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Services sales representatives sell a wide variety of services. For example, sales representatives for data processing services firms sell complex services such as inventory control, payroll processing, sales analysis, and financial reporting systems. Hotel sales representatives contact government, business, and social groups to solicit convention and conference business. Sales representatives for temporary help services firms locate and acquire clients who will hire the firm's employees. Telephone services sales representatives visit commercial customers to review their telephone systems, analyze their communications needs, and recommend services, such as installation of additional equipment. Other representatives sell automotive leasing, public utility, burial, shipping, protective, and management consulting services. (Information on other sales workers, including insurance agents and brokers, real estate agents and brokers, securities and financial services sales representatives, retail sales workers, manufacturers' and wholesale sales representatives, and travel agents, appears in other Handbook statements.)
Services sales representatives act as industry experts, consultants, and problem solvers when selling their firm's services. The sales representative, in some cases, creates demand for his or her firm's services. A prospective client who is asked to consider buying a particular service may never have used, or even been aware of a need for, that service. For example, wholesalers might be persuaded to order a list of credit ratings for checking their customers' credit prior to making sales, and discover that the list could be used to solicit new business.
There are several different categories of services sales jobs. Outside sales representatives call on clients and prospects at their homes or offices. They may have an appointment, or they may practice "cold calls," arriving without an appointment. Inside sales representatives work on their employer's premises, assisting individuals interested in the company's services. Telemarketing sales representatives sell over the telephone. They make large numbers of calls to prospects, attempting to sell the company's service themselves, or to arrange an appointment between the prospect and an outside sales representative. Some sales representatives deal exclusively with one, or a few, major clients.
Despite the diversity of services being sold, the jobs of all services sales representatives have much in common. All sales representatives must fully understand and be able to discuss the services their company offers. Also, the procedures they follow are similar. Many sales representatives develop lists of prospective clients through telephone and business directories, asking business associates and customers for leads, and calling on new businesses as they cover their assigned territory. Some services sales representatives acquire clients through inquiries about their company's services.
Regardless of how they first meet the client, all services sales representatives must explain how the services being offered can meet the client's needs. This often involves demonstrations of their company's services. They answer questions about the nature and cost of the services and try to overcome objections in order to persuade potential customers to purchase the services. If they fail to make a sale on the first visit, they may follow up with more visits, letters, or phone calls. After closing a sale, services sales representatives generally follow up to see that the purchase meets the customer's needs, and to determine if additional services can be sold.
Because services sales representatives obtain many of their new accounts through referrals, their success hinges on developing a satisfied clientele who will continue to use the services and will recommend them to other potential customers. Like other types of sales jobs, a services sales representative's reputation is crucial to his or her success.
Services sales work varies with the kind of service sold. Selling highly technical services, such as communications systems or computer consulting services, involves complex and lengthy sales negotiations. In addition, sales of such complex services may require extensive after-sale support. In these situations, sales representatives may operate as part of a team of sales representatives and experts from other departments. Sales representatives receive valuable technical assistance from these experts. For example, those who sell data processing services might work with a systems engineer or computer scientist, and those who sell telephone services might receive technical assistance from a communications consultant. Teams enhance customer service and build strong long-term relationships with customers, resulting in increased sales.
Because of the length of time between the initial contact with a customer and the actual sale, representatives who sell complex technical services generally work with several customers simultaneously. Sales representatives must be well organized and efficient in scheduling their time.
Selling less complex services, such as linen supply or exterminating services, generally involves simpler and shorter sales negotiations.
A sales representative's job may also vary with the size of the employer. Those working for large companies generally are more specialized and are assigned a specific territory, a specific line of services, and their own accounts. In smaller companies, sales representatives may have broader responsibilities-administrative, marketing, or public relations, for example-in addition to their sales duties.
A sales representative often services a specific territory. A representative for a company offering services widely used by the general public, such as pest control, generally has numerous clients in a relatively small territory. On the other hand, a sales representative for a more specialized organization, such as a standardized testing service, may need to service several States to acquire an adequate customer base.
Working conditions for sales representatives vary. Outside sales representatives responsible for a large territory may spend a great deal of time traveling, sometimes for weeks at a time. Representatives who cover a small territory may spend time in the office each day keeping records, preparing various documents, and setting up appointments with customers. Inside sales representatives and telemarketers spend all their time in their offices, which can range from bright and cheerful customer showrooms to cramped and noisy rooms. Many outside sales representatives have the flexibility to set their own schedules as long as they meet their company's goals.
Selling is stressful work. Sales representatives face competition not only from other companies but also from their fellow sales workers. Companies generally set sales quotas and have contests with prizes for those who make the most sales. There often is considerable pressure on the sales representative to meet monthly sales quotas.
Services sales representatives held over 612,000 wage and salary jobs in 1994. Over half were in firms providing business services, including computer and data processing, advertising, personnel supply, equipment rental and leasing, and mailing, reproduction, and stenographic services. Other sales representatives worked for firms that offer a wide range of other services, as the following tabulation shows.Total (percent) 100 Business services 57 Computer and data processing 9 Advertising 7 Personnel supply 9 Mailing, reproduction, and stenographic 3 Miscellaneous equipment rental and leasing 3 Miscellaneous business services 23 Engineering and management services 11 Personal services 6 Amusement and recreation services 5 Automotive repair services 4 Membership organizations 3 Hotels and other lodging places 2 Motion pictures 2 Health services 2 Education, public and private 2
Many employers require that services sales representatives have a college degree, but requirements may vary depending on the industry a particular company represents. Employers who market advertising services seek individuals with a college degree in advertising or marketing or a master's degree in business administration; companies that market educational services prefer individuals with an advanced degree in marketing or a related field. Many hotels seek graduates from college hotel administration programs, and companies that sell computer services and telephone systems prefer sales representatives with a background in computer science or engineering. College courses in business, economics, communications, and marketing are helpful in obtaining other jobs as services sales representatives.
Employers may hire sales representatives with a high school diploma if they have a proven sales record. This is particularly true for those who sell nontechnical services, such as linen supply, exterminating, laundry, or funeral services.
Many firms conduct intensive training programs for their sales representatives. A sound training program covers the history of the business, origin, development, and uses of the service, effective prospecting methods, presentation of the service, answering customer objections, creating customer demand, closing a sale, writing an order, company policies, and the use of technical support personnel. Sales representatives also may attend seminars on a wide range of subjects given by outside or in-house training institutions. These sessions acquaint them with new services and products and help them maintain and update their sales techniques, and may include motivational or sensitivity training to make sales representatives more effective in dealing with people. They generally receive training in the use of computers and communications technology in order to increase their productivity.
Very large companies often prefer to hire sales representatives directly out of college, while smaller companies often prefer to hire individuals with a proven sales record. Smaller companies generally prefer not to incur the expense of providing formal training programs for their sales representatives.
In order to be successful, sales representatives should have a pleasant, outgoing personality and good rapport with people. They must be highly motivated, well organized, and efficient. Good grooming and a neat appearance are essential, as are self-confidence, reliability, and the ability to communicate effectively. Sales representatives should be self-starters who have the ability to work under pressure to meet sales goals.
Sales representatives who have good sales records and leadership ability may advance to supervisory and managerial positions. Frequent contact with business people in other firms provides sales workers with leads about job openings, enhancing advancement opportunities.
Employment of services sales representatives, as a group, is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2005 in response to growth of the services industries that employ them. However, the projected growth of particular services industries varies. For example, the continued growth in factory and office automation should lead to much faster than average employment growth for computer and data processing services sales representatives. Growth will be tempered in some industries due to downsizing of the sales force, as well as the growing use of various technologies, such as voice mail, cellular telephones, and laptop computers, that increase sales workers' productivity.
In addition to the jobs generated by this growth, openings will occur each year because of the need to replace sales workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Each year, many sales representatives discover that they are unable to earn enough money and leave the occupation. Turnover generally is higher among representatives who sell nontechnical services, since they have invested less time and effort in specialized training. Because of this turnover, job opportunities should be good, especially for those with a college degree and a proven sales record.
In 1994, the median annual income for full-time advertising sales representatives was $28,800, while representatives selling other business services earned $32,900. Earnings of representatives who sold technical services generally were higher than earnings of those who sold nontechnical services.
Earnings of experienced sales representatives depend on performance. Successful sales representatives who establish a strong customer base can earn more than managers in their firm. According to Dartnell Corporation's 1994- 95 Sales Compensation Survey, the average total cash compensation for entry level sales representatives was $27,800 in business services, $31,600 in educational services, and $24,600 in health services.
Sales representatives are paid in a variety of ways. Some get a straight salary; others are paid solely on a commission basis-a percentage of the dollar value of their sales. Most firms use a combination of salary and commissions. Some services sales representatives receive a base salary plus incentive pay that can add 25 to 75 percent to the sales representative's base salary. In addition to the same benefits package received by other employees of the firm, outside sales representatives have expense accounts to cover meals and travel, and some drive a company car. Many employers offer bonuses, including vacation trips and prizes, for sales that exceed company quotas.
Because sales are affected by changing economic conditions and consumer and business expectations, earnings may fluctuate widely from year to year.
Services sales representatives must have sales ability and knowledge of the service they sell. Workers in other occupations that require these skills include real estate agents, insurance agents, securities and financial services sales representatives, retail sales workers, manufacturers' and wholesale sales representatives, and travel agents.
For details about employment opportunities for services sales representatives, contact employers who sell services in your area.
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