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Sales Associate

Education and Training: No formal education required. High school diploma or GED preferred.
Average Salary: $38,000 per year
Job Outlook: Fair

Sales associate positions can be found in virtually any for-profit organization. Retail and non-retail sales associates are hired to increase sales volume and revenue for the company. The nature of retail and non-retail sales is quite different. Some refer to retail sales as “inside sales” as customers visit retail locations to make purchases. These positions are more customer service oriented and do not require nearly the level of sales and communication skills. Non-retail sales positions are described as “outside sales” or “business-to-business sales.” These positions require strong sales ability and effective communication skills. Outside sales associates can earn significantly more money than retail sales associates. Outside sales associates may travel extensively throughout assigned geographic territories meeting with clients and prospecting for new business. Inside sales associates are not required to travel. Besides sales functions they also complete sales reports and create marketing materials.

Education and Training Requirements

No formal education is required although many business-to-business sales positions prefer a four-year bachelor’s degree. Most inside sales positions do not require any experience or formal education and are commonly filled by high school students.

On the job training is common as sales associates learn under the authority of sales managers or experienced sales associates. Some companies have specific training programs that are taught in-house while other organizations utilize third-party partners to conduct sales training.

Getting the Job

Breaking into the sales industry often times requires nothing more than filling out an application and displaying an outgoing personality at a job interview. Sales is not for everyone. The best outside sales professionals are aggressive and persuasive and are not affected by rejection. Many college graduates take sales positions upon graduation to learn about an industry or product. Sales positions are advertised on job websites, newspaper classified advertisements, trade magazines, and company websites.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Job outlook is expected to be fair. Job growth is dependent on economic conditions such as consumer and business spending and consumer confidence. If consumer and businesses halt spending there is no need for sales associates to sell to phantom customers.

Sales professionals who stay in the profession tend to move into management positions where they mentor and lead sales teams and individuals.

Working Conditions and Environment

Work conditions vary greatly. Some sales associates spend a lot of time out in the field servicing existing clients while others spend their time selling in retail stores. Inside retail positions can be found at small boutiques, large department stores, home improvement stores, electronics stores, clothing stores and specialty shops.

Salary and Benefits

Outside sales representatives are often paid a base salary plus commission. Inside sales people are paid hourly and may also receive bonuses. The average salary for all sales associates is $38,000 per year although outside sales representatives can earn well into the six figure range. Lucrative salaries are common for those in the medical and financial services industries.

Where to Go for More Information

National Association of Sales Professionals
555 Friendly St.
Pontiac, MI 48302

The Sales Association
2460 W. 26th Ave., Ste. 245-C
Denver, CO 80211
(720) 259-1250

SMEI – Sales and Marketing Professional Association
Ste. 1500 – 885 W Georgia St.
Vancouver, BC, V6C 3E8

Additional topics

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