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Nature of the Work
* A significant part of earnings may be in the form of commissions, which can vary considerably depending on performance.
* Considerable travel may be required.
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 real estate agents, insurance agents, 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, because 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 calling," 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 sold, the jobs of all services sales representatives have much in common. All sales representatives follow similar procedures and must fully understand and be able to discuss the services their company offers. 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 offered services meet the client's needs. This often involves demonstrations of the 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. Good customer service is becoming increasingly important and can give a company a competitive advantage.
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 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 managing their work. Selling less complex services, such as linen supply or pest control 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 are generally 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 responsibilitiesadministrative, marketing, or public relations, for examplein 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 lawn care, 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 with smaller territories may seldom, or never, travel overnight. Outside sales representatives may spend part of their time in an office keeping records, preparing various documents, and setting up appointments with customers. Increasingly, sales representatives may share office space with others rather than have their own permanently assigned space. 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. 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. Many sales representatives work more than 40 hours per week.
Services sales representatives held over 694,000 wage and salary jobs in 1996. Over half were in firms providing business services, including computer and data processing; personnel supply; advertising; mailing, reproduction, and stenographic services; and equipment rental and leasing. Other sales representatives worked for firms offering a wide range of other services, as the following tabulation shows.
Total (percent) 100 Business services 59 Computer and data processing 10 Personnel supply 10 Advertising 7 Mailing, reproduction, and stenographic 3 Miscellaneous equipment rental and leasing 3 Miscellaneous business services 26 Engineering and management services 11 Personal services 5 Amusement and recreation services 5 Automotive repair services 4 Membership organizations 3 Hotels and other lodging places 2 Motion pictures 2 Health services 2 Social services 2 All other services
Some employers require services sales representatives to have a college degree, but requirements vary depending on the industry a company represents. Employers who market advertising services seek individuals with a college degree in advertising, marketing or business administration. Companies marketing educational services prefer individuals with a degree in education, marketing or a related field. Many hotels seek graduates from college hotel or tourism administration programs. Companies selling computer, communications, engineering and other highly technical services generally require a bachelor's degree appropriate to their field. Certification and licensing is also becoming more common for technical sales representatives.
Employers may hire sales representatives with only 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, pest control, cleaning services, or funeral services. Applicants enhance their chances of being hired into these positions if they have taken some college courses.
Many firms conduct intensive training programs for their sales representatives, including 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, using the company's computer system, entering an order, company policies, communications technology, and the use of technical support personnel. Sales representatives may also 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.
Large companies often hire sales representatives directly out of college and closely monitor their progress while training them. In general, smaller companies prefer to hire individuals with a proven sales record because they cannot afford the expense of providing formal training programs.
In order to be successful, sales representatives should be persuasive and have a pleasant, outgoing, and enthusiastic disposition. Sales representatives must be highly motivated, energetic, well organized, and efficient. Good grooming and a neat appearance are essential, as are self-confidence, reliability, and the ability to communicate effectively both orally, and in writing. Sales representatives should be self-starters who have the ability to work under pressure to meet sales goals. They must also have a thorough knowledge of the service they are selling, and be able to anticipate and respond to their clients' questions and objections in a professional manner.
Sales representatives with 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 2006, in response to growth of the services industries employing 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 by the expanded use of various technologies, such as voice and electronic 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 they are unable to earn enough money and leave the occupation. Turnover is generally higher among representatives who sell nontechnical services, because they have invested less time and effort in specialized training. As a result of this turnover, job opportunities should be good, especially for those with a college degree or a proven sales record.
With improved technology, companies are finding it harder to justify the expense of travel, on-site presentations, waiting, and the preparation that supports those activities. Therefore, many companies are putting more emphasis on in-house sales by phone and other methods, and less emphasis on the use of outside sales staff. In addition, temporary or contract sales people are used more frequently for outside sales.
In 1996, the median annual income for full-time advertising sales representatives was $26,000, while representatives selling other business services earned $30,264. Earnings of representatives who sold technical services were generally 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 1996 Sales Compensation Survey, entry-level sales representatives received $36,000 in average total cash compensation, intermediate-level sales representatives earned $46,000, and senior sales representatives received $63,000.
Sales representatives are paid in a variety of ways. Some receive a straight salary; others are paid solely on a commission basisa 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 vary greatly from year to year.
Services sales representatives must have sales ability and knowledge of the service they sell. Workers in other occupations requiring 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:
Sales and Marketing Executives International, 6600 Hidden Lake Trail, Brecksville, OH 44141.
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