Sales Agent Job Description - Duties, Skills and Career
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Sales Agent Job Description
A sales agent is a self-employed salesperson who is hired by a company to help them sell their products or services in a specific geographical territory. Sales agents earn commission based on the value of the sales they make.
But what does a sales agent do, exactly?
The role of a sales agent is a critical one for a company’s sales and for the growth of its business. Sales agents promote the company’s goods and services to potential buyers and facilitate the signing of sales contracts between the company and its clients. The objectives and the extent of an agent’s powers are set out in a document called an agency agreement, which allows the sales agent to operate only within a specific sales territory. Agency agreements often also include an exclusivity clause, which prevents the agent from promoting the goods or services of a competitor within the same territory.
Sales agents can be divided into captive agents, who work for a single company, and independent agents, who represent several companies and promote a range of different products and services.
Sales agents operate as part of a company’s local sales network and serve as a critical link between a company and its clients. Their main objective is to increase sales in the territories assigned to them. To achieve this, sales agents conduct business negotiations, work to acquire new clients and increase the loyalty of existing ones, manage their client portfolio and also assist the company’s sales and marketing department with market analysis and business development activities. To be a successful sales agent requires appropriate in-depth knowledge of the product sector and of the specific goods and/or services being promoted (e.g. specialist technical knowledge if an agent is promoting technology products), not to mention excellent knowledge of the territory assigned to them.
The market reach and local knowledge that a good sales agent can offer may prove particularly useful for companies that are looking to enter new regional, national or foreign territories with which they are not familiar.
All companies that produce goods and services need to be able to reach their customers, meaning there are vacancies for sales agents in an extremely wide variety of industries. Sales agents may be hired, for instance, to promote products or services in sectors such as industrial machinery and equipment, fashion and footwear, office equipment and stationery, food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, health and medical, utilities (e.g. gas and electricity), telephone services, financial and insurance products, plastics, tourism, hospitality and catering, publishing, ICT, information security, digital services and many, many others besides.
Sales agents are independent self-employed workers. This means that they are free to organize their work as they prefer, have no fixed timetable and no other time or location restrictions. On top of a basic monthly salary, sales agents are entitled to receive commission on the sales they make. Commission makes up the bulk of a sales agent’s salary and acts as an incentive to generate more business. Often, agency agreements also include bonuses or other rewards for hitting sales targets.
Sales agents are typically not authorized to enter into a contract on behalf of the company hiring them. Instead, this is usually done by an authorized signatory (for example a sales representative) of the company.
Responsibilities and Tasks
The main tasks of a sales agent include:
- Making client visits to present and promote products and services
- Conducting negotiations for sales contracts
- Working to ensure that negotiations go smoothly and lead to the purchase of the product or services in question
- Providing after-sales support
- Maintaining contact with clients with a view to securing further sales/orders
- Identifying potential new clients
How to Become a Sales Agent - Training and Requirements
There are no specific educational requirements to become a sales agent, because the single most important skill is a talent for making sales. A high school diploma with a business focus (or even a degree in a business-related subject) may in some cases be useful, but is unlikely to be a prerequisite.
Training courses for aspiring sales agents and sales representatives also exist that are aimed at anybody interested in a career in sales.
In addition to motivation and a natural aptitude for selling, sales agents also need a range of specific competencies, including a knowledge of communication and marketing techniques and negotiation strategies, customer service expertise, familiarity with the legislative and regulatory framework governing business activities and, of course, in-depth knowledge of the products and services they are selling and of the market and geographical territory.
While prior experience in a sales or distribution environment is always welcomed by prospective employers, in many cases, companies will provide new recruits with classroom based and on-the-job training focusing on a range of technical and commercial issues, as well as refresher courses to ensure that their sales agents have up-to-date knowledge of the company’s products and services.
Sales Agent Skills and Qualifications
Sales agents typically require the following skills:
- Strong business sense and ability to reach sales targets
- Experience of B2B sales
- Knowledge of the product sector and geographical territory
- Ability to manage and grow a client portfolio
- Familiarity with common computer software applications
- Excellent interpersonal skills
- Determination and ambition
- Organizational and time-management skills
Many job advertisements for sales agents also require candidates to have their own car.
Sales Agent Career Path
The single biggest success factor in the career of a sales agent is their ability to generate business for the company hiring them. The economic terms a sales agent is offered, as outlined in the agency agreement they enter into, will in fact be determined in part by their previous sales performance and their success in acquiring new clients.
Talented sales agents will thus have the opportunity to obtain bigger and more profitable sales territories, negotiate greater autonomy over price-setting and earn more lucrative bonuses for hitting their targets. The very best agents can expect to be promoted to coordinating roles, such as Area Manager, in which they will be responsible for managing the work of a team of agents within a specific territory.
Top Reasons to Work as a Sales Agent
A career as a sales agent is ideal for motivated, dynamic and ambitious individuals with a strong business sense, who want to be their own boss and crave the independence that comes with being self-employed.
Another positive aspect is the relative ease of access, given that the profession has no specific educational requirements. What are essential for a successful sales agent, however, are natural qualities such as strong powers of persuasion, sociability and charisma, making the job suitable for anybody with an inclination for working with people, who finds it difficult to be cooped up in an office all day long.