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Wholesale Sales Worker Job Description, Career as a Wholesale Sales Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training On-the-job training; college preferred

Salary Median—$45,400 to $58,580 per year

Employment Outlook Good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Wholesale sales workers sell merchandise to retail outlets and other businesses. These individuals work in many industries ranging from plumbing supplies to clothing, drugs, and health care products. Sales workers represent wholesale houses, which buy products made by many manufacturers and distribute them to retail stores. Because it is difficult for retailers to deal with dozens or even hundreds of different manufacturers, they often prefer to buy from wholesalers.

Many wholesalers sell the same products at about the same prices so they must compete for business. Buyers usually choose to deal with the wholesaler that provides the best service. It is important, therefore, for wholesale sales workers to establish good working relationships with their customers. The specific duties of wholesale sales workers vary from one industry to another; however, all sales-people try to provide dependable service, prompt delivery, and a wide array of products.

Most wholesale sales workers travel to their customers. They are usually assigned to a geographic area. Depending on the number of customers they have, their territory can range in size from one section of a large city to various cities in several states. Sales workers call on customers with catalogs, samples, promotional literature, and multimedia presentations. They inform their customers of price changes and new items. Many wholesale sales workers also perform customer services. For example, they check stock, reorder items, streamline inventory and ordering systems, and suggest advertising and display techniques. Those who sell technical, mechanical, and electrical equipment may help install and maintain it.

In addition to their selling and servicing tasks, wholesale sales workers must spend several hours a day on a computer keeping records of sales and expenses, writing reports for manufacturers and wholesalers, making appointments, and entering orders. They may also accept payment and arrange credit terms for

In addition to selling merchandise to retail outlets and other businesses, wholesale sales workers usually check stock, reorder items, and streamline inventory and ordering systems. (© Terry Wild Studio. Reproduced by permission.)

customers. Sales workers must attend sales meetings, seminars, and conventions and study trade literature to keep up with new products and new techniques for selling them.

Education and Training Requirements

Education and training requirements vary, depending on the specific job and employer. Applicants for jobs selling technical products are often required to have college training in a related area. Companies that sell pharmaceutical products prefer applicants who have a degree in the biological sciences. Companies that sell technical equipment often require workers to have an engineering degree. In general, job experience in the industry in which one works is always valuable. A plumbing supplies sales worker with experience as a plumber's apprentice is likely to understand customers' problems better than someone without any plumbing knowledge. Previous sales experience is useful as well.

Most wholesale sales workers are trained formally on the job by their employers. Depending on the type of products sold by the company, training programs vary in length from a few weeks to several years. These programs usually offer instruction in selling techniques along with information on merchandise features and uses.

Getting the Job

People interested in becoming wholesale sales workers should apply directly to wholesale houses. Private employment agencies sometimes list openings in the field. Newspaper want ads and career sites on the Internet may provide job leads as well.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

There are several avenues of advancement for wholesale sales workers who have experience and proven ability. They can be promoted to supervisory and managerial positions such as sales training manager or company sales manager. With a college degree they may also enter other related areas, including buying and marketing.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of wholesale sales workers was expected to increase as fast as the average for all professions from 2004 to 2014. The number of products available to consumers will likely increase in coming years and more sales workers will be required to peddle these products. New sales representatives will also be needed to replace those who leave the field. However, the need for wholesale sales workers will be tempered by advances in information technology that will allow existing salespeople to be more efficient at their jobs.

Working Conditions

Most wholesale sales workers put in long, irregular working hours that often stretch into evenings and weekends. They spend much of their working time on their feet and may have to carry heavy sample cases and catalogs. A great deal of traveling is also required, and workers may be away from home for days at a time. Wholesale sales workers frequently work under a variety of pressures, including deadlines and cancellations of large orders.

Where to Go for More Information

National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors
1725 K St. NW, Ste. 300
Washington, DC 20006-1419
(202) 872-0885

Professional Society for Sales and Marketing Training
5905 NW 54th Circle
Coral Springs, FL 33067
(800) 219-0096

Sales and Marketing Executives International
P.O. Box 1390
Sumas, WA 98295-1390
(312) 893-0751

Earnings and Benefits

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2004 wholesale sales workers who sold technical and scientific products earned a median annual income of $58,580. Those who did not specialize in technical or science products earned a median wage of $45,400 per year. Many wholesale sales workers work on a salary plus commission basis. (A commission is a percentage of the money received from a sale.) Some work strictly on commission. Those who sell seasonal products may draw wages against future commissions during slack periods. Many employers provide fringe benefits to their workers, including paid vacations and insurance plans. Most companies cover travel expenses for their workers or provide them with automobiles and expense accounts.

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesSales & Marketing