Become a Field Representative: Step-by-Step Career Guide
Learn how to become a field representative. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in outside sales.
Requirements for Field Representatives
Field representatives sell items by promoting key features about a product or a service. These professionals can spend a lot of time traveling to prospective buyers and current clients, helping them select products based on their needs and product specifications. Field representatives may also make follow-up calls to customers, answer questions, negotiate prices and emphasize specific features of various products based on the needs of the customer. The educational requirements for this career vary and are dependent on the type of product that is being sold. A high school diploma is sufficient for many field representatives; however, a college degree is typically required for positions involving the sale of technical or scientific products. Prior experience in sales is also required. The following table contains the main qualifications for field representatives:
|Degree Level||High school diploma required, some positions may require a bachelor's degree*|
|Degree Fields||Biology, chemistry, engineering*|
|Certification||Certification is voluntary*|
|Experience||3-5 years of experience required**|
|Key Skills||Customer service skills, interpersonal skills, self-confidence*, strong verbal and written communication skills**|
|Technical Skills||Knowledge of products being sold**|
|Additional Requirements||Physical stamina due to demands of frequent travel*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job postings (January 2013).
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
While a high school diploma is adequate for field representatives who sell nontechnical or nonscientific products, most employers require a bachelor's degree for individuals who sell more technically complex products. These include industrial equipment, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. Relevant degrees for field representatives who sell these types of products include chemistry, biology and engineering.
- Develop excellent written and verbal communication skills. Since field representatives spend a lot of their time communicating with current clients and prospective buyers as well as preparing sales contracts, strong written and verbal communication skills are needed to excel in this position. To develop these skills and become an effective communicator, aspiring field representatives can take courses in English, public speaking and psychology.
- Improve ability to make sales. Being successful in making sales is one of the primary responsibilities of a field representative. One can improve his or her ability to make sales by attending seminars in sales techniques. Taking courses in economics, marketing, communications or a foreign language may also be helpful in improving one's ability to make sales.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Most employers require at least three years of related experience for this career. Experience in sales can be valuable for anyone considering a career as a field representative, particularly positions that involve the sale of nontechnical products. Aspiring field representatives can also seek employment in positions that require discussing products and services directly at a customer's location.
Step 3: Complete Related Training
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many companies require their employees to participate in formal training programs. This training period can take up to one year to complete. The types of training programs can vary for each company because some companies may have their trainees rotate among jobs in plants and offices so that they can learn more about how products are produced, installed or distributed. Training can also involve formal technical instruction, in addition to on-the-job training performed while under the supervision of an experienced field sales manager.
New employees may also receive training by shadowing experienced field representatives on their sales calls. After they become more familiar with the products and clients of the company, they will gradually gain more responsibility and increased job duties. After a period of time, field representatives will gain their own territory.
Step 4: Earn Certification
Although voluntary, one can obtain certification offered by the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation. Through this organization, one can become a Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative (CPMR) or Certified Sales Professional (CSP). During the training periods for these certifications, one can learn a variety of skills, including selling skills, negotiating, business skills and setting personal goals. To be eligible for the CPMR certification, one must meet the requirements for education and work experience.
Step 5: Maintain Certification
To maintain the CPMR certification, one must participate in 10 hours of continuing education on a yearly basis and pay an annual renewal fee. To maintain the CSP credential, one is required to complete 20 hours of continuing education and pay an annual certification fee.
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