Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives typically do the following:
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.
Unlike retail sales workers, who sell goods directly to consumers, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives deal with businesses, government agencies, and other organizations.
Some wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives work 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.
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 seeking technical knowledge.
After the sale, representatives may make followup 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 aim 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, meaning that they call potential customers who are not expecting to be contacted. That way, a representative can establish an initial contact. They also take incoming calls from customers who are interested in their product, and they 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 the prices and availability of the products they are selling and the ways in which their products can save money and boost productivity.
A high school diploma is typically sufficient for many positions, primarily those selling nontechnical or scientific products. However, representatives selling scientific and technical products usually 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 sometimes 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.
The Certified Professional Manufacturers’ Representative (CPMR) certification and the Certified Sales Professional (CSP) certification are 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.