A service sales representative sells the services her company offers, reaching her customers over the telephone, in person, and through letter-writing efforts. A service sales rep can work for nearly anyone: A communications company, an upholsterer, a computer engineering firm, or a caterer, to name only a few who has a service (as opposed to a good) to sell. Service Sales Representatives have to be good communicators, persuasive talkers, and excellent listeners. The most important quality of a service sales rep, however, is the ability to sell. Indeed, her paycheck depends on it-many service sales reps work from a low base salary plus either commissions on sales or a potentially large bonus. This means a high-pressure environment, but pressure, as one rep told us, “is what turns coal into diamonds.”
Sales representatives must first and foremost be confident with their knowledge of their product lines. “Most of your job as a sales rep is answering questions,” wrote one respondent, “and if you don’t have answers for your clients, how can you expect them to trust you?” The issue of trust is central to any purchaser/vendor relationship. For the sales rep, having information at his disposal is the only way he can demonstrate to the potential client that he understands the product’s uses and limitations. To maintain these high levels of credibility, many companies require that sales reps engage in internal education programs that keep them up to date on changing product lines and improved product features. Sales reps not only have to adjust themselves to their product lines, but also to the needs and sensibilities of their clients. “You don’t sell to a mom and pop store the way you’d try to sell to IBM,” said one telephone service sales rep. The best way to learn that skill? “Experience is incredibly valuable in sales,” wrote a ten-year veteran.
Two aspects of the job were recorded as most frustrating on our surveys. First, simply by virtue of what she does, a service sales rep often encounters rejection and puts effort into many deals that do not close. It’s important to be able to see that a failed deal is not necessarily a personal failure. Second, the job breeds a certain amount of isolation. “No one is a salesman’s friend,” wrote one manager of service sales reps, adding “it can be a very lonely job.” Many reps spend a lot of time on the road, in meetings, and at client dinners, and many of these hours are clocked on the weekends. The price they pay is returned in the form of bonuses, commission, and control over their schedule if not the number of hours they work.
No professional certification is required for service sales representatives and there are no formal educational requirements, but it’s becoming more and more common for them to have a college education. Coursework that sales representatives found helpful to them in their profession included marketing, business, economics, finance, public speaking, sociology, and psychology. Most large employers run established training programs for newly hired service sales reps that last between three weeks and three months. These training programs educate newcomers about product lines, the techniques of successful sales representatives, and accounting procedures, and generally include interactive exercises to give future representatives some sales experience. Smaller places may not have training programs but will instead pair a newcomer with an experienced sales rep. Employers look for prior experience that demonstrates a self-motivating personality and strong interpersonal along with organizational skills.
Service sales reps often go into other sales-related areas. A side-effect, however, of learning all about a company’s products is that service sales reps make excellent internal managers and executives; sales representatives often take on other, more supervisory positions in their companies.