Manufacturing Sales Representative Careers: Job Description & Salary

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A manufacturing sales representative's mean annual salary is around $87,000. Is it worth the education and training requirements? Get the truth about the job description and career prospects to see if becoming a manufacturing sales representative is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Manufacturing Sales Representative Career

A manufacturing sales representative sells wholesale mechanical or technical products to clients. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of a manufacturing sales representative career.

Pros of a Manufacturing Sales Representative Career
High salary (median annual wage as of 2014 was roughly $75,000, with the highest-paid 10% earning $149,000 or higher)**
Employment growth expected to be about as fast as the average for all occupations (9% from 2012-2022)**
A high school diploma may be sufficient for entry-level, nontechnical positions**
Potential merit-based advancement (good salespeople may receive better assignments with larger commissions, or they may become a district manager or vice president of sales)**

Cons of a Manufacturing Sales Representative Career
Potentially stressful job (may have to meet company sales quotas, and compensation may be based on sales)**
Often work irregular and weekend hours to respond to HVAC emergencies*
Sales tend to be relative to the health of the economy**
Frequent travel is often required, which may be burdensome**

Sources: *O*Net, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Essential Career Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are two types of manufacturing sales representatives. There are those who don't have technical knowledge and those who know a product's technical details (www.bls.gov). Often, when an individual with no expertise is trying to make a sale, they need an expert with them to explain to the client the engineering or technical details of the device.

Manufacturing sales representatives usually travel frequently within a specific region to sell or communicate directly with clients. If they're not out in the field, they typically communicate over the phone, through video conferencing and email. Even with technical knowledge, sales representatives must be persuasive and able to skillfully negotiate with clients.

Salary Info

The BLS reported that as of May 2014, manufacturing sales representatives with technical knowledge earned an annual average salary of about $87,000, with the highest-paid 10% earning around $149,000 or more. This is in contrast to sales representatives without technical knowledge who had an average annual salary of around $66,000. The highest-paid 10% of these representatives earned about $116,000 or more per year.

Education and Training Requirements

The BLS states that representatives that don't have technical knowledge of the product they're selling are typically not required to hold a bachelor's degree. However, marketing skills are important, and these may be strengthened by earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in business.

Additionally, sales representatives that need to know the science and mechanics behind a product should have a bachelor's degree. The bachelor's degree may be in business, science or engineering and is typically related to the product sold. For instance, if you're selling pharmaceuticals, a degree in biology is beneficial

What do Employers Look for?

Since many employers offer training, posted jobs vary as to whether prior knowledge or expertise is required. Most employers require their candidates to have excellent communication skills and a willingness to learn new things. Additionally, most jobs require at least some travel. Employers also look for proficiency in basic marketing techniques. Some recent job postings as of March 2012 include:

  • A Northbrook, Illinois, manufacturing company needs a sales representative to seek new customers. The company sells parts for sectors ranging from construction to agriculture, but a specific engineering background is not required.
  • An Orlando, Florida, automobile and industrial parts company needs a sales representative to travel and sell parts around the state. The candidate must travel 25% of his or her time.
  • A St. Louis, Missouri, environmental home product company needs a sales representative. An associate's degree is required, and the candidate must possess demonstrable communication skills.

How to Maximize Your Skills

Even if technical knowledge is not required, most sales representatives should understand market trends for manufacturing products. O*Net, a website from the U.S. Employment and Training Administration, states that consistent communication with government leaders, market analysts and public interest groups concerning manufacturing helps you analyze manufacturing's future (www.onetonline.org). Knowing which way the markets are trending helps you to sell your products.

Get Certified

Another strategy is to gain certification. According to the BLS, the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation (MRERF) provides several certificate programs for all types of sales representatives.

The pertinent certificate is the Certified Professional Manufacturers Representative (CPMR). CPMR training is offered by the Manufacturers' Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF) and consists of three weeks of seminars - one week per year - on selling in the manufacturing industry (www.mrerf.org). The courses range from seminars to case studies, and you'll need to take an exam to receive the CPMR designation. The seminars also provide an opportunity for networking.

Other Careers to Consider

Insurance Sales Agent

After reading about a career as a manufacturing sales representative, perhaps you've decided the job requires too much traveling, and the job outlook isn't quite what you'd like to see. If you're still interested in a sales position, you may want to consider a career as an insurance sales agent. According to the BLS, the majority of insurance sales agents work from an office, though some do spend time traveling. These sales agents analyze clients' insurance needs and customize clients' policies. You may specialize in property and casualty, life and health insurance.

According to the BLS, a high school diploma is typically sufficient for entry-level work. Moreover, insurance sales agents are expected to see employment growth of around 22%, which is faster than the average for all occupations, between 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the average annual salary was around $63,000.

Sales Engineer

Another possible alternative is a sales engineer. This career, according to the BLS, is a technically-oriented sales job in which you consult with a client to find the best engineering technology or manufactured product for a company. There is little marketing involved, and you'll also help with researching and developing new products as well as modifing products according to specific customer needs. Sales engineers must have extensive knowledge of the products they're selling and are usually required to hold a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field. According to the BLS, sales engineers were expected to see employment growth about as fast as average (around 14%) from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, they had an average salary of about $97,000.

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