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What Are the Different Types of Sales Representatives?

By Melissa Barrett
Updated May 16, 2024
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Virtually every product requires sales representatives to persuade somebody to buy it. In many cases, companies recruit employees to meet with potential customers face-to-face to sell their products directly. In other cases, large-scale marketing campaigns are done by phone. Successful salespeople are frequently rewarded with a portion of the profits from the sale.

Direct sales representatives are the most conventional representation of salespeople. These individuals meet face-to-face with potential consumers to explain and often show samples of a proffered product. Pharmaceutical companies often employ direct sales reps to provide samples of medications to physicians. Likewise, manufacturers of educational supplies and textbooks may hire these reps to meet with teachers.

Some organizations with direct sale programs choose to outsource the work to independent sales representatives. In large-scale operations, outside sales are usually handled by distribution companies. Many organizations, however, offer individuals the ability to sell their products on a commission basis. Independent sales reps for cosmetic companies, for example, may sell products door-to-door or by hosting parties for friends and family.

Telephone sales representatives (TSR) use telemarketing techniques to sell products and services or to obtain leads for face-to-face salespeople. The most common sales practice involved in telemarketing operations is called cold calling. In essence, large lists of potential consumers that are demographically likely to use an organization’s products are phoned. The TSR then attempts to deliver a sales pitch directly to the customer. Typically, these initiatives have low sales-to-lead ratios but high overall sales.

Like TSRs, inside sales representatives conduct business by phone. The primary difference is that, while large telemarketing campaigns are usually outsourced, inside sales reps are generally employed directly by an organization. These representatives may do some cold calling, but more often, they work with preexisting customers or individuals that have contacted the company. As a result, these salespeople generally experience a higher lead-to-sales conversion.

Regardless of methodology, sales representatives are often grouped by the way they are paid. Commission-only sales reps are paid a percentage of the profits earned by their efforts. This type of arrangement is very common and is mutually beneficial to both the organization and the representative. The business benefits by paying only when a sale is made and, accordingly, can offer higher commissions. The sales rep benefits both from these high commissions and the ability to increase his or her income according to effort.

Salary-only positions are rare within the sales world. These sales jobs generally exist in areas where the hope of an increase in sales would be considered insensitive. A more common pay arrangement is a regular stipend with the possibility of commission bonuses depending on job performance.

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