Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Summary

wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives image
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations.
Quick Facts: Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives
2015 Median Pay $59,080 per year
$28.41 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 1,800,900
Job Outlook, 2014-24 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 117,200

What Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives Do

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices.

Work Environment

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives work under pressure because their income and job security depend on the amount of merchandise they sell. Some sales representatives travel frequently.

How to Become a Wholesale or Manufacturing Sales Representative

Educational requirements vary for sales representatives and depend on the type of product sold. If the products are not scientific or technical, a high school diploma is generally enough for entry into the occupation. If the products are scientific or technical, sales representatives typically need at least a bachelor's degree.

Pay

The median annual wage for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives was $59,080 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Employment growth for sales representatives is expected to follow the economy as a whole. Employment opportunities should be best in independent agencies, which operate on a fee basis and represent several manufacturers, instead of buying and holding the product they are selling.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives Do About this section

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives
Some wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives specialize in technical and scientific products, ranging from agricultural and mechanical equipment to computer and pharmaceutical goods.

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices.

Duties

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives typically do the following:

  • Identify prospective customers by using business directories, following leads from existing clients, and attending trade shows and conferences
  • Contact new and existing customers to discuss their needs and explain how specific products and services can meet these needs
  • Help customers select products to meet customers' needs, product specifications, and regulations
  • Emphasize product features that will meet customers' needs and exhibit product capabilities and limitations
  • Answer customers' questions about prices, availability, and product uses
  • Negotiate prices and terms of sale and service agreements
  • Prepare sales contracts and submit orders for processing
  • Collaborate with colleagues to exchange information, such as selling strategies and marketing information
  • Follow up with customers to make sure they are satisfied with their purchases and to answer any questions or concerns

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives—sometimes called manufacturers’ representatives or manufacturers’ agents—generally work for manufacturers or wholesalers. Some work for a single organization, while others represent several companies and sell a range of products.

Rather than selling goods directly to consumers, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives deal with businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. For more information about people who sell directly to consumers, see the profile on retail sales workers.

Some wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives deal with nonscientific products such as food, office supplies, and clothing. Other representatives specialize in technical and scientific products, ranging from agricultural and mechanical equipment to computer and pharmaceutical goods. For more information about people who specialize in sales of technical products and services, see the profile on sales engineers.

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives who lack expertise about a given product frequently team with a technical expert. In this arrangement, the technical expert—sometimes a sales engineer—attends the sales presentation to explain the product and answer questions or concerns. The sales representative makes the initial contact with customers, introduces the company's product, and obtains final agreement from the potential buyer.

By working with a technical expert, the representative is able to spend more time maintaining and soliciting accounts and less time needing to gain technical knowledge.

After the sale, representatives may make follow-up visits to ensure that equipment is functioning properly and may even help train customers' employees to operate and maintain new equipment.

Those selling consumer goods often suggest how and where merchandise should be displayed. When working with retailers, they may help arrange promotional programs, store displays, and advertising.

In addition to selling products, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives analyze sales statistics, prepare reports, and handle administrative duties such as filing expense accounts, scheduling appointments, and making travel plans.

Staying up-to-date on new products and the changing needs of customers is important. Sales representatives accomplish this in a variety of ways, including attending trade shows at which new products and technologies are showcased. They attend conferences and conventions to meet other sales representatives and clients and to discuss new product developments. They also read about new and existing products and monitor the sales, prices, and products of their competitors.

The following are examples of types of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives:

Inside sales representatives work mostly in offices while making sales. Frequently, they are responsible for getting new clients by “cold calling” various organizations, which means they call potential customers who are not expecting to be contacted in order to establish an initial contact. They also take incoming calls from customers who are interested in their product, and process paperwork to complete the sale.

Outside sales representatives spend much of their time traveling to and visiting with current clients and prospective buyers. During a sales call, they discuss the client's needs and suggest how they can meet those needs with merchandise or services. They may show samples or catalogs that describe items their company provides, and they may inform customers about prices, availability, and ways in which their products can save money and boost productivity. Because many sales representatives sell several complementary products made by different manufacturers, they may take a broad approach to their customers' businesses. For example, sales representatives may help install new equipment and train employees in its use.

Work Environment About this section

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives
Sales representatives of scientific or technical products, such as pharmaceuticals or medical instruments, typically need a degree in a field related to the product sold.

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives held about 1.8 million jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives were as follows:

Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers 17%
Manufacturing 14
Machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers 7
Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers 6
Grocery and related product wholesalers 5

Some wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives have large territories and travel considerably. Because a sales region may cover several states, representatives may be away from home for several days or weeks at a time. Sales representatives who cover a smaller region may not spend much time away from home.

Inside wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives spend a lot of their time on the phone, selling goods, taking orders, and resolving problems or complaints about the merchandise. They also use Web technology, including chat, email, and video conferencing, to contact clients.

Workers in this occupation can be under considerable stress because their income and job security often depend directly on the amount of merchandise they sell, and their companies usually set goals or quotas that they are expected to meet.

Work Schedules

Most wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives work full time. Since sales calls take place during regular working hours, many do much of the planning and paperwork involved with sales in the evening and on weekends. Although the hours are often irregular, many sales representatives may determine their own schedules.

How to Become a Wholesale or Manufacturing Sales Representative About this section

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives
After a sale is completed, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives follow up to make sure the product is satisfactory and answer any remaining questions.

Educational requirements vary, depending on the type of product sold. If the products are not scientific or technical, a high school diploma is generally enough for entry into the occupation. If the products are scientific or technical, sales representatives typically need at least a bachelor's degree.

Education

A high school diploma is sufficient for many positions, primarily for selling nontechnical or scientific products. However, those selling scientific and technical products typically must have a bachelor's degree. Scientific and technical products include pharmaceuticals, medical instruments, and industrial equipment. A degree in a field related to the product sold, such as chemistry, biology, or engineering, is often required.

Many sales representatives attend seminars in sales techniques or take courses in marketing, economics, communication, or even a foreign language to improve their ability to make sales.

Training

Many companies have formal training programs for beginning wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives that last up to 1 year. In some programs, trainees rotate among jobs in plants and offices to learn all phases of producing, installing, and distributing the product. In others, trainees receive formal technical instruction at the plant, followed by on-the-job training under the supervision of a field sales manager.

New employees may be trained by going along with experienced workers on their sales calls. As they gain familiarity with the firm's products and clients, the new workers gain more responsibility until they eventually get their own territory.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Many in this occupation have either the Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative (CPMR) certification or the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) certification, both offered by the Manufacturers' Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF). Certification typically involves completing formal technical training and passing an exam. In addition, the CPMR requires 10 hours of continuing education every year in order to maintain certification.

Other Experience

Although not required, sales experience can be helpful, particularly for nontechnical positions.

Advancement

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. For more information on these positions, see the profile on sales managers.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Sales representatives must be able to listen to the customer’s needs and concerns before and after the sale.

Interpersonal skills. Sales representatives must be able to work well with many types of people. They must be able to build good relationships with clients and with other members of the sales team.

Self-confidence. Sales representatives must be confident and persuasive when making sales presentations. In addition, making a call to a potential customer who is not expecting to be contacted, or “cold calling,” requires confidence and composure.

Stamina. Sales representatives are often on their feet for long periods of time and may carry heavy sample products.

Pay About this section

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Median annual wages, May 2015

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products

$76,190

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

$59,080

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products

$55,730

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Sales and related occupations

$25,660

 

The median annual wage for sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products was $76,190 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,570, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $153,940.

The median annual wage for sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products was $55,730 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,830, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $118,000.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers $66,590
Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers 63,530
Manufacturing 61,700
Machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers 57,190
Grocery and related product wholesalers 52,550

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 bonuses. Commissions are usually based on a percentage of sales. Bonuses may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all sales workers in the group or district, or on the company's performance.

Most wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products

7%

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

7%

Total, all occupations

7%

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products

6%

Sales and related occupations

5%

 

Employment of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. 

Employment growth for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives will largely follow growth of the overall economy.

In addition to the total volume of sales, a wider range of products and technologies will lead to increased demand for sales representatives. 

Because the work of sales representatives requires a lot of face-to-face interaction with potential buyers, this type of work is not likely to be outsourced to other countries.

Employment growth is expected to be strongest for sales representatives working at independent sales agencies. Companies are increasingly shifting their sales activities to independent agencies as a way to cut costs and boost revenue. These independent companies do not buy and hold the products they are selling. Instead, they operate on a fee or commission basis in representing the product manufacturer. Employment of sales representatives in this industry—wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers—is projected to grow 26 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Job Prospects

Job opportunities should be best for those with previous sales experience. Though the large size of the occupation creates many job openings, the relatively high pay will also likely attract a large number of applicants.

Employment projections data for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing

41-4000 1,800,900 1,918,200 7 117,200 [XLSX]

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products

41-4011 347,800 371,700 7 23,800 [XLSX]

Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products

41-4012 1,453,100 1,546,500 6 93,400 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Advertising sales agents

Advertising Sales Agents

Advertising sales agents sell advertising space to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, make sales presentations, and maintain client accounts.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,490
Insurance sales agents

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,200
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

Buyers and Purchasing Agents

Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review the quality of products.

Bachelor's degree $59,620
Real estate brokers and sales agents

Real Estate Brokers and Sales Agents

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Although brokers and agents do similar work, brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Sales agents must work with a real estate broker.

High school diploma or equivalent $45,610
Retail sales workers

Retail Sales Workers

Retail sales workers include both those who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles, (called retail salespersons) and those who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts (called parts salespersons). Both types of retail sales workers help customers find the products they want and process customers’ payments.

No formal educational credential $22,040
Sales engineers

Sales Engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

Bachelor's degree $97,650
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades.

Bachelor's degree $71,550
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/wholesale-and-manufacturing-sales-representatives.htm (visited May 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

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State & Area Data

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2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.