Perseverance, resilience, confidence and a pleasant demeanor are traits that sales consultants need to have, whether they engage in business-to-business or business-to-consumer sales. A high school diploma is usually enough education for sales consultants, although some consultants who sell technical or scientific products and services may need a bachelor's degree in a related field. Some sales consultants receive little or no training and others train by accompanying more experienced sales staff to meetings and presentations or shadowing another sales consultant in a retail environment.
Sales consultants create a network of contacts at current and prospective customers. They join professional associations and groups, and attend meetings to network with potential buyers and to promote the company's product and services. Understanding the key trends and issues in the industry in which they work is important, as many sales consultants conduct presentations at group or association meetings to help expand their personal network. They get to know buyers and key influencers at target companies on a personal basis, invite prospective customers to lunch and introduce customers and prospective customers to each other.
Business-to-business sales consultants conduct presentations and demonstrations for prospective customers. They research companies they visit for the first time to become familiar with their business strategies and their financial performances. Sales consultants understand the problem a customer is trying to solve and present solutions that exactly meet customer needs. They sell products and services to customers based on the benefits to the customer, rather than the features of a product. After sales meetings or presentations, sales consultants promptly follow up with answers to questions, additional information and proposals they committed to provide, and they ask for feedback on the meeting or presentation.
Retail sales consultants have a friendly, approachable demeanor that puts customers at ease. They are knowledgeable about the products for sale, current inventory levels and new products that just arrived or are about to arrive. Listening to the customer to understand her needs is important, as retail sales consultants help customers find what they need or suggest what they might purchase if they're unsure of what they need. Conducting product demonstrations and explaining the features of products to customers also are important parts of a retail sales consultant's role.
Many sales consultants have to sell products and services where no established group of buyers exists. They conduct research on the Internet to create a list of prospective buyers, phone numbers and contact names. Sales consultants then make "cold calls" -- unsolicited phone calls to people whom they don't know to try to sell the company's products and services. These sales consultants look for potential leads, such as visitors to a company's website who register to download materials. Then they make phone calls to these prospective customers to make sales.
2016 Salary Information for Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives earned a median annual salary of $61,270 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives earned a 25th percentile salary of $42,360, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $89,010, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,813,500 people were employed in the U.S. as wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.
Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.