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Whenever a company manufactures a product, that company will need a sales representative, or sales rep, to learn as much as possible about the product in order to be able to sell the product to customers. The job of a sales rep can vary significantly; some reps must earn a college degree and undergo training to learn about complex products, such as medical devices that will be sold to hospitals. Other sales representative positions require little education and training; a retail sales associate, for example, can learn about the products on the job and will work in a retail store with a limited number of products.
In some cases, the sales rep may be required to travel to various locations to meet with potential customers. This is generally done with more complex products aimed at a specific audience, such as industrial equipment being sold to various manufacturers or factories. The sales representative must learn as much as possible about the product or products and be able to demonstrate the advantages of the products to a potential customer. The sales rep will then be responsible for placing customer orders, tracking invoices, and handling any money that may change hands.
In retail settings, the sales rep may be responsible for interacting directly with customers, managing stock, and working a cash register. In other retail settings, the rep may be responsible for answering phone calls and e-mails as well. Knowledge of the product is the prime responsibility of the sales rep, however, as he or she will need to interact with customers regularly to educate those customers about specific products. The customers will consult the sales representative with questions or concerns regarding the product as well.
Sales reps who travel to various locations to discuss sales options with customers may also be responsible for demonstrating how a new product is used. This is common in medical settings; medical supply companies can, for example, develop a new product that doctors will be responsible for using, so a sales rep will visit one or more doctors in a hospital setting to explain the advantages and development of the new product. He or she may then demonstrate the intended use of the product or give basic instructions for safe use of the product. It is not uncommon for a medical sales representative to sit in on surgeries while new medical products are being used by doctors or surgeons.