How To Become a Sales Representative in 2021: a Step-by-Step Algorithm

Are you looking for a career fit for an extroverted person such as yourself, who isn’t into spending long years on the bench? In this piece, we are vivisecting the steps of how to become a sales representative – a career in sales that’s a perfect fit for people with highly developed interpersonal skills.

But before you frown disapprovingly at this idea of an entry-level job, think about the average salary in the USA of $60K+. 

Sales Representative skills: the foundation for success

If you’re just deciding on becoming a sales rep, consider if selling is your thing. Many people feel uncomfortable selling something to other people, others have no qualms igniting a conversation and moving towards pushing a sale somewhere amid the conversation.

No person is born a sales star, but some personalities are more fit to make a star of a salesperson, than others. Not only are there some inherent personal qualities that drive a quicker progression along this career path, but some features are prerequisites to success. 

Let’s see some of the qualities most in this profession share: 

Communication skills

Unless you love talking to people, reconsider some other career. You will see below, that some sales reps ultimately progress into the roles of cashiers. It may as well be, that they discovered along the way, that talking to a bunch of different people every day is too much for them.

Being able to sustain lots of conversations sustainably involves the love of chatting to people. 

how to become a sales rep 2021

If you are one of those, who can strike and keep a conversation flowing on a bus stop, in a supermarket line, when you dial somebody by accident – sales are made for you, and you are made for sales.

Psychology & understanding of human motives

Being a good sales representative involves a lot of knowledge of the human psyche. You have to be able to read a person’s mood, character, professional aspirations in the first seconds of a call or a meeting and adjust accordingly.

An experienced sales rep will have a few scenarios down the sleeve, ready to employ this or that script depending on the evolution of the conversation.

Just like some waiters can tell at first sight how much tip a client will leave after a meal, so a good salesperson can spot the mood, readiness to consider a deal, and how much of a “no” is in a specific “no.”

Customer service skills: leaving ego behind

The client is always right may seem like an archaism for some, but it’s the eternal motto of the salespeople.

Too many talented people gave up on the job after they heard a dozen “NOs” over the phone. Keeping your cool is vital in the conversation.

Being able to walk in the customer’s shoes and finding the right apologetic tone of voice for interrupting may sometimes work better than an arrogant sales pushy style.

customer service sales representative

Financially-savvy mindset

Knowing your math and your figures are the shortcut to being the best in the league when it comes to sales professions of any caliber.

It is possible to be a good salesperson without much knowledge of math as long as your senior or accountant checks your contracts and approves your invoices.

But knowing those digits will sure precipitate your entire career path, as you will know that every little upsell works exponentially towards your bottom-line, how much you need to sell to reach that annual bonus if you need to push for a higher check or volume.

Those who are able to put a client or a prospect on a pedestal will eventually get the following, which converts into a constant stream of sales.

Technical skills & openness to benefit from technology

Selling is so much about the system as it is about intercommunication skills.

Having all the contacts, meetings, communication, and deals registered in your CRM is as vital as it is to conduct them. Your by-the-minute-schedule day results in higher productivity. 

There are two ways to drive the number of won deals in a specific period: to drive the quality of calls and the quantity of the calls. The quality is an acquired skill that’ll hopefully come with years. The quantity is a constant that always works: the more no’s you get, the more yes’ you get. You’d better get friendly with technology soon!

Negotiation skills

The art of negotiation is the sum of many of the above-mentioned features, like interpersonal skills, knowledge of psychology, and customer service.

But it’s also the art of saying no, the art of retrieving your no without losing your face, the art of manipulation, and the art of reading between the lines.

The best sales representatives aren’t shy to negotiate at all, moreover, they get the kick out of the process.

negotation skills of a sales representative

Relationship management

Sales are as much about the quality as it is about the quantity.

A few salespeople are lucky enough to work in the industry with a high check and only have a handful of contacts they need to keep the conversation flowing. The majority of sales reps will have hundreds or even thousands of clients in their Customer Relationship Management system.

Knowing your clients, their needs, remembering to schedule your CRM to send them a personalized card on their Birthday, marking VIP clients with a specific tag – those are just a few tricks for great relationship management.

Duties and a daily routine

In the majority of cases, sales reps will work from an office environment with a portion of their working time devoted to face-to-face meetings.

There are key responsibilities in the role:

  • Turning leads from marketing into prospects and further down the funnel into clients;
  • Making calls and attending meetings to move a person down the conversion funnel;
  • Research of the contacts and client profile enrichment via sales intelligence tools like the Nimble Prospector browser extension to have a 360-degree overview of the lead;
  • The input of all contacts, activities, schedules, and deals into a sales CRM;
  • Negotiation of the pricing, terms, and conditions of each deal within the frames set by the revenue team;
  • Drawing of the contracts and issuance of the invoices according to the contracted terms;
  • Attendance of the trade fairs and conferences to extend the network and enlarge the top of the funnel;
  • Reporting of the sales activities and results via Customer relationship management tools and other sales software solutions.

Now let’s check out some of the statistics, derived from a US-focused job site Zippia, as it gives a good overview of the sales representative salary, skills, job requirements.

Sales representative statistics by Zippia: salaries, education, and skills

According to Zippia, 41.8% of sales representatives studied to gain a bachelor’s degree and 5.4% have master’s degrees. Over a quarter of people in this occupation [26.5%] have a high school diploma.

Those who did further their education beyond high school majored in the following disciplines:

Business – 31.2%

Marketing – 7.5%

Psychology – 6%

Communication – 5.8%

Criminal justice – 5.7%

Before professionals proceed with the sales rep position, they’d most often occupy the following roles:

Cashier – 14.8%

Sales associate – 13.2%

Customer service rep – 12.3%

Assistant manager – 6.1%

Manager – 4.8$

Sales manager – 4.8%

Server – 4.8%

Account Executive – $4.6

It’s interesting that some of these careers are also a continuation of the professional path for some reps. See how most of them are part of both lists: before and after this profession. These are the job people progress into after they’ve featured a sales reps role on their CV:

Customer service representative – 13.6

Sales associate – 10.3%

Cashier – 9.4%

Account executive – 6.9%

Sales manager – 6.7%

Account manager – 5.5%

Assistant manager – 4.7%

Sales rep career path

For those only looking to begin a career as a sales representative, it’s useful to have an idea about further career perspectives. If you work hard, stay loyal, keep educating yourself with all the upcoming technology, how far, and how fast can you go?

This scheme here illustrates it’ll take on average 8 years to become a senior sales executive, 6 years to grow into a director of inside sales, 5 years to progress into a manager of an account executive, 8 years to be promoted into a senior territory manager role and about 11 years to reach the National sales director heights. 

5 key skills required to be a successful sales representative:

Communication – 15%

Sales Process – 12.9%

Customer relations – 6.5%

Business development – 5.6%

REP – 5.5%

Best states to work in:

Depending on the demand for the role, average, highest, and lowest earnings per state, these are the top states of America to work as a sales representative:

Wyoming [annual average salary, in 000 – $57.5, location quotient – 1.32]

West Virginia [annual average salary, in 000 -$58.3, location quotient – 0.95]

Maine [annual average salary, in 000 – $60.7, location quotient – 0.92]

Massachusetts [annual average salary, in 000 – $62.4, location quotient – 0.86]

Pennsylvania [annual average salary, in 000 – $57.9, location quotient – 0.95]

New Jersey [annual average salary, in 000 – $61.5, location quotient – 0.92]

Minnesota [annual average salary, in 000 – $55.5, location quotient – 1.17]

Source: Zippia Logo


How to become a sales representative: a step by step algorithm

The great news is, that a sales rep position is accessible to the majority of people, as many would enter the job with a high school diploma. This is the standard progression of actions people go through to become a successful sale representative:

  1. Graduate from a high school;
  2. Land an entry-level position in your area;
  3. Educate yourself in every nuance of the job: through on-the-job skill training and otherwise. Familiarize yourself with all the technical tools available for your time management, like a CRM. The best CRM tools, like Nimble, Salesforce, HubSpot, will have an extensive library of webinars available on their YouTube channels. They are usually full of practical tips from different industries, so it’s a good idea to watch as many as you can to learn from practicing sales agents.
  4. Consider trying 2-3 jobs and industries on the same level before you make your final selection as to what economy segment fits best your backgrounds and interests.
  5. Once you have a taste of the few companies and industries, choose one and work for your reputation by showing progress in every appraisal parameter there is the number of calls, number of closed deals, etc.

Nimble: a must-know CRM for sales representatives and marketing jobs

If you only have landed here as you are only considering taking up this path in sales or if you are looking to progress along with it, Nimble CRM will help.

Customer relationship management software is a vital tool for any sales position. Consider trying Nimble now, so you can get a taste of how this user-friendly system can be utilized for contact management, day planning, lead generation, and task management.

Nimble is only $25 per month if billed monthly and 19 if paid for annually. You can try Nimble CRM free for 2 weeks with just your email.