hospital Division); 2011)

"Do Other Retail Jobs First...
Start out doing easier jobs in retail. I'd suggest starting out as a cashier or sales associate. Try working in departments other than jewelry to help you better relate to customers. Once you have some experience then start working in the jewelry department. Most or all of the necessary skills can be learned on the job, but it is a good idea to have some idea about jewelry ahead of time. Learn the different stones and finishes, for example." (Selling Specialist; 2011)

"Do Talk To Strangers...
As difficult as it may be, approach and talk to everyone. That stranger may just turn out to be your next best customer or consultant in training! Make sure to give yourself "downtime" to relax. With a career like this that has no formal working hours it is easy to constantly work without taking breaks and without even realizing it. This may harm your friendships, family relationships, and even your health if you are not eating and sleeping as you should be!" (Health & Wellness Independent Consultant; 2011)

"Math Skills Help...
Pick up a musical instrument, preferably the piano because it is chromatic and covers the range of sound of most instruments. Work on social interaction as much as possible. Get used to engaging more people. Join a local club or go out to social places. You need to be prepared for social situations. Get used to handling money. Its always good to have a "green thumb" for things. It helps to be strong in math so you can get better deals on the finer things in life." (Salesman; 2011)

"Need A License To Sell Insurance...
In order to do this job you must obtain a license to sell insurance by attending a class and taking a state exam (State of New York). Once you have done this you must take 15 credits in continuing education to keep your license current. These classes are provided by state affiliated agencies on various insurance topics . It is not necessary but to make yourself more marketable there are designations you can get. These also require attending classes and some require passing exams." (Commercial Insurance Account Manager; 2011)

"Must Be A People Person...
To do this job one has to like people, talking to many people, and selling. A pleasant phone voice is also a plus. A lot of physical ability is required so one has to be in good physical shape. Computer knowledge is extremely important. Also keep in mind an associate is not an island. It is important to get to know your coworkers because you have to work as a team in a big store environment." (Sales Specialist; 2011)

"Not Just For Outgoing Types...
When you work in the community outreach field, you have to get ready for each day and go into the job with a smile for everyone you meet. If you are a quiet person, and not particularly outgoing, community outreach and sales can still be a great career for you, because it really all depends on how you are willing to adapt to the job, regardless of your natural attributes. If you want to interact with more people and be able to help them in some way, then a community outreach career may be right for you." (Worker For A Community Outreach Organization; 2011)

"Work With A Mentor If You Can...
Get as much education as you can possibly attain. It would be ideal to work for a major insurance company if possible. There are many online studies available, and you should avail yourself of every opportunity to learn. Second, you could work for an independent insurance agency provided that the principals have time enough to mentor your endeavors. The main thing to remember is that insurance is a people industry, and not a risk or building industry. Treat each insured and prospective insured as the most important person you have ever insured, and assure them that their coverage is very important to you." (Insurance And Real Estate Agent; 2011)

"You Just Need To Communicate Well...
The one thing that you really need to work in any job that deals with customers is good communication skills. You may learn this skill by taking some business courses but most experience in this area comes from working with the public. You need to build on your past work experience. Another thing that you need is good computer skills so you can process orders in a timely manner." (Sales Consultant; 2011)

"A Few Pointers For Sales Reps...
Being comfortable with computers and software (like Excel, Word and some basic accounting programs) will help you. Any experience you can gain in advertising, purchasing or marketing - even through unpaid internships - will truly be valuable. You can take past experiences (like working in a restaurant) to help you learn about a specific industry and how to market to them - what do they need? Being able to get along with a wide variety of personalities is also critical, as is developing a "thick skin" and losing the fear of rejection." (Vice-President Of Sales & Marketing; 2010)

"Get Sales Experience Any Way You Can...
Get some sales experience beforehand if possible, even if it is in a mall or for a company you don't like very much. Being able to prove that you can sell is necessary, but if you can't gain sales experience you will have to show this through other outlets - proving you have a good GPA, and can go after something you want. This also plays out in terms of interviews. They expect you to chase them (the company) and go after the interview the way you would a sale. Always sell whatever strengths you bring to the table. Even certain shortcomings -- lack of experience, for example -- can be spun to sound like pluses. (You haven't developed any bad habits and you are coachable). Network with as many people in medicine as possible, but other pharmaceutical sales reps are your best bet for getting in somewhere. As mentioned before, an outgoing personality and a go-getter attitude is necessary for this occupation." (Pharmaceutical Sales Representative; 2010)

"Join Clubs And Orgs To Network...
Continue to network throughout your area. You have to join local clubs and committees in order to grow your business. A lot of businesses will not accept you, unless they know you or someone recommends you. I joined our local BNI chapter. However, there are a ton of different networking organizations. Meeting at a local bar does not count. Also, you cannot expect anything to be handed to you. You have to work for it. Radio sales has an extremely high turnover rate but you need to be passionate about it." (Senior Account Executive For Roser Communications; 2010)

"Self-Motivation Required...
To work in my position, you need to be motivated. You would be in charge of your own calling schedule and would need to manage your time and being organized to boot, and you must be determined to get through to some companies to introduce them to and eventually sell them safety supplies. Usually we begin a sales call with "Could I speak with the person there who buys your safety gloves and supplies..." It can be hard getting through the first few calls. You must also be trained on the hundreds of thousands of different kinds of supplies our company sells. Knowing your product is key." (Industrial Safety Product Sales; 2010)

"Skills For Selling To Seniors...
If you enjoy working with older people and have an outgoing personality plus some sales skills, you might consider this job. With the baby boomers aging, more and more communities of this kind will be needed. I had sales skills from my leasing job. Get a college degree, as most communities require one. These communities also need an administrative assistant and often this person can move into a sales position." (Sales In Senior Living; 2010)

"Some Criteria For Pharma Reps...
If you are looking to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical business you must have a college education and sales experience. You must be able to work well with others and have great organizational and communication skills. You must be willing to adjust to change at any time. You must be a good listener. You must be willing to work during non-working hours. You are constantly training and learning about disease states and taking compliance exams." (Sales Representative; 2010)

"What It Takes To Be A Pharmaceutical Sales Rep...
Spend time studying the sciences and math. It does help in this career. Sales experience is required by most all pharmaceutical companies now before they will hire you. So get a position and perform well so you can later interview for a pharmaceutical job. The job is evolving and will be significantly affected by US healthcare reforms in the future." (Pharmaceutical Sales Representative; 2010)

"Any Sales Experience Is Helpful...
1. Get an internship and ask to work as closely as you can with Sales. 2. Get any kind of sales experience you can while you're looking. Retail is fine, selling cars is better. Anything where you help steer customers in the right direction. 3. Ask everyone you know if they know anyone in radio who would be willing to give you an informational interview. If you ask the right questions, you'll be surprised how much radio people will be willing to help." (Account Exec; 2009)

"Earn A Customer's Business For Life...
1. Allow your managers to be your coaches. Remember that you both have the same goal. 2. Make sure you know your product well. Also, learn as much about the competition as possible. 3. Treat each customer as though you are earning his business for life, not just this one vehicle. You just might earn their business for every vehicle they ever purchase going forward. I know people don't buy cars that often so it's hard to think that way, but it is so worth it. In my experience, it makes people very happy to continue to make their large purchases with someone they know and trust. You need to earn that trust, but it will pay you back." (Sales Consultant; 2009)

"Nothing Personal...
If you get into sales, media or otherwise, don't take rejection personally. While the decision and the reason to not buy something from you might not make sense to you, it's not personal. And be prepared to fail and hear "no" a lot. Despite your best efforts, most times you do fail to make the sale. But remember this: even the greatest baseball players in history failed to reach first base 70% of the time! If you make the sale to 10 or 20% of your prospects, you'll be a superstar." (Director Of Business Development-Media Company; 2009)

"Start In Customer Service...
If possible, start off in customer service before moving to sales. You can't be good salesperson unless you truly understand the products and services you're selling. Always take the high road in any type of difficult situation. It's a small business community, and when you're selling your expertise and services you need to keep a good reputation. Stay in touch with people when they move on. If you've done a good job for them in the past, they are far more likely to think of you when a business opportunity arises if you've made the effort to keep up with them." (Employee Benefits Insurance Broker; 2009)

"Stay On Top Of The Industry...
Start out by reading up on the industry by using sources such as Automotive News, periodicals, etc. Read the local papers and check dealership advertisement, watch stock prices, visit surrounding dealerships. Check the size of various dealerships' inventories on their lots to get an idea of what the business is all about. Know what you would want in the way of rates, loan amounts, type of vehicle, options, etc. if you were purchasing a car or a truck." (Account Executive; 2009)

"What To Expect When Looking For A Pharma Rep Job...
Overall pharmaceutical companies prefer to hire personnel with a GPA of 3.5 or higher. You will be asked on your application about your scholastic background and extracurricular activities. They like to have examples of how you've overcome an obstacle or dealt with a difficult situation. They also look for ways in which you have taken initiative and solved problems in an unconventional way. Any sales experience is generally looked upon as favorable and if you have any data showing that you were able to meet or exceed expectations that is very helpful. You also must have an excellent driving record, no speeding or accidents within the past 3 years (I think that is the timeframe)." (Pharmaceutical Sales Representative; 2009)