Succeeding As An Outside Sales Representative: A description of the job, salary, and necessary skills
It’s no secret that the steady growth of online sales has opened up entirely new ways for companies to reach their customers. The COVID-19 crisis has only amplified the importance of e-commerce and the ability to communicate with customers remotely.
However, even amidst this upheaval, companies are finding that building face-to-face relationships with customers remains a critical part of doing business. This is particularly true for companies selling high-value goods that require a significant financial and even emotional investment on the part of customers.
Welcome to the world of outside sales.
If you’re looking for an exciting new career that takes full advantage of your people skills, a position in outside sales is certainly worth considering. As an outside sales representative, you will serve as the face of the company or brand you’re promoting. More importantly, you will become the authority on the product or service you represent. Customers will look to for answers, updates, and, most of all, an outstanding purchasing experience.
Inside sales versus outside sales
Before going any further, let’s make the important distinction between traditional inside sales positions and what it means to work as an outside sales representative.
A traditional inside representative works within the company structure. It might be making cold calls for new prospects from the office or working with existing customers over the phone or by email. An outside sales representative, on the other hand, is all about meeting in person. It might be visiting a customer’s office, or meeting at a trade show, or discussing products over lunch, the point, however, is to get that face-to-face connection and build that personal relationship. Even when an outside sales representative uses the phone or email to reach out to a prospect or existing customer, it’s ultimately being done to set up a personal interaction.
What type of person will excel in an outside sales job?
There’s no definite description of who is likely to do well as an outside sales representative and who is likely to struggle in the job. However, most companies are looking for a representative who possesses at least a Bachelor’s degree in a related subject, such as marketing, communications, business, or economics. Beyond a university degree, there are a few key personal skills that will surely help you succeed at a sales representative job.
Some of the skills and attributes you should possess include:
- Strong communications capabilities. This may seem rather obvious being that your job as an outside sales representative involves face-to-face interactions with existing and new customers. However, it’s also important to be an effective communicator over the phone, via email and when using social media. It’s not enough to talk a good game in person. You also must be able to write effectively and leverage today’s online and email channels to set up your face-to-face meetings.
- Positive and not easily discouraged. Outside sales can be a lonely profession at times. You’re on your own out there as a representative and there will be customers who simply aren’t interested in what you have to offer. This job requires a person willing to give their all and continue giving it, even when things aren’t going ideally.
- Self-starter/go-getter. As an outside sales representative, you’ll work on your own much of the time and that means setting and maintaining your own schedule. There’s no room for complacency in this job. Success in outside sales means making sure your leads and contacts are consistently getting the attention and service they deserve. So, be prepared to send out that email; make that sales call; and set up that meeting. As a representative, you won’t be required to stick to a specific schedule or routine. However, you will be responsible for proactively representing your company to customers and that requires a go-getter mentality.
- Detail oriented. Outside sales means maintaining your own schedule; understanding products with a great degree of depth; and traveling to meet customers at various locations. Someone who is not detail oriented will surely allow important events and information to fall through the cracks.
- Proven sales experience. Obviously, strong sales skills are a must to qualify for any outside sales representative job. Most companies prefer candidates who possess some experience in sales – even if it is not directly related to outside sales. In most cases, companies will be quite specific on the number of years of sales experience the position requires. It all depends on the company, the product and the specific job requirements.
- Independent and accountable. At the end of the day, a job as an outside sales representative is an independent endeavor. Yes, you’ll likely receive a good amount of training and receive some assistance in the office. However, the job as the representative of your company and its products inevitably falls on your shoulders. You are responsible for sales. You are the individual the company is counting on to grow current customer relationships and foster new ones. The weight is squarely on your shoulders and companies want a sales representative willing to accept that responsibility. This job is for someone who appreciates operating independently and understands that comes with added pressure to deliver.
A day in the life of an outside sales representative.
What’s a typical day look like for an outside sales representative? The truth is that it all depends on the day. You’ll split your time between the office and the field, with more time leaning toward being on the “outside” and meeting with customers.
Still, there is a good deal of office work that goes into an effective outside sales strategy. Remember, the overall idea is to build stronger connections with existing customers and forge new relationships with potential customers on an ongoing basis. That means many days are spent setting things up – making phone calls; sending off a well-penned email or two; working your social media presence; continuing your sales education through training programs offered by your company; and keeping up with what your business competitors are doing for their own customers. In other words, before you can get down to sales, you’ve got to build a clear and vetted pipeline of customers and prospects, and be fully prepared to engage them on their turf.
Step outside the office and into the field, and your day as a sales representative kicks into high gear. It might include performing product demonstrations, introducing new products and product lines; meeting a group of customers at a tradeshow or special event; attending follow-up meetings to continue the sales conversation; or simply meeting a new prospect for a casual sales lunch. One thing is certain, days are rarely uneventful when you have a job in outside sales.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. How much can you expect to earn?
According to the experts at payscale.com, outside sales representatives earn a total income anywhere between $34,000 and $96,000 per year. This is based on both salary and commission, the most common income structure for an outside sales job. Granted, this is quite a large income range, but that’s only because the variety of jobs in outside sales is so diverse. Another important thing worth noting is that many people who spend a number of years as outside sales representatives, tend to move up into new positions. In fact, according to payscale.com, the three most likely career paths include becoming a Regional Sales Manager, Account Manager or Area Sales Manager.
So don’t think a job as an outside sales manager is the culmination of a great career. It just might be a stepping stone to an even bigger and more lucrative sales position.
Is a position in outside sales for you?
Now that you know a little more about what’s in store for you as an outside sales representative, you should be a little clearer on whether or not this career might be a good fit. If you think you’d make a great outside sales representative, the opportunities are many with some of the world’s most respected companies regularly recruiting and hiring for their outside sales teams. These include leaders like Johnson & Johnson, Sherwin Williams, SYSCO, and many other major international corporations.
Finding the right job in outside sales.
Probably the best way to begin your outside sales representative job search is to explore the many job listing websites that exist these days, such as Monster and ZipRecruiter. You can also explore job listings on LinkedIn to find companies looking to fill sales representative positions. So, what are you waiting for? Get your resume together and go for it. Good luck!
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